No more music from the quilted generation

Old rockers should hang up their leather trousers while their reputation and their dignity are still intact, says Andy Gill

Browsing through album release schedules recently, I was struck by how active rock's old guard were at the present time, with some weeks' lists appearing less like album schedules than seating-plans for the annual charabanc outing from the Home for Old Rockers.

We've all become used to the phenomenon of Sixties and Seventies bands reuniting for lucrative tours, whilst up-and-coming combos struggle to find appropriate venues to showcase their talents: you should never, it seems, underestimate the promotional value of an illustrious past. But while heritage rock might furnish a pleasant evening of nostalgic fun, would you really want to hear an entire album of their new material? With one or two notable exceptions, of course not.

Those exceptions are self-evident. Robert Plant's new album, and his collaboration with Alison Krauss on the Grammy-winning Raising Sand, more than justify his reluctance to join any Led Zeppelin reunion; Tom Jones has struck a seam of intriguing possibilities with his retro-styled gospel album Praise & Blame; Leonard Cohen exerts an undiminished fascination on his new Songs from the Road; and the recent comeback successes of AC/DC and Iron Maiden suggest that some old heavy-metal warhorses were built to last. But Phil Collins trampling all over your Motown memories? Cliff Richard getting your gran all excited again? And Ronnie Wood jamming with a bunch of his Heavy Friends? What's the point of a vanity project like that? As for the forthcoming five-disc set of Yes's 1996 live reunion tour, Keys to Ascension, for once the overused epithet "life's too short" can be employed in its most literal sense.

These are just the tip of an unwieldy iceberg of old lags' albums released now or in the coming weeks. Next week, Neil Young straps on his big fuzz-tone guitar again for the aptly-titled Le Noise, and Eric Clapton issues Clapton, whose unforthcoming title is probably equally indicative of his album's content. Bryan Ferry and Joe Cocker have albums due, and there are a couple of admittedly intriguing collaborations, Metallic Spheres promising a prog-tastic hook-up between The Orb and Pink Floyd's David Gilmour, while The Union finds Elton John working with his hero, piano legend Leon Russell. The forthcoming Jerry Lee Lewis duets album Mean Old Man, meanwhile, seems to feature most if not all of the above as guest contributors.

All of which begs the question as to whether it's possible for old rockers to grow old gracefully, and when they should, in the words of the old song, hang up their rock'n'roll shoes for good. Ringo Starr made a botch of it when he simply announced via his website that he was no longer going to sign autographs – though that apparently hasn't stopped him readying the imminent release of the live album Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, a picture of which might usefully be used to illustrate the dictionary definition of "unnecessary".

Some rockers, of course, ought to grow old disgracefully – Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards have never seemed that bothered with propriety, and Jerry Lee Lewis has his reputation to uphold, after all. But in the main, the continuing value of superannuated stars' output seems directly proportionate to the rootsy authenticity of their music. If their original fame depended primarily on the momentary fashion of an era, they will be forever trapped in that era. No amount of bogus distressing or antiquing, for instance, is going to make an ageing New Romantic or glam act seem anything other than tacky, while as recent releases by Mavis Staples and Solomon Burke demonstrate, blues, soul and gospel music can actually improve with age and experience, which is why the likes of Muddy Waters and B B King continued performing into their dotage with dignity intact. As an astute commentator once observed of the latterday Bob Dylan, tireless sexagenarian king of the road: he spent most of his youth trying to sound like an old man, so now he actually is an old man, he sounds more natural than ever.

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific