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people over 30 to trust

Rock and roll is a young person’s game, with few exceptions. This post is about the exceptions.

While looking at individual artists’ pages on AM, I was struck by the fact that most of them did their best (or at least most acclaimed) work before they turned 30. Not exactly, a news flash, I know, but I realized that the lists provide a way to quantify that. I’m no spring chicken myself, and I wanted to look for artists who did good work in their thirties or later.

Of the top 300 songs, I can identify only 36 that were released when the artist was 30 or older. In the case of bands, I had to make some judgement calls. In general, if two or more band members (or one impresario, like Jarvis Cocker) have hit the big three-oh, I’ve included them.

6. Chuck Berry, “Johnny B. Goode” (age 31)
20. Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On” (age 31)
22. Ike and Tina Turner, “River Deep Mountain High” (Ike, age 34)
26. John Lennon, “Imagine” (age 30)
51. Pulp, “Common People” (Jarvis Cocker, age 31; Candida Doyle, age 31)
58. Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side” (age 30)
61. David Bowie, “Heroes” (age 30)
66. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds” (age 34)
82. James Brown, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (age 32)
84. Public Enemy, “Fight the Power” (Flavor Flav, age 30)
117. ABBA, “Dancing Queen” (Björn, age 31; Anni-Frid, age 30)
133. Marvin Gaye, “Sexual Healing” (age 43)
136. Fatboy Slim, “The Rockafeller Skank” (age 34)
141. James Brown, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” (age 37)
149. Missy Misdemeanor Elliott, “Work It” (age 31)
151. Big Joe Turner, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” (age 43)
173. Kylie Minogue, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” (age 33)
179. Glen Campbell, “Wichita Lineman” (age 32)
190. Bruce Springsteen, “Born in the U.S.A.” (age 33)
198. Blondie, “Heart of Glass” (Debbie Harry, age 33)
214. Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Midnight Train to Georgia” (All of these Pips were Gladys’ relatives: Edward Patten, age 34; William Guest, age 32; Bubba Knight, age 30)
220. Beastie Boys, “Intergalactic” (MCA, age 33; Mike D, age 32; Adrock, age 31)
221. Motörhead, “Ace of Spades” (Lemmy, age 35; Fast Eddie Clarke, age 30)
229. Johnny Cash, “Ring of Fire” (age 31)
231. James Brown, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (age 32)
235. Fleetwood Mac, “Go Your Own Way” (Christine McVie, age 33; John McVie, age 32)
238. James Brown, “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (age 32)
240. Muddy Waters, “Mannish Boy” (age 39)
264. Jackie Wilson, “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” (age 33)
265. Marvin Gaye, “Let’s Get It On” (age 34)
267. LCD Soundsystem, “Losing My Edge” (age 31)
270. Madonna, “Like a Prayer” (age 30)
272. Bob Dylan, “Tangled Up in Blue” (age 33)
281. Madonna, “Ray of Light” (age 39)
282. Muddy Waters, “Hoochie Coochie Man” (age 38)
296. Don Henley, “The Boys of Summer” (age 37)

Only two are over 40 (“Sexual Healing” Marvin and Big Joe).

Originally, I was going to check the entire top 1000, but I got tired. I can’t imagine that Johnny Cash’s cover of “Hurt,” released when he was 70, has much competition. On the album side, I don’t have the knowledge to dig into all the jazz artists; Bob Dylan’s Modern Times (at age 65) certainly springs to mind.

Anybody want to take notice of other noteworthy over-the-hillsters?

Re: people over 30 to trust

I agree that most of an artist's influential years are during their twenties. I'm trying to think of some artists who have done good work post-twenties. Lucinda Williams - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road (well into her forties)Van Morrison (Into The Music; although he actually may support the downhill slide into the twenties more than refute it.)U2 (Auchtung Baby, and I would argue that these guys are a good example of aging well. They've yet to become boring.) Leonard Cohen (everything, although who knows when he actually wrote the stuff) and Paul Simon (Graceland).

Re: people over 30 to trust

Here's something odd I noticed once I actually sat down and looked at the list--almost all the songs in the top 300 sung by men over the age of 35 have to do with sex, and specifically sexual potency ("Sexual Healing," Big Joe Turner, Muddy Waters, JB's "Sex Machine").

The one exception is Don Henley, who sings a song lamenting the lost years of his youth. Pathetic, ain't it?

Re: people over 30 to trust

radiohead would've been around 30 at the time of ok computer. if not, then certainly for anything after kid A.

strange about the over 35's thing... i suppose you're suggesting that these songs are a result of some kind of insecurity about growing old? i can't quite figure it out to be quite honest.

