by Harry Parmenter
“This is the end, my friend,” sang Jim Morrison, pagan martyr of The Doors. His words resonate 50 years later as 2019 is the year when many of the biggest dinosaurs of baby boomer rock will begin to disappear. Final tours are underway for musical giants who have walked the Earth the last five—some even six—decades: the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Bob Seger, Elton John, The Who, KISS, maybe even Aerosmith.
While Seger, John and KISS have made it official, the others have not. As Mick and Keith know better than most, time waits for no one, and I’m betting this will be their last go-around. At 79, Macca is also winding down side two of his Abbey Road career, The Who – well, two of them died before they got old and two of them didn’t, but their current tour U.S. is dubbed “Movin’ On,” and for good reason. Aerosmith is in the midst of an extended Vegas “residency” amidst Joe Perry’s solo projects, including the Hollywood Vampires with Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper, while Steven Tyler is trying to forget his unfortunate country album. Most likely we’ll see the boys from Boston on a 2020 farewell tour.
I missed Seger’s Forum gig a few months back off his last CD, which has an excellent cover of Lou Reed’s “Busload of Faith.” Only saw Bob live once (also at the Forum) in the late ‘90s and he tore it up, Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad on drums and a big band playing the hits including his signature tune, “Turn The Page,” with its haunting alto sax solo. What I recollect most about that night happened before the gig when we pulled off the freeway at Prairie Avenue to see a phalanx of cop cars surrounding a 7-11 where five gentlemen lay prostrate with guns to their heads… coincidentally, Seger brought down the house with “Shakedown” a few hours later.
Elton John, another great, is bidding adieu with what I hear is a terrific show featuring a band including longtime sidemen Davey Johnstone (guitar), Nigel Olsson (drums) and irrepressible percussionist Ray Cooper. On top of that, a biopic titled “Rocketman” is about to hit theatres, hoping to platform shoe on the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Elton and his lyricist partner, Bernie Taupin, a member of the original Hollywood Vampires drinking club who inspired the current Perry/Depp/Cooper band, wrote so many great songs and monster hits, they’d have to play all night to fit ‘em all in. They were, indeed, madmen across the water.
Paul McCartney represents the DNA of our youth, The Beatles. The Beatles cannot be classified as anything, let alone a “rock group,” since they truly changed the world. John, Paul, George and Ringo created, in my mind, the most joyful happening of our lifetime, if not history. Just tell me someone or something else that brought, and continues to bring, happiness and pleasure to so many people across the universe. “Where there is music there can be no evil,” quoth Cervantes, and I can think of no better example than The Beatles. Their songs belong in the ultimate time capsule of humanity. If you want the hair on the back of your neck to stand up McCartney is at Dodger Stadium July 13. Forget “When I’m 64.” People, he’s almost 80. Go.
I caught The Who recently at Madison Square Garden, the same place—and only other time—I saw them 40 years ago following the death of legendary drummer Keith Moon. “Tommy,” “Quadrophenia” and some classic hits accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra, with a young female Asian violinist playing THAT fiddle solo as they closed with “Baba O’Riley,” an enduring, fist-pumping celebration of teenage wasteland.
However, the show ended disquietingly. As the brothers in arms took their final bow, lead singer Roger Daltrey, still possessed of a remarkable voice, in partnership with Pete Townshend, songwriter, guitarist and the brains of the operation, took mic in hand and said, in a nutshell, without irony: “To those of you who were smoking weed in the front, I’m allergic and it closed up the back of my throat. F— you.” Then they walked off the stage. Talk about ending on a sour note. Can you see the real him?
KISS is also in the midst of an alleged farewell tour and, while it will take a few years, I believe them. The Big Mac of Boomer Rock, you either love them or hate them—and I fall into the former camp. They’ve always been loud, tight showmen with plenty of bang for the buck, and when I say bang, we’re talking pyro up the wazoo. There will be rock ‘n’ roll all nite at Staples Center September 20.
Mick Jagger just had a stent put in his heart and The Stones have rescheduled their U.S. tour dates for summer, with an August 22 stop at The Rose Bowl. By the time the whip comes down that night, Mick will be 76, Keith 75 and the other co-founding member, drummer Charlie Watts, 78. Do the math: this will be the last time.
I have seen a lot of the Stones. They are, as they used to be introduced, The Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band in the World. I don’t care how old they are, I don’t care that it’s a subjective declaration…they just ARE. Alchemy, luck, magic…it’s only rock ’n’ roll, but we like it.
This is how I saw them the first time, Summer ’78, Philadelphia, the “Some Girls” tour. “Miss You” blared from boom boxes up and down Market Street day and night. Hot, humid, sticky fingers on the streets. Moping around on my day off near 30th Street Station, without a ticket to the show that day. Two chicks in a Cadillac with the top down pull over and ask me if I know where Veterans Stadium is. I offer directions.
“We got an extra ticket, get in and show us,” the driver says, weaving her words the same way she winds up weaving down the Schuylkill Expressway moments later. She hits 80 and the fast lane as I spy an empty magnum of champagne rolling around on the floor of the back seat.
Twenty minutes later we careen into the Vet parking lot and Marianne Andretti plows through a pair of saw horses and pulls the Caddy up to an entry gate. Authorities appear. Without hesitation I pogo stick onto the concrete, ticket in hand, and melt into the crowd, rushing to the ticket line.
I walk into the Stadium, a radiant hot, sunny day, 65,000 ripped people engulfing me and BAM! The Stones hit the stage and tear into “All Down The Line.”
Alchemy…luck…magic…Baby Boomer Rock. The Rolling Stones at the Rose Bowl August 22.