Look what they did to our song, mama

By Albert Brooks

Nov 14, 2005 issue – So NEWSWEEK tells me they’re working on a cover story about a generation getting ready to turn 60. They ask me if I want to write something. I say, “Are you insane?” You want to do a magazine cover about turning 60? Do you want to go out of business?
Do you want newsstands to protest and young people to get sick? And by the way, I’m 58, not 60. I personally don’t associate with 60-year-olds. But I’ll write something.

Recently I have been embarrassed to be part of this generation. The reason? Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue is never wrong. They’re the neighbor across the street that sees you in the way you don’t see yourself. They’re young, they’re cocky, and what they say about the older generation becomes the truth. People still think there was a real Mr. Whipple, so I know whatever Madison Avenue says about us is what everyone’s going to believe anyway.

According to them, we started out changing the world, and now we’re most concerned about our retirement plan. And just to rub it in, they’re using the greatest songs from our generation and combining them with images of people with gray hair having fun, enjoying life, buying products and running in slow motion. They are taking the very things we were born to change and are now shoving them down our throats, with our own music as the lubricant.

Last night I was in my office and the TV was on in the other room. I heard Bob Dylan singing “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” I got excited. I ran into the next room, in slow motion of course, thinking maybe it was the Dylan documentary that Marty Scorsese did. It wasn’t. It was a commercial for Kaiser Permanente. It’s an effective commercial, because after I saw it I wanted to go to the hospital. Goddamn you guys, you are screwing with our best songs. I used to feel good when I heard that song. It reminded me of what could be and the life ahead of us and all that great stuff. Now I hear it and I think of health-care and prescription-drug coverage. Thanks, Bob.

I decided not to go to my 40th high-school reunion. I knew what I would see there and I knew it would depress me. I am now going to reveal a dark secret. Something I was told a long time ago and had promised never to divulge… Are you ready? Thirty years ago aliens came down here from a planet named Zeon. They gathered all the plastic surgeons in the world and took them into a cave. They showed them pictures of what the Zeonites looked like, and they said, “You must make all earthlings over 50 look like this.” And the plastic surgeons did. WAKE UP. WE LOOK LIKE CRAP. My entire generation looks like they’re standing in the hurricane-demonstration room. I call them my Category 2 friends. Their lips are the size of their feet. They take fat from their ass and put in their face. They inject botulism to ward off expression. All to look like Zeonites. Exactly who thinks this looks better than a wrinkle? I’ll tell you who: other Category 2s. They’re all pulled so tight they can’t see clearly, literally. Pull your eyes back right now as you’re reading this. The words are blurry, aren’t they? That’s the way Category 2s see. And that’s why they think they look good.

It’s not that we didn’t try. We did. We actually had the system by the throat for a whole minute. But the system won. The system doesn’t get tired, or get arrested, or have screaming children who need things. The system is patient. It held up houses and cars and boats and we said, “We don’t need that!” And the system said, “I’ll wait. And while I’m waiting I might even get bigger, just for the fun of it.” And damn it, when the drugs wore off and the love wasn’t free anymore, those houses and cars started to look good.

I was feeling OK about us, I really was, that is until Madison Avenue stepped in and told me the truth. Aging is like going through a funnel. You start out with so much room, spinning so fast, wondering just how far you can go, but in the end you wind up going through that hole. That little hole. And since you can’t take it with you, Kaiser Permanente wants it. I just wish Bob Dylan had held out a bit longer. I don’t think Kaiser deserved that song. I think he should have saved “The Times They Are A-Changin’ ” for Depends

10 Responses to “Look what they did to our song, mama”

  1. I’m sending this to everyone. It’s too good. Thanks for all the typing.

  2. #2 by Randalf the Grey

    And how about Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” in that E-Trade ad.
    That’s the definition of irony.

