LEADING ARTICLE: Sex, drugs and sagging waistlines

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The nominations for this year's Brit awards for popular music have not so much a retro as a geriatric feel. Five hundred nominators were chosen from the fiefdoms of the music business to name their preferences. The idols they have tipped range fro m the possessors of the thickening waists of early middle age to the owners of the hollowed cheeks of near pensionability. Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, Elvis Costello and Kate Bush are all in there, Take That are not. This reflects a trend. In terms of sale s TheBeatles at the BBC outsold everything else last year, and Bob Dylan will do the same this year.

This is strange, is it not? Rock and pop are about sex and excitement or they are about nothing. For the young, the Mick Jaggers and Rod Stewarts are slightly repellent, scrawny grandpas, inappropriately and pathetically poured into tight leather trousers. Shouldn't their enduring (even growing) popularity cause concern about the health and vigour of the music industry?

"Yes", says an angry ageist, "and it is all the baby boomers' fault. The Sixties adolescents exercised cultural hegemony then, run things now and have always had a lot of money. So their tastes and preoccupations dominate. They believe they discovered sex in the Sixties, money in the late Seventies, sensibilities and children in the Eighties. Furthermore if you think things are bad now, just wait 20 years. The supplements will be full of fashionable articles on incontinence, cryogenics and green burial;the obituary pages will take over the newspapers."

"Yes, but it is a musical phenomenon," says a pop determinist. "For 40 years the three basic chords of 12-bar blues, A, D and E, have been strummed or blown in every possible combination. We're at the end - it has all been written and recorded. That is why there are so many cover versions. And in the end people go back to the original."

Enter a third, more optimistic voice. "Actually", it says, "1994 was a vintage year for young musicians. Look at the new, spirited and up-tempo bands like Oasis and Pulp. And then there is Blur - a combination of witty lyrics and catchy tunes. Reminds one very much of the Small Faces."

True. But "Itchycoo Park" was recorded in 1967.

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