One of the really jarring things about life is not waking up to realize that you’ve gotten old without knowing it. No, it’s that all your idols, inspirations and toys have too.
The passage of time really hit home to me a few weeks ago. I was reading about the death of ‘60s rock star Paul Revere (of Paul Revere and the Raiders.) Now I was never a fan. My sister was the one who adored him. She collected the band’s albums and even went to a concert. In fact, until I read of his death, I can’t say that I really thought of him in the last four decades.
Yet, I had this image of Paul Revere frozen in my mind. He was always a young and vibrant rock star. The picture was clear of this larger-than-life dynamo, dressed in Revolutionary War uniform with neatly cut black locks, bouncing joyfully around the stage. The shock came in seeing images of a now aged man, long hair now gray and carrying the extra weight that comes with passing years. There had been no adjusting to the fact that he had become an old man.
Of course, all the stars of my youth – such as the now 70 year old Mick Jagger or Paul McCartney who’s now a peer of the realm – have settled into a more and less comfortable period of decline. These teen idols are now long past qualifying for Social Security. Some, like Jagger, still make a passable attempt at mimicking their former youthful fast moving presence on stage. Yet, I know, as do they, the days of performing are coming to an end.
Aging brings change to everyone. For most of us, it’s not as public or as dramatic as it is with an rock star who came to fame 50 years ago amidst the screams and fainting of young girls. There’s a certain irony to still singing songs of teen age love when you’re older than the fathers of those girls.
For the fans who have largely aged along with them, there also comes a need for acceptance. Neither they nor we are what we once were. Rock, the music of youth and rebellion, is now used to sell consumer products. Remember when Microsoft used The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” as the soundtrack for the advertising campaign that launched Windows 95? (Of course, rockers have been promoting products for a long time and have never been anti-capitalism.) Bands like the Rolling Stones play Vegas casinos. (Could Frank Sinatra or the Rat Pack have imagined these rockers would be taking their place as draws to fill time between sessions at the craps table?)We’ve all sold out in one way or another.
Listening to the music is a way to recapture our youth and a particular time and place.
We also try to buy back the youth we’ve lost. I did that with comic books for a time. I grew up in a small town in Georgia in 1960s and ‘70s. In those days, one of my greatest delights was the weekly trip into town to visit the comics rack in the corner drug store. In their cheap, but colorful pages I found new worlds and delights of the imagination. Then in my late teens I gave them up and moved on to more adult pursuits.
I never forgot Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, Superman, The Flash and a host of other heroes of my imagination. Later in life I began collecting them again. Of course, the cheap paper was unchanged, but now they were considered collector’s items with high prices to match. I paid the price, but I couldn’t recapture those youthful moments. My superheroes were the same (even those their pages were now yellowing), but I wasn’t. I was older now and that young boy was just a memory.
My experience of comics, like rock and roll, was particular to a moment in time. As we get older those moments can’t be recaptured. They’re gone and for us the best thing is to let them go.