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16 at 60?
Dismantling the Rock Star Myth of Perpetual Adolescent Paradise
A Song-talk by the Rock Doc, Dr. B.L.T., a.k.a. Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, psychologist

It happened one mornin'
On April 19th
There he was, old Mick Jagger
In the middle of a dream.
I had one backstage pass to an old antique store
And Mick stood there smilin' as he answered the door...

I can count the rock stars I've met on one hand.  Though it is tempting, I won't stoop to name-dropping, and, in the process, humiliate myself with a woeful brand of shameless braggadocio.  What I can tell you is that out of all the rock stars I've met, unfortunately, Mick Jagger was not one of them. 

However, on April 19, 2001, I did have the fortune to have him in a dream. While the memory of the Jagger dream was still fresh in my mind, I wrote it down in story-form, incorporated it into the melody I woke up with in my head, and recorded it on a cheap cassette player.  I was following the quintessential psychologist Carl Jung, who once recommended that we all keep a tape recorder by our bedside to record our dreams. Since my dreams generally come with a soundtrack in the mix, I sang my chronicled surrealistic encounter into the tiny mic.  

I was not surprised that Mick showed up in one of my dreams, because I've always been intrigued by the music and longevity of the Rolling Stones. What I am surprised with is that a psychologist like me would be revealing my dreams to others so openly, and in such a knee-jerk fashion, before circumspectly examining them for grounds that might incriminate me. While Freud and Jung both revealed their dreams in their literature and followed them up with their own self-analysis, most post-Freud, post-Jung shrinks have been listening to the dreams of others, not revealing their own.  But, what the heck? At the risk of exposing the nethermost regions of my primordial unconscious, I will put myself further out on the limb.

He was stacking his clothes
He was slick in his duds
Painted, felt shoes
And he wiped off the mud
Said, ‘Please to meet you,’
Then he said my name,
He said, ‘You're one step closer to fortune and fame...

’You'll be the openin' act for the Rolling Stones
Name up in lights, been heretofore unknown,’
So I'm packin' my bags, and all that I own
I'll be the opening act for the Rolling Stones...

There!  Much to my chagrin, you have become wholly familiarized with my vainglorious wish.  And though they have picked up a whole new generation of fans, my weakness for the Stones may also reveal to some of you young whippersnappers out there just how incredibly ancient I am.  Though Mick is old enough to be my father that is not saying much.  Let's just put it this way: I'm no slow poke. I'm quick to catch a joke. I'm too young to have a stroke, but not too old to love The Strokes.  What is beyond dispute is that I am definitely too old, and too painfully aware of the self-sacrifice involved in God's plan for my life, to be holding on to dreams of fleeting fame and fortune.  Moreover, I am much too old to be wasting my time perfunctorily placing Mick's perpetual adolescence on a proverbial pedestal.

Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones swore he wouldn't be caught dead performing rock 'n roll past the age of 40.  Here he is, at the ripe young age of 60, still rockin' with the Rolling Stones as if he were 16 years of age.  

We rarely have a fit over women who shop till they drop, so what is so wrong with rocking until you drop (without the aid of a rocking chair that is)? Like “Silly Love Songs,” absolutely nothing!  It is the rock star fantasy, complete with the myth of perpetual adolescent paradise that one must avoid at all costs.  The myth can be summarized with a series of questions and answers.  Run out of money?  No problem.  Just grab one of the countless yet-to-be-cashed multi-million-dollar royalty checks sitting on your royal dresser in the bedroom of your royal palace.  Is your wife or girlfriend's age beginning to shine through her plastic surgeries?   Do you no longer see the saving grace in her sagging face? Is your wife or girlfriend's 19th Nervous Breakdown (stemming from your umpteenth scandalous affair) getting on your nerves?  Go out and find a younger chick that you can look at as a mirror, catching the awe-inspiring reflection of the age you feel, not the age you look!  After all, as the Rolling Stones once sang, “Time is On Your Side! Yes it is!” Or is it?  

“Paint it "Black and Blue"
Too good to be true
But pass the baton
I'll be rockin' for you
Mick will be there
Sittin' up on his thrown
I'll be the opening act for
The Rolling Stones...
Opening Act for the Rolling Stones, words and music by Dr. B.L.T. © 2001, 2003
Why would I want to be the opening act for an act in their final act? Admittedly it is an act swimming in giant pools of talent, but dangerously out of touch with the proximity of death.  A band so enduring, yet so dangerously close to meeting their maker, with egg smeared all over their wizened faces. The curtain is closing.  It has been closed for a long time on Mick's adolescence, but he appears to cling to it like a child moving from infancy to toddler hood, crying for his "blanky."  

