We are the Baby Boomer generation. We warned “never trust anyone over 30″ because most of us thought we would never make it to 30. (We were the nuclear bomb generation, too.) We were raised watching black and white television, with few channels to choose between. And we were the first generation to experience, listen, and live and die with rock’n’roll. Our parents warned us that listening to too much loud rock music would ruin our hearing and scramble our brains. Maybe our parents were right.
For those of us who grew up during the 1970s, there was no greater issue: Which group was better – The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? But did we think we would still be listening to rock music today? Did we ever expect to be listening to and watching the rock bands of our era, live and in concert? I didn’t.
For fun, I asked a carefully worded question of my Facebook and Social Media Baby Boomer friends: If you were stuck on a desert island the rest of your life and had only one greatest hits record to play, which would you choose: The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? I specifically did not ask the question, “Which one did you like better as a teenager, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?” because The Beatles would have won hands-down.
Sixty friends responded. The votes for the two groups today was little different than how they would have voted 40 years ago.
I was and still am a huge Beatles fan. I grew up with the indoctrination from my mother about how nice those clean-looking Beatles boys were and how those dirty Rolling Stones were evil incarnate. How could I disagree with what my mother was saying when all she heard was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” versus “Let’s Spend The Night Together”?
We now know that The Beatles were not so sweet and innocent. And The Rolling Stones were a little wilder, but were excellent musicians and businessmen at heart. The Beatles musical influences were the early rock’n’rollers, like Chuck Berry and Cliff Richard. The Stones loved the rhythm and blues music of the 40’s and 50’s, by musicians like Blind Lemon, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. They used the blues/R&B beat as their rhythmic base. In his article for PopMatters.com, John L. Murphy writes about pop historian John McMillan’s book, “Beatles vs. Stones:”
“He begins with the clichés. They merit qualifications but endure as plausible. The dichotomies emerge. The Beatles as Apollonian, the Stones as Dionysian; one pop, the other, rock; erudite vs. visceral; utopian as opposed to realistic. Sean O’Mahony, publisher of both bands’ official fan magazines starting respectively in 1963 and 1964, crafted and softened their public images. He opines: “The Beatles were thugs who were put across as nice blokes, and the Rolling Stones were gentlemen who were made into thugs by Andrew [Loog Oldham, their manager].” McMillian accepts this as closer to the truth than the bands or their fans might admit during the next half a decade. “
Amazingly, Sir Paul McCartney is still making music and performing before packed audiences at age 71, and damn, he still looks young and boyish. Even more amazing is that The Rolling Stones have been performing together for 50 years, and Keith Richards will be 70 years old on Dec. 18. If we didn’t think that we would still be alive, then how is Keith Richards alive after ingesting all those drugs and living a dissolute life for many, many years? But he is still alive and playing lead guitar, as well as ever.
Keith Richards today is a domesticated house husband, married to a super model and father to 5 children and grandfather to 4. He has appeared to have mellowed somewhat and is much more open and accessible. He’s written a not-quite-tell-all, but well-written book “Life” and has an excellent Internet site http://www.keithrichards.com/. You can ask him questions on his website and you will get an e-mail answer, when he feels like it. There is even a book and website, “What Would Keith Richards Do?“. He has become a sage in his old(er) age:
On art: “art is just short for arthur.”
On trouble: “it’s all just show-biz. my whole life is show-biz.”
On human nature: “people hate themselves anyhow. if it wasn’t smack, they’d hate themselves for eating carrots. you can bet on it.”
On how much Mick’s changed over the years: “his underwear. three times.”
On being left alone after death: “don’t call my coffin.”
On longevity: “I was number 1 on the who’s likely to die list for ten years…I was really disappointed when I fell off that list.”
On being alive: “some things get better with age. like me.”
On the rumor that the only two things that will survive a nuclear holocaust are the New York City cockroaches and Keith Richards: “poor old cockroaches.”
And on money: “but what does a millionaire do if he happens to spend over a million dollars a year? that makes him a pauper, you know. I could earn that title very quickly.”
But most senior citizens are not millionaires. Too many live on the edge of financial disaster According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54.7% would be living in poverty if it were not for their Social Security payments. Part II of this article will focus on the economics and politics of senior citizens.
How did I vote in the quintessential “Beatles or Stones Greatest Hits” question?
Is there any better opening guitar riff than on “Start Me Up”?
If I had only one greatest hits CD to play on the desert island, it would be by the Rolling Stones. I would need the driving beat and rhythm to be able to make it through the day. Me and the cockroaches know it’s only rock’n’roll, but we like it.