Last weekend, on his BBC Radio 2 show “Sounds of the 70s”, Johnnie Walker played a record to commemorate the 80th birthday of Jet Black, the original drummer in punk-era band The Stranglers. For many people they would be classified as a punk band, but I appreciate that this is a matter of opinion rather than fact. 40 years on, many of the “malcontents, ne’er-do-wells and refuseniks” of the late 1970s (to quote, from memory, from the BBC4 documentary series “Punk Britannia”) would no doubt argue that, with keyboards featuring heavily on most of their tracks, they could never be considered truly punk. I do not feel especially strongly either way and am happy to describe Jet Black as an 80-year-old punk, and to note that he is now in his ninth decade on earth, just like my dad and my father-in-law. He’s older than Neil Sedaka, Judy Collins and Ringo Starr. Fair play to him.
I also note that the four Sex Pistols who recorded “Anarchy in the UK” are all in their early 60s and still going strong. The youngest of them, Glen Matlock, turned 62 last Monday. Similarly the original quartet who recorded and performed as The Damned are all in their 60s and still with us. Both of these bands can safely be described as punk, and their original line-ups are still alive. By contrast, the three biggest male pop stars of the last 40 years (Prince, Michael Jackson and George Michael) all made it to their 50s but none of them made it to 60. Last weekend BBC Radio 2 paid tribute to two of them (Prince and Michael Jackson) in honour of what would have been their 60th birthdays. On Bank Holiday Monday most of the day’s schedule was taken up with a countdown of Jackson’s 60 best-selling singles, finishing up with “Billie Jean” at #1. The first hour of last Saturday’s “Pick of the Pops”, hosted by Paul Gambaccini, counted down the 20 best-selling singles by Prince (“1999”/ “Little Red Corvette” at #1). The second hour featured Madonna’s Top 20 (“Into the Groove” at #1) in honour of her 60th birthday. The biggest female pop star of the last 40 years made it to that milestone on 16 August and has easily outlived her male counterparts. It will be no surprise if, 20 years from now, she has just celebrated her 80th birthday, and radio schedules are commemorating the fact. Maybe Jet Black will still be around too. I rather like the idea of a 100-year-old punk.