~ Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll:
Too Young To Die! ~



From A Dead Beat To An Old Greaser

  • In this refined, pensive, acoustic song we see how Ray Lomas, being an old early-sixties rocker or greaser, is confronted with someone from an earlier generation, who like him, cannot let the past go and clings to ideas, fashion etc. in this case of the fifties' beat generation. This beat is living in his memories and idealizes that era. Ray is bored by his stories: he cannot relate to it and leaves: "Think you must have me all wrong, I didn't care friend, I wasn't there, friend". I suspect, that Ray intuitively feels that he will end up like this beat guy, if he continues living his life the way he does.

  • With "dead beat" Ian refers to the beat generation, also known as beatnix or beatniks, a movement started in the USA by poets and novelists. They criticized the establishment, the consumer society, the rat race (a term they introduced btw) and materialism. In 1956 beat generation drew the attention of the public with 'Howl and other poems' by Allen Ginsberg and the novel 'On the road' by Jack Kerouac. They adopted a life style of chosen poverty and anarchistic individualism, striving for 'extatic' ("beatific") experiences: "... sharing wet dreams of Charlie Parker, Jack Kerouac, René Magritte ...". Many of them were travelling the US from coast to coast constantly ("sat in the station ...") and/or used drugs, trying to flee from the dullness of a moralizing and fixed society. The theories of Zen-buddhism influenced them, as well as those of the french experimental authors of the twenties. When it comes to music, bebop and hard bob jazz (Charlie Parker) were very popular among the beatnix, while the influence they had on jazz music of those days is reflected in the free jazz style of Ornette Coleman a.o. Young intellectuals, students and artists were attracted by their life style and ideas, but the nucleus of the beat generation fell apart in the early sixties. The well-known authors of this movement continued to publish: the poets Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder Phil Walen and the novelists Jack Kerouac, Chandler Brossard and Wiliam S. Burroughs, while some of the older authors like Norman Mailer and Kenneth Rexroth were clearly influenced by them (1.).

Ceci n'est pas une pipe

  • René Magritte (1898 - 1967), mentioned in this song, was a Belgian surrealist painter, writer, essayist and film-producer, who became very popular in the UK and the USA. One of his most famous paintings is the above "The treachery of images" (1929). It depicts a pipe, but the painter tells us it is not ("Ceci n'est pas une pipe"): it's just a representation of what we see (2.). More information about his ideas and examples of his art can be found at The Official Magritte Site.
    * Jan Voorbij ; Sources: 1. Encarta Encyclopedie Winkler Prins Editie 99, Amsterdam 1998; 2. The Official Magritte Site.

  • The verseline "When bombs were banned every Sunday" refers to the slogan "Ban The Bomb"of the peace movement in the early sixties. In Britain these peace activists organised protest marches that were originally held on Sundays.
    * Jan Voorbij

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Bad-eyed And Loveless

Big Dipper

  • "Weekend happiness seekers pent-up saturation. Well, we don't mean anyone any harm, we weren't on the Glasgow train". Two points. The Glasgow supporters WERE notorious (and usually only at matches between the two main Glasgow teams, I think), but not to the same extent as English fans. More importantly for the song, Glaswegians wouldn't be travelling to Blackpool for the football, since English and Scottish league teams don't play each other. I suspect a specific event inspired this line, giving Glaswegians a bad reputation at the time. "I'm the Big Dipper": Its really important to note that Ray WAS the champion in his youth, but on this visit, he's just laughed-at. This is the final straw motivating his fateful bike ride.

  • Blackpool's Big Dipper.

    Like 'Up the 'Pool' this song too is about Blackpool. In the album sleeve's cartoon, the panel entitled 'Home' actually shows the Tower. There is a Big Dipper on the Golden Mile.
    * Neil R. Thomason

  • As a Rangers fan I take offence to this interpretation. Rangers and Celtic fans are not, and as far as I know, never have been, well known for being hooligans. I think that's the English fans you may be thinking of. Your interpretation is wrong I am afraid - Ian must have meant something else. 
    I know what a hooligan is, but Rangers and Celtic fans are no worse than any other team- Scottish football fans are well respected throughout the world for their friendliness, "The Tartan Army" has been praised on numerous occasions. Today's football hooligans are mostly English (in terms of newspaper headlines and violence anyway).
    I'm sure I read somewhere that Ian Anderson grew up around Blackpool - I'd suggest maybe people came down on the "Glasgow train" and had fights with the English people around Blackpool at weekends. Nothing to do with football, just rival gangs. This seems more sensible than any football connection.
    I've been to many Rangers games and never had ANY bother (that's not to say there never IS any bother, or that Rangers fans are all angels - I just don't think the lyric means anything about football).
    * Steven O'Mullan

    I don't think it's football -- Scottish fans wouldn't be travelling down to England, since Scotland has its own league and they don't play English teams! Mind you, there used to be an annual Scotland vs England match, and Scotland fans were known for their hard-drinking and violence ... it was a two-way thing, of course ... 6.stm More likely --- people from Glasgow take regular holidays in Blackpool, especially during the Bank Holidays --- it's a kind of tradition. An old guy in my work still goes to Blackpool once a year. It would have been very common in the 60s and 70s for bus-loads and train-loads of 'merry' Glaswegians to be arriving in Blackpool for the weekend. No doubt there was some antagonism from the locals ....
    * Andy Jackson

