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