Saturday 03 Dec 2016

Doing 50, Turning 70
David Simmonds

The pop music milestones are piling up. Paul McCartney, who is knocking them dead on his current Canadian tour, turned 70, last June; Ringo, on tour in Australia, is 72. The surviving members of “The Who,” Roger Daltry and Pete Townsend are 68 and 67 respectively; they’ve weathered numerous farewell, goodbye and last chance to see us tours, are once more touring to play their album “Quadrophenia”, heretofore considered unlistenable.

Then there are the “Rolling Stones.” It’s their 50th anniversary, as a group, which happens to occur just before Christmas and just in advance of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards turning 70 next year. You can still call them the bad boys of rock, if you wish. I prefer to think of them as the bad boys of shameless hucksterism.

To mark the momentous 50th anniversary event, the “Stones” have put out an album entitled, “Greatest Hits 1962-2012.” How thoughtful is that. By one count, this marks their 30th compilation album, which puts the repackaging count higher than the 29 original studio albums they have made.

The album is of course available digitally, on vinyl and on CD. The CD comes in a 40-track, 2-disk package, in selected markets, such as Australia, only; a 50-track, 3-disk package with special paraphernalia; a deluxe set with even more paraphernalia; a super-deluxe 80-track, 4-disk set, with yet more paraphernalia, in case any market segment has been left untouched.

The “Stones” have also opened a shop on Carnaby Street, in an area of London trendy in the 1960s. They decorated the street with “huge clusters of gold vinyl records, photos, artwork and album covers.” Coincidentally, the shop and outdoor displays will be open from now, through Christmas, until early January.

If you can’t make if down to London, yourself, you can always get your “Stones” fan relative a 352-page souvenir book, “curated by us, Mick, Keith, Charlie & Ronnie.” If that doesn’t appeal to grandpa, there’s the “Rolling Stones Limited Edition Pinball Machine.” A steal at $6,599, each will come with a certificate of authenticity numbered from one to 350. If you’re into the visual arts, you can select a limited edition print. For $250, for example, there’s a “hand-numbered” photograph of Keith and Mick in a pub taken just minutes before they learned that Keith had won his appeal and Mick had gained a conditional discharge, on some unspecified criminal charges related to unknown substances.

If that’s too pricey, here are some gift ideas: how about a 50th anniversary ski vest ($100), hoodie ($70), T-shirt ($40) or coffee mug ($20)? You can even buy a “Rolling Stones” mobile phone App from iTunes. Just be aware of the review posted by “Dude291968,” who wrote, “Loved it, but it froze up after watching clip. [It’s now] stuck on that page. Now only thing I can do is hear that song. It won't exit.” That’s the “Rolling Stones” for you, right there: they won’t exist.

Oh, yes, there is a concert tour, sort of. Two November dates, in London, which morphed into sales, and 3 December dates in the New York City area. It’s all over by Christmas. After all, if you can move several tons of merchandise based on the 50-year hook, why bother touring?

That takes me, finally, to the point I want to make. Somewhere along the line, we all have to accept that we age, and that not all of us do so gracefully. Being a bad boy of rock doesn’t exempt you. If they don’t face up to it, the Rolling Stones will eventually be resented or ridiculed, or both. Personally, I think this presents them with an opportunity; one they will look at seriously because they can make money at it. That’s to laugh back at the aging process.

I will not be surprised to see a change in marketing strategy next year. I look for the Stones to launch something like the ‘Steel Wheelchairs’ tour, and bill it as the largest tour ever accompanied by hip replacement specialists. There will be another greatest hits album, of course, but this time they’ll put out senior-friendly versions of their songs, such as “Let’s Spend the Afternoon Together,” “Get Off of My Walker,” “Time May Not be on My Side.” New songs are recorded them at lower volumes consistent with hearing aid frequencies. They’ll create an avatar of Mick Jagger to perform the lewd stage movements or have a robot play the drums. No doubt, they’ll come up with something even better and they have. Next tour, the “Rolling Stones” will haul a Pepper’s Ghost set up so Brian Jones can re-join the band.

If they do, I may even sign up as a fan myself. They have nothing to lose; certainly not their dignity, sacrificed on the altar of commerce some 15-compilation albums ago.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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