The morning after the Rolling Stones began their brief, five-show 50th anniversary tour, which isn't coming anywhere near the Bay Area, I got on YouTube to see what I've waited for years to see: guitarist Mick Taylor playing with the band again.
There was one shaky video from the Stones' concert at London's O2 Arena, in which the band played "Midnight Rambler" with the amazing Taylor, whose five year tenure with the band (1969-74), for me, marks its best years and its best music.
The music from that time span was the reason I moved to L.A. in 1990 to play music. Because, briefly sandwiched between hair metal and grunge, bands such as the Black Crowes were bringing back that warm, jammy, groove-rooted, country twangin' sound and feel. People in their 20s were discovering records by the Stones, the Faces and the Flying Burrito Brothers. It was a great time, and even though my band sounded more like Cheap Trick or the pop-punk that was on the way in a couple of years, we had our moments in the thick of that old/new sound as well.
That was why watching that Stones video was sort of sad. As much as the Stones like to pretend this is an anniversary, it feels much more like a goodbye.
And the Stones aren't the only ones.
Just a day before, I read in Rolling Stone that Jimmy Page has given up on playing with Robert Plant again. The Beach Boys briefly stunned everyone with a reunion tour earlier this year that was fine, until Mike Love took over the band and left Brian Wilson in the dust, confused. Paul McCartney is 70 and hasn't made great music since ... a long time ago. Pink Floyd is over. Sly & the Family Stone will never happen, after he teased us a few years ago. The Who is all but officially done. Rod Stewart is too busy cashing checks from all those golden oldie, crooning albums to even discuss a Faces reunion, which will likely never happen. Bob Dylan still makes good music, but he's also in his twilight. Besides, he never moved me enough to do more than sit and listen. Neil Young still cranks it up now and then, but by and large, is also in his twilight. Black Sabbath is trying to make its first studio record with Ozzy Osbourne in more than 30 years, but guitarist Tony Iommi is fighting cancer, and drummer Bill Ward is sitting the whole thing out over money. And really, you never know when Ozzy just might explode.
I was kind of depressed. So many of my heroic figures of the late '60s and early '70s -- the time I believe was rock's best -- are gone, in the process of leaving or not far from it.
And for the most part, they are going out not with a bang, but a whimper.
Yeah, I know. Stop whining. Time marches on, and none of these acts has been anywhere near the peak in recent years, anyway. Get over it -- there's plenty of new music to love.
But just having these old guys around, or the idea of having them around, made it seem OK. Every four or five years, one could go hear the Stones crank up "All Down the Line" or surprise with a soulful take on "Sweet Virginia" once more. One could hope Led Zeppelin would build on its one-off, supposedly spectacular reunion in 2007 and take it on the road (some of us weren't old enough to see them when they called it quits).
Lovers of good, classic rock (I hate that term, but I suppose it fits) can take heart in this year's encouraging returns of Van Halen, Aerosmith and Soundgarden. The Replacements are talking about reuniting. There's still Radiohead and Wilco and Sonic Youth and Muse and Jack White and on and on.
But as good as they are, these guys are not the same, historic generation of rock pioneers many of us grew up on and who are now fading from view. They will not be easy to replace.