Friday, April 14, 2006

Forever young, I want to be forever young

Long ago, before the song “Forever Young” was covered by Australian boy-band (= manufactured by a Svengali, from the looks of them) Youth Group and then given instant oomph by getting on the “OC” soundtrack*, the song was filed away in the archived recesses of my mind as something sounding like it came from a Fleetwood Mac side-project circa 1976 – and from a particularly messy cocaine-and-Quaaludes bender, at that.

In other words, there was something creepily, well, boomer, about it – and not just coz the lyrics are internally contradictory (“Are you going to drop the bomb or not?/Let us die young or let us live forever”).

The first half of the “or”sentence, minus the nuke-paranoia that was acute in the 80s and 50s (but not seemingly much in between), is more famously, previously, and this time unambiguously, encapsulated in the lyrics of The Who’s boomer anthem “My Generation” (“I hope I die before I get old”).

In 2006, it is safe to say that boomers have generally *not* taken The Who up on their generation’s version of the Napisan challenge – viz life as a fast’n’furious Bacchanalia, and then a long, long whiteness. Ah, well. In fact, I think that the actual turning point, for decisively rejecting this challenge, was way back in 1979 – the year that fundamentalism first took off in the West (economic) and mid-East (religious), and in which The Who should have retired.

By the latter, I’m referring to the December 1979 pre-show stampede for seats in Cincinnati, during which eleven people were killed. (My hunch, although I’ve been unable to confirm it, is that most or all of the deaths were of Xers – i.e. kids 17 or younger – in a predominately boomer (18 or older) crowd

Famously, the Cincinnati show went on (something that was hardly their fault, as The Who were deliberately not told of the stampede/deaths until after the show) (Scroll to Dec 1979). But definitely The Who’s fault was continuing with the US tour (same URL) so allowing creepy American boomers to reminisce, many years later, about being at Who live concerts a week or two after the Cincinnati stampede.

Sorry guys from The Who, but if the May 1979 election of Thatcher wasn’t enough reason for you to go less cock-rock, more Molotov cocktail, then boomers stampeding to kill Xers (before they “get old”, or at least get better seats than them) should have been the last straw. Aka, from the career choice contained within the lyrics of “Forever Young”, The Who should have taken the *first*, not the second option – that is, to retire (“die”) young (or not so young, in fact), rather than play/“live” forever.

Strictly speaking, The Who’s taking such a cue from the lyrics of “Forever Young” is an anachronism, as any music geek worth his/her salt would no doubt have been long since frothing at the mouth to tell me. The song, far from dating from a coke-n’luude haze c. 1976, was released in late 1983, and moreover is by a definitely 80s (although still boomer, AFAICT) band, Alphaville. Sadly for music geeks, however, my first mention of Alphaville is also my almost-last one. (I’ll sign out on them by noting (i) they also did the (in contrast to FY) stereotypically-80s-electro “Big in Japan”, and (ii) their de rigueur, big-haired group mugshot can be found on the Afternoons in Utopia (1985) album cover.)

What I’ve been building up to so far is the issue of boomer immortality. Seriously. Not (just) as in old rockers seemingly never hanging up their leather pants, but as in not even actually dying sometime (Never has a single song lyric containing the word “or” been so prophetic):

"As an official member of the boomer generation, I do not believe it was intended for us to die," [Dr Terry Grossman said]. "We were special right from the get go. Dying wasn't part of our script."

The prospect of boomers living forever leads to all sorts of consequences; all negative, from where I sit. But, despite my music-centred lead-up, above, the same rock dinosaurs dominating stadii billboards for millennia to come is not prominent among them; nor the connected, inevitable distortions in the leather-pants futures market. Rather I’m mainly concerned with a bunch of people who will mostly (I’m assuming) want to live “out” their years of immortality as affluent retirees (for want of a better description). Translation: they’ll have the money, and you and I have got the servant’s uniform.

Boomers reading this may well be thinking: “What’s with the boomer immortality thing? While boomers may be the first generation to be in time for such a leap of medicine, no one’s saying that subsequent generations won’t also be able to equally partake of this gift of science”.

Yeah, right. Immortality just doesn’t work like that. It would make generations clearly hierarchical – oldest first, of course. Personally, I would not be interested in immortality for several reasons (I’m assuming that it wouldn’t be compulsory), but looming large here is that it’s simply not fair to later generations. And note that this is coming from an Xer, who would stand on the “silver” dais of generational hierarchy in immortality, tantalizingly close to the boomers’ “gold”. (Translation: it wouldn’t be me, in any event, futilely trying to scrub thousand-year-old skidmarks from even-older boomer undies).

Music trivia side-bar

Bob Dylan, a boomer icon who’s always bored me witless, also has recorded a song titled “Forever Young”, in 1974. While I wouldn’t have expected Dylan necessarily to wax lyrical about dying young – although this would have been polite of him, along with a built-into-the-lyrics definite date by which he would irrevocably at least SHUT THE FUCK UP – the sheer bathos of his lyrics still rattles my head like a last Quaalude rolling pregnantly around in the bottle in someone's hand in an eternally-1976 recording session in Denver. Read them, boomers, and I guarantee you’ll think twice about wanting immortality:

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,

May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous,
May you grow up to be true,
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you.
May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,

May you stay forever young (etc)

May your hands always be busy,
May your feet always be swift,
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift.
May your heart always be joyful,
May your song always be sung,

May you stay forever young (etc)

Dylan’s song was so bad, in fact, that it was promptly covered (also in 1974) by country music queen Kitty Wells. The New York Post of 4 September 2001 calls her Dylan cover a “real [career] risk” for Wells, even in hindsight. Also in hindsight, a turning point of sorts seems to have been reached in New York that week, on the epistemology and logistics of staying forever young.

* Bonus Easter-egg for music geeks! Alphaville’s original “Forever Young” is on the Napoleon Dynamite soundtrack – but I guess you already knew that.

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahah *gasp*
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