When Are You 'Too Old To Rock'?

Rick Nielsen was old when he started so...
"I'm 30 but I feel like sixteen...I might even know your daddy."
A buddy and I were losing our sobriety at one of our finer North side establishments when, out of nowhere, he says, "My wife says I'm too old to be in a band."

Some of you might be saying: "His wife's a b***h! How dare she!"

Thing is, his wife has always been ten times cooler than my buddy on his best day. So when she says it might be time to hang it up, you have to give it serious consideration.

But that's not to say she's necessarily always right.

Unlike the first time many of us were told we were "too old", the music industry is but a shell of its former self, thereby opening the gates to all willing participants. As a result, ageism and appearance issues have gone out the window and bands who would've otherwise talked themselves out of ever existing before are now making some of the best music around.

The Hold Steady - Living proof old dudes can still bring it
"You look like a man who just received his first piece of AARP junk mail,"
Sure, the revenue streams for making music your career have changed considerably, so anybody who spends more time in a confined space with fellow musicians than they do with their significant others had better be doing it for the love of the game because that financial payoff we all dream of may never come.

"Have you gotten yours?" I ask.

"Come again?"

"As a musician, did you achieve what you set out to do?"

My buddy thought about that one long and hard. I could see something welling up inside him. Pounding his fist on the bar, he replied "No! No, I haven't. Not even close, in fact. I've still never seen my band's name on the marquee at the Metro, preferably with the words 'sold out'."

"The only way that would happen," I opined, "is if you called your band 'Sold Out'."

I knew the punch in the arm was coming, but it was worth it.

"Also, I've never put out a cassette," he added. "My whole musical life's work remains unavailable to the cassette-playing population of this world."

Trouser Press power pop compilation on ROIR Records
The cassette-only power pop comp
that started it all.
"Where's ROIR Records when you need them?" I ask, suddenly Googling "ROIR Records". They're still around, it turns out, but don't do cassettes. Can you believe that? If any one label should be benefiting from the current cassette resurgence, it should be ROIR freaking Records.

It is at this point that my buddy recalls the Trouser Press Power Pop comp the label put out in 1983 that changed both our lives. We spend the next ten minutes alienating our bartender by raving about which tracks were our favorite. For my buddy, Shoes, for me, Suburbs.

"You need to start your own cassette-only label," I say, half kidding.

"You know," my bourbon-soaked buddy replies, "I was thinking the exact same thing."

Before I know it, he has yanked his phone out and called his wife.

"Hey honey, you know that conversation we had about me being too old to be in a band? Guess what, we just got signed to a cassette-only label and - Which one? The one I'm starting! F.U. Records!"

And then he hangs up.

3, 2, 1...He immediately hits redial

"Oh yeah, can you come pick us up now? We are blitzed."

While waiting for our ride, we conclude that this is probably how every cassette-only record label is conceived - over drinks and discussions of one's own physical mortality. I surmise that some of the greatest, most influential record labels of our time have been fully conceived and conceptualized over drinks, only to be forgotten by morning.

It is the ones who, in their respective states of disrepair, not only remember the conversation, but also still manage to retain the same enthusiasm sober that they'd had just before puking all over themselves.

So if you're thinking about hanging it up because the kids on the scene seem to be playing a whole different game, don't hang it up, step it up.

Leave the quitting to the quitters.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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