Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die

jethro tullI must have been all of 17 when I first heard the song, and not really a Jethro Tull fan, but the lyrics resonated regardless. In those days, with help from Jim Morrison’s poetry and Jimi Hendrix’s guitar, I frequently pushed the limits of consciousness, and in my haze I reasoned that being old (30 plus?) was a zone where one was likely too old to rock and roll, and certainly too young to die. I was right of course. Over time the ramshackle motorbike was replaced by a shiny BMW sedan and the outrageous trademark ‘quiff’ gave way to a distinctly corporate side part. Without ever really knowing it, I became that line.

LedZeppelinO2But then, in my 40s, something magical happened inside my head, a rebirth of sorts. I mean it wasn’t like I had an epiphany while meditating naked under a tree, but it was seriously cool. The date was December 10, 2007 and it involved a rodent, a mobile operator, and lots of love. The occasion was Led Zeppelin’s reunion concert at the O2 Arena, and the rodent none other than the Boomtown Rat Sir Bob Geldof, who in his munificence shared a joint with me as Plant moaned, Page riffed and Bonzo (Jr) belted through an electrifying performance of Whole Lotta Love, the band’s tribute to the male libido. Plant and Page were 57, and years of clean living meant they didn’t look a day over 67, but man these guys could perform. The testosterone flowed and they rocked as nobody has ever rocked before. Too old to rock ‘n’ roll? No fucking way.

RollingStonesOn the subject of ageing rockers, the undisputed king of the geriatric gyrators has to be old Jumping Jack Flash. The Stones on their “50 and Counting” tour are truly monumental, and as hopelessly clichéd as it sounds, they genuinely do get better with age. My dark side lapped up Paint it Black, I was in heaven as Mick belted out Sympathy for the Devil, and Florence Welch joining Mick on Gimme Shelter was operatic. But the highlight was the Stones going back to their blues roots, joined by old slow hand Eric Clapton in a powerful rendition of the Muddy Waters classic Champagne and Reefer. “Give me champagne when I’m thirsty, give me a reefer when I wanna get high, give me a woman when I get lonely, and have her lie down right by my side”….Too old to rock ‘n’ roll? No fucking way.

TheBossThen there’s the Boss, who rocked Wembley Stadium on Saturday night. Bruce is 63, still a stud, and had 70,000 diehard fans bouncing for 3 hours without a break in a concert the critics described as “epic” and “the most astonishing Springsteen concert ever”. There is too much Americana and liberal politics in his music for me to be a genuine fan, though I’d still rank Born in the USA and Born to Run among my all-time favorite albums. Dancing in the Dark was performed with refreshing enthusiasm like he wrote the song yesterday, and brought with it a treasure trove of memories. A kid holding a placard saying “One Dollar to Dance with my mum”, complete with a dollar note attached, led to a magic moment with the Boss plucking mum onstage a la Courtney Cox. Too old to rock ‘n’ roll? No fucking way.

As I wrote this piece, I decided to check up on what Ian Anderson might be up to, and discovered something amazing. Anderson is 66, Jethro Tull is performing live tonight in Verona, and in two weeks they play just down the street at the Royal Albert Hall. I also realized I’d never actually given the Tull classic a full hearing. So I looked up the lyrics and discovered the delightful piece of pop philosophy that concludes the song. “No, you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll if you’re too young to die.” The man was 29 when he wrote the line, at age 66 he’s living it. Yes fucking way.

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