Rock of ages

Editorial Notebook

August 27, 2005|By Robert Benjamin

`THE WORLD'S Greatest Rock and Roll Band" - now of course the world's oldest rock and roll band - kicked off its latest world tour last weekend to excited reviews. The concert, quite fittingly, was at Boston's peculiarly angled, much storied Fenway Park, the oldest ballpark in the majors. The same weekend, another fabled avatar of the 1960s - the "gonzo" writer Hunter S. Thompson, who fatally shot himself six months ago - was memorialized in a Hollywood-produced fireworks extravaganza in the mountains of Colorado that culminated in his ashes being blasted into the night sky before an exclusive, invitation-only crowd. Beyond the coincidence of timing, there must be a connection, if only as to the ways in which baby boomers have held onto, kept alive and remarketed the energy of the '60s - long after that collective, drug-laced fantasy died.

We boomers have moved on to mortgages and taxes, angsting over our teenagers and tending to the first signs of ailments apt to drag us down more quickly than we'd like to admit. We now take our vitamins and get up with the sun. We're attending more funerals - and not only for our parents. We fertilize the lawn. We're responsible. And all the while, deep in the background, many of us are still moved by the insistence of the Stones' 1965 hit (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - the dissonance between the music and our lives as vast as the shock from looking closely at our aging selves in the mirror.

Don't look too closely at the Stones, either. Mick Jagger - Sir Mick - is 62. Keith Richards, 61. Charlie Watts, back from throat cancer, is 64. Ron Wood, just 58. Their hard-won facial crevices now spawn lattice-work; one critic has likened them to dried-apple dolls. The first three have been performing together for more than 40 years, starting as the dangerous alternative to the initially saccharine and now long evaporated Beatles. Many believe that the Stones' 1969 concert in Altamont, Calif. - during which the Hell's Angels beat a man to death in front of the stage - marked the demise of the peaceful dreams of the '60s. But they toured on, a perpetual money machine resurrected in the 1990s, during which they sold more than 12 million concert tickets. Their current "Bigger Bang" tour of more than 40 shows in more than 30 North American cities (including Baltimore) is virtually sold out well into 2006, with brokers already offering some tickets for more than $5,000.

And in 2005, it's come to this: The Stones' tour is officially sponsored by Ameriquest, the home mortgage company. ("Not your average mortgage company," explains the firm's Web site. "Not your average garage band.") Some of the oddest TV ads around these days feature an Ameriquest "mortgage specialist" offering the company's services while being carried on her back over the heads of a crowd jubilantly dancing at a Rolling Stones concert; at one point, she desperately reaches out to the prancing Mr. Jagger, screaming, "Mick, I love you." It closes with the Stones' trademark, a giant red lips and tongue, which of course just makes you want to refi the old homestead, doesn't it?

Actually and sadly, the tie-in makes absolutely perfect sense. The Stones long ago became a billion-dollar product. Baby boomers long ago gave up on getting their ya-yas out, trading that for other visceral thrills, such as the stock and real estate markets, where the current housing bubble is providing more than a few the intensity of satisfaction they sought in the '60s, though of a different sort. Times change, of course. The Stones have long gone corporate. So have we boomers - and it looks like we'll be married to the very end.

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