Wednesday Wonderings: The “Keep Rocking ’till/lest you Die” edition

It’s a snow day up here, but not the kind where you head out to the mountain. There’s fresh snow on the ground alright, but there’s freezing rain falling on it that’s anticipated to turn to a layer of ice by mid-afternoon. School is out, and there are few cars on the road. It’s a day to huddle down, get on with work, and bone up on what’s going on in the wide world of music amongst the old-timers as they hit, surpass, or fail to live long enough to enjoy retirement.

1) Bruce Springsteen fans debate the morality of the Boss’s new Walmart-only Greatest Hits album. Sample dialogue from the site:

Original post: At the age of 59, with his legend cemented, and getting ready to go on what might possibly be his last shot at major commercial success, he’s putting out an exclusive greatest hits album (that he knows most of us won’t/don’t need or want) where a huge majority of people (who he knows may not be big fans of his) actually buy albums.

Response: And this can only be accomplished by exclusively selling at one
outlet? And that outlet has to be the store with what is probably the worst history of employee treatment ever? The store with the worst record fair labor practices in the U.S.? The corporation with a history
of discrimination against women? The one that locks up their employees at night? Easily the most ubiquitous blight on the landscape of small town America? The antithesis of all he preached in “My Hometown”? The greediest behemoth in the history of U.S. retail?

Well, maybe they’re well matched after all.

Clearly, (not) a lot of time and effort went into the Walmart-only album‘s sleeve. The Greatest Hits package includes 12 previously-released songs. Bruce Springsteen turned 59 in 2008.


2) Todd Rundgren, interviewed in February’s Mojo, nails the issue of what happens to those who, unlike Springsteen, don’t maintain a constant mainstream profile.

“Middle age is the worst era of a musician’s career. If you can get to 60, like Cohen or Dylan, suddenly you become a classic artist, and everyone respects you. But the hardest part is surviving the years inbetween. A lot of the musicians give up.”

Todd Rundgren, who turned 60 in 2008, took a gig with the “New Cars” in recent years as his own way of getting through the middle age crisis.


2) Ron Asheton, 60, guitarist with the Stooges and pioneer of the blues-ridden grungy punk rock riff, becomes the first rock’n’roll death of 2009, dying of a heart attack around January 1. Unfortunately, his body is not discovered until January 6. Rock’n’roll fans world-wide dig out their copies of the Stooges and Funhouse to affirm that he mattered – and how. Hear five of his greatest guitar riffs here.

“I was just the weird guy,” said Asheton in Please Kill Me. “In school, I was either the complete oddball, the nerd, or the freak, and they always called me “the fat Beatle” when I used to wear Beatle suits on dress-up day. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was mostly into Nazi stuff.”

“Fat Beatle” Ron Asheton (to the left of Iggy Pop and Ron’s brother Scott), turned 60 in 2008. He had but a few years as a “classic artist” in the reformed Stooges.


4) Jimmy Page’s manager, Peter Mensch, confirms that Page and bassist John-Paul Jones plan on reforming Led Zeppelin – without vocalist Robert Plant. “John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page enjoy playing with each other,” the NME quotes Mensch as saying. “Jason Bonham is a really good drummer so why not? We just need to find a singer.” Ian Astbury was unavailable for comment.

Jimmy Page, who turned 64 in 2008, and Robert Plant, who turned 60. Could there ever be a Led Zeppelin without them both?


5) Ed Sanders, singer with the Fugs, poet, author, activist, inventor and more, explains his work ethic – and perhaps the secret to old age – in the January issue of Hudson Valley magazine Chronogram.

Sanders overlaps many projects at once, following a regime he calls “All Projects Now.” By his own admission, he’s been known to fill out 3×5 cards while pushing a shopping cart. Indeed, he seems constitutionally incapable of not writing poetry: even his emails have line breaks.

In a City Lights-published manifesto by this name, he exhorts poets to “write everything down,” advice that he’s clearly taken to heart. He’s stored about 500 bankers’ boxes of research material in his garage and outbuildings. “I try to organize so I can find stuff in less than a minute,” he explains, adding that he learned to file data by working with revered local historian Alf Evers during his final years. “Information systems tend towards chaos if left on their own.”

Ed Sanders, who turned 69 in 2008, photographed outside his Woodstock home in the new issue of Chronogram. (Photograph by Jennifer May. Full article here.) He has just published a book of poetry and a CD each entitled Poems for New Orleans. Sanders is working on The Fugs’ Final CD, Part 2, with musical partner Tuli Kupferberg, who turned 85 in 2008.

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