Stef Sampa
3 min readJul 23, 2023

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Did I Miss the Train on My Favorite Rock Bands?

As I stared at the stage last night, enthralled by the hard-hitting chords of Guns N’ Roses, the inevitable realization struck me like a stray guitar pick: Axl and Slash aren’t as spry as they were in their heyday. This isn’t the late 80s or 90s anymore; I’m not a 16-year-old huddled around a cassette player, clinging to every lyric like a lifeline. I’m closing in on 40, with a mortgage, a spouse, kids and a dog that is suspiciously fond of my favorite shoes.

Let’s not mince words here, our rock heroes, the symbols of our rebel years, are aging. In fact, according to Pollstar, the average age of the top 20 worldwide touring acts in 2021 was 53. It’s not exactly the young, vibrant scene we once knew, right? These bands, who once epitomized youth and counterculture, are now in the age bracket typically associated with retirement plans and worrying about cholesterol levels.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their magic. Last night’s concert was a thrill, a nostalgia trip that reminded me why I fell in love with rock music in the first place. But it also served as a reminder that time waits for no one — not even rock stars. Just like us, they’ve got wrinkles, graying hair, and an abundance of stories to tell. Isn’t there a beauty in that, though?

Our society has a complex relationship with aging. We chase after the new and innovative, and yet, we also hold onto what we know, what reminds us of simpler times. As per Nielsen’s Annual Music Report, classic rock — think Rolling Stones, Beatles, Zeppelin — still dominated 11.2% of all music consumption in the US in 2022, more than pop and hip-hop. That’s saying something about the enduring allure of rock and roll.

Financially speaking, these older bands are still raking in the dough, despite, or maybe because of, their age. Forbes reported that the Rolling Stones grossed $415 million on their “No Filter” tour, a number that could make any budding artist turn green. People are willing to shell out top dollar for the experience of seeing their musical heroes live, even if it means watching Mick Jagger prance about the stage at 79.

Does that mean we’ve missed the train? Are we doomed to keep longing for the past, with a growing sense of disconnect from the musical landscape of today? Not quite. If anything, it’s a call to broaden our horizons.

The rock music of our youth may hold a special place in our hearts, but there’s a wealth of talent out there waiting to be discovered. A recent study by the Music Industry Research Association showed that there were around 2.6 million “working” musicians in the U.S. in 2021. Who’s to say the next iconic band isn’t among them? If we’ve learned anything from our rock heroes, it’s the importance of breaking the mold, of venturing into the unknown. Perhaps it’s time we applied that ethos to our musical tastes.

All in all, as we navigate the crossroads of adulthood, it’s important to remember that aging isn’t a bad thing. It’s a sign of survival, a testament to our journey. The same goes for our rock heroes. Their voices may have changed, but the spirit remains.

In conclusion, yes, our favorite rock bands aren’t what they used to be. And perhaps neither are we. But that’s not a reason to despair. Instead, let’s look at it as an opportunity to appreciate the evolution, to explore new avenues, and to discover fresh sounds that could, someday, mean as much to us as the bands of our youth.

I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, which feels especially apt, “May you stay forever young.” Because, at the end of the day, isn’t that what rock ’n’ roll is all about? It’s the rhythm of rebellion, the melody of mischief, the sound of the forever young. And as long as we keep that spirit alive, we’ll never truly miss the train.

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