Guy G. Gorman
The Spirit of Rock and Roll
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
I've recently been listening to Learning the Game (2017) by Hayden Thompson. His may not be a familiar name, but he's a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was a "next Elvis" back in the 50's.
There's a common thought that rock and roll is a young person's game.
Here's what Joe Strummer had to say about it: *
"I don't like the idea that people who aren't adolescents make records. Adolescents make the best records."
But he continued:
"Except for Paul Simon. Except for Graceland. He's hit a new plateau there, but he's writing to his own age group. Graceland is something new. That song to his son is just as good as 'Blue Suede Shoes': 'Before you were born dude when life was great.' That's just as good as 'Blue Suede Shoes,' and that is a new dimension."
Paul Simon was well, well into his career when he released Graceland. I think most people would agree it is his masterpiece.
A little before Graceland Tina Turner started her comeback.
Remember when "What's Love Got to Do With It" came out? Remember all the fuss about how sexy she was "for her age." (Far as I'm concerned she's just flat-out sexy.) She made great music with Ike, but her her real superstardom began with that song back in '84. Since then she has become a cultural icon.
A few years later I read a review saying that Link Wray's Rumble Man was "the best rock and roll album ever made by a sixty year old." It's a rockin' record. I still listen to it regularly.
I saw Paul McCartney a few years ago, and he put on a great show! It lasted at least two hours. (I've heard comments about some of his shows over the past few years. For context, though, some of the old Beatles live recordings don't sound so great. It might be the recording equipment, but maybe not.)
We can't forget Iggy, the Godfather of Punk! He's still kickin' it! (And I don't mean "the bucket")
And last but not least: Jerry Lee Lewis! The Killer. One of the original wild men of rock and roll! Forty-one albums into his career, he only recently stopped performing after a career spanning many decades!
Anyone who knows me knows that I don't hold much for the idea of physical age. Spirit is the important thing. The aforementioned embody the spirit of rock and roll: its essence. They've made great music long after their adolescences. In many cases their later work was even better.
There are many other examples: Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Rodriguez (whose career didn't really get going until thirty years after his first release.), Robert Gordon, and many more that I can't think of at the moment.
Generally, if the musicians have taken care of themselves, not succumbed to alcohol, drugs, or personal demons, they improve. They have, after all, had more practice and learned the subtleties of music and life.
So let's forget the cult of youth, which causes so much woe.
Let's celebrate spirit, energy, inspiration: the timeless qualities that make rock and roll great!
*Joe Strummer, in an interview with Richard Cromelin for the Los Angeles Times on January 31, 1988
Case and Point:
Hayden Thompson: Learning the Game
Tina Turner: What's Love Got to Do With It
Link Wray: Rumble Man (I must admit I got a laugh out of "copy Link location" when I copied the URL :-D)
Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock and Roll Time