Perhaps the blazing sunshine I’ve been sitting in this week has fried my brain, but today I’m almost going to argue against the very reasons that I first began contributing my scribblings to the Rust, i.e. the belief that those of us beyond the first flush of youth still have valid things to say about the world in which we live.
I’m prompted to do so after reading in the media of the recent interview given to Esquire magazine by former Beatle Paul McCartney. In this he apparently gives vent to his frustrations that John Lennon’s assassination made him a martyr and ‘elevated him to a James Dean, and beyond’. McCartney’s case is that during – and indeed after- the Beatles era (1961-1970), the Fab Four were de facto equals and certainly regarded themselves as such … but that Lennon’s premature death in 1980 has since erroneously given rise to the perception that they were Lennon’s band.
Firstly, a declaration of interest.
I’m a big fan of McCartney, a huge musical talent and great songwriter. I’ve no doubt at all that he would have been successful in any era. However, it was both his and our good fortune that he was born when – and where – he was and that he happened to meet Lennon, Harrison and Starr.
I tend to subscribe to the well-worn perception that the ‘Lennon and McCartney’ combo was greater than the sum of its parts. This holds that Lennon gave edge, grit and inspiration to McCartney’s more mainstream (Tin Pan Alley) but often twee instincts – whilst McCartney gave originality, musicality and depth to Lennon’s ‘heart on the sleeve’ rawness of expression – and that, together, they were touched by genius.
And here’s the rub, glib though it is.
Popular music – at least the pop and rock music version of it – is all about the joys and concerns of youth. About going out into the adult world and taking it by storm. About not listening to your elders and betters, but experiencing life’s highs and lows for yourself. About breaking new ground and changing the world.
In all honesty, it’s not about developing a career, building a life for yourself, achieving security and becoming part of the establishment – whether that be of the political, high society or celebrity variety.
Pete Townshend of The Who wrote the immortal line ‘Hope I die before I get old’ – these days, in his eighth decade, he probably wishes he hadn’t. But it sums up a lot of what I’m getting at.
Pop music is about being young, living in the moment and not caring about the future.
In which context – and I’m damning some of my favourite bands and artistes here – it’s not about superannuated ageing rock stars touring stadia around the world for two years at a time, peddling hits they had forty years ago, and clearing half a billion pounds profit in the process.
Probably there should be a rule of automatic enforced retirement from pop music at the age of 40.
There – I’ve said it.
[As a concession, perhaps exceptions should be made for bands and artistes that stay true to principle and keep moving on, never staying still. You can add your own examples here …]
I’ve seen Paul McCartney ‘live’ in concert (a brilliant experience) and watched him on television innumerable times since his 40th birthday – he’s now 73 – but frankly these days he should be seen and not heard. Actually, he shouldn’t even be seen, with his prematurely orange hair and flapping jowls, attempting to do a not-very-good impression of himself as he was thirty years ago.
Why? Simply because he just isn’t young anymore. Plus, every time he opens his mouth and tries to change history, or place himself in the public perception as the architect and prime mover of the Beatles, de facto he systematically dismantles another piece of the jigsaw of his reputation.
Just as these days, whenever he appears in concert on his regular world tours, he comes across as little more than a rather expensively-mounted Beatles/McCartney tribute act, not least because his once-outstanding and distinctive voice is now a shadow of its former self.
He’d be better advised to stay at home and live on his laurels. He’s got every right in his dotage to enjoy the thoroughly-deserved fruits of his life-long labours and creativity … and, if ever bored, could perhaps count some of his alleged £750 million fortune.
I know I could if I was in his position.