(Image-A young David Bowie, ne Jones taken from the 2022 documentary film Moonage Daydream).
Modern Rock and Pop music was once considered to be solely a young person’s game. It initially emerged in the sixties as a uniquely youthful phenomenon. It was designed to be a counterpoint to the staid culture of the forties and fifties. It was deliberately distinct from the stifling conformity that characterised an earlier era. It was epitomised by its rebellion.
It is astonishing to reflect upon the numbers of Rock and Pop veterans still working and creating in 2023. Morrissey celebrated his 64th birthday yesterday and it is amusing that such a milestone isn’t remarkable by today’s standards. However in 1967 the wry tones of The Beatles suggested otherwise. “When I’m 64” is a lament from a younger man fearing loss, with a plaintive plea to his lover to need and feed him, presumably when he reaches an age of decrepitude.
It must be emphasised that this is an art form that requires immense demands from its performers. A certain amount of resilience is vital, but it is an uneasy balance to regulate this with the sensitivity that is necessary to create songs. This is why so many have succumbed to addictions and have died tragically young. It can be a very lonely existence, it isn’t easy to set yourself apart from convention and also to expect to be loved and respected in return. It was a dilemma that was particularly acute in the heyday of the Rock and Roll era, as so many misunderstandings surrounded the bands of that time.
The Rolling Stones were viewed by mainstream society as corrupters of youth. I was struck by the narrow minded and philistine attitudes of that time when I watched the Nick Broomfield documentary about Brian Jones. Broomfield exposed the myth that the band were deliberate mischief makers with a deeply empathetic portrait of Jones.
The Stones would not exist without the singular input of Jones, a bright but troubled young man from a solidly middle class background. He was inspired by the blues music from America and sought to replicate it in his own band. The music he created was stunning, raucous and vivid. However it baffled his parents, who could not understand why he would sabotage his grammar school education to play a style of music that sounded so terrible to them.
Jones had rebelled against them, but was disturbed that he had caused such a degree of alienation. He was haunted by their estrangement, and felt guilty that he had chosen an unconventional living. Ultimately he could not bridge the divide and he died in his swimming pool after a drug and alcohol binge. He was just 27. It was poignant that the documentary concluded with the words of Jones’ father. The note was written as an attempt for reconciliation, and it read,
“My dear Brian, we have had unhappy times and I have been a very poor and intolerant father in so many ways. You grew up in such a different way than I expected you to. I was quite out of my depth…I don’t suppose you will ever forgive me, but all I ask is for just a little of that affection you once had for me.”
It is a Faustian deal, to prevail in the murky world of the music industry and to retain your own sense of dignity.