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Rocking Through the Ages


The Rolling Stones announced this week that they are going on tour again. The tour starts in Boston. Presumably they'll build it around their vast library of old hits and their new recording, which is almost finished and not yet named. No name for the tour either, that I can find. This week in 1966, they released "Paint It Black" in London.

(Soundbite of "Paint It Black")

THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) I see a red door and I want to paint it black.

WERTHEIMER: I remember that year and those Stones very well because I was living and working in London then, wearing skirts way too short to take home to New Mexico. In those days, The Beatles were huge stars, but The Stones were the bad boys you still occasionally saw in the streets. Brian Jones was still in the band, and I remember meeting him at a party. That was a long time ago.

Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards and I were born in the same year, although they look older. They look older than they actually are. Keith Richards looks like he's left old far behind, and, yet, here they go again, and, for many people, they can still define and redefine rock 'n' roll. Looking at those golden oldies about to take another tour made me think of something that's beginning to be an issue in my life, and presumably coming soon to the lives of baby boomers everywhere. We measure our lives in our music, and our music had a beat and you could dance to it. And we did.

Here's the question: Do we still dance like that at our age? I'm not talking about rocking around the kitchen. Everybody does that. I think about it when my husband and I go to a big party, like a wedding reception, and I look at all the young friends of the bride and groom dancing around. I think `I'm a better dancer than 75, 80 percent of those kids.' I have, of course, had considerably more practice. But am I going to work out on that dance floor in my outfit that's more `mother of the bride' than rock 'n' roll? One part of my head says, `Yes. Get out there while there's still time. Don't be ageist to yourself, you idiot.' Mick Jagger doesn't hesitate.

The other part of my head says it would feel fine, feel great, but it might look silly, and I don't know. There are those frightening moments when you dance past a sliding glass door and catch an unsettling glimpse of somebody you don't recognize who seems to be wearing your clothes. It's possible that the baby boomers will save me. Anything they do becomes the right thing to do, since there are so many of them, and they do love their rock. I remember a friend overhearing a conversation between two young women the morning after a big Springsteen concert here in Washington. `The music was great,' one said, `but the audience was a little weird.' She said, `There were all these old bald guys dancing in the aisles.'

(Soundbite of song)

THE ROLLING STONES: (Singing) Well, this could be the last time, this could be the last time, maybe the last time. I don't know. Oh, no! Oh, no! Well, I told you once, and I've told you twice. You never listen to my advice. And here's a chance to change your mind. 'Cause I'll be gone a long, long time.

WERTHEIMER: It's 18 minutes past the hour. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.