Monday, 17 December 2007

Mid Life Crisis

As Rock ‘n’ Roll lumbers into a truculent middle age, as exemplified by the recent Led Zeppelin extravaganza, you’d expect it to start thinking about things like retirement and pensions – that’s if it’s not already dead.

It’s a bit of a tricky problem for rock stars. Obviously not for the majority who never made it, as they will have returned to the day job and will already be thinking about playing golf and looking after the grandchildren. But for the real achievers, it becomes less clear. Do they retire gracefully at a time when most of us still have their nose to the grindstone or do they continue to strut their stuff well into retirement age?

Option A is less risky in that the material that made them famous and presumably well-loved remains in the public domain (and in the shops) and cannot be tarnished by any middle-aged cavortings masquerading as new material. The artist retains a degree of integrity and lives a life of ease if not adulation. Clearly if you are dead, option A is an imperative but it doesn’t seem to have done Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain any harm.

Option B is the high-risk strategy based on the premise that the artist remains relevant throughout their working life. The drivers here are money and adulation, two of the most powerful motives for most performers. The Rolling Stones are the prime example and it is debateable whether they have harmed their own legacy by continuing for so long. But also in the category are the likes of Genesis, Iggy Pop and Blondie who, you get the feeling, are a bit marginal and then there’s Status Quo.

If there is anyone who has fallen in the public eye it is Status Quo, as evidenced by the famous refusal of Radio 1 to play their latter day singles. The irony is that for a short period in the 1970s Status Quo was a force to be reckoned with. Given their self-imposed stylistic limitations, they moulded themselves into a tight, powerful and utterly compelling unit. Listen to anything on ‘Hello’ or thereabouts and you will hear a team welded together by a common purpose, a four piece that you couldn’t squeeze a cigarette paper between musically and with an energy level that could power a small village for a whole year.

With a legacy like that, option A begins to look like a winner.

No comments: