Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Salute the 'rock of ages'

This is an edited version of my column in the Bath Chronicle of Thursday, February 5.

On Thursday morning, I will be sitting on a hot, sweaty coach bound for the delights of Paris surrounded by around 80 old punk rockers who really should know better.

For, as I’ve mentioned in my Bath Chronicle column many times, I am a devoted (or as some would say ‘dangerously obsessive’) fan of those delightful musicians called The Stranglers and over the next couple of days I will be joining a double-decker bus worth of fellow stalkers and groupies in following the band to see them in concert in both France and Belgium.

This trip has been organised by one of the band’s biggest and most committed fans, Owen, who thought he may get a little bit of interest in the idea of a European road trip but was duly overwhelmed at the response from fellow fanatics.

The fact that those of us in our 40s are still willing to laugh in the face of the credit crunch and indulge our teenage-borne passion proves that rock music is now like classical and jazz in that there is simply no age limit to enjoying the art.

Once upon a time rock and pop were regarded as the preserve of the young but nowadays that concept has been well and truly blown apart and I regard this as very good news.

Put simply, I never want to “grow out” of loving high quality rock music and trust me, oh reader, there is no greater quality than the might of The Stranglers.

And it is not only the fans who are ignoring their birth certificates in all of this because most of the bands are ‘knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door’ themselves. The Stranglers youngest member has only been with them for around eight years and is a mere boy at the age of 44 but the bassist and keyboard player are comfortably into their 50s while our ultimate hero, Stranglers drummer Jet Black, is now 70. Seventy is an age where many think of the pipe and the slippers rather than the base drum and the hiatt but nothing seems to stop ‘young’ Jet and this enthusiasm is symptomatic of the fact that rock no longer belongs only to those with youth club membership.

If you wanted any further proof, last week I bought the new album by another of rock’s elder statesman – Bruce Springsteen – and it is an absolute joy from the start to finish.

Although he is heading for bus pass territory, Springsteen gives not a hint of failing powers and in many ways his new album is as fresh, uplifting and exciting as any he has done. Age simply cannot whither his infinite variety.

So as I toodle across Europe this week I do so safe in the happy thought that I’ve got at least another 20 or 30 years of this to come. Lovely.

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