Sitting in my usual place of post-labor repose, wine glass in hand, I watch mouth agape while Mick Jagger tries to sell me on a new mortgage for these four walls.
"Whether your dream is to buy a home, refinance or see the Rolling Stones in concert, Ameriquest can help."
And there's Mick, and there's Keith and his five-stringed Tele tuned to open G, and there's an Ameriquest broker peddling refinancing deals in the front rows of a Stones concert. Never more ironic, the tune covering the pitch is "It's Only Rock and Roll." So true.
Whether it's Bob Dylan moving pink bustiers for Victoria's Secret or Keef pushing low monthly payments in suburbia, 60s youth icons - those who are still alive - continue to cash in. And who can blame them. The market is there, the dollars are there, and the music rolls on.
Because old is the new young.
Don't believe me? Here's a test. How old are you - over 35, over 45, over 55? And yet you're reading (and most likely, writing) blogs - that new anti-elitist, anti-establishment, "revolutionary people's media" that is sweeping the nation. Yeah old man, you're surfing the new youth culture. Used to be that people in their teens and low-20's railed against the man. These days, we battle with ourselves. We are the man, and yet we resent it. And we allow The Rolling Stones to sell us on variable rate debt instruments.
Sure, Charlie Watts may look like Barry Fitzgerald's kindly old pastor in Going My Way, but he still taps a steady beat for the 62-year-old lizard-legged frontman to strut white boy blues to a stadium full of the young at heart. If you're younger than 70 or so, you tap into American youth culture - because American youth culture never dies.
You, sir, are not your father's 48-year-old. He packed away his clarinet, ball glove, and Superman comics after high school and never looked back in the road to work, and family, and home. You hang out in the Guitar Center, fiddling with new digital amps; you drop a couple hundred bucks to see Elvis Costello crank it up; you collect comic books and analyze their plot structure and social consciousness. You buy Eminem records. You refuse to grow up.
And you have money.
Boomers and their slightly younger cousins - the tail-end Boomers - are all in the midst of what we used to call middle age in this country. That used to mean hard work, a drink at the end of the day, and a vacation once a year. Now we want what we couldn't afford as skinny 17-year-olds who squeezed into Max's Kansas City at the merest hint that Johnny Thunders might perform. What's fascinating is that the stuff we want is still branded (lightly, I'll agree) as somehow new, revolutionary, counter-cultural, iconoclastic.
The iPod. The "new" retro Mustang. Orange County Choppers. Throwback Dr. J jerseys. Digital cameras. Home recording studios, podcasting. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. Son Volt and Wilco. And iTunes - where Boomers rule.
Despite what you read in the trades about the desirable young male demographic, the entertainment industry today makes much of its dough from the dependable spending habits of Boomers with open minds and open wallets. We're the first media-savvy generation, entitled to what we want, and now able to afford to get it. We still buy music, we still want the brand. And we still listen to the Stones.
And there's this: we're not very radical at all. The stereotype is a bunch of 60s love children and angry 70s punksters, but the reality is much different, according to a landmark Duke university study of the democraphic released late last year:
Baby boomers did not all come of age during the turbulent 1960s: The demographic anomaly is that the baby boom stretched from 1946 to 1964. While the oldest of the early boomers graduated from college during the Summer of Love, the youngest of the late boomers left college during the Reagan years ... [they] were not all political radicals: Even for those boomers who were young adults during the late 1960s, opposition to the Vietnam War was far from universal, for example.
The reality is consumerism tinged with a democraphic-wide clinging to lifestyle hipsterism. Think Jon Stewart. Madonna. Bill Murray. Springsteen. Michael Jordan. Kramer. No wonder why AARP is in the midst of a constant rebranding (and selling tons of life and health insurance to boot); indeed, the organization's magazine nails the big trend in record sales - the growth of independent music and the splintering of traditional genres. That's our restless 60s and 70s taste buds at work:
Younger groups acquire music online, but mature audiences buy it, says Matt Kleinschmit, senior research manager for market research firm Ipsos-Reid. "The baby boomer generation is in a sense keeping the record industry in business."
"I'd wager a guess that as baby boomers age, they're looking for new experiences and new music to turn to besides tried and true rock 'n' roll," says Kleinschmit. "How many times can you listen to that Credence Clearwater Revival album?"
Many, many times, as it turns out - but now we can buy the DVDs, a limited edition John Fogarty guitar, and music by cross-genre roots bands that tap into the groove of Fortunate Son in another time of war and turmoil and slimy politics. You know who knows this very well: PBS. When it's fund drive time and your regular programs disappear, look at what shows up. Aging warhorse rock and roll, and an audience that opens its wallets.
And that's why a conservative financial products company has tied its old-school Liberty Bell brand to the snarling red tongue of the Rolling Stones, as the boys head out on another tour and get set to release a record of 16 songs, recorded under the direction of Boomer producer money man Don Was. Interest rates are low. We're buying and selling and renovating and refinancing our homes at a rate that literally keeps the American economy moving during a very flat period in our economic history.
Chunka-chunka-chunk. I know, it's only rock and roll, and I like it. And old is the new young.