You know how you’re singing an old song to yourself from the 80s, then you mention the band to a friend on Messenger, then the next thing you know, you’re being sent ads and emails about that very band’s upcoming tour? You know when you do that? (Or is it just me?)
Well, I was humming a little Erasure ditty to myself the other day – “oo-oo-ooh, sometimes, the truth is harder than the pain inside”: you know how it goes – then got chatting to a friend about his days as a fan of the disco duo… Then there it was. An email, informing me about their 2018 tour of the UK. Nothing surprising there; we’re all familiar with the spookiness of Facebook/Google/YouTube data-mining these days, but what WAS surprising was the fact that Erasure, the diminutive genius songwriter and keyboard-player Vince Clarke and the prancing be-Spandexed plumber Andy Bell were still gigging! ‘Why, they must be ANCIENT!’ I thought. ‘They must be – dare I say it? – MY age!!’
Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lydon, the whole of Iron Maiden… they all qualify for a free bus pass.
Well, as it happens, they ARE my age, a pair of Baby Boomers hurtling towards their 60s seemingly as fast as the speed of sound. After my initial jerk of surprise about these old electro-poppers, I realised it wasn’t that unusual for ‘oldies’ to be performing. I mean, look at Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), the whole of Iron Maiden… they all qualify for a free bus pass. My soon-to-be-18 year-old son is going to a festival this summer, where the average age of the performers – and they include The Happy Mondays, Seasick Steve and The Sugarhill Gang – must be at least 60.
I’ve always had lots of musician friends, many of whom have been sharing their music for years. There’s the amazing Lynda Hayes who has been a singer since the 70s. She did the American-accented rap on Wham!’s Young Guns in 1985 and, these days you can hear her dulcet tones on several adverts, including the Toys R Us one and another for a breakfast cereal bar where she does a rather stunning 30-second cover of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse Of The Heart.
She’s still going strong now, recording and performing at every opportunity. She says: “I will always perform and do as much work as possible. The biggest driving force is that no matter what age you are, you still gotta eat and pay bills! I do commercials, record songs for songwriters, do backing vocals on other singers’ tracks, do cool gigs, teach singing – plus I have a sideline in voice-over work. My life is very hectic: I am always busy and that’s the way I like it.”
At 57 years young, the dad of five and granddad of two has, for the last 40 years, been the lead singer of punk band The Straps.
Then there’s Johnny Grant. At 57 years young, the dad of five and granddad of two has, for the last 40 years, been the lead singer of punk band The Straps. (His stage name is Jock, but then it would be, wouldn’t it?) He says: “I hit punk at just the right time. I was 17 and punk rock was at its best… I got into playing bass after hearing J.J. Burnell (bass player in The Stranglers) on their hit single Peaches, so as a young punk in my bedroom, I started playing bass and singing. I moved to London in early ‘78 and was asked to sing for The Straps. And here I am 40 years later!”
Over the years, Johnny, founder of the hugely popular Facebook group Punks Reunited, has worked with some great musicians and has recorded three albums. “I still make music because I still have a lot to say about stuff going on in the world – stuff that hasn’t changed or that’s got even worse over the last 40 years.”
I still make music because I still have a lot to say about stuff going on in the world.
Ian Delta Anderson, 53, lead singer with the band Crazyhead back in the 80s, is now in the process of reforming the band for 30th birthday gigs. Ian also plays with rockabilly/garage/punk band The Scavengers. He says: “I’ve been in bands since I was 22, was in lots of covers bands abroad – in Cambodia and Thailand when I lived there. These days, because I have Scheuermann’s Disease, which affects my joints and gives me arthritis, performing’s not so easy. That’s not going to stop me though. I just have to so rest for a day or two after each gig.”
Ian says that although it costs him to play – transport, paying roadies, equipment hire – he’s never going to stop. “I just love to sing, and I intend to continue till I drop dead. The rush of fronting a good band is a great high, even these days without drink and drugs.”
If anyone tells me I’m too old to be fronting a band, I tell them where to go. You’re never too old to do anything.
And it’s not just the chaps fronting punk bands. At a time when many women are tending their window-boxes and knitting booties for their grandbabies, Frank Cutter, the stunningly beautiful 50-year-old female singer with the band anarchistwood, is strutting around on stage in a variety of crazy outfits. She’s also mum and step-mum to nine kids and grandmother of one. “I’ve been in the band since I was 32 and love it. It’s a means of embodying my artistic expression as I can use many types of media – lyrics, videos, visual props, costume, trumpeting, dance – when I perform. By putting myself forward in daring states of dress or undress, I invite all kinds of stuff; conversation, challenging, jeering and dismissive comments (mostly from ‘men’). I also get a lot of support and admiration. I get people saying they’re shocked by my bravery: comments like that mainly come from younger women who have, sadly, bought into what the mainstream media portray as ‘normal’ and cannot understand or appreciate anything that’s outside the (goggle)box.”
Frank, whose band will be playing at the Feral Festival in Westbury this September, reckons age is irrelevant when it comes to making music. She says: “If anyone tells me I’m too old to be fronting a band, I tell them where to go. You’re never too old to do anything: if you believe, you’re just buying into the media’s idea of what humanity is and what an older women should be doing.”
Just as most of us are looking forward to or are already enjoying retirement, these wild souls defy time by carrying on just as they did in their youth. As singer-for-five-decades Linda Hayes says: “I love singing and as long as my voice stays awesome, I will sing no matter what. I will work and party till I drop.”