  3. You should check out the Scorsese doc. It will restore your faith.

  4. Yeah, I got my Newsweek the other day (Jek set me up with a subscription quite a while ago), and, right there on the front are some of the Baby Boomer generation closing in on 60…… Some still look good (Ben Vereen, Al Green, Susan Sarandon – Dammit Janet! and Suzanne Somers), some look bad (Goldie Hawn, Linda Ronstadt), some look ugly (Dolly Parton and Liza Minnelli, what the hell did you two do to yourselves! Category 6, Ah-h-h-h), and then you have the criminal section of politicians and big business, including my favorite, Little Billy Clinton…. I’m sorry though, these people, including Albert Brooks, may be from my generation, but they did not grow-up in the same world as “Average Joe and Jolene” such as myself and if they are allowed to write the history of our generation then history will be grossly wrong…..

    I never cared for Albert Brooks….. I never thought he was that funny or that good of an actor….. I’ll probably catch flack for this, but as J.J. says, “I’ve got my flack jacket on, so let it fly”, but I put Albert Brooks in the New York, back-East, type of non-humor along with Alan King and Seinfeld….. Now, before you accuse me of profiling, I think Mel Brooks is one of the all-time greatest comedians on the face of the earth…..

    Now, to his comments, ( I found it strange that this article ended up on page 60…… A mere coincidence?…… hm-m-m-m) I don’t have any friends that “have more money than brains”, therefore, I do not have any “category 2” friends….. Madison Avenue has always catered to the young…. If Mr. Brooks is embarrassed to be part of my generation because of this, it just comes with getting old and I guess if you’ve been used to getting everything you want because of your status in life, it would be harder on you to accept that there IS something on this Earth that you can’t stop, slow-down, or change….. And, what’s with the attack on Bob Dylan?….. Now, if Dylan actually signed-off on the copyrights to let these songs be used on the commercials, then maybe Brooks has a point, But, like most artists, does Dylan even have the rights to his songs anymore?….. I mean, The Beatles got screwed out theirs….. Does anyone know if Dylan owns the copyrights to his catalogue or not?……

    OK, OK, I’ll stop, because I could go on and on, on this subject with my distorted views of a generation that, I believe, saw more “firsts” than any generation ever, and I’m not ashamed of my age and I’m for sure not done with this old Earth yet….. I plan to see a few more “firsts” before you get rid of me….. You’re only as old as you let yourself be……

  5. Lighten up, MR. I didn’t mean to offend. I just thought it ironic & humorous (to a certain extent). You are what you eat (or sometimes in my case, what you drink)

  6. No offense taken, Sunn, I’ve just never been a person to ever consider that a person’s age has anything to do with their capabilities…… I’ve seen super stupid and lazy young people and I know one 80 year-old in particular that can work most 20 year-olds under the table….. I guess what I’m saying is that age has not been a relevant factor in my choice of friends, co-workers, heroes, etc., etc…… I have a friend, who, however, every time we talk about going out to listen to a band always goes over the fact, “Well this club has a young crowd, and this one has a bah-bah age crowd, etc., etc.”….. It’s like, what the hell, if you like the music, why should age have anything to do with going to a particular place?…… Am I right?…. or am I right?…… ….eh?……

  7. #7 by Randalf the Grey

    Right on Daddy-o.

  8. Yes, Mr, you are right. However, age sometimes plays a factor. You are as old as you feel, and sometimes I feel pretty damned old. Now, I can rarely take the decibels or pre-concert party that I often enjoyed in my youth. I have a fairly good collection of concert DVDs that let me control the volume level, close to the refrigerator & bathroom, etc. So…………it’s not all bad.

  9. #9 by Randalf the Grey

    Hey Sunn, do you have that symphonic Yes DVD that was recorded in Amsterdam ? And You And I
    & Close To The Edge really come to life with real strings. I wouldn’t have been the first to
    admit it, but I also prefer a good concert DVD to the real deal. It’s not just the
    convenience ( although I too have attained true geezerhood ), but being able to see a good
    performance over and over again.

  10. Yes, I do have that one. It is one of the first DVDs I purchased. Enjoy it a lot. Wish they would release some of the old Pink Floyd concerts (However, I think I have found a source for Delicate Sound of Thunder).

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