Re: people over 30 to trust

sorry about the double post...

can someone generate a similar list, but for younger artists? i'm curios to see how many entries there are for pepole under 20 or something... there probably wouldn't be many. sorry to ask someone else to do this, i can't think of a way to get that kind of information myself.

Re: people over 30 to trust

We shouldn't forgot Loretta Lynn, releasing an excellent album at 70. Odd, the only artists that have released highly acclaimed albums in their 70s (That I can think of) are country singers.

Re: people over 30 to trust

Well, I’ve made a calculation about the age of our idols 2 years ago but I’ve never posted it (I don’t know why, maybe I simply forgot it or I didn’t find it interesting enough ). So I will seize the opportunity that schleuse brings to post it. I’ve calculated the age of the bands and solo artist when they released its masterpieces and here are the results for the AM Top 100:

1. PET SOUNDS 23 (Love 1941, B. Wilson 1942, Jardine 1942, D. Wilson 1944, C. Wilson 1946).
2. REVOLVER 25 (Lennon 1940, Starr 1940, McCartney 1942, Harrison 1943).
3. NEVERMIND 24 (Novoselic 1965, Cobain 1967, Grohl 1969).
4. THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO 26 (Nico 1938, Cale 1942, Reed 1942, Morrison 1942, Tucker ¿?).
6. BLONDE ON BLONDE 25 (Dylan 1941).
7. EXILE ON MAIN ST. 30 (Wyman 1936, Watts 1941, Jagger 1943, Richards 1943, Taylor 1948 ).
8. WHAT’S GOING ON 32 (Gaye 1939).
9. NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS 21 (Jones 1955, Cook 1956, Rotten 1956, Vicious 1957)
10. LONDON CALLING 25 (Strummer 1952, Headon 1955, Jones 1955, Simonon 1955).
12. ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? 22 (Hendrix 1942, Redding 1945, Mitchell 1947).
13. ASTRAL WEEKS 24 (Morrison 1945).
14. OK COMPUTER 28 (Selway 1967, O’Brien 1968, Yorke 1968, C. Greenwood 1969, J. Greenwood 1971).
16. ZIGGY STARDUST 25 (Bowie 1947).
17. BORN TO RUN 26 (Springsteen 1949).
18. IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK 27 (Flav 1959, D. 1960, Griff 1961, X 1966).
20. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON 29 (Wright 1943, Waters 1944, Mason 1944, Gilmour 1946).
21. THE DOORS 24 (Manzarek 1939, Morrison 1943, Densmore 1944, Krieger 1946).
22. HORSES 29 (Smith 1946).
24. ABBEY ROAD 28.
25. MARQUEE MOON 28 (Smith 1948, Verlaine 1949, Ficca 1949, Lloyd 1951).
26. SIGN ‘O’ THE TIMES 29 (Prince 1958 ).
28. IV 24 (Page 1944, Jones 1946, Plant 1948, Bonham 1948 ).
30. THE QUEEN IS DEAD 24 (Morrissey 1959, Marr 1963, Rourke 1963, Joyce 1963).
31. LET IT BLEED 27.
32. BLUE LINES 27 (Marshall 1959, Del Naja 1965, Vowles 1968 ).
33. THRILLER 24 (Jackson 1958 ).
34. WHO’S NEXT 26 (Daltrey 1944, Entwistle 1944, Townshend 1945, Moon 1947).
35. RAMONES 25 (Johnny Ramone 1948, Joey Ramone 1951, D.D. Ramone 1952, T. Ramone 1952).
36. THE JOSHUA TREE 26 (Bono 1960, Clayton 1960, The Edge 1961, Mullen Jr. 1961).
37. KIND OF BLUE 33 (Davis 1926).
38. THE BAND 28 (Hudson 1937, Helm 1940, Robertson 1943, Danko 1943, Manuel 1943).
