POP MUSIC / Rock steady: The Stones tour and old jokes come out. Enough] says Jonathan Glancey, let's hear it for the rock dinosaurs

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The Independent Online
WHEN Sixties rock'n' rollers grew up, they clipped hedges, polished cars and invested in pension plans against a backbeat of Stones, Pink Floyd and the Eagles. Yes, they came to like Bach; but they also dug John Coltrane and John Lee Hooker. They crooned along with Elton John, Bryan Ferry and George Michael, gobbed with the Clash, Ramones and Dead Kennedys, felt good with Dr Feelgood, Vangelis and Verdi, drove to Waitrose with Philip Glass, Enigma, Deep Forest and monkish plainchant. And they still played 'Sympathy for the Devil' at parties.

Mick, Keith and the boys keep on keeping on. Newspaper columnists and TV pundits snigger. I say, everyone, look at these fiftysomething wrinklies a-rocking and a-rolling.

They are rocking with embarrassing success. The Rolling Stones are now among the most lucrative and profitable enterprises in the world. They are playing more and bigger dates than ever before. They are packing out four nights in New York, four nights in Boston . . . their last studio album, Steel Wheels, is their biggest seller yet; their latest, Voodoo Lounge, promises to be even bigger. Impressive, even if you find listening to rock bands at sports stadia as inspiring as a multi-storey car park.

Dusted-down and reformed, the Eagles and Pink Floyd are making big bucks, too. They, like the Stones, are enjoying a high chart position in this year's Forbes list of the hugely rich and sometimes famous. Like heavily hyped businesses with history, pedigree and sheer staying power - Coca-Cola, Heinz, Levi-Strauss among them - they just need to keep staying in there to reap the rewards of international success. These big-time bands are making more money and attracting bigger audiences today than they have ever done.

While the big earners of recent years - Prince, Michael Jackson, George Michael and Madonna - are keeping a low profile, they are being outrocked by the bands their parents dug. And where Nirvana and Wet, Wet, Wet appeal to teenagers and teenagers alone, Eagles, Floyd and Stones catch the ear of 18-year-olds discovering Hotel California for the first time and middle- aged bankers.

And, despite what critics in natty suits buttoned up to their collar bones might want to believe, some of these middle-aged rockers still look cool (well, all right, Ronnie Wood's hair-do could do with a refit). We haven't got used to the idea of bus-pass rockers, although we applaud John Lee Hooker for seeing his pony run in his seventies, pack out the Hammersmith Odeon when B B King plugs in Lucille and cope with a 20 (stone) something Pavarotti bellowing Nessun Dorma at football matches.

Hope I die before I get old; sure, but, today, you can be young and rocking at 60 and a laid-back dead-beat at 20. Let the Stones keep rolling.

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