The music industry is notorious for perpetuating the myth of perpetual adolescent paradise.  They want to sell a steam-cleaned, wrinkle-free dream, so they strike while the iron is hot, sedulously seeking image over substance-evanescent youth over a seasoned adulthood that has the potential to spawn so much more than an “Oops, I Did It Again.”  
The music industry, with a few noteworthy exceptions (like Pat Boone's record company for artists 50 and older), would have us all stuck in adolescence.  That may not sound too bad on the surface, but let's examine what being developmentally retarded really means in terms of what we all stand to miss out on.  

Getting an all-expense one-way ticket to the land of perpetual adolescence, if you respect the theories of the renowned and brilliant Erik Erikson, means that you will be forever trapped in a state of identity confusion. That means that you will be too busy trying to establish and maintain some sense of who you are when you get into your 20s and 30s to be able to form an intimate attachment with a significant other (otherwise known as lover). As such, you will remain isolated and alienated, sedulously avoiding intimate connections.  Oh, sure, you may have a live-in girlfriend, or even a wife, but not for life and marked by strife.  Your relationship will be based on the superficial qualities like bursting biceps if you're a man-eating termagant, or, if a male troglodyte on the prowl, large, firm breasts and smooth, blemish-free skin.   

By the time you hit your 40s and 50s, when you're suppose to feel that you are investing a great deal of energy into aspects of your life that really matter, such as the welfare of your children, the amelioration of human suffering and the furtherance of "good will towards man," (and woman, to be politically correct), you will feel a sense of social and spiritual stagnation.  Sure, servants and walls heavy-laden with gold records may surround you.  You may have mansions and Mercedes sports cars, haute cuisine at the finest dining establishments, travel accommodations fit for a king (or diva), and anything else that your foolish little heart desires and/or your large ego demands.   But your life will end one day as sure as it began, and, as the Beatles once said in a song, "Money Can't Buy Me Love."  

If you felt deprived of something in your 40s and 50s, wait until your 60s and beyond!  When others look back on the fruits of their labors of love, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and, in Eriksonian terms, integrity.  You will wonder what your life was about, fear death like no one else has feared it, and, without trading in your perpetual adolescence for redemption, you will die in a state of utter despair and depression. Furthermore, the only ones who will show up at your funeral will be those who seek opportunistic gain by their attendance. 

Thus far, I've only described the developmental deprivation that will occur within the psychological, spiritual, and social domains.  Since adolescents also believe that nothing can touch or destroy them, your extended stay at the Adolescent Hotel could also mean you would engage in the excessive use and abuse of alcohol, and drugs.  This could mean significant impairment and decline in terms of your cognitive functioning.  What if some day you're in the middle of a drunken binge when you find out your personal manager has been embezzling much of your earnings, abusing the blind trust you have placed in him or her?  How will you be able to analyze and piece together information that will allow you to make things right?  How will you be able to fire him or her; show proof of the abuse to your attorney; manage your own money until you find someone new; and then monitor the new person you hire? What if the wife you are in the middle of trying to divorce, so you can enjoy a new life with a new wife, is suddenly stricken with cancer?  Will you abandon her in her time of greatest need?  Even if you choose to temporarily set aside your adolescent needs for the endless pursuit of hedonistic pleasures, you may not be capable of acting like an adult.  How will you be able to be emotionally and cognitively available to her when you've become so accustomed to escaping through personally destructive habits that compromise your mind, your emotions and deplete your spirit of all vitality?    
I've picked on Mick because he's a convenient target.  Who knows, he may already be in the process of gradually accepting the realities of the aging process as they naturally develop.  The point I am trying to make is that the powers that be in the music business, the entertainment industry and the media in general (for the most part) are working hard to feed you with the emotional, mental and spiritual junk food that adolescents crave.  If you buy into their myth of the glories and bliss of perpetual adolescence, you will have sold your soul and received fools gold in return.  Yes, turning 20 may turn your stomach, turning 30 may disgust you, turning 40 may frighten the heck out of you, turning 50 might turn you into everything you never wanted to look like; and turning 60, well, even Mick is 60. But I must admit I would be honored if he asked me to be his opening act.  Unless he gives up trying to be 16 before it's too late, however, I don't want to be there when curtain finally closes on one of the greatest rock 'n’ roll legends of all time.  


 Copyright © 1996 - 2003 The Phantom Tollbooth