39. LIVE AT THE APOLLO 30 (Brown 1933).
40. REMAIN IN LIGHT 29 (Harrison 1949, Weymouth 1950, Frantz 1951, Byrne 1952).
42. INNERVISIONS 23 (Wonder 1950).
43. AFTER THE GOLDRUSH 25 (Young 1945).
44. AUTOMATIC FOR THE PEOPLE 34 (Buck 1956, Mills 1958, Berry 1958, Stipe 1960).
45. BLUE 28 (Mitchell 1943).
46. CLOSER 24 (Albrecht 1956, Curtis 1956, Hook 1956. Morris 1957).
47. THE STONE ROSES 26 (Mani 1962, Squire 1962, Brown 1963, Reni 1964).
49. PURPLE RAIN 24 (Fink 1957, Prince 1958, Coleman 1960, Mark 1962, Melvoin 1964, Z ¿?).
50. FOREVER CHANGES 22 (Forssi 1943, Lee 1945, Echols 1945, MacLean 1947, Stuart ¿?).
51. THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON 26 (S. Stewart 1943, Martini 1943, Stone 1945, Errico 1946, Graham 1946, Robinson 1946, F. Stewart 1946).
52. THE CLASH 23.
53. RUMOURS 32 (Fleetwood 1942, C. McVie 1943, J. McVie 1945, Buckingham 1948, Nicks 1948 ).
54. TROUT MASK REPLICA 22 (Beefheart 1941, Morton 1949, Drumbo 1949, Rollo 1950, Semens ¿?).
55. ODELAY 26 (Beck 1970).
56. OTIS BLUE 24 (Redding 1941).
58. MURMUR 25.
59. HUNKY DORY 24.
60. IS THIS IT 22 (Casablancas 1978, Fraiture 1978, Moretti 1980, Hammond Jr.1980, Valensi 1981).
61. TAPESTRY 29 (King 1942).
62. APPETITE FOR DESTRUCTION 23 (Stradlin 1962, Rose 1962, McKagan 1964, Slash 1965, Adler 1965).
63. SCREAMADELICA 26 (Gillespie 1964, Johnson 1966, Innes ¿?, Young ¿?).
64. DOOLITTLE 26 (Deal 1961, Lovering 1961, Francis 1965, Santiago 1965).
66. II 22.
67. GRACELAND 45 (Simon 1941).
68. A LOVE SUPREME 39 (Coltrane 1926).
69. LAYLA AND OTHER ASSORTED LOVE SONGS 25 (Radle 1942, Gordon 1945, Clapton 1945, Allman 1946, Whitlock 1948 ).
70. DAYDREAM NATION 31 (Gordon 1953, Ranaldo 1956, Moore 1958, Shelley 1962).
72. 3 FEET HIGH AND RISING 20 (The Dove 1968, Posdnuos 1969, Mase 1970).
74. LOVELESS 28 (Butcher 1961, Googe 1962, Shields 1963, O’Ciosoig 1964).
75. THIS YEAR’S MODEL 24 (Costello 1954).
76. DUMMY 30 (Utley 1957, Gibbons 1965, Barrow 1971).
78. WHAT’S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY 26 (Arthurs 1965, N. Gallagher 1967, McGuigan 1971, L. Gallagher 1972, White ¿?).
82. PSYCHOCANDY 24 (W. Reid 1958, J. Reid 1961, Hart ¿?).
84. I NEVER LOVED A MAN THE WAY I LOVE YOU 25 (Franklin 1942).
85. THE BENDS 26.
86. HOTEL CALIFORNIA 29 (Meisner 1946, Henley 1947, Walsh 1947, Felder 1947, Frey 1948 ).
87. FUN HOUSE 22 (Pop 1947, R. Asheton 1948, Alexander 1948, S. Asheton ¿?).
88. ELEPHANT 28 (M. White 1974, J. White 1975).
89. MY AIM IS TRUE 23.
90. GRACE 28 (Buckley 1966)
91. LOW 30.
94. FOR YOUR PLEASURE 25 (Ferry 1945, MacKay 1946, Eno 1948, Manzanera 1951, Thompson 1951, Porter ¿?,).
95. IMAGINE 31.
96. DUSTY IN MEMPHIS 30 (Springfield 1939).
97. TRANS-EUROPE EXPRESS 29 (Hütter 1946, Schneider 1947, Flür 1947, Bartos 1952).
98. BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER 29 (Simon 1941, Garfunkel 1941).
99. RAW POWER 25.
100. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON 23 (Wright 1943, Waters 1944, Mason 1944, Barrett 1946).

