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The Melancholy of Youth

There was a time - up until about 30 years ago - when I knew every rock-and-roll and pop band there was: album titles, bios of personnel, Billboard rankings, even the names of B sides of singles (remember those?).

No more. I gave up popular music when disco hit and I switched careers from radio to television at just about the same moment. I’d be hard-pressed to name any current bands on the charts, or any at all that have arrived and passed into oblivion between 1974 and now.

Surfing around the Web one day recently, I ran across a reference to a tune titled Help the Aged by a band named Pulp. In following a few links, I soon discovered it's an old band that has been around since 1978. But I already admitted I’ve ignored popular music starting four years earlier.

You can hear ten or 15 seconds of Help the Aged, which is vaguely - very vaguely - reminiscent of the early Beatles, at allmusic.com [registration required] - although that's hard to tell in its brevity. When I read the lyric, I was struck by its melancholy:

Help the aged,
one time they were just like you,
drinking, smoking cigs and sniffing glue.
Help the aged,
don't just put them in a home,
can't have much fun when they're all on their own.
Give a hand, if you can,
try and help them to unwind.
Give them hope and give them comfort
cos they're running out of time.

In the meantime we try.
Try to forget that nothing lasts forever.
No big deal so give us all a feel.
Funny how it all falls away.
When did you first realise?
It's time you took an older lover baby.
Teach you stuff although he's looking rough.
Funny how it all falls away.

Help the aged
cos one day you'll be older too -
you might need someone who can pull you through
and if you look very hard
behind those lines upon their face
you may see where you are headed
and it's such a lonely place.

In the meantime we try.
Try to forget that nothing lasts forever.
No big deal so give us all a feel.
Funny how it all falls away.
When did you first realise?
It's time you took an older lover baby.
Teach you stuff although he's looking rough.
Funny how it all falls away.

You can dye your hair but it's the one thing you can't change.
Can't run away from yourself.

In the meantime we try.
Try to forget that nothing lasts forever.
No big deal so give us all a feel.
Funny how it all falls away.
When did you first realise?
It's time you took an older lover baby.
Teach you stuff although he's looking rough.
Funny how it all falls away.
Funny how it all falls away.
So help the aged.

There aren’t a lot of songs in the world about old people. This one was written in 1997, when one of the composers and lead singer, Jarvis Cocker, was only 34 years old. But the melancholy is perhaps understandable when you find out that he’d been leading Pulp, at the time, for 19 years.

Given the rock-band lifestyle, no doubt he was feeling old - but without the experience and awareness yet that real elders have. If I could do such a thing as write a song and it were about getting old, mine would be more joyful.

Comments

Music can say a great deal - even about us older folks !

Yeah, I have to agree, Ronni. We need more uplifting, joyful words. Those were a bit down. But at least the concept was there.

Yes Ronni, I also would write more joyful lyrics if I could write a song. One line that struck me is the one about "sniffin glue". Cocktails yes...glue...no. that was way after my time thank heavens.

Chancy

ronni, we need you to write better lyrics, then you can find someone to write the music.

did you read about the new musical, "70, Girls, 70"? stars charlotte rae, age 79, who sings and dances to a song, "Go Visit Your Grandmother." new york times described her as "adorable."

"Help The Aged"....interesting; now lets imagine it put to rap music...ba, ba, ba, ba, boom.

I don't usually like reading lyrics, but these kind of carried me along. They are caring but sad, "Let's respect the older people, but please don't let me get old too soon!" lol

Mick Jagger is my age and Cher three years younger. The music never needs to stop, and neither do we. (Me, I like trance which grew out of disco.)

Sure would be interesting to know what was going on in his life when he wrote those lyrics...concern for a family member or friend? Or, maybe they just did a freebie appearance at a home for older folk and he got to thinking.

Yes, the lyrics were very melanchholy. Did you notice, he also said, "It's time you took an older lover, baby" -- what's that all about? Is he telling the younger folks to do us all a "favor," or are we supposed to "educate" all the younger ones?? :-)

Wonder what he'd have to say about his tune and lyrics now, at age 43?

As for music, my first love is, always will be, jazz along with classical, semi-classical, select tunes in just about every other genre'. A lot depends on the arrangements, the performing artist(s), basically, whether or not the music and/or lyrics strikes a chord in me. Don't always know what's going to happen musically for me 'til I experience the tune or the concerto, or anything in between.

A country tune I mentioned at Texas Trifles to Cowtown Pattie comes to mind, "Everytime You Touch Me ... I Get High" sung by Charlie Rich -- probably an oldie now.

Then there was "99 Miles From L.A." but have forgotten who recorded that tune. Almost always, Manhattan Transfer, the Hi-Lo's, The Four Freshmen .

Have sometimes been pleasantly surprised that a tune or performers resonated with me, that I would never have expected, but listened to it only at the urging of another.

I don't presume to be up with all the tunes now, either, as I might have been beginning with my '50's college radio show, "Jo's Jukebox" with a theme song entitled "The Gypsy In My Soul" by Glen Gray (wish I had a recording of that tune, arrangement and orchestra.)

I did pay attention during my children's teen years, especially, for I often found I could get a sense of where their heads were at, by the tunes and lyrics to which they were listening.

One of my teenagers didn't want me to enjoy the same music with them during those years. If I said I liked a tune, I received a look of incredulity, as though how could I possibly understand the magnificence of this music. In other words, it sure didn't open any doors to further communication or a "shared experience."

The other teenager, was pleased when I showed interest in the music they liked; would come to me with other tunes they rightfully had determined I might like, also saying, on others, "You won't like this one." We had a pact anywhere the two of us went together to listen to the teenager's music either coming or going, then, my music on the other half of the trip. What an education for both of us.

Am sure we all have our own musical stories. I've touched on only a few of mine. Oh Ronni, what thoughts and memories your blog does stimulate.

"Try to forget that nothing lasts forever..." That's melancholy.
Realizing nothing lasts forever is freedom.
lucyd

Ronni Bennett: I'm a physician at Saint Vincent's Hospital, your neighbor when you lived in Greenwich Village. I work in the Dept. of Community Medicine where our interests include caring for frail aged homebound persons in their own homes. A product of this work has been creation of a professional health-focused Journal, now in Volume 24,the Journal of Long Term Home Health Care, published by Springer Publishing Co. I serve as the Managing Editor.

I've read your blog (courtesy of the NYTimes article) and find it both interesting and entertaining. Your words of April 7th could, with minor revision, constitute a pleasing editorial to be publsihed in the Journal. Alas, no money is involved. Please let me know if you would like to work with me on this idea. And thankyou. Phil Brickner

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