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It’s Better to Rust Than to Burn Out | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

It’s Better to Rust Than to Burn Out

My new “Think Again” column is called “War is Hell” and it recalls the rosy, imaginary picture that liberal hawks created for themselves as they rode the caboose for the Neocon wartrain. It’s as close as I plan to come to all this wallowing in the 9/11 and it’s here.

My Nation column is called “The Second Death of John Maynard Keynes,” and it’s about, you know, everything, and it’s here.

Alter-reviews:

Neil Young famously sang “It’s better to burn out than it is to rust,” but he could hardly have been more wrong. (As far as wrong statements go, it ranks with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s nonsense about there being “no second acts” in American life.) But I saw a wonderful Crosby, Stills & Nash show at the Beacon last week in which these three old codgers put on an alternatively beautiful and house-rocking three hour show. The old harmonies sounded as fresh as ever and the electric guitars seared one’s soul just as they had forty years ago. It began with an electric “Woodstock” and alternated between electric and acoustic songs—with some nice covers—“Girl from the North Country,” and “Ruby Tuesday” and some genuine rocking on Buffalo Springfield songs, “Bluebird” and “For What It’s Worth.” A surprise to me at least was the performance of one of my favorite songs, “Long May You Run,” which appeared on an album where Stills and Young decided to wipe Crosby and Nash off of it and do it themselves. But that’s the thing about getting old. You really do get wiser.

A long time ago, Graham Nash had to hold these guys together and keep them from killing eachother. (David Browne’s recent book on 1970 can tell you more than you want to know about the recording of "Déjà vu" and the ensuing tour.) The other thought I had while watching this great show was the moment I saw them singing at Live Aid in 1985 and thinking “Why doesn’t someone tell them they are too old for this?” I’m sure I was wrong then—they were quite a bit younger then than I am now—but they are also better at seventy (or so) than they were at forty. There’s no such thing as too old to rock n' roll anymore.

Two nights earlier, I caught fellow old farts, Dickie Betts and the Great Southern at City Winery. It’s the first time I’ve seen Dickie since he was kicked out of the world’s greatest band, the one he helped found—they tried to make him go to rehab, but he said “no, no, no….”—and it was an altogether pleasant show, seeing really good guitar work in a biggish band in such a great place for food and music. Almost every song was an ABB song except for the Dead songs which have also become ABB songs like "Franklin’s Tower.” Dickie did not try to connect terribly much with the crowd and I don’t think it was such a hot idea for him to have a guy with long blondish hair on keyboards singing and playing the Greg parts. I did think it funny that he closed with “Nobody Left to Run with Anymore” which could hardly have been an accident, since it’s a pretty obscure song and he didn’t play “Ramblin’ Man.” So it was a fine night out, and I wish he were still in the band, but I can’t help thinking that Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes have taken them to a place that Dickie was just not interested in going.

Friday night I was back in East Hampton to see Rosanne at Guild Hall. She sounded great and was more charming than usual, owing to the fact that the crowd needed a little livening up. She didn’t do “Ode to Billy Joe,” but that just means she will owe it to me when she plays the Beacon on October 21 with the Jayhawks. See you there.

Thursday night I had four tens, my only good hand of the night, and lost to the only Royal Flush I can remember seeing. Just saying…

The mail:
Virginia Hudson
Tucson AZ
The Koch brothers have donated to the U of A for one of their Freedom Centers. The local weekly has covered it here.

Michael Green
Las Vegas, NV
Great articles, and your analysis of Jennifer Rubin's dishonesty--and the sad saga of a once-great newspaper, The Washington Post, which long ago lost all intellectual respectability by continuing to publish George Will and Charles Krauthammer--brought something to mind. Whatever became of Helen Thomas? Anybody remember what happened to her after a distinguished career because she said something debatable, if not downright silly, about Israel and Palestinians?

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