As you can see, 97 out of 100 are between 21 and 30. The mean age was 26.75 years. Only De La Soul released “3 Feet High and Rising” with a mean age of 20 years-old and 2 artists more than 40 years-old, being the oldest artist in the Top 100 Paul Simon with his “Graceland” followed by Miles Davis circa 1970. Ten artists were more than 30 years-old when they released the Top 100 albums:
5. RUMOURS 32.
10. IMAGINE 31.

Mmm, some thoughts:
- First of all, it’s obvious that there’s a tremendous bias regarding age in music critics and audience. I know that pop music is the music of young people and rock’n’roll (and hip-hop, and heavy metal) is about generational confrontation and defiance. But to think that only people between 21 and 30 years-old are able to make good music is a whole other thing. Everybody assumes that a writer, a movie maker or a painter can do its masterpiece when they are 50 or 60 years old but it’s not the same with when applied to pop artists.
- Having said that, it’s obvious that artists tend to get lazy with age, tend to be formulaic after 30 years-old. They’re comfortable following a formula, a pattern that proved successful in the past. They don’t take risks anymore and that’s why critics tend to support younger and bolder acts.
And some related questions:
- Is there the hype around younger bands always justified? They’re always innovative or they are pretty faces recycling older people findings?
- Are we not sometimes unfair with older artists? If they’re trying to adapt to the current times we (and the critics) usually think of it as a pathetic attempt to be trendy. And if they stay true to its roots and to its style we usually accuse them to be conservative. So, what could they do? Retirement? Or maybe suicide to become a legend?

Re: people over 30 to trust

Honorio, your stats for Dark Side are incorrect. The album was released in 1973 and Barrett was out of the picture by that point. So it should be:

100. DARK SIDE OF THE MOON 28.5 (Wright 1945, Waters 1943, Mason 1944, Gilmour 1946).

Re: people over 30 to trust

Nevermind, I just saw it at #20. Nice one Anth. Real nice.

Re: people over 30 to trust

Sorry, #100 was "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn" that wasn't at the Top 100 when I made the calculation. Just cut and paste and forgot to change the name of the album. Sorry again...

Re: people over 30 to trust

Youngest songwriter? (It's easy to grow old...)

Re: people over 30 to trust

another point worthy of mention is how many critics actually know the average age of the bands that they are reviewing? it certainly isn't something that i know off the top of my head.

also, i suppose by their 30's, an artist may have already reached their goal of becoming a successful musician. it might be difficult to stay motivated. you would have to continually set new goals for yourself.

i think the music industry may be biased. i'm going to assume that younger acts sell more records. i doubt critics are biased though. i doubt they really care how old bands are.

Re: people over 30 to trust

It think it's different now. I'm noticing the opposite effect. Bands and artists like Lily Allen and Artic Monkeys seem to get similar critisms regarding their age like "their age is their biggest flaw" which is a term I've seen many times in AMG including Fiona Apple's debut. Back in the 60s if you were 19 and made a great record it was just accepted. You were regarded as a prodigy. Now writers look at young artist and they look at their age as if it were something to criticize. A lot of 90s bands are hitting the 40 mark and some of them kept releasing great material like Cat Power, Belle and Sebastian, Jarvis Cocker, Antony and the Johnsons,Fountains of Wayne, Modest Mouse, System of a Down, Doves, Guided by Voices, Gwen Stefani,Kylie Minogue, Wilco, Primal Scream,the Apples in Stereo. The Flaming Lips were nearly 40 when they released the Soft Bulleton and their follow got fantastic reviews and an even bigger following than ever. Spiritualized made their best album while in their 30s, as did Moby and Fatboy Slim and Everclear had a major hit album as did World Party and the Chili Peppers. J.Lo's in her late 30s and having massive success. That's what made the 90s so unique. It paved the way for both the young and the older influencial bands. Of all the problems that the music industry has ageism seems to be on the downlow as of late..

Re: people over 30 to trust

I'm listening to Nick Cave right now, who seems to entirely disprove the theory that you have to be under 30 to be relevant. He was 27 before he recorded his first album to appear on Acclaimed Music. However, his first album to be in the top 1000 was recorded at the age of 31. Plus, his most acclaimed and second most acclaimed albums were recorded at 47 and 40, respectively.

I'm also pretty sure Grinderman will make the list (maybe top 1000), which is the same bunch of dudes in their 50s continuing to be really awesome.

Also, it'll be interesting to see how LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy evolve, since they're really just getting started. They just recorded a great album with James at the ripe old age of 36 or 37 (I'm not sure about his exact birth date).

Re: people over 30 to trust

At least this year, it seems like the non-US/UK critics are a lot more into older artists. The non-US/UK list of the top 10 albums of the year includes artists like Neil Young, Robert Wyatt and Mavis Staples. Also, the Nordic critics have Nick Lowe in third place.

Re: people over 30 to trust

Roddy Frame (Aztec Camera) did all of his best work when he was not yet 20. Does that count? :)

Re: people over 30 to trust

One interesting thing is that this seems to be most typical of "rock" acts. Musicians in other genres often do great stuff later: Miles Davis and Coltrane already mentioned, and Frank Sinatra's famous Capitol albums were all released while he was in his 40s.

Not to mention classical music, where most great composers did what is considered their best work towards the end of their lives. Haydn was in his 60s or 70s when he composed his Symphony 104 for instance.

Re: people over 30 to trust

So 27 is about the peak age. Interestingly that is about the peak age for sportsmen too. eg footballers.

I guess as you get older you lose the urgency in life. And once you've made it big, the temptation is to relax.