The “classic Rock and Roll death” has long had a place in societal lore. That one legendary musician felled in his prime through a combination of drugs, airplanes, or stalkers that are able to purchase a gun. It’s tragic, but somewhat poetic. Buddy Holly, Janice Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, an almost suspicious amount of famous musical artists went out in their prime. But to be blunt, in Rock and Roll, a music genre that oozes youth out of every pore, you can’t grow old and still expect to be relevant for decades. If you want an unsullied musical reputation, your best bet is to either A- retire or B- choke on your own vomit.
Or you can be the drummer for Spinal Tap.
The difference between a rock star who still tours while he’s in his 60’s versus a rock star who, after making a few artistically bland albums, decides to throw in the towel for good is huge. Rock and Roll is meant to be enjoyed by sweaty sex-starved youth, not old men fighting off arthritis. And, barring an appropriately timed retirement, do not overestimate the impact of a sudden, early death from a rock star. Hell, look at Michael Jackson- he was able to erase fifteen years of straight up crazy from his legacy just by having a doctor give him a medically retarded amount of drugs mixed together.
So, we’ll give him some morphine, and then maybe rub some cocaine on his teeth, and, fuck it, this last syringe can just be air bubbles.
I’m not saying that rock and roll deaths are not tragic or regrettable. I’m just saying that watching icons age is gross and depressing more often than not. And after years of nonstop music, drugs-until-the-90s, and fame, after a while, our favorite musicians turn…well, a little crazy. A little grumpy. A little weird. It’d be better for all of us if they had stopped making music when they began sounding like bland cover versions of their old bands, but someone’s gotta score that Super Bowl halftime show spot, right?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven music icons who decided to turn into creepy old people.
7. Gene Simmons (Kiss)
I might be pushing things a little bit saying that Gene Simmons is a rock legend. After all, you don’t find many bands being interviewed about influences going, “Well, I was really attracted to the experimentalism of Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart always interested me, and of course, I liked the costumes of Kiss”. They’re just not that kind of band.
Though Kiss was an important influence to Stiffler, so that’s something.
But, Kiss was a very popular band, and some might say they continue to be so today. Hell, they had a song on a Guitar Hero game, and were a central plot point for an episode of Family Guy. That has to qualify them as a “famous old person band” to anyone under the age of 20, right?
The only problem is, unlike the rest of the band, Gene Simmons seems to have no problem attempting to John-Wilkes-Booth his reputation in the back of the head. We’ve seen Simmons boast about how many women he’s had sex with (I believe the number was somewhere around “gonorrhea”), we’ve endured his terrible and depressing reality TV show, hell some of us have even been somewhat exposed to his gross/terrifying sex tape.
I unfortunately did the google image search of that, and decided to save you from actual images of it. You’re welcome. But spoiler alert, Simmons wears a T-shirt the whole fucking time. Here are some puppies.
Simmons has aged into the worst kind of “he-seems-older-than-he-is” old person. Sure, he’s only 60, which is younger than a modest percentage of college students’ parents. But he clings to his former glory days, wearing his face paint surrounded by hot women to sell…wait, Dr. Pepper? Seriously!? Dr. Pepper, the “23 flavors” drink that’s primary flavor is prune juice!? Does no one else see the irony of Gene Simmons trying to act like he’s in his 20s again while schlepping Dr.-Fucking-Pepper’s-Carbonated-Prune-Juice-(With-22-Other-Flavors)!?
It’s the only pop that keeps Dr. Love…regular
It’s never a good sign when a musical artist’s “controversy’ section on Wikipedia doesn’t discuss anything they did while they recorded music. Simmons claims to have never taken drugs or drunk alcohol in his life, though Peter Criss, in his quest to be the most secretly badass member of Kiss, apparently tricked Simmons into eating pot brownies. Just for the hell of it. This might explain why he managed avoid the pitfalls of “publicly seeming like a washed out idiot” during his heyday, but it just makes his post-2000 crankiness all the more…crazy-old-man-like. In a 2002 NPR interview, Simmons responded to claims that he had slept with 4,600 women (not a typo) by saying, “If you want to welcome me with open arms, I’m afraid you’re also going to have to welcome me with open legs,” which I believe is the official urban dictionary definition for “class.”
You stay classy, Richard Simmons
He also has had his old-man-yelling-at-the-kids-to-get-off-of-his-lawn moments, bitching about music piracy (to paraphrase, he essentially said that the fans are the reason why the music industry is in decline, and that every fresh face college student should be sued off the face of the Earth for downloading music), and sure, let’s throw in some racist diatribes against Muslims in there too.
