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From there to where?

As I contemplated this post earlier this morning I considered beginning it with “Some Rusters may remember Saint and Greavsie …” because I wanted to reference the catch-phrase of Jimmy Greaves (“It’s a funny old game …”) in the context of my intended theme-for-the-day of Life being similar.

I then decided to look said television programme up on Wikipedia, just to remind myself of exactly when it surfed the waves of ITV Sport’s football punditry output (1985 to 1992 in case you’re interested), which fact momentarily stopped me in my tracks for two reasons.

Firstly, because it was so long ago that practically all Rusters would probably be able to remember it – insofar as they could recall anything these days – and secondly, because of my sole near-brush with the Spurs and England legend back in my own days in television when he appeared as the subject of an edition of This Is Your Life.

A couple of days later I had lunch with the manager of the Light Entertainment department – an accomplished amateur footballer in his own right – who had been there at the recording.

I mentioned that the one thing I would like to have known is why on earth Greaves, then in his late thirties and on the books of Brentford, was playing on, way past his prime, at the risk (perhaps) of tarnishing his bejewelled reputation for future generations.

Surely better – e.g. like Bjorn Borg or Barry John – to have ‘left the stage’ a tad too early (with your fans wanting more and/or wondering ‘what might have been’?) than a touch too late?

My lunch-trough companion responded that not only had the thought also occurred to him but it had actually come up in his late-night conversation with Greaves in the ‘Green Room’ after the recording. The latter had stated that he just loved playing football: if these days he could still ply his trade by turning out for Brentford that then was fine by him … in fact (he went on to add) if he couldn’t play for the first team, he’d be just as happy to turn out for Brentford’s second eleven.

We both paused for thought at that point to appreciate/understand (kind of) where the great man had been coming from.

It wasn’t so much a case of ‘raging against the dying of the light’ as rather that, if you’re born with a gift (to stretch it, let’s suggest genius) for doing something to a degree of excellence beyond that of ordinary mortals – to summarise, “It’s your reason for living” – what business is it of anyone else if you wish to go on doing it for as long as you physically can?

Which brings me to my issue for the day: when is it the right moment for any of us to retire (gracefully perhaps?) from what we did in our heyday, or indeed could it ever be said that there is a right moment to do so?

I alighted upon this thought when reading on the newspaper websites last night about the Rolling Stones postponing their 17-date (USA and Canada) section of their current world tour because Mick Jagger has had a health scare and been advised by his doctors not to undertake it at this time, see here for a representative report by Charlotte Dean for the – DAILY MAIL

The 1960s counter-cultural revolution had an epic ‘throw everything up in the air and see where it comes down’ effect upon the world’s consciousness, the ripples of which are still lapping upon some shore somewhere even in this 21st Century age of internet and social media domination (well, some of us would like to think so).

Part and parcel of its impetus came from a sense of a break with the past – the deprivations of the WW2 years and the slow recovery therefrom – in which Youth was now going to take humanity to a different place by challenging every aspect of the Old World order. Why? Because ‘the rules’ by which Western Society operated were simply that – rules – and indeed rules established by previous generations, many of them imposed upon and accepted without question or challenge by their successors.

The perception had arrived, like a massive asteroid from outer space, that in fact there were no absolute boundaries upon human behaviour, ambition or exploration – whether that be inner, or looking outwards around this great planet of ours – save perhaps for those that we accepted or imposed upon ourselves via passivity or lack of drive and ambition.

The young had no limits and, of course, one of the accompanying mantras was the Yippie one “Never trust anyone over thirty” … in other words, “Whatever you can think of, challenge it and see what happens!”

Those were heady days, when the battlements of historic norms were routinely stormed.

Recently the photographer David Bailey mounted an exhibition of his work from ‘the old days’ – one iconic image thereby temporarily restored recently to the style pages of the glossy magazines was of the youthful, cool, confident icon of Sixties culture Mick Jagger in some sort of fur-hooded coat. It captured the spirit of the age then – and does again today in retrospect.

Are human beings always just ‘of their time’, or can they and their influence cascade down the generations? The original Henry Ford dismissed history as bunk.

So – as Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones once warbled in the ditty Street Fightin’ Man (a track on their 1968 album Beggars Banquet)– as likely as not, a lyric composed in half an hour or so in some drug-atmosphered unkempt flat in Bayswater or Notting Hill: “Well now, what can a poor boy do/Except to sing for a rock ‘n roll band?

Well, as Paul McCartney once said in an early 1960s interview, when the Beatles started out they figured they might last two to three years at the pop game if they were lucky.

So what does rock ‘n roll icons do when they’re no longer as young as their original audience … (and indeed nor are their original audience)?

They either get out of the business while they’re still ‘hot’ and disappear from public view … or else they become a corporate entity and going on touring the world as long as anyone will come to watch them, dyeing their hair, inventing little PR stories to keep themselves in the public eye and photo-shopping their wrinkles away in their efforts to stay relevant.

Even if they’re only really relevant to audiences of their own age who – admitting this or not to themselves – are coming to see them primarily for nostalgic reasons and/or some residual human sense of “After all, if they can still do what they used to do, then why cannot I? …” as they set off on the Tube, clutching their senior citizens’ Freedom Travel passes and turning up the volume control on their hearing aids, on their way to the concert venue …



About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts