And the band played on: how to grow old gracefully in pop

Madonna may have hit a birthday milestone but, from Johnny Cash’s stark admission of age to Paul McCartney’s embrace of hip young things, there’s ways to keep your music fresh

The late rock critic Lester Bangs once wrote a piece headlined The Ol’ Fey Outlaws Ain’t What They Used To Be, in which he upbraided the Rolling Stones for their advanced age. They were, he opined, “just a buncha old men … getting flaky”, derided by hipsters as “senile old has-beens”. Mick Jagger, in particular, looked “tattered, old, used-up”. It is worth noting that this piece was published in 1973, after the release of Goats Head Soup. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had just turned 30.

Should anyone think that this was just a particularly ripe example of Bangs being Bangs, with his splenetic iconoclasm turned up to 11, the piece makes it clear that he was not a lone voice in suggesting the Stones were too ancient to rock: as early as 1969, Rolling Stone had published a photo of the group’s frontman onstage with the caption: “You could see the evidence of years in Mick Jagger’s face.”

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