Too Old to Rock and Roll?

Video blogger Barry Robinson has ignited a firestorm with his recent blog about bands that should stop touring. Declining vocal and skills, crass commercialism, use of prerecorded enhancements and absence of original members are reasons noted for making the list.

With some encouragement, I’ve developed my own list of artists that should pull the tour bus to the side of the road. I’m not against anyone doing what they love, power to those who make and play music.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, rockers couldn’t fathom continuing to be on stage singing rock and roll as old geezers of age 40. It’s easy to find quotes and song lyrics against being aging rockers. Well, guess what? Welcome to senior citizenship!

Nowadays, legacy artists make their money touring or selling their publishing and rights catalogues. New music doesn’t sell, so you hit the road. If you are Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones or The Who, that’s mega bucks.

Here are some recent legacy acts and what they grossed from recent tours:

Elton John’s Farewell Tour $817 million (2018-ongoing)

Guns N’ Roses Not In This Lifetime Tour $584.2 million (2016 – 2019)

The Rolling Stones No Filter Tour $546.5 million (2017 – 2021)

Billy Joel ‘Billy Joel in Concert’ $448.2 million (2014-2021)

U2 ‘The Joshua Tree Tours 2017 and 2019 $390.8 million (2017, 2019)

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band ‘The River Tour $306 million (2016-2017)

Bon Jovi ‘This House Is Not for Sale Tour $232.1 million (2017-2019)

Def Leppard & Mötley Crüe $173,474,649 (2022)

Eagles $104,175,869 (2022)

Paul McCartney, $105 million (2022)

Genesis $81,935,379 (2022)

Iron Maiden $76,147,773 (2022)

Roger Waters $69,813,262 (2022)

Dead and Company $45,943,957 (2022)

Of the artists above, Elton John, Genesis, and Dead and Company have indicated their touring has either ended, is ending with the current tour or ending with shows planned this year. Even if a band puts it on writing, like Mötley Crüe did a few years ago, don’t believe it.

So, why give up a license to print money, even if you have to embellish your songs with extra musicians, vocalists and even prerecorded music?

Just close your eyes and pretend you’re back in the 1970s, and given that your hearing is half gone and tinnitus is louder than Axl Rose’s shrieking vocals, a good imagination, and that gummy you ate an hour ago – makes you think of incense and peppermints.

Here is my list:

Yes – This one hurts. Yes is one of my favorite bands and I have seen them in concert close to a dozen times, through multiple lead singers and lineup changes. The loss of Jon Anderson was gigantic. The replacements have been so-so. The death of Chris Squire probably should have ended the band, but it did not. Billy Sherwood is fine, he copies Squires’ bass playing, but is not the writer that the band needs. Geoff Downes is adequate but not a true Yes keyboardist, even though this is his second stint in the band. Nothing personal. Alan White’s passing was also a reminder that the band should stop. If Steve Howe wants to play Yes music, go on the road with his favorite musicians and play, with a different name. I hate to see the legacy of this band tarnished by it’s latest reincarnation.

Jethro Tull – It’s only founding member Ian Anderson now, and has been since he dissolved the band and pushed out longtime guitarist Martin Barre. Anderson continues to record and tour under the Tull brand, but the quality of the material isn’t what it used to be and Anderson’s diminished vocal skills are quite noticeable. Retire the Jethro Tull name, and keep working under your own name, Ian.

Foreigner – Founding member and only remaining original member Mick Jones has indicated the band is on their last tour. Jones’ health has caused him to miss numerous concerts, leaving Foreigner as a tribute band. A very good band in its day, but it’s time to retire the name. There are tribute bands to hear the songs.

Kiss – Not a Kiss fan, and particularly not a Gene Simmons fan. The costumes and makeup are so passé for old men. Their music has no originality to it and using tapes or prerecorded music is really dishonest. Kiss is really more of a marketing brand to make Simmons and Paul Stanley multi-millionaires.

Bon Jovi – Not a particular fan of this mega successful band, but I respect their accomplishments. I just read that Ritchie Sambora is in discussion to return to the band. He’s been gone for a decade. What’s up with Jon Bon Jovi’s voice? A lot of speculation, beyond just the natural lowering of his voice due to age. He had Covid in 2021, but what else is going on? Being able to hit the notes and generate the power is essential to tour. Not being a fan, I do not really care, but for the fans, I hope his voice is good.

