Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, looking particularly young.

Time Marches On. Or Does It Dance?

The remaining Beatles and the Stones—which could also be described as “remaining,” although for some reason that doesn’t seem to apply to that band, when arguably it should—together making music.

That is what Variety reports could have happened, given that the Stones are finishing a new album, Hackney Diamonds, in Los Angeles and Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr happened to participate in recording sessions with them within the past few weeks.

Once, this would have been the stuff of wide-eyed amazement. Those two bands essentially dominated the 1960s and defined music for years to come. It was a battle of the bands that the two were in, although this was in terms of the fan base, which picked one over the other.

Yes, there was the participation of Lennon and McCartney on the Stones’ “We Love You,” from 1967. There was Lennon performing with “Yer Blues” with Keef as part of 1968’s “Rock and Roll Circus.”

Those were but moments.

But now it is, I think, rather sad.

One of the meanings of the word remnant is surviving. And what we have with these musicians. Remnants. Those who are left.

The five original members of the Stones are: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, and Bill Wyman.

Wyman left the band in 1993. Jones died in 1969. Watts died in 2021.

So there are two members, one 80, one 79, left of the originals.

As for the Beatles, John Lennon died in 1980 and George Harrison in 2001.

So there are two members, one 81, one 83.

To switch to the political sphere for a moment: Have you seen videos of Joe Biden walking? It appears as though he is trying to make his way across ice-coated eggs.

Have you seen videos of Mitch McConnell suddenly going blank?

Biden is Jagger’s age (80) and McConnell McCartney’s (81).

This is not to equate the four men in any way other than the chronological. . .well, that’s not entirely true.

Does anyone think that Jagger and McCartney have the stuff today that they did half a century ago?

An argument could be made that their experience helps them become better performers. But isn’t rock and roll something that takes something more than Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000-hour rule”—something that Jagger, Richards, McCartney and Starr have many times over?

There is certainly the increase in dexterity and ability that comes with decades of practice and performance. But there is also the all-too-real-and-evident fact of the effects of time. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that biological aging isn’t something that happens steadily; there are periods of punctuation, when there are bursts, sort of like the punctuated equilibrium that Stepen Jay Gould proposed in 1972 (the year, incidentally, of Exile on Main St., arguably the best Stones album ever). The NIH researchers identified these periodic aging events happening at ages 34, 60 and 78, all years that Jagger, McCartney et al. have behind them.

No one wants to see Jagger dance the way Biden walks.

No one wants to see McCartney at a microphone and having a McConnell moment.

When the Stones played a tribute concert for Charlie Watts last year, here is the set list, according to the U.K.’s Radio X:

  • “Get Off of My Cloud”
  • “19th Nervous Breakdown”
  • “Tumbling Dice”
  • “Out of Time”
  • “Angie”
  • “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
  • “Like a Rolling Stone”
  • “You Got Me Rocking”
  • “Honky Tonk Women”
  • “You Got the Silver”
  • “Happy”
  • “Miss You”
  • “Midnight Rambler”
  • “Paint It Black”
  • “Start Me Up”
  • “Gimme Shelter”
  • “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
  • “Sympathy for the Devil”
  • “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

What do these songs have in common? All of them were released before 1995. The “freshest,” as it were, is “You Got Me Rocking” from 1994’s Voodoo Lounge. It includes the lyrics:

I was a pitcher down in a slump
I was a fighter taken for a sucker punch
Feeling bad, guess I lost my spring
I was the boxer who can’t get in the ring

Presumably, 29 years ago Jagger and Richards saw that they, too were missing a step, recovered by, well, rocking:

Hey, hey, you got me rocking now
Hey, hey, there ain’t no stopping me

But is there?

To be sure, doing what they did for years is something that they know how to do, and how to do it well. Not the same as once upon a time. But more than capable.

According to a study published last Spring in Psychological Science:

Empirical evidence has demonstrated that subjective age is a ‘biopsychosocial marker of aging’ . . . feeling younger predicts benefits on key developmental outcomes, such as better physical and cognitive health, higher well-being, greater stress resilience, and lower mortality hazards, whereas feeling older predicts developmental risks on these outcomes. . . . Promoting a younger subjective age, which seems to be feasible by means of interventions. . ., could thus contribute to healthy aging and to maintenance of quality of life into old and very old age.

Perhaps being in the studio and on stage is beneficial, even if there is a marked difference between the physical performance of a 30-year-old and that of one who is 80.

In fact, it could be said that because they still feel it worthwhile, because they still think they have something to contribute, because they are willing to put in the work, we should all not only respect what they have done in the past but look upon them with a level of respect and hope for our continued relevance as we move through our own ages.

2 thoughts on “Time Marches On. Or Does It Dance?”

  1. I saw Willie Nelson at the Outlaw Festival tour at Alpine Valley a couple of months ago, He’s 90 years old now and it was just kind of awe inspiring! He played/sang a full set with his band and his voice and playing were strong. He sat for most of it but I’ll forgive him for that! The highlight of the show was probably the song “Everything Is Bullshit” written by his grandson Micah Nelson/Particle Kid who was also in the band. Fabulous show!

    I’m also always impressed that Paul Simon has remained so fresh and creative and funky in his old age, his last few albums over the last decade or so haven’t had as much commercial success as those of his early and middle years but they’re every bit as good and he’s clearly not just coasting or recycling old material, it’s some of his best work.

    I love U2’s music through about the mid 90s and it was so cool to see it evolve, but in spite of some bright moments their last few albums were generally bland and disappointing. Similar thoughts on Sting, and I could easily think of a few others if I put my mind to it.

    Not everyone keeps their fire in old age but damn it’s cool when they do. I’ll be curious to find out what what the remaining Stones and Beatles have still got in them!

    1. So I just fact checked myself on Paul Simon and the two albums I was most thinking about above were So Beautiful Or So What released in 2011 when he was 70 and Stranger To Stranger in 2016 when he was 75. He also released a couple remixes of earlier work in 2018 which I also enjoy but clearly don’t qualify as new, and I suppose since he hadn’t hit that 78 year mark yet for the other two it kind of nixes him as an argument in this thread, but it’s great stuff nonetheless.

      Also Willie was not playing new material of his own, but it was still an inspiring and fantastic show.

Leave a Reply