In 1965, Pete Townshend wrote the line “Hope I die before I get old.” It’s a line that has followed him ever since. No doubt it will be wheeled out again in a few weeks when a new Who album hits the shelves and next year when Townshend, now 74, and his surviving partner in rock Roger Daltrey, 75, head out on yet another extensive world tour.
Townshend’s condition of the band touring again was that they released a new album – a surprising move from a man many considered to be artistically spent when it came to writing for the band, or to be more precise, for Roger’s voice.
That he isn’t is wonderful news.
When I was growing up, rock was a young man’s game. The blues and jazz guys were expected to have some mileage under their belts and by the mid sixties the rock n roll pioneers had long turned into cabaret acts, their commercial clout killed overnight by The Beatles.
I vividly remember a 1963 interview with Paul McCartney where the concept of being in a band at 30 was inconceivable to him.
But now those young guns are popular music’s elder statesmen. Messrs Jagger, 76, McCartney, 77, and Starr, 79, are knights of the realm while still selling out venues to eager fans of all ages at a time in most people’s lives when it’s a bonus to remember why you walked into the kitchen.
There is no magical best before date with musicians. It’s inescapable that age takes its physical, and even creative toll – McCartney’s voice is pretty much shot yet a couple of weeks ago he and Ringo blasted through a rapturous Helter Skelter on the final date of his tour and his most recent album was widely praised.
No one can realistically expect Townshend to throw those windmill attacks on his guitar strings at his age yet he does because, even though he accepts the absurdity and has even admitted to hating being in The Who, I really don’t believe he has any control over it and his life would be all the worse for not having it.
For another example of age just being a number in music one need look no further than King Crimson. Three of them are well into their 70s, but in terms of musicianship they are, for my money, the best live band on the planet at the moment (and I’ve seen the Chick Corea Elektric Band so that is praise indeed).
How many of today’s young stars do you see still having this sort of pulling power into their old age? None. That’s how many.
Those of us who have grown up with them need the likes of The Who (or the Two to be more accurate), The Rolling Stones, Dylan, Paul McCartney and so on to keep doing their thing because while they do we know we’re still alive.
And when one of them drops, especially when it’s not self inflicted – like Bowie, Lemmy or Leonard Cohen – a part of us dies too.
*The hypocrisy of Parliamentarians knows no bounds.
A man who refuses to sing the national anthem demands his opponent’s resignation for supposedly disrespecting the Queen.
They can all behave like baying animals yet a bit of plain speaking is unacceptable to them – because it’s Boris.
I am referring to his insistence on referring to “The Surrender Act”, which although accurate, sends the rabble on the benches into an apoplectic rage.
If anyone had said to me, even a few weeks ago, that one day I would defend Boris Johnson’s right to utilise his somewhat idiosyncratic turn of phrase in the House I would have laughed in their face.
But after watching the circus in full swing as Parliament resumed last week I wonder how those accusing the prime minister of a lack of respect can look at themselves in the mirror.