Bob Dylan – I’ve not seen Dylan in recent years, my comments are certainly can be challenged. Loyal fans will likely to continue to pay to see him. Dylan is not as much a brand as he is a revered, enigmatic symbol. Can’t understand the lyrics or recognize the arrangements? His concerts are still a big deal to those who attend. I’m not aware of health or cognitive issues, but I’d rather not see him go the way of Brian Wilson or Ozzy, a reduced version of themselves.

The Who – Pete and Roger have been quite busy in recent years, each releasing memoirs, a Who album and touring. Pete’s hearing problem is under control, but Roger’s voice is now an issue. He stopped a concert the other night, rather than risk damaging his vocal chords. His vocal range is not what it was, we accept that. The band had adapted to the challenges of aging, but the time is coming when they can’t slow it down. It’s not the band it used to be, but we love the Who songs.

Eagles – I saw this group a few months ago. Nicely produced show, with choir and orchestra. I give them a lot of credit for this. Don Henley is the only original member left. Joe Walsh offers the old vibe. The voices are thinner and it’s less a band than a corporation owned by Henley with hired hands. That’s exactly what it is, read former Eagle Don Felder’s book. I’m glad I saw them once.

Beach Boys/Brian Wilson – The Beach Boys are essentially a tribute band. Mike Love and Bruce Johnston with a group of touring musicians. Actor John Stamos has been sitting in for years, which shows how serious we should take this band. Watching Love et. al. is embarrassing. Unfortunately, watching Brian Wilson is painful. I’ve seen him twice in recent years and his people should not send him out to tour anymore. He is a faint version of his old self and it is sad to watch. He tours with ex Beach Boys Al Jardine and Blondie Chapman, who are quite good. Like Love’s band, Wilson recreates past hits, but leaves us uncomfortable and melancholy. Wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t so.

The Rolling Stones – Yep, the granddaddy of bands. The mega-earner. Down to Mick and Keith as original members. Big production, absolutely. Expensive tickets, absolutely. I look at the set lists and they are remarkably the same from tour to tour to tour. I listen to the live recordings and am amazed at how dull and uninspired they are. They are selling memories and for that they are good – for the brand, the tours are rich, literally.

Fleetwood Mac – With the death of Christine McVie, and ouster of Lindsay Buckingham, this isn’t a band anymore. Buckingham and Stevie Nicks each tour, so see them to appreciate the songs they created. Mick Fleetwood, do not gather a bunch of musicians and call the group Fleetwood Mac. It you want to do that, which is fine, call it something else and don’t further tarnish the name.

Steely Dan – The Band is essentially Donald Fagan and touring musicians. I’ve seen this new version, and while it is enjoyable, it’s not Steely Dan, not without Walter Becker. Call it Donald Fagan plays Steely Dan, or something like it. If Fagan included some of the many musicians who helped create the songs, Larry Carlton, Skunk Baxter, etc., I could possibly buy using the name. The concert versions bare little likeness to the recorded songs, which is another reason to stop using the name. Fagan shows no problems with his voice or ability to play keyboards, so keep going, but buyer beware.

Mötley Crüe – The Band that promised in writing not to tour again, and then did. Vince Neil can’t really sing anymore and bassist Mick Mars has retired from touring. You get what you get.

Roger Waters – I saw Waters in concert a few months ago. It was quite an experience, visually and thematically. Waters offends as many as he pleases with his political views. I don’t mind it, although I hardly agree with all of his beliefs. The problem I have with Waters is his declining vocal abilities and use of sound enhancements. Nearing 80, Waters is near the end of the road, but he’ll make that decision.

Eric Clapton – No news of any Clapton shows. He’s been sporadic in recent years, ever since his neurological issues surfaced. And then he went on his anti-vax rant. As long as he can play to his standards, he’ll perform, but I think the touring days are behind him. At 77, mortality is ever-present, but he’ll play on his own terms. As fans, we don’t want his slow hand to really appear slow.

AC/DC – Brian Johnson is ready to rock and roll. Is there a band to front? Rumors are that the band is working on a new album in total secrecy and that a 2024 is in the planning stages. Johnson had to sit out the last tour because of his hearing. His seat was taken by Axl Rose, who apparently is not getting enough work these days. With the death of founding member Malcolm Young, nephew Stevie Young has stepped in. Time will tell.

Guns ‘N’ Roses – Not a fan of this band, but they sell a lot of tickets when they tour. Are fans getting the real thing? Axl Rose is the only permanent, original member. Slash and Duff MaKagan returned in 2016 for a massive tour. The rest of the lineup has changed through the years. In 30 years, the band has only released two studio albums, the last being in 2008. When they tour, the fans want to hear the old stuff. So be it.

The Kinks – It’s been many decades since this band has released any new music or toured together. The past several years have rumored the Davies boys working on new music, or polishing some unfinished material. These rumors always excite fans. Will there be a new record, and will Ray and Dave tour together? I’d love to hear some new music, but each passing year gives me pause. A tour? These guys are in their late 70s now. Maybe an album and a few shows? I’m undecided now. Time waits for no one.

Black Sabbath – Ozzy just announced that he has retired from the road, so don’t count him on any Black Sabbath tours. Since Ozzy owns Black Sabbath, who knows if he will license the name to Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler to use on the road? Iommi and Ozzy have worked together in the studio, so who knows if they will release new material, but it appears that Black Sabbath is in drydock.

Lynyrd Skynyrd – It’s been a long road and only guitarist Gary Rossington is left. The plane crash nearly ended this band, but they survived and thrived. They have announced there final concert tour, The Last of the Street Survivors Farewell Tour, continuing with many 2023 dates.

Queen – It has been Brian May and Roger Taylor since 1997 when bassist John Deacon retired and Freddie Mercury long since deceased. First Paul Rodgers and then Adam Lambert have taken over lead vocals. They released one studio album with Rodgers and a couple of live albums. Queen and Lambert may still tour, not word on upcoming plans.

Ozark Mountain Daredevils – The first concert I ever saw, back in 1975. I’ve seen the band a few times since including about three years ago. It’s not the same band with only John Dillon and Supe Granda from the original days still in the band. The new incarnation plays the songs okay, but without Larry Lee silky singing of “Jackie Blue,” Steve Cash’s harmonica and vocals, Randle Chowning’s “If You Wanna Get To Heaven,” it is just the music, not the memories.

Here’s another list, the keep on keeping on list. These old farts artists should keep going, at least for the near-term. These folks are still working hard and the results do not embarrass the artist/band or cheat the fans. Certainly, this just my opinion, but I’ve seen most of these folks recently to backup my view:

America, Dave Mason, Doobie Brothers, Santana, Cheap Trick, Marillion, Chicago, Neil Young, Blondie, U2, Bruce Springsteen (if you can afford it), Todd Rundgren, Steve Winwood, Little Feat and Robin Trower.

3 thoughts on “Too Old to Rock and Roll?

  1. I feel it’s a complicated subject. To me, the most important thing I want to see is that an artist truly enjoys what they do and that it doesn’t just become a routine. I think that can compensate for some degree of “wear and tear.”

    I saw Steely Dan for the third time last July and thought they sounded great. And I’m saying this as a longtime Dan fan. Unfortunately, I never saw them with Walter Becker.

    I also saw Yes last October and thought it was an enjoyable show. I overheard folks in the audience who said they had seen them many times in the past and who also seemed to be happy with the performance. That said, the videos I posted on YouTube received many negative comments. Again, I never saw them during their heyday so admittedly, I don’t have a comparator.

    The last time I saw The Who was in May 2019. At the time, I thought Messrs Daltrey and Townshend were still in great shape. Of course, that’s now nearly four years, and that time period can make a difference.

    The Rolling Stones. I love the Stones and saw them last in August 2019. They still delivered a great show, though Keith and Charlie did look fragile. I think Ronnie, who was in good shape, picked up some guitar work from Keith. The most compelling man on that stage was Mick Jagger who still seemed to have the energy of a 20-year-old. Would I see them again? I hate to say this, possibly, if the ticket would be truly affordable.

    AC/DC and the Kinks. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen them, so I’d be really tempted should they decide to tour. I would never see AC/DC with Axl Rose. And also not for $300 or $400!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If the Kinks toured, I would try and see them. The Who as well. It’s a very subjective subject. Is it worth the ticket cost for what you will see? Will this be the last opportunity to see them? Am I going to be disappointed because it’s not the same as when I saw them 20 or more years ago? Is it okay that the classic lineup of the band has changed? It’s a question I weigh whenever a legacy artist is coming to town.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All fair questions that are part of my decision process as well. And then there’s the emotional aspect, which I hate to say is probably much bigger than I want to admit.

        Emotions clearly played an important role in my decision to see Paul McCartney for the third time last year, even though his vocals are showing clear signs of wear and tear. But the man has been one of my biggest music heroes for 40-plus years.

        That said, I wouldn’t pay $300 or $400, even for Macca!

        Liked by 1 person

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