The key joys of geriatric rock

That is an version of The Atlantic Each day, a e-newsletter that guides you thru the most important tales of the day, helps you uncover new concepts, and recommends the very best in tradition. Join it right here.

Rock and roll is stuffed with legends who ought to retire. However some bands know methods to get again onstage with out making fools of themselves—or of their followers.

First, listed here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:

Hey, Cleveland

Typically I write one thing that wants a wee little bit of qualification. (Translation: I’m going to rationalize breaking one in every of my very own guidelines.) Final 12 months, I applauded rock artists who select to age gracefully, largely by exiting the stage. I deplored the acts who have been attempting to recapture their youthful days whereas cynically vacuuming their followers’ pockets.

In that dialogue, I quoted the critic John Strausbaugh, whose 2001 e-book, Rock Til You Drop, is stuffed with liquid-nitrogen zingers so exact and stinging  that I want I’d written them. Strausbaugh rightly says that rock and roll needs to be music by the younger, for the younger, and he rails towards the sham of what he calls “colostomy rock”—older folks mugging their approach by means of songs about intercourse and medicines and rise up:

Rock merely shouldn’t be performed by fifty-five-year-old males with triple chins sporting dangerous wighats. Its prime viewers shouldn’t be middle-aged, balding, jelly-bellied dads who’ve introduced alongside their wives and children … Rock‘n’roll just isn’t household leisure.

That’s rattling proper, John, and I couldn’t agree extra.

So what, precisely, was I doing earlier this month on a quaint little avenue in a seaside city in Rhode Island, getting patted down by safety for a present by the Tubes, a band recognized for his or her decadent stage exhibits and whose greatest hits have been from the Seventies and ’80s? I final noticed the Tubes about 40 years in the past, when the band was taking part in the Boston school circuit. What the hell was I doing right here? Extra to the purpose, what the hell have been they doing right here?

If you happen to’re not accustomed to the Tubes, maybe I can provide you a way of their, ah, aesthetic from a few of their songs, together with odes to loving relationships equivalent to “Don’t Contact Me There” and “Mondo Bondage,” in addition to their ever-popular investigation of youthful anxieties, “White Punks on Dope.” Within the ’80s, their two greatest hits have been “Discuss to Ya Later,” about exasperation with a one-night stand who received’t go away the subsequent day, and “She’s a Magnificence,” a large hit on the charts and on MTV in 1983, whose lyrics principally describe the principles for what have been as soon as referred to as rap cubicles, cubicles in city red-light districts that have been the pre-internet equal of cam websites. (“You’ll be able to say / Something you want / However you possibly can’t contact the merchandise.”)

That is the type of music that made Soviet commissars suppose the West was doomed to fall.

However it’s additionally the type of music that appears fairly unusual when carried out by males of a sure age. I imply, who needs to see a shirtless outdated coot come out onstage in leather-based pants and a bondage masks?

Properly, because it seems, I do. And so did my spouse, who just isn’t solely my age but in addition noticed the Tubes years in the past and jumped on the probability to see them once more.

The Tubes have the one high quality that so many older bands lack: self-awareness. When the lead singer, Charge Waybill, took the stage on the Greenwich Odeum that night time, he chuckled and famous that this was a return engagement, and that everybody was a 12 months older now. “Which implies,” he added, “I’m, like, fuckin’ 100 now.” (He’s truly 73; the unique band members Roger Steen and Prairie Prince are 74 and 73, respectively.)

The remainder of the night was not a reenactment of the outdated days, however a type of blissful postcard from the early ’80s. This understanding however joyful wink makes all of the distinction when strolling the wonderful line, because the rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Faucet put it, “between intelligent and silly.” The band will get it, and so does the viewers: We’re all older now, and we’re not kidding anybody, however we are able to nonetheless sing together with songs that will probably shock our kids.

The precise venue is the important thing to having fun with this sort of music with out feeling like an fool. The Greenwich Odeum is a small theater in a city of roughly 13,000 folks that seats slightly below 500—hardly the type of area that bands just like the Tubes as soon as crammed. I puzzled how all of us got here to be singing alongside to “Sushi Woman”—don’t ask—in a former vaudeville theater inbuilt 1926, so I referred to as the Odeum a number of weeks after the present and chatted with Rachel Kinnevy-Fitzpatrick, who handles artist relations, and the final supervisor, Amanda Ronchi.

The Odeum, they instructed me, had fallen into disuse, but it surely reemerged in 2013 with the assistance of patrons and sponsors; it’s now a music and comedy spot. However it’s hardly a dusty outdated dive: Its roster contains Amy Grant, Al Di Meola, an ABBA tribute band, and Al Stewart and his terrific younger colleagues, the Empty Pockets, whom I’ve seen twice there. The home can also be holding a Celtic Christmas celebration and internet hosting Lez Zeppelin, an all-female Zep tribute band (though not on the identical time).