As he has been desperately shouting about his sex life to anyone willing to listen, and throwing temper tantrums to Al Franken about losing a game of racquetball, over the years, Gene Simmons has essentially transformed from a sexually overachieving Jewish musician into, basically, the grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine, trying to give teenagers advice about having lots of sex while they can, snorting heroin, and probably ODing in a motel on the way to a beauty pageant for 8 year old girls. You know. Metaphorically.
I wanna rock and roll all night
6. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)
Ozzy Osbourne was about as crazy and badass as you wanted your heavy metal singers to be in the 70s, 80s, and hell, even a bit in the 90s. He gave himself his first tattoo, using a sewing needle and pencil lead to write “O-Z-Z-Y” on his left knuckles. That’s like watching Guy Pierce tattoo himself in Memento and then thinking, “You know, that’s pretty badass, but let’s amp things up a notch by introducing the very real possibility of lead poisoning to this equation.” Stay tuned for that Memento analogy to be even more accurate later in this article (you know, what with the memory loss)
Come on, we’re talking about a guy who helped make a name for himself by accidentally biting off the head of a dove. No, he didn’t do it on purpose- Ozzy went to meet with some record executives, and meant to release the dove as a sign of peace, but he was so intoxicated that he bit off the fucker’s head instead! Do you know how completely out of it you have to be for that to happen!? Have you ever been in a situation before where you were like, “Oh man, I’m really drunk, I’m going to take out my wallet” and then ended up biting into your wallet? Of course not! And your wallet isn’t even a living animal. This is how crazy Ozzy Osbourne was! “Woops, accidentally bit off this bird’s head, alright, let’s sign a record deal.”
Pictured: bird; symbol of peace. Not-pictured: sushi
The Godfather of Heavy Metal decided to cement his stature as the pioneer of a genre by ruining revolutionizing reality television through his MTV series The Osbournes. And…that’s his legacy now. Pre-2002? Ozzy Osbourne was that metal dude who bit off the head of a dove because he was messed up on drugs and alcohol during a business meeting that he confused “a bird in my pocket” with “a snickers bar, and I have low blood sugar”. Post-2002? Ozzy Osbourne is that weird mumbling old dude with the fat kids and the shrill wife.
Uh…Party with the Animals?
Ozzy Osbourne went from being a singer who parental advocacy groups loathed because they thought his lyrics were satanic to being made fun of by George W. Bush at a White House Correspondent’s Association dinner. That’s basically the same as the safari hunter in Jumanji being named PETA’s Vegetarian of the year.
Meat is a vegetable, right? Oh shit, I made a Jumanji reference? I think writing about Ozzy gave me a contact high…
He’s turned into that old man that mumbles about how the strip mall you’re driving by used to be nothing but cattle crazing and onion crops. He doesn’t know what he’s saying, you can’t understand him, but you smile and nod at his long winded stories. Watching Ozzy Osbourne now makes heavy drug use seem about as appetizing as starting a boxing career after talking to Muhammad Ali for thirty minutes. At least his wife gets to wear lady suits and determine what qualifies as talent in America.
That doesn’t…look like…talent
5. Eric Clapton (Cream)
If you’ve watched an episode of That 70’s Show, or have a parent who was in the Baby Boomer generation, you’ve probably heard, at one point in your life, “Eric Clapton is God.” Which might a bit hyperbolic. I mean, holy shit you guys, have you heard God play guitar? His guitar solos melt your face.
Eric Clapton is very sneaky in his crazy old man tendencies, so they’re hard to spot unless you’re looking for them (or, cough, trying to write an article on the topic). Basically, Clapton is that extremely talented guy (I’ve done the math, and I think he was in roughly half of the bands currently in the Rock & Roll hall of fame, excluding the Motown acts) who always had certain views that make everyone uncomfortable, but would keep them under wraps unless he was really wasted.
“Wooo!, Mussolini was a misunderstood pragmatic leader!”
Now, if I’ve learned anything from driving on the highway stuck behind a 1995 Cadillac going 25 miles per hour in a 55 zone with their left blinker always on, age basically affects people like booze. So when, say, your Eric Claptons of the world grow old, they stop filtering what they say. So they say crazy shit. And they probably drive like zombies- slowly moving, but almost guaranteed to kill you.
Please kids, don’t age and drive
We got Clapton’s booze views in 1976 during a concert in Birmingham, when he got drunk and went on a tirade about immigration (to England, but whatever), and started off by saying, “I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism.” You can’t say shit like that, Eric! Holy hell, can you imagine that happening toady? He’d have been straight up Kramer’ed. He also said, “This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here.” I…I got nothing, I can’t really add anything to that, that’s pretty fucked up.
I don’t know what a Wog is, but this is the first result of it on google image search. Umm…what?
