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Is it time Paul McCartney and his pop star pals of yore called it a day?

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 03, 2012

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The opening line-up for the eagerly-awaited return of BBC2’s Later With Jools music show has been greeted with derision by critics. Simon Parker joins them in lamenting the current obsession with pop star comebacks.

"For God's sake burn it down" was how singer Kevin Rowland sneeringly opened his band's debut album in 1980. He intended Searching For The Young Soul Rebels to be a defining moment in popular music, a line in the sand, time to put the dinosaurs of rock out to grass.

So it came as something of a disappointment to learn this week that the grumpy man of pop is currently leading his not-so-young soul rebels – in the guise of a resurrected Dexy's Midnight Runners – on a national tour. Thirty-two years on, we might be forgiven for sneeringly throwing the phrase back in his face: "For God's sake, Kev, burn it down."

But it's not just Kevin Rowland seeking to bolster his bank balance with a round of comeback gigs this year – everyone's at it. From Jethro Tull to Madness, The Stranglers to Wishbone Ash, they all want a slice of the posthumous pie.

Lamest of all, perhaps, is Paul McCartney. And at the risk of being charged with treason, accused of sacrilege, or both, isn't it time you called it a day, wack?

Yes, he was a member of a groundbreaking 1960s band. But when considering his oeuvre, we shouldn't forget the soppy Wings, the unforgivable Mull Of Kintyre or the string of hopeless love songs. Granted, The Beatles were pretty good – in their day – but that's no excuse for trotting out the same tired tunes year in, year out, for half a century. You can bet John Lennon wouldn't still be struggling through an out-of-tune version of Hey Jude. So why does Paul think he can get away with it?

It's generally agreed that the London 2012 opening ceremony was a triumph on every other level – yet the decision to wheel on poor old Macca at the end was a major error of judgement. An uncomfortable spectacle for those in the stadium or viewing at home, surely even the ex-Beatle himself must have realised it just wasn't working. The plain truth is his voice is no longer what it was. It's not a failure, there's no disgrace in losing some of the faculties that define our youth, Mo Farah won't be attempting to repeat his 10,000-metre triumph when he's 70 – so why should Paul McCartney try to pull off the musical equivalent? Reinvent yourself, by all means, Paul, but don't pretend you're still a teenager.

This trend towards what respected music critic Alexis Petridis so eloquently described as "the middle-age-ification of rock music into light entertainment" is exemplified by the return to our TV screens of Later With Jools. Now in its 20th year, the programme's original raison d'etre was to showcase what was hottest in popular music. New acts, young bands, little-known artists at the cutting-edge of their craft and creativity – performing live. For music-lovers of the 1990s, Later With Jools was a must-see show. But no longer. The debut line-up featured Neil Sedaka, Bobby Womack, Public Image Ltd fronted by washed-up butter salesman and former Sex Pistols singer Johnny (Rotten) Lydon and – worst by far – The Beach Boys.

The latter's set was a reality horror show unfolding before the eyes as the once-beautiful, bronzed and Bermuda-shorted young gods of close-harmony singing transmogrified into weary shadows of their former selves, unable to hold any sort of unified vocal tuning. It was like viewing the corpse of a loved one; never again will we be able to listen to Pet Sounds without conjuring a vision of Brian Wilson swaying at the piano, feebly mumbling the words to Barbara Ann.

It's puzzling what The Beach Boys and other revivalist rockers think they might gain from such an exercise.

Do they not grasp that trying to re-enact the golden days of youth serves to detract from earlier triumphs rather than enhance them. Invariably – and particularly in the case of The Beach Boys and Paul McCartney – rehashing old songs in old age has the opposite effect.

But perhaps it's not the fault of the artists. When outfits like The Beach Boys and PiL spot that the only "live" music on terrestrial TV today is The X-Factor they probably see it as their duty to get back up there and strut. And surely its "our" fault for encouraging them.

Having said that, you'd never guess from watching The X-Factor or Later With Jools – which appears to have never heard of electronica, hip-hop, dance or anything experimental – that the UK remains at the forefront of pop music. In the realms of dubstep, D&B and other cutting-edge genres, Britain leads the world – as it always has done.

It also remains the case that, culturally and economically, pop music in all its forms is hugely important to British society. Surely its followers deserve better from the nation's foremost broadcaster. So come on BBC, let's see a bit of it reflected on the telly – and dump all those old-timers.