    "Glasgow Train". If you want to get to Blackpool from London or the south of England by train, you would take a northbound "west coast" train and most likely change trains at Preston (as in "Cheap Day return"). The majority of the northbound trains would have Glasgow as their ultimate destination. However, there used to be a direct service from London to Blackpool once a day, and there are some northbound trains that have destinations other than Glasgow. 
    Ray has evidently caught one of these. I'm not sure about the implied malice of the users of a Glasgow train, but I don't think it has anything to do with football. In my experience of these trains in the seventies, the Glasgow-bound ones tended to be very crowded and hence dirty and gloomy. Often there were not enough seats and some passengers were forced to stand for what is a very long journey. A good deal of alcohol was consumed on these trains, and the overall atmosphere was depressing. I expect sometimes violence easily broke out among youths riding on the these trains.
    "Big Dipper" Perhaps it doesn't need to be said, but claiming to be a "big dipper" is a boast of sexual prowess.
    * Alan Jolley

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Too Old To Rock'n' Roll: Too Young To Die!

  • "So the old Rocker gets out his bike to make a ton before he takes his leave". 'A ton' is slang for travelling at 100 miles per hour."Up on the A1 by Scotch Corner": The A1 is the main (hence trunk road) north-south route on the eastern side of England. The Pennine mountain range down the middle of northern England means that there s the A1 to the east of the Pennines, and north-south traffic on the western side of the mountains follows the M6. The A1 is effectively a motorway (nowadays the correct name is in fact the A1(M) ), with multiple lanes in each direction. Near the small town of Scotch Corner, it narrows and becomes a more minor road. This means a huge volume of traffic becomes concentrated onto a smaller road, and theoretically has to decelerate. However, if one has been driving at 70mph (more likely to be 80-90mph...) for a couple of hundred miles, it s difficult to readjust to the lower speed limit on the smaller road. Unsurprisingly, Scotch Corner is an accident black spot . There's something about this song that puzzles me. According to the album s story, Ray travels down to London, in south-east England, then to Blackpool, in north-west England, but his bike accident occurs near Scotch Corner, in north-EAST England. So where was he going? If he was heading from Blackpool to London, he wouldn t go via Newcastle! Similarly, the logical route to Scotland stays on the west of the country; even if he was going to eastern Scotland, he'd be likely to stay on the west almost until Glasgow. Something to consider: was Ray driving too fast just to release his frustrations, or was it suicide?
    * Neil R. Thomason

  • Lawrence Westhaver points out that a "Rocker" was not just a rock & roll fan (notice that Ian capitalizes the 'R' in Rocker as if it is a proper noun). To be a rocker was a lifestyle in the late fifties, early sixties in Western Europe, esp. in the UK. In a way they can be considered as the European equivalents of the Beatnix - a subculture that goes back to the mid-fifties in the USA (see above). Apart from racing the motorways on their bikes, the cafe's where they met were important elements in this youth culture ("the transport caf' prophet of doom..."). There is more detailed information on the subject on these sites: The Rise Of The Caféracer And The Rocker, A Rocker's'Tale: Bikes, Burnin' and Birds, Rockers: An Amercian Perspective, Written In The Sixties.
    * Lawrence Westhaver, Jan Voorbij

  • In response to the puzzlement that Ray went up the "A1": He was simply reliving old times, and racing up the A1 was simply an enjoyable pastime for the bike gangs of his youth, for the sheer pleasure of it, not because there was a destination in mind. At the time of Ray's youth there were no motorways, and the A1 was the longest, fastest road there was.
    * Alan Jolley 

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The Chequered Flag (Dead Or Alive)

  • "The sunlight streaks through the curtain cracks, touches the old man where he sleeps. The nurse brings up a cup of tea two biscuits and the morning paper mystery." It's probably just coincidental, but this verse is very reminiscent of 'Cheap Day Return' and 'Nursie'.
    * Neil R. Thomason

  • The song 'Chequered Flag' almost brings tears to my eyes, as it seems to me this is Mr. Anderson's vision of the end of his own life. Finally coming to "the hard road's end" as "the deaf composer (God?) completes his final score", he is now a weak old man in a nursing home. The words "sunlight streaks" are reminiscent of 'Aqualung,' and help evoke an image of loneliness and failing health. But the old man takes comfort in knowing that he lived with a "gladiator soul" and was at least once "the taker of the day". He has created works that will live on beyond him and will continue to "play to the stand" long after he is dead. Having done his best in life, he sees no reason to fear death and boldly charges "the chequered flag" as if it were "the bull's red rag." This song, and especially the line about the "still-born child", reminds me of a famous quote from Theodore Roosevelt: "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    * John W. Loosemore

  • "The deaf composer" obviously refers to the deaf Ludwig van Beethoven -- as there is actually a Beethoven quotation: Right after the words "he'll never hear his sweet encore" you can hear four characteristic notes from the first movement of the ninth symphony (two intervalls downward: ba-baaaa, ba-baaaa). It's quite unremarkable, very sophisticated, very covert (especially as the notes are not totally equal to those in the symphony; but the quotation is definite).
    By the way: there is another Beethoven quotation: "Dark Ages" is paraphrasing the first movement of the fifth symphony. Listen to the motif tam-tam-tam-taaaaam. The tempo is much more slow and the pitches of the notes are not the same as in Beethoven -- but the architecture is resembling the symphonic one: developing the music out of just one characteristic motif.
    * Armin Raab

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Last modified: January 29 2004

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