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January 4, 2013

TT: How to be an aging rocker

Donald-Fagen-Kevin-Winter.jpgToday's Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column is a paean to Donald Fagen and his new album, Sunken Condos. Here's an excerpt.

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Consider, if it doesn't embarrass you too much to do so, the rock music of the '60s and '70s. How much of it holds up today? I was raised on rock and took it with supreme seriousness, but most of the albums with which my high-school playlist was clotted now strike me as jejune at best, horrendous at worst. I don't know about anybody else, but I haven't been able to listen to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Jefferson Airplane for decades.

One of the reasons why so much first- and second-generation rock and roll has aged so badly is that most of it was created by young people for consumption by even younger people. And what's wrong with that? Nothing--if you're a teenager. But if you're not, why would you want to listen to it now? And what has happened to its makers now that they're over the demographic hill? Have they anything new to say to us, or are they simply going through the motions?

The Rolling Stones, who recently concluded their recent 50th-anniversary tour, can still play up a storm--but so what? When not recycling the hits of their long-lost youth, Sir Mick Jagger and his venerable colleagues trot out "new" songs that sound as though they'd been written in 1962.

Compare these two lyrics:

• "Everybody's talking/Showing off their wit/The moon is yellow but I'm not Jello/Staring down your tits."

• "We went to a party/Everybody stood around/Thinkin': Hey what's she doin'/With a burned-out hippie clown."

The first quatrain is from "Oh No, Not You Again," written by Mr. Jagger and Keith Richards and recorded by the Stones on "A Bigger Bang," their most recent album, released in 2005. The second is from "Slinky Thing," the first track on "Sunken Condos," Donald Fagen's new solo album, which came out in October. It's a sly, ironic portrait of a Goethe-quoting sixtysomething gent who is dating a considerably younger woman, much to the sardonic amusement of her friends. And which song sounds fresher? "Slinky Thing," by the longest of long shots....

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Read the whole thing here.

Donald Fagen plays "Weather in My Head," a track from Sunken Condos, on Late Show with David Letterman:

Posted January 4, 2013 12:00 AM

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