When bands are younger and hungry, they play the large rooms and go the place the bus takes them. Once they get a bit older, they don’t wish to be shoved onstage and compelled to yell, “Hey, Cleveland!” (Likewise, lots of their followers are too outdated to place up with sitting within the nosebleed seats at some decaying native civic area.) The Odeum tries to create a extra intimate setting for the artists, and it appears to work: I used to be stunned to be standing within the foyer—which has the comforting atmosphere of an outdated movie show—when Waybill and Steen got here out after the present, sat at a desk, and signed autographs and chitchatted with followers, together with me.

A smaller venue such because the Odeum (supported by each ticket gross sales and patrons and sponsors) additionally signifies that the band, and the followers, can neglect about attempting to re-create their days of fist-pumping area glory. None of us, onstage or off, appeared up for that type of creepy nostalgia. As Rachel mentioned concerning the venue’s older acts, nobody has to reside prior to now; the Odeum thinks it’s “okay to remain current.”

Talking of age, I famous that the gang on the practically sold-out present was nearly completely over 40, an statement confirmed by the theater’s administration. The present was not an intergenerational second with the youngsters and grandkids, the place the creaky Boomers launched the youngs to their prehistoric rock idols. (That’s what Rolling Stones live shows are for.) Maybe it sounds odd to name a rock live performance a secure house, however I felt extra snug shouting lyrics equivalent to “Spent my money on each excessive I might discover” in a crowd of individuals near my very own age than I might need whereas getting the stink eye from somebody’s appalled teenager.

Again within the day, the Tubes placed on a blinding present, with particular results, scantily clad dancing ladies, and a number of costume adjustments. All of that’s over. Now solely Waybill adjustments garments, and the one sultry woman onstage is dressed as a nurse—cue the Viagra jokes from the viewers—as a substitute of a kick-line dancer. (She’s additionally not a groupie or employed additional; she’s Waybill’s spouse, Elizabeth.)

Some issues, even in the midst of a rock live performance, make extra sense whenever you’re older. After Waybill reworked into one in every of his onstage alter egos, the dissolute glam rocker Quay Lewd—drug humor from the ’70s, children—he appeared over on the character’s trademark 18-inch-heel boots mendacity onstage close by. Apparently, he’d worn them at a present in Philadelphia the night time earlier than, they usually’d damage like hell; there was even some concern about whether or not he’d be in form for the present in Rhode Island. So this night time, he simply checked out them and shook his head: Nah.

The group laughed. We get it.

Tonight, keep current, and rejoice with the music that strikes you. Blissful New 12 months. See you in 2024.



A crying child surrounded by images from "Dumbo," "The Lion King," "Finding Nemo," and "Bambi"
Illustration by Dena Springer

The Weird Tragedy of Youngsters’s Films

By Kelly Conaboy

A number of weeks in the past, I got here throughout a GIF from the 1994 movie The Lion King that made me weep. It exhibits the lion cub Simba moments after he discovers the lifeless physique of his father, Mufasa; he nuzzles beneath Mufasa’s limp arm after which lies down beside him. I used to be instantly distraught at that scene, and my reminiscences of those that observe: Simba pawing at his useless father’s face, Simba pleading with him to “stand up.”

That scene lives in my ideas with a number of related ones: the newborn elephant Dumbo cradled in his abused mother’s trunk as she’s trapped behind bars; Ellie, the beloved spouse in Up, grieving a miscarriage and finally passing away inside the first 5 minutes of the movie; Bambi, the younger deer, wandering across the snowy forest on the lookout for his mom, who has simply been shot useless. Once they pop up in my thoughts, I’m at all times left with the identical thought: Why are so many children’ motion pictures so unhappy, and the way does that unhappiness have an effect on the youngsters they’re meant to entertain?

Learn the complete article.

Tradition Break

Gif of hand turning pages
Dusty Deen for The Atlantic

Learn. Try one in every of The Atlantic’s 10 favourite books of 2023.

Hear. Don’t purchase that new sweater till you’ve heard what Atlantic workers author Amanda Mull has to say concerning the cratering high quality of knitwear on this episode of Radio Atlantic.

Photograph Album

A child plays with bubbles from a street performer at the Old Port in Marseille, France
A baby performs with bubbles from a avenue performer on the Previous Port in Marseille, France (Peter Cziborra / Reuters).

Households and associates at play, expressions of affection and compassion, volunteers at work, and extra in our editor’s number of hopeful photographs from 2023.

Stephanie Bai contributed to this text.

Whenever you purchase a e-book utilizing a hyperlink on this e-newsletter, we obtain a fee. Thanks for supporting The Atlantic.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles