Not an ageing hippy, just Rocking in the Free World

There are some songs that I have to dance to. One of these is Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World.’ I’ve heard this several times in the past two weeks, one of these played live by Neil Young. It went on and on, with several false endings before rousing the crowd to another round of singing, arm-waving and punching the air. I heard it on the radio a few days later, turned it up loud, danced and sang around the kitchen.

Then, a few days later, a local band played it at a community event. As tired as I was, I leapt out of my fold-up garden chair and rocked out. In quite a reserved way, I thought, since no-one else appeared to be joining in, beyond a slight swaying. I held back from punching the air, for instance.

After the band finished their set, I went up to tell them that I had seen Neil Young perform it live the week before. I’d been noticed from the stage, and the singer, plus a bystander who joined in the conversation, called me an ageing hippy. I’ll forgive them their use of cliche, but ageing? Hippy? Really?

Poster by Jeremy Deller

Poster by Jeremy Deller

I’m 54 and have no problem with being this age. I’m looking forward to turning 55 – 5 is my favourite number and see 55 as an excellent age to be. But I was too young to be hippy the first time round; therefore too young to be an ageing hippy. Is it really so unusual to see a woman of my age rocking out?

It’s not as though I am stuck in ’60s and ’70s music. I love Arcade Fire, their crazy theatricality on stage, their simple but meaningful lyrics, which have brought me close to tears at times, often when listening to them on my iPod on public transport. Their anthem ‘No Cars Go’ is such a perfect song; I always listen to it twice. I am just as happy to bop to Pharrell Williams, the Jackson 5, to my favourite folk supergroup Bellowhead, or to Blur’s ‘Song 2’. My poor body is unable to pogo to the last of these in the way I used to, but I pogo in my mind whenever I hear it. For those too young to remember pogo-ing, ask your mum. Or your gran.

So I’m not an ageing hippy. I couldn’t do the drugs for a start. My one attempt at smoking dope sent me to sleep, then I was violently sick all the next day. Nor am I a rock chick, the other cliche that has come my way. I used to follow a band in my teens, going to all their gigs that I could and waiting afterwards to speak to the band. But this comprised chatting about their music and, well, stuff. I did fancy one of them. I later found out he was gay. So no sex or drugs, just the rock and roll.

So before you apply your lazy stereotypes to me, I am not an ageing hippy or a rock chick, I just like music.

Here’s a piece about the Neil Young gig at Hyde Park by Peter Cook, who was my companion for the day. Read Leadership Lessons from “the Young Ones”.

 

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