“Hope I die before I get old.” I’m guessing Pete Townshend wishes he could have that one back. Time was, rock bands figured they’d better work quickly, because no one in their right mind would want to be a touring musician when they were in, gasp, their 30s.
But these days, 60 is the new 30, and we’re seeing band after band and artist after artist continue, with varying levels of legitimacy, well into their twilight years. Speaking of Townshend, he and the Who have been engaged in the longest goodbye in rock history for something like 30 years now. The first Who “Farewell Tour” was in the early 1980s. But Townshend and Roger Daltrey just can’t close the lid on the thing. Also in the “You cried ‘Wolf!’ once too often” category – the Eagles, who seem to be downright cynical in their serial final farewell, “and we really mean it this time, now give us your money” habits. The Eagles are hereby disqualified, as are the Beach Boys, who have been trotting around the globe decade after decade, pretending they aren’t a total joke without Brian Wilson in the band.
Here are a few of the longest-running bands in rock history. I’ve included only those bands and artists who still make valid new music. Or, in the case of the Rolling Stones, still make new music, valid or otherwise.
The Rolling Stones
No hiatus. No promise of farewell tours to jack up ticket prices. They just jacked up the ticket prices anyway, with no promises attached. More than 50 years of good ol’ rock ’n’ roll, uninterrupted.
These guys have been going with the same lineup since they were in high school together. And most of the time, they’ve been pretty great.
Most bands are not making their greatest records when they’ve been around for more than 45 years. But Deep Purple is. Last year’s “Now What!?!” is a masterpiece.
Even massive drug addiction and a stint on “American Idol” couldn’t knock this train off the tracks. However, at this risk of being a little bit snarky, I wish Aerosmith had broken up after “Done With Mirrors.” The band hasn’t made a truly great record since. Still a formidable concert force, though.
Forty years and still going strong. A good argument for going back to the hotel and reading a book after the gig, instead of partying all night. As Rush wrote in the song “Marathon”: “You can do a lot in a lifetime/If you don’t burn out too fast/You can make the most of the distance/But first you need endurance – first you’ve gotta last.”
– Jeff Miers