Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Young and Pretty

What is it with our fixation on all things young (and pretty)? Precociousness is highly prized in our world. We look for the next young thing to turn us on. To tell us something fresh. Or to tell us something we already know in a new and exciting way. For an aspiring musician leading (what I think is) a hot little band, this can be a bit frustrating when you realize that the hot little band is not at all a young little band. Three of us hit 40...let's say, in the recent past. I get to wondering if there's a fan base (beyond friends and family, that is) for a band that plays music as if we were in our 20s, but with (I think -- correct me if I'm wrong) a more mature grasp of things like "love" and "politics" and such. The Late Joys play high-octane Brit-pop-influenced tunes: We're sort of the thinking man's indie-rock; cool hooks and smart lyrics. Lots of fun in concert. No, really. We are! But in these label-happy times, is the fact that we're, uh, older, getting in our way? Who's gonna come calling when there's some younger act out there with cool hooks and smart lyrics, etc. Have we missed the boat? The hydrofoil to pop success? What do people think when they think of The Late Joys?

When pigeon-holing my age group, music-industry-wise, there's an array of possible scenarios that are much more common than the path we've followed. For instance:

1. We made it 20 years ago, then flamed out.
2. We made it 20 years ago, flamed out, then resuscitated the act because we need the money/fans implored us/the Maserati-BMW-Prius just isn't the same as 10,000/1,000/100 (depending on our one-time height of fame/infamy) fans screaming your name.
3. We never made it, scrapped that "change-the-world" attitude and started playing the blues/bluegrass/country music to an adoring, loyal, yet oddly inbred fan-base.
4. We may or may not have made it to various degrees but now are earning an almost-decent second income playing cover songs at weddings in the area; yes it's humiliating, but please call for a demo, we're free Saturday night.
5. We never changed our attitude and play to audiences that wonder what the f**k those old guys are doing up there.

Naturally I fear the worst. Or the fifth, actually. But I don't feel old. I don't act old. I wonder if I'm acting my age? And yet, I know deep down that this world turns its head when the next pretty young thing saunters by, throwing itself at the feet of youth and beauty. Why not? If Y&B responds, doesn't that make us young and beautiful, too?

I've thought about this for quite some time. Years and years, really. Can you tell? Does it show? Especially now I'm old enough to have fathered most of those precocious Y&B things you see a-singing and a-dancing on the Top of the Pops* (R.I.P.). I'm not saying I did father all of them -- or any of them, actually -- but I think you get the point. *TOTP is, sadly, another reference that dates me. Yesterday a friend at work took exception to my use of the phrase "these days." "It sounds old," she said. Or did she use the word "fuddy-duddy?" No, that would make her sound old. I should point out here that she, too, is of an age that falls within that "I could have sired her" range. Neigh, but I digress.

I don't mind getting old. I rather like it. Especially as it has come with the realization that I don't have to act that way. I even put it in a song: "Like Big Girls Do," where the storyteller admonishes a fellow person-of-upward-yet-not-catastrophically-infirm age that "Yeah, you're only young once they say. That doesn't mean act that way." And further: "Yeah you grow up so fast, so what? That doesn't mean you get to give up." The level of frivolity in my life has definitely increased as I've aged. Christ, I sound like a zesty cheese. "Taste this zesty, frivolous, yet mature cheese..."

But it's true: There's something invigorating about getting on stage with the other Late Joys in front of our friends and families and jangling that guitar and singing and laughing and, well, playing. I was saying to Andy the other day that we "play" music; the verb implies fun, an outpouring of energy, sharing with others -- it's a game. And it keeps you young.

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