WE BUILT THIS CITY: 'REDEVELOPMENT' FOR AGING ROCKERS
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Believe it or not, this very evening the immortal wor= ds, "Hey hey we're the Monkees," will ring out across a stage somewhere. I= t makes you wonder, doesn't it, how these aging rock stars areholding up. R= ingo's out on tour, and Journey, and Ozzy, of course, has thelargest-grossi= ng concert tour of the summer. Roxy Music, Huey Lewis andthe News and Chic= ago are out there. Bob Dylan is always out there. Far be it from me to s= neer at aging rock stars doing what can onlybe called cover versions of the= ir original hits. Musicians don't have shelflives. But, I can hear you sa= y, rock is the music of youth and rebellion. Nonsense. Rock is the music = of television commercials, glossymagazines, three-record deals, MTV, Wal-Ma= rt lyric censorship and musiccompanies as part of giant entertainment monop= olies.
Even in his later years, Duke Ellington occasionally played "FlirtyBird"= "Satin Doll" and "Take the A Train." So who are we to deny agingrockers th= e opportunity to grow long what little hair they have left, get apersonal t= rainer, and hit the road one more time to sock away some moneyfor that rapi= dly advancing old age?
No, my concern is the health and well-being of the= se very samestars. The road is a hard and cruel mistress, and many of thes= e musiciansare over 50. So I have a proposal: we should build a Branson f= or olderrockers, a place for them to go when they really are too young to d= ie andtoo old to rock and roll, at least on the road.
Branson, for those who don't follow country music, is the littletown= in the Ozarks with the big traffic jam; the place where aging countrymusic= stars (Charley Pride, Glen Campbell, Mel Tillis, Roy Clark, etc.)have buil= t their very own theaters. The concept works for everyone: thestars get off= the road and have a chance at a life; the fans, who aregetting old too, se= e all their favorites in one place; and if you mentionthe words "property t= ax" to a Bransonite, you probably get a grin the sizeof Missouri.
So my tongue is only partly in my cheek when I ask: why not aBranson= for rock dinosaurs? Why not a town where old rock gods can live,sing thei= r greatest hits, jam with each other, and maybe -- hope againsthope here --= find a new groove and write more good songs?
I see the place as a kind of gaudier Las Vegas, if that'spossible, w= ith neon electric basses lighting up the sky at night. Themusicians, stars = and sidemen alike, can build mansions out of town andsettle down. Each band= can have its own theater, or maybe several bandswith similar sounds and fe= wer fans can group together like the remainingGrateful Dead musicians do on= tour. They could even write their owncontracts. What would the riders be? = Still "no brown M&Ms," as Van Halenonce famously requested, or would they = want Polygrip, Mylanta andMetamucil?
Think what this would do for the fans. Rock-Branson would be theplac= e where slightly deaf bikers, brain-dead stoners and aging hippies canfinal= ly get along. And if they can't, they can rumble one last time for oldtime'= s sake. But since safety and security are issues for people overfifty, ther= e would be Rumbleworld, a rumble theme park, with rubber knivesand bicycle = chains, huge boxing gloves, and emergency medical help on24-hour call.
Perhaps old drug dealers need a place to retire, too? Androadies?= And how about Hunter S. Thompson? Musicians like Warren Zevonand Jimmy B= uffett are always bragging on stage that they just partied withthe old gonz= o journalist.
Maybe he would want to move there, too? Since rock stars are famous = for their egos, think of the wars infront of the planning commission when R= obert Plant vies with Keith Emersonto have a park or a Laundromat named aft= er him.
I'd put in my own bid for the car dealership.
Of course, these are great musicians I'm talking about, and theydeserve = nothing less than a place that's beautiful and hip. I'm thinkingabout the S= anta Fe area, or maybe Brattleboro, Vt.
We would have a rock-and-roll Old= People's Home. The cemetery wouldbe a major profit center, especially if t= he town fathers could snag JimMorrison's body when he gets bounced out of P= aris. I've heard the Frenchdon't want that constant litter of graffiti, flo= wers, candles and condoms,but my Rock-Branson would love it.
The big question is, can you domesticate rock and rollers? Canthey st= ay in one place? After all, tramps like them, baby, they were bornto run. I= think the answer is yes. After all, life on a perpetual tour buscan get pr= etty old, unless you're Willie Nelson.
I think my plan is a keeper, don't you? The only question is, howcan = we keep Dick Clark away?
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist who writes aboutculture, politics= , economics and travel.