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  • internotional  |  October 21 2012, 12:56AM

    Is there any outpost of 'journalism' that could still be described as useful, relevant or necessary? Here we have the usual. It's either some young person trying to 'be proper' by learning and falling in with the cliches from 'papers long past their cat-litter or it's some old bloke trying to 'get down with the kids' by misimagining that they will have the same bigotry he'd picked up from the cool people with the tattoos his mum wouldn't let him have. Erm ...or something. I could have been more succinct though: "****** has blog in Cornwall"

  • GrahamC  |  October 08 2012, 4:51AM

    _"Lamest of all, perhaps, is Paul McCartney. And at the risk of being charged with treason, accused of sacrilege, or both, isn't it time you called it a day, wack?"_ How about we just charge you with stupidity? First, there's the irony that this article, in complaining about supposedly out of date musicians, is itself out of date. The "ew, old people shouldn't play music" mentality went out at least half a decade ago. Second, "the unforgivable 'Mull of Kintyre'"? Cheeee-rist. "Hey, look at me, everybody! I'm too good for this song because... uh... it has bagpipes! Yeah. Bagpipes are uncool, right? And, um, it sounds like something they might play on one of those old public television broadcasts! Yeah, see, I'm totally rebelling against the establishment, or something. So that makes me cool now, right? You all think I'm cool now, don't you? You all like me now, don't you? Oh for God's sake, please like me!"

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  • claresh  |  October 04 2012, 9:22AM

    I wish the writer had named some of McCartney`s "hopelesss love songs". As a McCartney fan, I don`t know them, but since the only song this unnamed writer can actually name is Mull of Kintyre, I feel this is the only post-Beatles McCartney song he actually knows. Paul`s long post-Beatles career has been varied, adventurous and innovative. What a shame so many don`t know this. His past few albums have been critically well-received by those journalists who have bothered to listen - and yes, his live shows are great!

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  • apollo  |  October 04 2012, 2:21AM

    dog and cat person said, ....This is nothing but a troll post. And an offensive, age-ist one at that." That's the only comment really needed. It's really unnecessary to defend Sir Paul, in particular, and most of the others because they were born some longer time ago than the uncredited and infantile writer of this article.

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  • FanOfPaul  |  October 03 2012, 4:20PM

    Your article is so age bias and unnecessary! Everyone, no matter their age including Paul McCartney and The Beach Boys, have a right to follow their passion and that passion is music! I went to two Paul McCartney concerts last year, 4 Beach Boys concerts and all were highlights of my life. I enjoyed the concerts live in person and so did thousands of fans. It is so wrong to age-bash. People like you believe that the older generation should crawl in a pine box and stop living, but that is no longer the way to think. You are only as old as you feel and you cannot stop living life or stop living your dreams just because ignorant, insensitive people believe it to be true. WRONG! I've seen The Beach Boys and Paul McCartney upfront and close. These LEGENDS have a lot of passion for their music. They rocked the house! They should continue if they want to continue! Life is too short to have any hang-ups about age. We are all getting older, but it does not mean we or they should stop following our dreams. Keep on rockin Paul McCartney and The Beach Boys! They sound better than any 20 years olds out there!

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  • efonner50  |  October 03 2012, 12:00PM

    What a load of age-ist nonsense. The Beatles were "pretty good" in their day? Seriously?? FYI, in case you've been in a cave for the past 10 years, the Beatles were in the top 10 groups in the UK in terms of record sales from 2000-2010 -- 43 years after they broke up. Why? Because the music is phenomenal. And with Wings, Paul's output was mixed but he produced one of the greatest albums of the 70s (Band on the Run) and was one of the hottest live groups around. What is wrong with people that they feel the need to slam McCartney and suggest what Lennon would or wouldn't be doing? Given that Lennon's solo career was a vast disappointment, there's no telling what John would have been doing. Probably nothing as he tended toward the lazy. But artists don't disappear just because they get older. Nor should they. McCartney's solo albums in the past 10 years have been really excellent -- not big sellers but then, that doesn't matter anymore, does it? And while he should never do another TV performance (because they capture every vocal weakness and just give fools like you ammunition), his concerts continue to sell out all over the world and get great reviews. By the way, many of the "young" performers during the closing ceremony sounded awful as well. What was their excuse? Finally, we don't stop singing Cole Porter songs or Gershwin songs, so why should we stop singing Beatles songs? This is nothing but a troll post. And an offensive, age-ist one at that.

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