If life, as some wit once opined, is all about showing up, to my way of thinking there's nothing worse than not knowing when to leave. Fish and guests, said Ben Franklin, stink after three days. And old musicians who don't know that their music has turned to mush, stink even worse.
I know our culture expects us to keep rockin' til we drop. I know we're all supposed to be in pursuit of Eternal Youth. I know I'm supposed to find something touching, even epic, in people determined to go rocking and raging into that good night.
But there's something terrifying in the aspect of an aging rocker, hopping all over a stage like an epileptic monkey. There's something especially terrifying about the said aging rocker performing in front of an audience full of golf shirts and bald pates reflecting more light than the disco ball hanging in the center of the room. The way I see it, it's not just terrifying, it's pathetic.
Last night I attended a show by Southside Johnny at BB King's Blues Club in NYC. The first four or five songs were so awful, it didn't even sound like music. Noise is not music, and cranking up the volume doesn't create harmony... it just creates more noise. At one point, when the audience was singing along "ooooooh" - Southside quipped "Oh, those are the lyrics you all know." No, I wanted to shout... those are the lyrics this audience can remember. I'm old enough to know there's a difference.
Don't get me wrong. Everyone's entitled to relive their youth. Everyone's entitled to enjoy their music - if that's what they want to call it. But if Southside Johnny wants to remain the blues legend Beloved says he is, someone should do him the favor and tell him to hang up his mic. Because it's time, Southside... past time.