What’s rock ’n’ roll been about, historically? It’s about rebelling against authority. It’s, very much, the music of the youth.
John Strausbaugh covered this a bit in his 2001 book “Rock ’Til You Drop: The Decline From Rebellion to Nostalgia,” which argued how absurd it was for the likes of the Rolling Stones and The Who to continue to tour as rock stars into old age. This was especially ridiculous in the case of the latter group, who literally included the line “hope I die before I get old” in one of their ‘60s hits.
Roger Daltry, now 74 years old, still sings that line on stage. Strausbaugh’s book came out 17 years ago, and the Who and the Stones remain going concerns, with the 75-year-old Mick Jagger even leading the Stones out on the road for some European tour dates once again earlier this year.
But what happens when lifelong rock fans get old? They spread memes.
Hope I Die Before I Get Old
I’ve noticed this frequently in the last couple of years, older rock fans expressing smug annoyance that kids these days aren’t into rock the way they were, and just how awful the music and interests of the younger set is compared to the tunes they liked back in the day. At some point in the last couple of decades, rock became the official music of “get off my lawn.”
Most of those bands from the ’70s are still out on the road. And I hate to tell you, but it costs a whole lot more than $5 to see them.
At some point in the last couple of decades, rock became the official music of “get off my lawn.”
This is as positioned as a shot at those vapid kids and their stupid smartphones and selfies (or, more accurately, it’s a shot at girls). But look closer: What’s being put forward as the idyllic, prelapsarian past is… long-haired hippies, playing long-haired hippie music. To the squares of 40 years ago, they were the young devil incarnate.
If there had been such a thing as old-is-good/new-is-bad memes for the entirety of the last 50 years, there’s a good chance a large percentage of them would have placed the guitar-playing hippies in the bottom spot.
Then there’s these ones:
at this point, the only reason i'm still on facebook is to look at the aggressively pro-rock n roll memes posted by my high school history teacher pic.twitter.com/hCJsonWpn3
— Tom Kludt (@TomKludt) August 6, 2018
It is not, in fact, true that no one has ever said rock stars are “too old for this shit.” You know who has? The author above, as well as anyone who’s been to a concert of a band from another decade at a casino or state fair in any of the last 20 summers. Or, for that matter, anybody who’s seen Bob Dylan perform live since about 1985.
We’ve Been Here Before
The reactionary temptation in rock fandom is not a new phenomenon. Remember Disco Demolition Night, in 1979? It was a promotion, led by Chicago rock DJ Steve Dahl, to hold an actual burning of disco records at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, between games of a doubleheader. The promotion, thanks to unruly behavior and lots of tossed disco records, was a famed disaster that led to a near-riot, and a forfeit of the day’s second game.
It was also, as analysis decades later made clear, a cultural shot across the bow by a rock DJ against a musical genre, disco, perceived as black and gay.
The reactionary temptation in rock fandom is not a new phenomenon. Remember Disco Demolition Night, in 1979?
Look, everyone hates letting go of their youth. If you’re a parent, maybe you think the music your kids like is stupid. But guess what: You’re almost certainly in the exact spot YOUR parents were in when YOU were a kid. I’ve even gotten into this situation with my own kids, before catching myself.
Even so, I can’t imagine anything less rock ’n’ roll than complaining on Facebook about the musical tastes of kids these days.
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