Why I'm Tired of Madonna — and All the Other Geezer Rockers

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I'm tired of Madonna.

Yes, I know she's starting her first concert tour in eight years, but the whole thing seems so tiresomely familiar.

And, yes, I know she gave the lie to the idea that there are no second-acts to American lives. Second or third-acts are fine. But eight or nine acts? It's wearying.

I'm well aware that reinvention is the mantra of our time, but how many times can you reinvent yourself before that self becomes tedious? Before the observer concludes, there's no there there? Before you lose touch with whatever made you you?

The endless manipulation of the Material Mom grows tiresome. The black T-shirt that says MOTHER on one said and F*CKER on the other; the pumped up arms; the riding the bull in the cowboy hat; the kimonos. It all seems like the endless repackaging of a product I don't particularly want to buy anyway.

I guess I'm just tired of geezer rock stars who won't hang up their leather pants. The Rolling Stones are contemplating another world tour. Attention readers and potential ticket buyers: Mick Jagger is older than George W. Bush. Do you really want to see him strutting his emaciated self across the stage? Like Madonna, he's another example of mutton-dressed-up-as-lamb. The Stones and the Who and Aerosmith — even U2, for that matter — don't so much reinvent themselves as become Madame Tussaud figures of themselves. And like those wax figures, the Stones look so eerily alive. Except for Bill Wyman.

This is the theme of John Strausbaugh's smart new book, "Rock 'Til You Drop: The Decline from Rebellion to Nostalgia" (Verso Press). Strausbaugh laments the decline of rock music from something that he says was "legitimately counter-cultural" to something that has simply become part of "the nostalgia industry." He cleverly calls the tours of the Who and the Stones and Madonna "civil war re-enactments of rock-and-roll." Indeed, rock-and-roll itself has become a kind of ironic relic, something the newer groups do in inverted commas.

The Who continue to sing "My Generation." Thirty-five years ago the song was an anthem of the counter-culture. But these days my generation is talkin' about 401K plans, how good those new BMW SUVs look, and early retirement.

In America these days, there is no counter culture. The post-modern consumerist culture expands to contain everything — nothing is counter-cultural because nothing is outside the culture. There is no art that shocks. No ideas that repel. Scientists who want to create embryos for stem-cell research are far more daring and revolutionary than any modern artist.

At least those who don't change become classics. Tina Turner was always Tina Turner (well, after Ike anyway) — just the way Tony Bennett has never altered even the cuffs on his tuxedo. Some people don't have to reinvent themselves. Madonna's tour is not about art or music but commerce. Once, though, there was a little bit of edge.

All her strained permutations show that the Material Mom is just the Immaterial Girl after all.