Here's an excerpt from a recent interview with Ian Gillan from Deep Purple:
"So we [said], 'Let's call it [their latest tour] 'The Long Goodbye',' and that way, we can make our decision later. Now, the fact is that everyone's feeling great now, and we've all got over those health problems and everyone's in good shape. So I think we're gonna be looking at writing some more material next year and maybe even possibly another album."
Here's another from Brad Whitford from Aerosmith, on the decision of calling their latest tour 'Aero-Vederci':
"I don't actually feel like we're gonna be shutting the whole thing down at the end of it. I think there's a lot more life in the band. But I guess you've got to start somewhere. So we're just starting to put the farewell label on things."
Another reference worth noting for my purposes is Ozzy Osbourne, who being the "goofball of darkness" he is, has called his 'final tour' "No more tours 2" -with part 1 having happened more than 20 years ago-.
Do I see a pattern here? Three rock musicians who are way past their... ehm... twenties hint that they're quitting but then add that not really. In other place in the same Gillan's interview, he compares making music to breathing, and everybody who catches the musical "bug" will concur to that feeling. So there's no reason to quit as long as it keeps feeling good.
Then why did they announced a retirement in the first place? Is it that they cannot stick to their own decision, a workaholic kind of thing? There may be some of that in some cases, those musicians that just get out there and go through the movements because it's better than staying at home watching TV; but I want to believe that there is also something else, a change in climate, a different perspective on things.
As I defended in my previous post, rock music is connected to a way of life, a way of understanding reality and engaging with it. For example, I like the way its energy channels violence in creative, non harmful ways. Think of all those trash and death albums full of convoluted riffs and changes of tempo at neck breaking speed; I'm convinced if some of those guys hadn't had the chance of expressing all that complexity through music, they would have resorted to less beautiful devices to make the energy flow.
I see rock music a bit like those scenes where a guy slaps his friend, and the friend goes "thanks, I needed that!". The energy of rock music, for us who like it, is the same energy that makes hearts beat. The roughness of a mosh pit is taking to a playful level the violence and abuse that we all have to endure in constant doses, more or less disguised as "everyday life". Etc.
This view on life and things doesn't have to be exclusive of young people, although young people is perhaps more prone to "get" its charms, as young people tend to see things with extreme, blunt clarity (just as old people do; on both cases they are close to the mystery, ones because just came out of it, the others because are about to return to it).
This view can be carried through all the ages of your life, but, like I said in my previous post on the matter, it cannot be a "slogan". If you're going to stiffen yourself up with automatic ideas, there are other stereotypes that will serve you better than rock music.
Young age is usually expected to stir the pot, to revolt. A lot of good things can come from that abrasive insolence (like, perhaps 75% of the music I love). But if you survive that age, at one point "This sucks" stops being enough. It has to be complemented with some form of "This sucks, here's what we're going to try instead". And if you're really really wise, you will even add "and if that doesn't work, we'll try this other thing instead".
There's been a certain tendency to associate rock movements to youth exclusively. And there's certainly a base to do that if we consider the many examples, but I don't think the relation is exclusive. In fact this rock->young association is one of those crude simplifications that the laws of market are so fond of creating ("Young rebelliousness! Get your young rebelliousness here!"). But it isn't always that way.
Some rock musicians have been happy in their youth to associate themselves to this Apollo ideal. "Young" as a name rather than an adjective. I think for example of Motley Crüe. It must be way easier to sing "Girls, girls, girls" when you're 20 than when you're 50.
For others, however, this youth is only a "datum" they carry in their career, accepting -because there's no reason not to do it- the social perks it entails, but when it fades off there's hardly any consequence because the focus was always the music. I think for example in Neil Young.
And Neil Young is obviously a good example to mention here, not only because he is also way past his twenties and still active and making relevant music, but because he is such an example in many things; I love the way he has now joined Promise of the Real, a band of young musicians (whose members include Lukas Nelson, Willie Nelson's son). An intergenerational band has an additional richness to it, just like when you have bands with several genders (that's one thing I've always loved of Sonic Youth albums: the balance you get between male and female voices singing gives the whole thing an extra dimension...)
People like him (never saw a case where the name became destiny more clearly) and Leonard Cohen (publishing an album 19 days before passing away, and winning a Grammy for best rock performance at age 82!) are paving the road and opening new ways of thinking and feeling music. I'm confident that new cases will soon follow, as the old models no longer work, the shoe just doesn't fit anymore.
So let's stop copying the past and start innovating. I'm in my forties, and if one thing I know is that my forties experience has nothing to do with what being in your forties meant for my parent's generation. And this sentence has validity for any decade of human life you're reading from. The only clear fact is that in 5 years we all will be 5 years older. So let's revere the past, let's learn from it, but let's not do it in servile ways. Let's use it to do something new with it. "The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating." (John Schaar)
I have a guitar and I'm gonna use it