Call that rock & roll? The young pretenders vs the old hands

As the survivors of Led Zeppelin join the Who and the Eagles on the rock reunion bandwagon, they have plenty to teach the young rock stars of today the Amy Winehouses, Lily Allens and Pete Dohertys about life on the road, reports Ida Bergstrom
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When Led Zeppelin stride out on to the O2 stage in London tomorrow night they will launch into the world's most sought-after rock gig. More than 80 million applications were made for tickets to see the latest highly lucrative rock reunion. Some bands, such as the Rolling Stones and the Who, never really went away.

The message for the likes of Amy Winehouse and her ilk is simple: The Show Must Go On. While the rock dinosaurs are strutting their stuff, today's crop of young hedonists, such as Winehouse, Lily Allen and Pete Doherty, can't keep up with the pace. Whereas Led Zep in their heyday could take the stage each night on a 130-odd date tour of the US and put in a coruscating performance and still party on down, Amy, Lily and Pete either don't turn up, put in a terrible performance or cancel the gigs entirely.

Ellen Sander, the Life magazine journalist who covered Led Zeppelin's US tour in 1969, reported that "no matter how miserably the group managed to keep their behaviour up to a basic level, they played well almost every night of the week. If they were only one of the many British rock groups touring at the time, they were also one of the finest. The stamina they found each night at curtain time was amazing."

Similarly members of the Who, the Stones and Black Sabbath were renowned for their booze and cocaine-fuelled lifestyles. The Who's drummer, Keith Moon, trashed hotel rooms, Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones has become a byword for drug use and Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath wears the effects of his booze and drug-addled past in every shuffling step.

Meanwhile Amy Winehouse, recognised as potentially one of the greatest artists Britain has produced, is living the rock'n'roll lifestyle to the concern of her parents and fans. She is currently unable to perform. Pete Doherty, most famous for his drug-taking, sometimes fails to turn up to his gigs; and Lily Allen cancelled a US tour due to boredom and exhaustion. Even the nice boys of Keane had to cancel a tour in 2006 while its singer, Tom Chaplin, rested in rehab.

The serious point, of course, is that not all the old guard survived. The Who lost Keith Moon in 1978 to a drug overdose and John Entwistle, their bassist, in 2002 to a cocaine-induced heart attack. Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones was found drowned in his swimming pool shortly after his split from the band in 1969, and Led Zep's drummer, John Bonham, died in 1980 after choking on his own vomit following a vodka binge.

So, have Amy et al learnt the lessons of their forebears and sensibly spend time in rehab rather than exhausting their bodies with drugs and the punishing schedules of world tours?

Michael Bonner, the associate editor of the music and film magazine Uncut thinks not. "There is something in the DNA of people who become rock stars," he said. "It's what drives them to be on the stage in the first place but it also means they are more willing to experiment. Compared to today the difference is that people were experimenting with cocaine in the 1970s and psychedelics in the 1960s. And I don't think anyone thought there was anything dangerous about that it helped them work late and party late. It's not until you get the series of tragedies with which the era is littered Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin that the danger becomes apparent.

"Now music is much more of a business with contractual obligations and insurance restrictions, so there are more handcuffs. You have to be seen to be doing something about your problem," he added.

Here, the IoS rates various musicians, young and old, for longevity based both on the timelessness of their talent and their likely life expectancy.

The old hands

Rolling Stones

This year's Bigger Bang tour was the highest-grossing ever. It pulled in more than 250m. They score an eight out of 10 in the 'IoS' longevity rating.

Longevity rating 8

The Who

Just two founding members left, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, but still showed how it's done when headlining Glastonbury this year

Longevity rating 7

Black Sabbath

Dark lords of rock toured this year without their talismanic lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, who put on 90 solo shows

Longevity rating 8

Led Zeppelin

Now regarded as one of Britain's finest ever rock bands, setting the standard for the genre and the lifestyle. Their retrospective album 'Mothership' is sure to be a Christmas bestseller

Longevity rating 9

The young pretenders


Nice boys of rock. But even singer Tom Chaplin succumbed to stresses of touring. Spent time in rehab in 2006, leading to tour cancellation

Longevity rating 3

Pete Doherty

Best known for drug use and relationship with Kate Moss, but his work with the Libertines was acclaimed. Sometimes fails to turn up to his gigs

Longevity rating 4

Lily Allen

Widegirl who has displayed insecurities over being in the public eye. Cancelled her US tour earlier this year

Longevity rating 4

Amy Winehouse

Most talented singer and songwriter of her generation whose 'Back to Black' album has spent more than a year in the charts. Cancelled recent tour but still a potential 10 if she can beat the drugs


rating 5