Tuesday Ten: 286: When I Grow Up

Next week marks ten years since I began the Tuesday Ten series, at the end of March 2007. I was 28 then, and much has changed in the decade since.

Certainly, my views on the world have changed, how I see myself, and more specifically to this post, how I listen to music and perhaps what music I listen to.

Yes, it’s probably fair to say I’m getting old(er). I turn 39 this year, other friends turn 40 or even 50 this year. We’re perhaps more cynical about our futures than we were a decade ago.

So, this week is about ageing. From the hopes and dreams of the young, to the regret and looking back of the old.

In addition, as I was writing this, news broke over the weekend that the legendary rock’n’roll innovator Chuck Berry has died aged 90. Quite an innings for a controversial character, who had a number of deep flaws, but was indisputably someone so, so important to how popular music evolved. Pretty much anyone who has picked up a guitar since owes him a debt.


The Who
My Generation
My Generation

Talking of legends, actually, one line from this is perhaps among the best-known in popular music.

I hope I die before I get old

One of the original, incalculably influential songs – a howl of fury at the establishment of the day, a time where the younger generation by the sixties were all-but unencumbered by memories of war and instead were looking forward, and culture (and technology, too), advanced at an astonishing pace. This was more than a generational change, of course, it could perhaps be seen as a once in a lifetime change. But then, maybe the changes wrought by the internet thirty years or so later are just as important.

Only Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend survive of the original foursome, of course, with Keith Moon having died aged just 32 in 1978, while John Entwistle succumbed in 2002. Daltrey and Townshend announced a residency in Las Vegas last week, amid the general view that this seems to be a last hurrah for the surviving two members of the legendary band.


Tom Waits
I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
Bone Machine

Tom Waits has, for so long, struck me as an artist who exists out of time, away from musical trends, away from cultural norms, as he has made his own path through life. So this song comes as a bit of a jolt. Rather than detailing the lives of other people, as he did during that astonishing phase across the eighties, for two minutes and thirty-one seconds here Waits is returned to the here and now, questioning whether getting older was actually everything it was cracked up to be, whether a life of responsibility and hope for better things was actually worth the time.


Suede
So Young
Suede

The opening track to Suede’s still-striking debut album takes a different tack entirely. The carefree, fuck-the-consequences air of this song is rather infectious, in some respects. This is the life of youth, in that period after education, but before work and responsibility intrude, and reckless decisions (in this case drug use) can be made without too much worry. But then, in the early nineties – a particularly bitter recession that affected my own life – what future was there in the UK for the young?


The Indelicates
Sixteen
American Demo

Still with not growing up, The Indelicates took a wry look back at the whole idea of teenhood, perhaps through rose-tinted glasses, about that idealistic time where you don’t – yet – have to grow up. You can get drunk on cheap cider, make crap music that sounds oh-so-great to your young ears, annoy the fuck out of your elders, and not be understood by them either (the crucial point being that your elders have already been through it, and know exactly what you’re doing). The real kicker, though, comes at the end, when they reveal just how much older the people wanting to be sixteen again actually are…


Frank Turner
Losing Days
Tape Deck Heart

Kinda riffing on My Generation, Turner – not for the first time – muses on his own life and what he has achieved, admitting that, like many, he perhaps thought he’d never really get old, and he’d be young forever. When you pass those milestones – twenty-five, in this case – it really does bring forward some soul-searching, as you realise that without noticing it, you’ve grown up, you have a real job, you have bills to pay and things you must do. My view on this is that there must still be the good times, though, not just dwelling on the boring things, or what you didn’t do in the past. Live every day like it’s your last, enjoy it. We only get one chance.


Everclear
Volvo Driving Soccer Mom
Slow Motion Daydream

Everclear take on middle-age with a vicious take on what became of wild youth. We all did some questionable, maybe regrettable things, right, when we were younger? Here, the protagonist perhaps did some very wild things, but is now stuck in middle age, as a parent, with a life that is no longer her own, and doesn’t appear to be enjoying it. For those of you that are parents, well, each to their own. We made our decision not to have kids a long time ago, and are still happy with that decision.


LCD Soundsystem
All My Friends
Sound of Silver

When were you cool? Yeah, so Losing My Edge – a glorious takedown of hipster trends and bitching about the young taking the cool points away from those who “were there first” – might well work here just as well, but All My Friends is a poignant look at nostalgia and realising that you are getting old. But also a toast to how getting older doesn’t mean getting boring.

To decisions about whether to stay out and shoot the shit, or go for an early night, to rest for the next night. To shedding old, troublesome friends, shedding your past. To making new friends, to making a new life. To still having fun, to not worrying about being cool. To a fucking amazing, life-affirming song that could only be written by someone who has lived it and understands it. (Stereogum did a better thing about this glorious song a while back, though).


Manic Street Preachers
La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
Gold Against The Soul

I am a relic
I am just a petrified cry

A truly great single that comes from, well, an album that even my self-confessed-FMF wife finds hard to love at points. One of Richey Edwards’ most quietly furious lyrics, it deals with elderly war veterans. Those brought out every remembrance day as they get older and older, while politicians and others offer platitudes, all while sending the next group of young men to fight another war.

And they all hope I’m feeling well
I retreat into self-pity, it’s so easy
Where they patronise my misery

Needless to say, the truly criminal part is that those veterans then get forgotten until the next year, many relying on benevolent organisations to help them through. I’ve long held the view that this is a cost that the Military should bear (or Government, if you will) – after all, these people sacrificed so much, why shouldn’t we repay that sacrifice for as long as is needed?


dEUS
Hotellounge (Be The Death of Me)
Worst Case Scenario

There was always a darkness at the heart of the best dEUS songs, that distinct feeling that even amid the joy of life, a bleak emptiness was always a heartbeat away – and some songs delved deep into that (the devastating Secret Hell and also Sister Dew being two of those). But one song from their still-striking debut album stands out for being something different.

Hotellounge is, like the subject it covers, a song of faded grandeur. The hotel lobby the protagonists are in has that feel of a location that was once the envy of others, and the narrator has this wistful air of regret now that age has dulled their own appeal (I’ve seen suggestions, never confirmed by the band to my knowledge, that the song is about a prostitute, but it’s certainly about getting older, that’s for sure). The final verse, almost whispered as the song gradually fades away just hammers that point home.

Do you see that man / In the left-hand corner / Do you see that woman / Their love-story’s famous

Interestingly, the six-minute song was actually once even longer – I have a ropey live copy from a BBC Sound City broadcast (from Bristol in early 1995) that I recorded on tape at the time and since got an MP3 bootleg of – that adds an additional verse at the end, that only pulls at the heartstrings further as it tips deeper into desperate regret.


Mike & The Mechanics
The Living Years
Living Years

I heard this song for the first time in many, many years recently, and was not far off having to flee the room to avoid an(other) emotional meltdown to it. This is, to put no finer point on it, a song about dealing with death, and that sudden realisation that you didn’t get to say all the things that you wanted to say, and this song nails the despair of that moment so well I can barely listen to it at all.

And yes, I have personal history with this. My grandfather died about a decade ago, and the chaos of my life post-University (before I met my now wife) meant I didn’t see him much in his latter years. I never got the chance to say (again) thanks for the support he provided me in a mental and monetary sense as my world imploded at University, but I guess also, for being someone that respected my choices from early on, made me think about my life and what I did about it. I still miss him terribly, and one of my few regrets (I try not to dwell on regret, but this is different) is that I didn’t make more of an effort to get to Salisbury, even one last time.

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