So how does old man Clapton respond to people bringing up this incident of…craziness from about 35 years ago? Well, he covered it in a few 2004 interviews. Let’s see, he told Scotland on Sunday, “There’s no way I could be a racist. It would make no sense.” That’s…a start, though it does imply that if he could find a practical use for racism, he’d just racist it up at all the racist parties (is…is that what racists go? Are there clubs they go to? Oh right, they go to youtube video comment sections, I almost forgot). Then he told Uncut, “My feelings about this has not changed” since England is still “inviting people in as cheap labor and putting them in ghettos.” Sigh.
“Nooo, I’m not a racist, I just don’t want black people in my country”
So sure, Eric Clapton might be god, but if he is, he’s probably one of the racist ones (I’m looking at you, Mormonism).
4. Paul McCartney (The Beatles)
“Wait a minute, Jeff,” you nameless readers might say to yourself aloud, not at all wondering why you are talking to a glowing computer screen. “Paul McCartney is a fucking knight. He was in The Beatles for Christ’s sake, and I once saw a dude straight up murdered in the streets for saying that ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was a bad song. How could he be a crazy old person?”
But oh, fictional reader who might need to consider moving to a safer fictional part of town, how wrong you are. First of all, as elitish has even discussed with Charles Bissell of The Wrens, McCartney comes off as a 67 year old man trying to act like he’s still 17. Look at this recent (emphasis on recent) album photo he took.
For a guy who is old enough to be a grandparent, that’s a little off putting, don’t you think? But even ignoring that (after all, if I were Paul McCartney I’d probably take that photo for every album cover I ever made, since, fuck it, I’d be Paul Goddamn McCartney), when we delve into the awkward “old person admitting past drug use,” and the whole meditation, vocal vegetarianism, and marrying a younger one-legged woman thing sort of makes him seem like a hippie who still wants to be in the 70’s. And given that the hippies were the first generation to quickly sell out on their beliefs for materialism, a 67 year old rich dude who still acts like a hippie is just awkward.
He’s the CEO of an oil company now, probably
While McCartney has more money than he knows what to do with (apart from handing it out in divorces, hi-yo!), so he decides to support PETA (which is probably one of the more crazy-person-friendly organizations out there). And he’s also way into meditation. Which isn’t too weird on it’s own, but McCartney endorses it in the uncomfortable drug-faded older hippie way, which…is uncomfortable to young people like me (I’m 12).
Yeah, that’s me. On the left. In the Green. Hi-YA!
Just last year, McCartney headlined a benefit concert, along with Ringo Starr. How fucking great would that be? The two remaining Beatles!? Holy shit, right!? Well, it raised three million dollars, which sounds about right. What group did McCartney decide to help with this philanthropic gesture? Well, the David Lynch Foundation for at-risk youth. That’s great! That’s a really noble cause, good job Pau…what’s that? Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that it was to fund transcendental meditation for at-risk youth. Of all the charities out there, The Fucking Beatles decided to reunite (sort of) to help our at-risk youth…through goddamn transcendental meditation. That’s like having a benefit concert to help fun the purchase of ant-farms for stay dogs. Goddamn it.
Though, to be fair, the dogs thought the ants were delicious
McCartney might not even come across as that much of a crazy old person on paper, especially for those of you who had hippie parents. But he just seems…off, as seen in this interview for the Colbert Report where he discusses talking to vegetables.
3. Bob Dylan (Bob Dylan. Duh.)
Bob Dylan is another one of those sneaky, under-the-radar-crazy old musicians. The guy spouted off a mix of sublime and ridiculous poetry with a voice that sounded like a donkey three-way, yet he still managed to pull off some of the most influential music of our era. Plus, unlike the rest of these artists, he’s managed to continue making relevant (or at least, relevant in the eyes of some critics and the Grammy Awards) for five decades. That’s impressive. Kudos, Bob Dylan.
Take it, it’s yours
But when Bob Dylan got older, he got…weirdly and confusingly religious. Sort of born again, sort of vaguely spiritual, he went from being Jewish to Christian to Christianity-inspired-vague-theism to…Jewish again? Maybe? To recording a Christmas CD that’s a mix of classic Christmas songs and a few God awful original songs. Just terrible. Here, let me show you a music video from it, in a game I like to play, “spot the crazy, out of place looking, old man!”
Did you spot the crazy old man? If you answered, “That crazy old man looked a lot like Bob Dylan with long hair and a hat!” than congrats! That was Bob Dylan. You win the collective disgruntled sigh of a generation!
Also. Here’s Bob Dylan contributing to a late 80’s rap song. Which…sounds like an old white folk musician doing a rap song in 1986. Which of course…oh God, old people aren’t allowed to rap…
We also got a little bit of crankiness, as seen in the 2006 Rolling Stone interview where he complained about the quality of modern sound recordings, saying that the songs on his new record, Modern Times, “probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded ‘em.” He may or may not have followed that up by saying that back in his day he used to have to walk two miles to get to a recording studio each day, going uphill both ways.
And…again, God, look at that music video. Maybe Bob Dylan needs to just avoid music videos at his age. Given how well his more recent new music has generally been received, he’d easily be more of the “badass old dude” genre of geriatrics as opposed to the “oh God, is that Bob Dylan!?” type that we see in that Christmas song…
2. Ted Nugent (The Amboy Dukes)
The Nuge! Like Clapton, Ted Nugent cemented his iconic status by being the central plot point of an episode of That 70’s Show. Because if there ever was a TV show that had its finger on the pulse of a generation, it would be…well, not That 70’s Show, but it did star the hot chick in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that shitty villain in Spiderman 3, and the dude that babysits for Demi Moore now. So, they at least think that Nugent is legendary.
Look, it’s three working actors and three future-guests on “I love the 00’s”
But Ted Nugent is also a crazy old man. We’re talking, “sitting on his porch shooting at shit” crazy. You may think I’m exaggerating, but…not really.
Let’s just take a look at some of the books he’s written- “God, Guns and Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Kill it and Grill it”, and “BloodTrails II: The Truth About Bowhunting” are all among his titles. Seriously? Kill it and Grill it? Are we sure Nugent didn’t have Larry the Cable Guy ghost write that one?
Blah blah Rednecks blah blah Trailer Park blah blah Git Er Done
He’s “threatened to run for office” (his words, not mine), I’m only guessing because he’s cranky and wants to pass a law saying those damn kids aren’t allowed to go skateboarding on the sidewalks anymore.
“Get a job!”
So the man who was once a hard rock icon has turned into a grouchy old conservative. But he’s not just any conservative, he’s one of those gun-toting, argument-having, pissed off conservative old people that make everyone, including most Republicans, just a little uneasy.
Yeah, and fuck this guy too
He really hates animal activists, which is sort of understandable, since PETA is full of crazy people. And he really hates Obama, which I guess makes sense for a strong Conservative to be against a Liberal Democrat in the White House. Only he says batshit-crazy-confused-old-man things to get his opinions out there. He is on the record as saying, “Obama, he’s a piece of shit. I told him to suck on my machine gun.” Also, “Barack Hussein Obama should be put in jail…Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama.”
Funny, he doesn’t look Chinese…
If I can interject in here, actually, just a word to the wise- if you want anyone to take your political stances seriously? Pulling the “I only call Obama by his full name, because his middle name is Hussein” card is not the way to do that. Only crazy-people conservatives view that as an effective tactic.
Well, you won me over with your rational and eloquent argument
Oh, and speaking of Saddam, his cheery in-no-way crazy take on the Iraqi war? “Our failure has been not to Nagasaki them.” Well then. Lovely.
1. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys)
Does a crazy old man still count as a crazy old man if he has literally and legitimately been mentally insane for decades? Well, if you asked that question to Brian Wilson, he’d probably stare at you blankly for a few minutes, and then start clawing at your face, shouting, “I’M GETTING THE SPIDERS OFF YOU,” so yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say that Brian Wilson still counts as a crazy old man.
The good vibrations! They’re EVERYWHERE!
Much like Ozzy Osbourne, Brian Wilson looks like someone who took enough drugs that, at some point in the late 80’s, their brains just shrugged and said, “Fuck this, I’m out, you’re on your own, buddy.” That might not be the most fair assessment—sure, cocaine might have helped explain why Wilson spent three years in his bedroom at one point, but I’m sure his schizophrenia didn’t help.
This is your brain on OH GOD PLEASE STOP THE VOICES
Then there was that whole thing with Eugene Landy, who basically drugged Wilson so he’d be able to manage Wilson’s money and career, even going so far as to write Wilson’s memoirs, with large segments basically saying, “Dr. Landy is the most amazing person ever and all attractive women should be having sex with him right now.” So yeah, Brian Wilson was a genius, with severe mental problems, who got used by a creepy Rasputin-like therapist. That sucks.
Insert Beach Boys song reference here
But that doesn’t really change the fact that, even though Brian Wilson’s mental health has “significantly improved” over the past 10 or so years, we’re left with a 67 year old man with gray hair who sort of stands there looking like the Indian in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…
It’s almost uncanny
It’s almost sad at this point, isn’t it? Don’t you all feel oh so wonderful now? Yeah, I thought so…this article was sort of a downer. Have fun next time you decide to listen to an oldie’s station!