People try to put us down

Pete Townsend and Roger Daltry rocked the socks off Salt Lake music fans earlier this week, and as listeners were busy reassembling their shattered eardrums, it became obvious that 2006 is The Year of The Old Dude.

Across the board of musical releases, few have been met with such eager, critical open arms as those released by The Old Guard–rock stars who had their heyday, then faded into obscurity, then enjoyed a second heyday, then faded into obscurity again, and now are enjoying YET ANOTHER HEYDAY.

Look at the artists who released four-star records this year: The Who, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Eric Clapton and J.J. Cale. Even Grandpa Joe and The Osteoporosis Five had a hit single.

Well, not really, but you get my gist.

It’s not that I think these rock stars don’t deserve the credit they’ve been getting–undeniably, Petty’s new record and The Stones’ were stellar, and the rest weren’t bad. It’s just that?well, I guess I’m kind of disappointed.

Disappointed in Who?

Man, I’m t-t-t-alking ’bout my generation.

My gripe: What the hell? Shouldn’t somebody be feeding these old guys prune jelly or something? Don’t they have hip replacement surgeries to attend to?

Where are the young, nimble, able-bodied stars of today? Where are the people to rock like these guys USED TO, back before they qualified for AARP memberships? Has MTV really turned popular music into something so limp, so flimsy, that geriatric rockers are more badass than anything we’ve got to offer?

The answer is yes and no: Yes, popular music (that is, the kind that sells lots of records and is consumed ad nauseum by suburbanite white kids) is lame and weak; No, that is not necessarily to say that we have nothing rock-worthy to offer–it’s just that nobody is listening to the good stuff anymore.

This may be more of a generational reflection than a reflection on the distribution of musical talent across the ages. The thing with the ’60s and ’70s was that, for lack of options or for some other reason, people listened to the radio–a lot. And the radio, by virtue of its popularity (and the fact that, back in the day, radio was an audience-driven media), had to play the good stuff. If it didn’t play the new Allman Brothers song, hippies would revolt. And Big Radio didn’t want that.

However, Big Radio no longer cares what audiences want. It has devised a much better, much more efficient and controllable methodology than actually listening to the desires of its audience.

Why respect what your audience wants to hear, when you can TELL your audience what it wants to hear?

This is a sad and true realization. At this point, popular music is so corrupt, so manipulated, so prefabricated that audiences no longer even know that they’re being duped. Music conglomerations have, for so long, sold us on the notion that what they present to us is all there is that we now think it actually IS all there is.

This narrowed vision works wonders for music moguls (and their respective bank accounts), but it works against the fans. Straight up, at the point we accept the paltry major-label diversity of artists, we are cutting our own legs out from under us. And then giving them to record executives. And then being beaten by our own severed legs.

It’s gruesome.

And as long as listeners fail to take any kind of accountability for what they’re listening to, the best anyone is going to get (as far as mainstream, mass-appeal music goes) is Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend shaking their Depends-clad behinds all over stages across America.

Pinball wizards, indeed.

Mike Terry

Zak Starkey, son of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr and former drummer of British rock band Oasis, tours with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey as The Who.

Mike Terry

Despite starting with The Who more than 40 years ago, legendary guitarist Pete Townshend windmills like it was ’65 in their performance at the Delta Center on Monday.