When Ian Anderson, frontman of the progressive folkrock band Jethro Tull (it was progressive in the ’70s for sure), wrote Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, too Young to Die! in the mid-seventies, critics were quick to conclude that it was autobiographical in nature. Indeed with lyrics like “The old rocker wore his hair too long, wore his trouser cuffs too tight”—not too different from Anderson’s stage garb those days—it did seem as if the song was about an ageing songwriter. Anderson duly dismissed that theory as poppycock. In his defence, he was just under 30 at that time. Today, he’s 60 and still going strong, playing all over the world to audiences who have no qualms about—to use the title of another Tull album—living in the past. Along with Anderson, who clearly isn’t old enough to quit rock ‘n’ roll. Not yet.
Anderson has done a few gigs in India too in recent years. His following—as everywhere else he plays—is largely made up of ageing rock fans who grew up listening to his haunting flute melded with folksy rhythms and catchy guitar riffs. But there would be one crucial difference between Tull buffs in India and those in most parts of the world: The band’s domestic followers never got to see the band at its peak—not at least on local soil. A much-belated concert without the vigour and the wild stage antics that Anderson was renowned for may have not quite been the Real McCoy. But Tullstarved fans didn’t complain; this was just one way to catch up with life as it should have been.
It’s still sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll—only, as one wag put it, the drugs are perhaps Avandia (anti-diabetes), Lipitor (cholesterolreducer) and Viagra (ahem). Cut to the arid landscape of the preliberalisation period when most music was borrowed (or stolen); when wheels to aspire for were mopeds or the ubiquitous Ambassadors and Premier Padminis; when foreign brands to yearn for were Lee, Levis and Nike (rather than Gucci, Versace and Dior); when a night out either meant getting plastered in a noisy disco (and there weren’t too many of them) or in a seedy bar; and when an overseas trip was akin to going to the moon and back. Says Nirvik Singh, Chairman (South and South-East Asia), Grey Group, a global advertising giant: “In those days choices were extremely limited. Today, my children don’t believe that cars in those days also came without air-conditioners. In our days, AC in a car meant you were a rock star.” When Singh began his career as a tea salesman at a princely monthly salary of Rs 1,250, one of his biggest aspirations was to own a Premier Padmini—with air-conditioning.
|Nirvik Singh, Chairman|
South & South-East Asia, Grey Group
Two decades ago, Singh was earning Rs 1,250 per month as a tea salesman, and aspired for a moped, an air-conditioned Premier Padmini and an overseas trip. “AC in a car meant you were a rock star,” he says.
Facing the heat from MP3s, downloadable music (of the legal and illegal variety), Apple’s music store, subscription-driven services, and the latest threat of organised retailers getting into the game, Mehmood Curmally, Director, Rhythm House, is worried about the future of offline music sales. His ray of hope: The middle-class, middle-aged music aficionado, who makes up a little over half of his customer base. “Old Hindi film music, rock albums and music DVDs are what they buy, and I am hopeful that this niche will remain in India,” he explains.Curmally is putting his money where his faith lies. Recently, he ordered 50, 15 CD sets of the entire Pink Floyd collection, and DVDs of The Beatles’ second feature film Help!, along with which customers get a 60-page illustrated hard-backed book with rare photographs of the Liverpool band. “Now that can’t be downloaded,” quips Amir Curmally, Managing Director of the music shop. At Rs 5,000 a pop, Help! isn’t cheap, yet it’s something for which Beatles fans wouldn’t mind shelling out that kind of money. One potential visitor to Rhythm House could be Kishore D.F., 41, Director of Seijo and the Soul Dish, a ‘high-end lifestyle’ dining spot in the urban-cool Mumbai suburb of Bandra. When Kishore and his partner, Nitin Tandon, started Seijo three years ago, they saw a vacuum, and an opportunity. “At one end were the pubs that cater to everybody right from 20 to 40. At the other end, there are the five-stars and clubs. We felt that the 35-plus urban Indian male had evolved to a new stage and was looking for places to exhibit his stature. And there were not too many such options. Our food, bar and music are not popular, but are aspirational, and attract the evolved urban male,” explains Kishore.
|Living it up before they get old|
What the affluent 40-45-year-old urban man is like.
Source: Excerpts from The Puppet Kings, Testing the muscle of the successful urban patriarch, a study of the 40-45 Sec A urban male done by Grey Group
The typical walk-in: Entrepreneurs and senior managers earning at least Rs 20 lakh a year. Much of Seijo’s clientele, as Kishore puts it, comprise of “guys who missed the bus”—those who perhaps wished there was a Seijo’s (and a booming economy, to boot) in the seventies and the eighties. That base he acknowledges is small, and to be sure doesn’t include everybody who’s loaded. Kishore’s short point: Not everybody with purchasing power is Seijo’s target audience. That’s where his theory of “evolution” comes into play (30 per cent of his customers are expats). For instance, Seijo doesn’t play Bollywood music (despite occasional requests!) and won’t serve up pizza and pasta. It gets 150 people on an average good day, and around 400 on the weekend.
Clearly, not everybody in the money and middleaged need fit the making-up-for-lost-time generation. Singh of Grey is beginning to get wary of the obsession with everything material. “It’s becoming the only yardstick to measure success, and there’s a frantic rush to keep up with the Joneses,” he shrugs. Says Desai: “This is the first generation of middle-aged men that has money in surplus to indulge in luxuries. In developed markets that transition is already done. Our vocabulary of indulgence is new.” As Singh adds: “The Indian male has tasted flesh for the first time in his life. It’s a bit like taking a kid to the candy store.” Let the good times roll.
Additional reporting by Pallavi Srivastava