Never Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll


I have reached a new stage in life, and I’ve got to be honest: it’s really pissing me off.

I can deal with the “Everything pops or creaks when I bend over” stage, as well as the “I need a nap every day” stage.  Even the “Why did I come into this room” phase is tolerable.  But folks, this stage is intolerable.

I have now entered the “Today’s music sucks” portion of life.

I always swore I would never be that mom. You know the one. The one who tells her kids to turn down their music because it’s just not as good as the music from her generation. The one who takes over control of the car radio because she just can’t understand the garbage today’s kids listen to.

Yeah, I’m there.

I am the youngest of three kids, and I remember when my two older sisters sat me down sometime in the mid 1970’s and informed me that I was not a normal teenager because I still enjoyed John Denver. They would line up a stack of records on the record player, one after another, and hand me album covers and lyric sheets to study while I listened.

To digress for just a moment, if you are too young to understand the concept of a stack of records or don’t know what a record player is, just walk away now. There just aren’t words sufficient to describe the finesse involved in stacking just enough albums but not too many, and making sure that the quarter taped to the needle arm was in just the right place to prevent skipping.

And no, I am just not pretentious enough to say vinyl and turntable. They were albums and record players, damn it. Sure, kids today have an easier time downloading music off the internet, but that simply can’t compare to the experience of strolling up to Murphy’s Five-and-Dime on a Saturday morning to plunk down my allowance for a handful of forty-fives with their cheap plastic inserts that made them fit on a regular record player.

All it takes is a few notes from “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die” or “Nights in White Satin” to take me back to those days, sprawled out on the bottom bunk in my sisters’ basement bedroom at two in the morning, listening to music and gazing at album covers while we hoped that mom really was a very heavy sleeper upstairs.

I’m not confessing to anything here, but there may or may not have been a few questionable substances consumed during those late-night listening sessions. Frankly, it was all too long ago to remember all the details. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As I got older, they would quiz me on music trivia, turning on me at random moments to demand things like,  “Who is the drummer for Cheap Trick?” “How many famous musicians died by choking on their own vomit in 1980?” “Who did the artwork on the inside of ‘Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young to Die’?” (For the record: Bun E. Carlos, three, and Dave Gibbons.)

I was in high school before I dared to step away from my sisters’ opinions and started forming my own. My friend Kathy introduced me to songs from this little-known garage band out of Athens, Georgia, and my mind was blown. Couldn’t really understand a word that Michael Stipe sang, but that didn’t stop me from wearing out my homemade casssete of REM’s Chronic Town EP in a matter of months.


Kathy was also responsible for making me aware of The Replacements, The Jazz Butcher, Peter Case, The dB’s, Robyn Hitchcock, and oh, so many more.

That was music, man. Music that evoked an emotion, that took up residence in my brain and in my soul. Music that still sometimes wakes me up in the middle of the night with stray lyrics running through my mind, keeping me awake until I can remember who sang it and why it was important to me.

And in the morning after one of those nights, I’m left sitting here with my morning coffee, lost in the soundtrack of my life as I wonder whatever happened to that girl who used to know every word to “Bastards of Young”  and “King of Birds.”

She got old; that’s what happened to her.  She became that mom.

But she finally understands what Jethro Tull was singing about:

No, you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll
If you’re too young to die

Rock on, y’all.


Music Woman

Put together a musical playlist of songs that describe your life, including what you hope your future entails.

Not as easy as it sounds.  I sat down and compiled a list of over twenty songs that trigger memories of different “firsts” in my life:  first album I bought, first kiss, first slow dance, and so on.  But I wanted to narrow it down to songs that represent turning points in my life.  They may not have been my favorites at the time, but they are special for different reasons.

1970 Something” puts me in a nostalgic mood that takes me back to childhood.  He sings about toys and events I remember – everything from Stretch Armstrong to a Rubik’s Cube, from the death of Elvis Presley to the day the Challenger exploded. It’s a fun, easy summary of the first twenty years of my life.

How Can I Help You Say Good-Bye?” makes me think about the first major turning point in my life:  My mother’s death.   Mom passed away just a few weeks after I turned twenty-one.   She didn’t go easily; it was a long, drawn-out struggle with breast cancer that turned a smart and vibrant woman into something I wish I could forget.  With her gone, I had no choice but to be a grown-up.

When I said good-bye to Mom, I said good-bye to childhood.  From that moment forward, I had no safety net, no home base to return to when things went bad in my life.  That was the day I became an adult.

Then there’s “This Song Remembers When”.  I was twenty-six the first time I fell in love.  Not infatuation, not a crush, but love.  The first time I actually gave my love away without fear, without reservation.   He was a good man; we didn’t end with anger or bitterness.  We were both smart enough to accept that the relationship had simply run its course.

The song is about hearing music and being transported back to a time in life when love was fresh and new and exciting.  When I hear it, I can’t help but wonder where he is and if he ever thinks about me.  It’s not about wanting to go back to him or to that point in life.  To me it’s about music helping me remember someone fondly while still being content in the present.

This is a very nice segway to the next song on my list.

“That Was a River” is the perfect soundtrack to the story of meeting my husband.  We had both been in love before and had issues with trust.   But like the song says, that was a river, this is the ocean.  Basically, yes, I loved someone else before you, but that wasn’t as strong as what I’m feeling now.

Just Another Day in Paradise“ is about day-to-day happenings of married life rather than the roses and love songs of early romance.  It covers the seventeen years I’ve been with The Big Guy – date nights have become delivery pizza, hand-holding turned into laughing at the funny faces he makes sometimes; cozy nights in our big bed are often interrupted by children with nightmares.

Then came the June night when a maple tree landed on the van I was driving.  In the hours that I lay strapped to a backboard fighting off waves of panic, I hung on to sanity by mentally reciting the lyrics to the longest song I could think of: “The Day The Music Died”    From the moment I knew the kids were safely out of the vehicle, through the extrication and two ambulance rides, through CT scans and a claustrophobic meltdown in the MRI, that song ran in an endless loop through my mind.

I know the song is really about the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper.  But for me, it is now about the night another chapter of my life ended.  Every page after that is about life with a disability.  I have had to deal with depression, anxiety, self-pity and PTSD, and it’s just now, eighteen months later, that I am finally beginning to heal on the inside in ways I never can on the outside.

I guess the music didn’t really die for me; I just had to learn new songs.

Gloria Estefan wrote “Coming out of the Dark” after breaking her back in a bus crash.  For me, that song represents my hopes for the future.  I want to keep coming out of the very dark place that has held me prisoner for far too long.  I want to keep healing and growing stronger, inside and out.   I want to keep coming out of the dark.

And there it is:  the soundtrack of my life.  A bit darker, more maudlin than I expected it to be, but I like the fact that it’s ending on an upbeat note, full of hope.