Maxed Out 

My generation, talkin’ ’bout your future

By G.D. Maxwell

"Why don’tcha all f-f-fade away,

And don’t try to dig what we all s-s-say."

— Peter Townshend

My generation sucks.

When John Entwhistle died a couple of weeks ago in a Las Vegas hotel, The Who were about to hit the road again. With thinning hair, hearing loss and, for all I know, adult incontinence, the boys of the most underrated rock group of the British Invasion – I know, you thought that honour belonged to The Kinks – were about to spring the Geezer Tour ’02 on the world to wring millions out of aging schmucks willing to pay a C-note for the chance to wallow in cheap nostalgia for an hour and a half.

Like mountaineers who lose one of their party to a misstep or yawning crevasse, the band decided to soldier on when their bassist was felled by a heart attack and departed for that big gig in the sky. After all, their fans would want it that way. So would their accountants, their wives, ex-wives, roadies, toadies and hangers-on. So would they. Too much was at stake. Too much time, too much practice, too many contracts to unravel, too much rehabilitation so Pete Townshend could windmill power chords he can barely hear and Roger Daltry could squeeze his Clairol-mained tush into tailored Sans-a-Belt blue jeans.

It was all just too much.

And that’s what sucks about my generation. It’s all about too much.

It’s pointless to argue John Entwhistle was irreplaceable. It only took 24 hours to scare up a replacement and decide to tour on. It’s equally pointless to argue he was maybe the best bassist of his generation. Pointless because it’s true, pointless because it can’t be proven except by digging out a bunch of scratchy, mouldering LPs and listening to a guy elevate what most people thought of as a rhythm instrument by noodling intricate lines generally only heard on jazz records of the time and leading soaring breaks that had nothing to do with keeping the beat going.

"My Generation" was an anthem. For many of us who "grew up" in the 1960s, the song marked an awakening to our massive, culture-defining cohort. It provided a badge of distinction, snarled both an excuse and a warning, and outlined the limits of our difference and defiance – "Hope I die before I get old." It also had a damn fine bass break in the middle.

So what happened?

What turned a bright, privileged, committed, consciousness-raised, altruistic, we-can-change-the-world bunch of kids into the corpulent, money-grubbing, pollution-spewing, monster-home-building, blind-eye-turning, corrupt, sleazy bunch of adults doddering toward retirement, we’ve become?


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