It’s summer and that can only mean one thing–the official start of the teen idol tour season.
At least that was true in the 1960s and 70s when teen idols were promoted through a weekly TV series. Since filming went on hiatus in midyear and the target audience of preteen girls was out of school at this time, the hot summer days were the perfect time for major coast-to-coast tours.
Today, when many baby boomers are retiring, some of the old heartthrobs are still packing their bags for another show–but they may not be coming to your town. The guys who used to do nightly shows in numerous cities have cut back their touring to a few weekend gigs a month.
The teen idols that hit the scene during the flower power era are now in their late 60s. Some, like Bobby Sherman and Shaun Cassidy, are no longer performing and moved on to other interests. The others opt to work only when and where they want, making performing less of a chore and more of a delight.
The older teen idols, once the mainstay of county fairs and summer festivals, are now working mostly in smaller indoor venues which have certain advantages: better sound, more comfortable seating, fewer distractions and climate control.
However, in my experience, outdoor shows are livelier with more audience reaction and larger crowds (not to mention the cheaper ticket prices). Gone are the days of hordes of screaming girls, much to the relief of the artists no doubt. Now the audiences sit quietly and listen, then applaud politely as they would for a concert orchestra.
The guys are doing more casino shows that provide more intimate seating but don’t let in the younger fans, limiting the expansion of their fan base.
The smaller venues may also be due to reduced interest. Most people will pay to see an artist once or maybe twice, enjoy the shows, and that’s all they need. Only the most ardent fans continue to dog their idols to every single show. Let’s face it, how many times can a fan stand to hear the same song list?
Why do these entertainers still tour? I don’t know any teen idols personally, so I can only guess.
Money is not the issue; these guys can afford not to work.
Teen idols are A-type personalities who were active in their youth and still need to keep busy even in old age. Paul McCartney (who recently turned 71!) was asked why he kept touring. He said, “What else would I do? Sit at home and watch telly?”
These guys have traveled the world several times. They’ve seen more and done more that the average person. Sitting still is not in their nature. George Harrison was content to spend his days gardening and meditating but he still wrote songs and produced albums.
And let’s face it, performing for an audience is fun. Musicians get a kick out of doing what they do. Humans are born with a creative nature. Making art makes both the creator and the recipient happy. Art is what gives flavor and delight to daily life. Nobody can sing and stay miserable. And who wouldn’t want to be on a stage with a room full of cheering fans?
No doubt there’s ego issues involved. The time for a performer to get scared is not when the fans mob him but when they stop. Over the years the various teen idol fan clubs, once numerous, have shrunk in number and many closed.
Most performers probably fear the “Sunset Boulevard” syndrome that they’ll end up as forgotten recluses, living in their past glories while waiting for the silent phone to ring. As long as the teen idol can book one more show, he knows he’s still loved.
But their fans are aging. In another decade or two many of their fans won’t be able to drive to a show or walk without assistance.
For the older idols, these years may be their “last hurrah,” one last chance to put on a good show while they still can, a final opportunity to connect with fans that have remained loyal for so many years.
As long as the artists are in good health and enjoy what they do, then if they keep performing I say more power to them. But when they reach the point when they can no longer do justice to the music or if they simply burn out, my hope is that they can gracefully bow out. The idols of yesterday deserve to go out with a bang, not a groan.
To avoid ending this post on a bleak note, some years ago I saw Peter Tork do an acoustic show at a little coffee house. The audience numbered around 40. After the show Peter was sitting behind the merchandise table, handling the CD sales. When he saw me he got up and gave me a big hug.
He said, “I’m so glad you came today.”
That’s why fans love their idols.