The 70s are having a resurgence with the recent successes of some of the decade’s most iconic figures. David Bowie, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones have all made waves in the past year with tours, new releases, and festival appearances, much to the dismay of a disgruntled Yannis Philippakis of Foals.
The front man claimed that he was ‘bored’ with seeing the usual big names coming back and occupying the top spots at festivals every year. The issue, he claimed, was that the older generation were out of touch with the current music industry, and therefore meant nothing to him or young listeners. However, we should not be writing off older artists as ‘boring’ simply because they are no longer the forerunners of groundbreaking music.
In all honesty, the notion that older, established artists should throw in the towel once they are unable to match the excellence of their peak years is one that is both exhausted and, more importantly, consistently proved wrong. With the music industry inundated with over-produced artists with minimal musical talent, is the triumphant return of nostalgic and credible artists who have already proved themselves really so terrible? Is a slightly dodgy rendition of ‘Hey Jude’ by Paul McCartney at the Olympic Ceremony really that much worse than paying £40 to watch David Guetta sporadically press some buttons on a stage?
McCartney’s latest album proves he has yet to lose his touch. The album is perhaps a tad too transparently experimental in areas, but is a solid piece of work nonetheless. The stream of accusations that McCartney has been riding ever so slightly too long on the coattails of The Beatles’ success is getting older than he is. That said, out of the three, McCartney is the one that emanates the stereotypical ‘aged rocker’ vibe the most, and maybe it’s his seemingly frantic desperation to keep up with pop culture that is letting him down. Someone of his indisputable status performing on the X Factor finale in 2009 felt like an uncomfortable and forced attempt to remain relevant.
Undoubtedly, the most elusive character from the 70s, David Bowie, has also made a mysterious, yet phenomenally successful return in the past year. After a ten year silence, leading many to believe he had retired, he returned with The Next Day, an album almost as secretive in its creation as it has been successful. The return could not be more welcome, rocketing The Next Day to number one album (his first in twenty years) and being nominated for the coveted Mercury prize. Few present day artists come to mind that could pull off an album release so shrouded in mysticism so seamlessly.
For a man who claimed that he’d rather be dead than sing Satisfaction when he’s 45, Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones are a prime example of a band who have weathered the rapidly changing storm of the music industry, and this summer celebrated their 50th anniversary. Performing on the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury as well as two sold out gigs in Hyde Park, not to mention the world tour they just finished and the rumours of another in 2014, it’s clear the appeal of the Stones has yet to wane.
Unlike McCartney, the Stones aren’t inclined to conform to the industry blueprint or adapt to the times, and that seems to be the key to their commercial success. Part of the genius of these artists is the fact that their music has the ability to transcend time; to drastically change and so to slot in with chart toppers today is cheapening their worth.
Essentially, iconic artists can never recreate the perfection of their glory years, but they shouldn’t try to. Artists such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney have already proved themselves worthy of the title of musical geniuses. They shouldn’t be seeking the validation anymore, they don’t need it. They have already vastly influenced any semi decent band that is around today, and that in itself should ensure their relevance both in terms of the present and the future.