Rolling Stones gathering moss

By Mike Murphy

I’m not really a big fan of classic rock. Sure, old Beach Boys stuff is occasionally fun to hear except where once I would get what I thought was a sexy tan soaking up the sun’s rays, nowadays I just end up with my arms resembling elongated dried-up prunes. As far as surfing goes, I’m quite certain I could find something to injure just by running with a surfboard in an attempt to reach the water.
I mean, I already feel old enough without hearing Jimmy Soul’s recording of “If You Wanna Be Happy,” which dredges up the memory that my eighth grade graduation class chose it as its class song — in 1963. You may recall that Jimmy sang “If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife” — a theory I proved to be absolutely wrong.
I’m weak in math, so calculating exactly how many years ago that was requires such a complex process that I would just give up, and besides, by now I’ve already forgotten what I was considering doing because, you see, forgetfulness is one of the things that can happen when you reach a certain age — at least to normal mortal souls such as myself.
But not to guys like the Rolling Stones’ front man Mick Jagger. Beyond all reason, despite smoking, drinking and just plain hell-raising for a great deal of his life, Jagger is still going strong at 71. I bet he never even forgets a single lyric. You won’t see Mick Jagger strutting around on the stage shouting, “How we doing tonight, Seattle?” when he’s actually in Chicago. No, but that’s something I could definitely do — not the strutting part, I would hurt something, but the city screw up is what I mean.
Then there’s guitarist Keith Richards, also 71, but in his case we’re talking dog years. Have you seen him lately? The man has lived so hard he looks like he just got off work at the London Museum — as a mummy exhibit. Why, Keith Richards has ingested more illegal drugs than a laboratory mouse.
And booze? At concert after-parties they just tap one of Richards’ veins and serve grain alcohol to the guests. You may recall that Richards is the Rolling Stone who fell out of a coconut tree a few years back while visiting Fiji, landing on his head and fracturing his skull. He immediately staggered up from the ground, raised his empty drinking glass, and slurred, “I’ll take another one of those, and make it a double this time.”

Two years ago The Rolling Stones celebrated 50 years together as a rock band by going on tour. This past week they started another tour, during which they’ll play 15 concerts. So these guys in their 70s are on the road rocking and rolling on something called the Zip Code Tour while I’m rocking in my chair trying to remember my zip code. Just doesn’t seem quite fair.
However, I’m willing to bet that their last few tours, including this latest one, are a bit different than tours during the band’s heyday. For one thing, the audience has aged a bit. Instead of rushing the stage, today’s white-haired fans jockey for position with their walkers. Females no longer shower the stage with bras and panties, but it’s possible Mick could get smacked in the face by a pair of Depends. Although the days of the band members maintaining an entourage of teenage groupies are long gone, 73-year-old drummer Charlie Watts does keep a personal nurse handy to check his blood pressure between songs.
The band’s requests for perks while on tour have changed over the years also. Whereas they once demanded a supply of pot and alcohol before shows, now their dressing rooms are well stocked with Ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol and kegs of Geritol.
As they continue to age, the Stones may want to reconsider some of their hit songs’ titles: “Time Is on My Side” (Uh-uh, don’t think so); “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (How about can’t get no good night’s sleep?); “It’s All Over Now” (OK, this is getting too depressing).
Mick Jagger summed up the band’s evolution nicely by pointing out that back in the 1960s the Stones were the bad boys of rock, and parents would not allow their teens to attend the concerts. Now those teens are all grown up and are dragging their children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren to the shows.
Despite finding classic rock depressing at times, I have to admit that after hearing about The Rolling Stones launching another concert tour this summer, I felt a sudden surge of energy while attempting to finish mowing the lawn and boldly whispered to myself, “I can do this. And I will — right after my nap.”

Mike Murphy of Pocatello retired after a 35-year teaching and coaching career. He has a master’s degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is an Associated Press award-winning columnist.