Back in the days when rock and roll as a musical concept was first invented, little consideration was placed on whether an artist could sustain a career out of this cultural phenomenon. Even after the first wave of ’50s stars fell victim to accidents (from Carl Perkin’s career-stalling car crash to Buddy Holly’s death in a plane crash), the draft (Elvis), and bad vibes (Jerry Lee – ’nuff said), the British Invasion flag bearers of the ’60s were often quoted as saying they’d be lucky to go a couple of years. Ringo’s Plan B, for instance, was to open a hairdressing salon with the few quid he expected to salvage over the short term.
So, it’s been more than 50 years since all of this started, and we’re encountering the final question that’s been avoided so far: what happens when you’ve spent a lifetime in a rock ‘n’ roll band? Is it possible to continue participating in what is essentially a young person’s race when you’ve turned your odometer over more than a few times? Take it one step further – how can you find youthful exuberance in a genre that itself is over 50 years old?
Maybe 2008 (and extending a bit back into late 2007) will be remembered as the year when many artists tried to come to terms with this. For instance, The Eagles, AC/DC, Blind Melon, and Axl Rose all released new studio albums after going a long time without having done so. And Metallica, Alice Cooper, Paul McCartney, and Journey, although never having gone away, turned out new albums that many are saying are their best in years, depending of course, on how much of a fan you really are, or ever were. Add in the Zeppelin reunion from late 2007, and the never ending tours of Dylan, Springsteen and the Stones, and that’s an awful lot of old people, many of whom could’ve been pensioned off by now if they had a regular kind of job.
But were these releases any good? Well, it seems that most of them were decent – none were so embarrassing as to show a complete loss of talent or steep decline in quality. You can put them in your collection of your favorite band’s complete canon of works and they’ll fit in well — they’re don’t need to be asterisked or tagged like some afterthought that doesn’t really belong. On the other hand, I don’t know if they’re really essential either – none of them seem to add much more than what each artist has already said at least once before.
So, a summation or a stall? Frankly, I don’t know yet, but I do know this: rock ‘n’ roll history has hit the final turn and is coming down the straightaway as far as the question about what do old rockers do at the end. And the answer is this: they seem a little worse for wear, and there’s smoke coming out of the exhaust and the engines are making an unnatural whine, but the cylinders are all still firing and everyone’s still pointed in the right direction. So like everyone else, they just keep on keepin’ on. It’s just a matter of how much each of the drivers still want to finish the race, regardless of their final place in the record books.Powered by Sidelines