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My De-g-g-g-generation On:2001-10-06 11:59:54

You know how most mornings, just before the top of the hour news NPR has those strange little lists of today’s birthdays of presumably notable personages? Well the other day I heard one of those lists and it was, of course, the usual collection of people I’d never (or almost never) heard of but for once one of the items was for someone I recognised as worthy of inclusion.

It was yet another pop Idol of my youth who was fifty-whatever (or was it sixty something?) and I had one of those rare---really rare---sixties or early seventies flash-back moments that are so amazing because, as everyone knows, if you can remember the sixties you didn’t really live through them, and I was set to thinking about all those songs from that period about the (to us then) elderly. Ah I remember how it was then with us and the old; how we always used to claim that we mustn’t ever trust anyone over thirty--of course now-a-days things have changed and we have matured and now we don’t trust anyone under thirty and that’s for (I suspect) exactly the same reasons.

Anyway... well... back to the songs, apart from that Beatles number When I’m Sixty Four (and we all know how incredibly nostalgic the Beatles were, even back then, so we can happily discount it) all the songs about the hyper-thirty from that pre-1975 golden age had a strong ageist tendency.

Take, for example, The Who’s My Generation. Have you ever wondered --does Pete Townshend still sing My Generation? I mean he was on tour a year or so ago, and My Generation was such a great song that I’m sure there must be overwhelming pressure to perform it, but what on earth would he sing if he did it at his current age? I mean we are talking about the anthem of youth quae youth here: of eternal youth even. A song that is in exactly the same relationship to Peter Pan as Prince Kropotkin is to prime minister Tony Blair. What COULD Pete sing?? “I hope I die before I get really, really, really old”? And of course in these days of Messers Em and Em and others of their restrained ilk Pete would have to do a lot more than stutter on the first letter of “F-f-f-f-ade” to get anything like the original effect.

And to change gear entirely and come to a grinding crawl what would Neil Young do with Old Man now-a-days--surely he’d have to completely rewrite it along the lines of
“Young man look at my life I am just like you’ll be
“Young man look at my life 54 and there ain’t much more...”
I dunno maybe that just isn’t quite as powerful somehow... In fact now I come to think of it it seems a lot more powerful, too powerful!!---all the ‘ubi-sunt-qui-nos-ante-fuerunt-ishness' of it all. The finality.

Oh dear that’s a depressing thought, let’s get away from that low point and stop drooping and consider, in this age of Viagra, that the Rolling Stones can hardly sing any more about Mother’s Little Helper, now-a-days surely that has to be Father’s little helper, Oh... on second thoughts that probably still should be Mother’s Little Helper.

Cheerio for now from
Richard Howland-Bolton

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