Sunday, 16 September 2007

Sometimes, They Shouldn't Come Back

I was 9 when the Sex Pistols exploded onto the scene with their God Save The Queen and Anarchy in the UK anthems so when the chance came to see them live in the 90s, i went pogoing down to the ticket office, flobbed over the seller and came away with a ticket to their Finsbury Park 'Filthy Lucre' Tour.
The euphoria of seeing a band that were of such historical importance lasted as long as it took for me to clap eyes on guitarist Steve Jones carrying a pot belly crammed into tight, tiger-striped trousers.
Musically, the Pistols were as expected but I was forever left with an ugly aftertaste and the vision of the angry young men of the 70's singing politically charged songs and spearheading probably the greatest genre music has ever known, replaced by middle aged men going through the motions and looking every inch a band out of their allotted slot in history.
This leads me to consider the news that Def Leppard are dragging their aging carcases back onto the stage this year following in the footsteps of other 80's phenomenons such as The Police, Prince and Guns 'N' Roses.
All great in their day but their day has long passed and never to be recaptured. All you will get for your money from any of these is a caricature of the people they were as they wheel through their greatest hits which is fine if that is what you want from the gig but don't for a second expect what is on the stage to match what is in your minds eye when the concert starts.
There is a place for band reunions and they give a chance for a generation to relive their youth and music from their era played by the band that created it, possibly drawing in a new younger fan base but i always remember my experience of Elvis.
Forever in my parents eyes he will be the young, good looking man of the late 50s and early 60's, to me he conjours up the bloated and pathetic figure decked out in a white, rhinestone cat suit.
Johnny Rotton shouted "We are fat, 40 and back!" to the Finsbury Park crowd that day and unfortunately, that is the image i get whenever i hear a Pistols song now. That and Steve Jones belly hanging over his tiger-striped trousers.


Jodie Kash said...

Oh me, during that same tour I was working for a record label and could not GIVE AWAY the number of comps I had. And THEN the venue (Red Rocks, which is beauty beyond beauty) offered two-in-on-one ticket. Horrible thing and the tour imploded before it was finished. But I still love John Lydon.

Don't give up on the Def! Yes, middle-age men singing juvenile lyrics that made up a good deal of their song catalog is ironical at best, but they play a good show. I saw them just last year at The Rocks. I still have a BIG thing for Phil Collen (not the Genesis prick, the Lep guitar god who never seems to keep a shirt on).

Anonymous said...

I've seen some great reunion concerts. Ten Years After jumps to mind, as does the reunion of the mid - 70s Yes lineup. I've also seen folks that have been doing what they do for decades. I'm going to see someone soon who put his first recording out over 50 years ago.

But the difference is that it is the music that matters, not the image, and punk rock has built-in image constraints that other forms don't saddle themselves with. Specifically, punk is young-people-rebelling-against-the-establishment music. It was never for anyone over 30 to play in the first place.

If an artist's music matures as he/she does, that person can have a good creative career for a very long time. There are thousands of examples. When I watch a band like Hot Tuna or a songwriter like Peter Gabriel play, the extra pounds and thinner hair than the first time I saw them don't mean a thing. But when the actual music takes a back seat the the musician's or the music's image, the package will always wear thin eventually.

Stephen K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen K said...

I dunno, Lucy. The Police have been looking pretty good in the performances I've seen.

I'm also with Joe on Peter Gabriel. He is one of my faves, and the fact he's older and has less hair and more weight means nothing to me. You know that amazing performance of In Your Eyes he did with Youssou N'Dour in the 80's? I found them performing the same song just a couple of years ago on You Tube, and it was just about as good.

Cheezy said...

I kinda liked the honesty of the Pistols calling it the 'Filthy Lucre' tour. Cos that's what it's usually all about. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's best to be upfront about it!

In terms of attending this type of 'golden-oldies' gig, I've been to quite a few lately (Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, Inspiral Carpets, Siouxsie) so I'm not exactly averse to the idea of seeing 'legends' in the flesh, even if they are just retreading past glories.

If however, I'm going to shell out three figures for some gig action (which is pretty much the going rate for acts like the Stones, Madge, and now Zeppelin) then (a) I need to have liked them a helluva lot, and (b) I need to be confident that they'll be brilliant.

Led Zep almost qualify... but not quite! Bring on the Floyd!

Falling on a bruise said...

If we are talking about the music than the bands have probably played their hits so many times they are better than ever. What i am talking about is the cult that surrounds certain bands. It is a music version of you should never meet your idols because they can never live up to the image you have of them in your mind.
Always better to remember them in their pomp rather than the illusion destroying visions we all inevitably become.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's what I'm saying. Clapton can still play "Layla" without it seeming strange, because it's a love song and anyone of any age can sing a love song. When the basis of your music, however, is a "young people rejecting the values of older people" motif, then you're going to look quite the fool when you're older and singing the same songs. And when ALL your music follows that motif, then the motif is what sells the records, not the music itself.

Pete Townshend just narrowly escaped this trap by writing songs about growing up and changing as you age. Songs like "My Generation" are tempered by songs like "Dreaming from the Waist".

If your "idol" is an artist who changes and grows as a musician, then that "meeting" need not be such a disappointment.

Cody Bones said...

Your post really made me come to a realization that really doesn't make me happy. Music doesn't touch me the same way it used to. Punk touched my soul, and helped me define myself in my teenage years, (plus a little helping of the Grateful Dead). I still adore music, and I don't mind seeing acts come around again, and try to relive my youth, but it's different now. I still like new music, and search out songs that I like, but the emotional spark is not as strong. Maybe because at 41, I have a better idea of who and what I am, and I don't need music for that. I don't know, but I do miss the days of hearing the Clash, Iggy Pop, or R.E.M for the first time. I guess the saying is true, "You can't go home again."

The Fez Monkey said...

It was 1982, and the Who were on tour. By then, they were already pretty well a bunch of rich, over-the-hill rockers.

I went to see them at the Oakland Collisseum, along with about 90,000 of my closest friends. They were still fit, Roger still looked okay (though he was starting to age poorly), Pete was still frenetic (though not entirely out of control), and the music remained very loud. However, the paradoxical juxtaposition of some rich, middle aged geezer singing "My Generation" made the whole thing very surreal, and quite funny.

Thankfully, the day was saved before it began. The Clash were the opening act, and they kicked some motherfucking ass.

Damn. I miss Joe.

Ook ook

Falling on a bruise said...

Sorry about that Cody but i also had that same realisation, sucks doesn't it.

Thinking further on something Joe and Cody said, Punk is probably the best example of groups that should remain in their place in history. The anger and energy just doesn't work when repeated later by middle aged men.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what Cody means. I guess that's why I'm more excited to discover something new in jazz and blues, because rock doesn't give me the push it used to, with a few exceptions. When I listened to a 24 minute live version of Weather Report's "Boogie Woogie Waltz" the other day, I did get excited. I sat and listened with full attention for the whole time. It was a lot like when I discovered a new rock band when I was a teenager. (The fact that this live version was about 4 times the length of the studio version certainly helped.)

Anyay, the point is that this music excites the man I am NOW, not the kid I used to be. I guess that's the rub.

Anonymous said...

I really need to check my spelling more carefully before clicking on "publish."