Rock’n’Rollin’ in their Graves

This past weekend, at the ripe old age of 27, I finally popped my Glastonbury cherry. Like all virgins, I wasn’t totally sure what I was doing and I did occasionally find it a bit difficult staying up, but those were minor problems compared to the ecstasy – and relief – that I felt after getting through one of the most nerve-wracking and exciting experiences of young life.

And yeah, it was big. I get that now. I see what the fuss is about. The endless whingeing from Facebook punters who couldn’t get tickets now makes sense. I now see why the country’s media collectively pushes aside real news for the whole weekend so we can all pretend to be there. I even understand the vitriol spewed by a lot of that press coverage. Bloody sour grapes.

Of all the unsubtle attempts by journalists to look happy about the fact that they missed the Rolling Stones live, the most egregious – and you really shouldn’t be surprised by this – was the front cover of the Daily Mail. As I stood, bleary-eyed on the Victoria Line on Monday morning, still dressed like a New Romantic, I spotted a bloke reading the Voice of Middle Britain, which sported blown-up pictures of Mick & Keith on the cover accompanied by the headline ‘Glastonbury’s night of the living dead!’

A har har har. I suppose we could write this off as an unfunny, but harmless dig at national treasures that surely even the Daily Mail can’t be too offended by these days. I mean, it’s been years since Keith got clean. Like, four years. But what riled me about this jibe was the casual inference that old musicians should bloody well shut up and leave us all alone. They’re practically dead, after all.

Rolling-Stones-at-Glastonbury-Festival-2011729

I genuinely don’t want to rub this in, but their set was incredible. Mick might be more than twice the age of the average Glasto frontman, but he also had twice the energy and charisma onstage, and the group’s musicianship was polished enough to dazzle while retaining enough ramshackle charm to sound real. Although clearly, having 50 years to perfect the process of delighting a crowd with an astonishing set means nothing when you’re a bit wrinkly.

But that was the band. What was far more telling was the audience. I hope this is obvious from the fact that I’m writing for this site, but the Stones are not of my generation. They’re actually quite a bit older than my dad. And yet there were plenty of people from my sprightly mid-twenties demographic in that audience, having a hoedown to Honky-Tonk Women. And plenty of people who looked about my dad’s age, too.

Glastonbury Festival 2013 - Day 4

I get that the Daily Mail’s mission statement is to be offensive about things that they don’t understand, but it is amazing that they’ve so comprehensively missed the entire point of, well, music. If you make timeless music, then it will span generations – it doesn’t really matter how old you are. Not one person in that crowd gave a solitary shit about the fact that Keith Richards actually does kind of look like a Spitting Image puppet of himself.

So, why the casually ageist bile towards admittedly ageing rockers? We get it – they’re old. But mocking them for it is like slamming Freddie Mercury for being flamboyant. Age doesn’t change the fact that the Stones wrote fucking incredible music and still play it with aplomb – I’d argue that their fairly extensive experience is a defining factor in this. If anything, that staying power should be celebrated – it’s pretty hard to imagine my kids singing along to Mumford & Sons in 40 years’ time.

Words: James Barton

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