Hit & Run: Rock of ages

Wednesday 25 March 2009 01:00

This summer's music festival circuit is fast shaping up to be another Summer of '69. Or, more to the point, the summer of the 69-year-olds. By chance or design, the line-ups at 2009's biggest events are populated by Saga subscribers. Glastonbury, which last year drew a youthful crowd with Jay-Z, its first hip-hop headliner, will this year play host to performances from Bruce Springsteen (59), Neil Young (63) and Crosby (67), Stills (64) and Nash (67).

Latitude, held near Southwold in Suffolk, is one of the most civilised fixtures on the summer schedule. At the festival's launch event this week, the organisers announced bill-topping turns from Grace Jones (60), the Pet Shop Boys (combined age: 103) and Nick Cave (51). At least the Lovebox Weekender, held in Victoria Park, east London, boasts a comeback appearance from Duran Duran, whose youngest member, Nick Rhodes, is a sprightly 46.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, plans are afoot for an event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival, with mooted guests including CSN, Carlos Santana (61), The Who (Daltrey, 65, and Townshend, 63) and Joe Cocker (64).

"Younger bands that would have seen a tour sell out by the afternoon six months ago are now taking longer and longer to shift tickets," says Paul Stokes, news editor of NME. "But more established acts, like Michael Jackson at the O2, are selling out in no time.

"It's a credit-crunch thing. If you've got 30 or 40 quid to spend on a night out (or £175 for a festival), you don't want to risk seeing a band and having them fall flat. You want a guaranteed good night out. The festivals have picked headliners that let them say, 'Whatever else is on the bill, you're guaranteed a good show. They're all artists who've honed their acts and know how to entertain big crowds."

The festival demographic has aged in recent years, and organisers may have booked acts that appeal to the few people with disposable income. Yet, last year, Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis made clear his desire to draw back a younger crowd.

"I wonder how much their takings were on the stalls," muses Stokes. "When I went to Glastonbury aged 16 I took food with me and didn't spend any money. But older people will happily pay over the odds for a burger [or a box of sushi], so they're good revenue-generators."

Jon Dunn of Live Nation, the promoter who booked Latitude's headliners, insists that it wasn't a conscious decision to pick artists of a certain age. "They were all just perfect for Latitude. There are another 121 acts yet to join the bill, many of whom will be new names, like Little Boots and La Roux. For young people, Grace Jones is still an amazing icon."

Music, of course, is as ageless as many of its stars. "Young people might not go to a Springsteen gig normally," says Stokes, "but they know he's a legend so they'll go to a festival to see all the young bands, then catch his show as well. The acts may be old, but they don't appeal exclusively to an older audience." Tim Walker

Too fat to fight? Drop and give me 20!

Incoming! The latest bombshell dropped by the US Army is that it has turned away 48,000 would-be recruits since 2005 for being too fat to fight. According to military regulations, GI Joes under 27 years of age have to have less than 26 per cent body fat, while GI Janes must have less than 32 per cent. Given that the USA spends $160bn a year on fast food, it's no wonder that the average American is getting wider; 66 per cent of them are now overweight.

But surely the army would be the best place to shed a few pounds? Hit & Run has seen Private Benjamin and knows that life in khaki is bloody hard work, but all that running around and shooting has to be an effective way to slip into a size 10. According to Uncle Sam's briskly frightening website, serving soldiers are required to take a fitness test at least twice a year, comprising push-ups, sit-ups and a timed two-mile run – and that's before they get anywhere near the battlefield.

So effective is army life in increasing fitness that couch potatoes are turning to military-style training regimes in America and Britain. Boot camps are an increasingly fashionable way for civilians to tone up and retired soldiers are in demand for their take-no-prisoners training style. Harvey E Walden, Marine, drill sergeant and fearsome fitness instructor to the stars, explains that "a boot camp workout breaks up the monotony of running on a treadmill or walking outside. People need to get walking and get exercising to fight problems like obesity."

So, rather than turning rotund recruits away, the US Army should welcome roly-poly rookies – and set about turning them into lean, mean fighting machines, as Lee Ermey so terrifyingly did in Full Metal Jacket. They might even pay for the privilege. Rebecca Armstrong

The sinister secret of soap

Cleanliness is next to godliness it used to be said. It is one admonition the world has heeded. Our obsession with hygiene has seen soap sales soar in recent decades and the frequency of washing rise exponenentially. "One bath a week" was the edict issued by ministers during the power cuts in 1973. How much better if we had stuck with it. Now we lather ourselves daily – and are reaping the whirlwind in dry and cracked skin, a 40 per cent rise in eczema in four years, and a growing burden of allergy. Time to call a halt and wear our sweat with pride. Goodbye, bath-time – welcome back, grime. Jeremy Laurance

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