Rock ‘n’ roll will never die. Unless it is being made by classic rockers like Rolling Stone frontman Mick Jagger and former Beatle Paul McCartney, whose new albums are barely registering a pulse at cash registers in the United States.
The very youth culture that propelled these music legends to stardom back in the 1960s is now discarding them in favor of a new generation of fresh-faced youngsters, such as perky teen queen Britney Spears and spiritual rockers Creed.
According to sales data issued on Wednesday, Jagger’s new album “Goddess in the Doorway” (Virgin) debuted at No. 39 on the U.S. pop charts with sales of nearly 68,000 units in the week ended Nov. 25. The week before, McCartney’s “Driving Rain” (Capitol) opened at No. 26 with 66,000 copies sold. It has since tumbled to No. 65 on the charts.
By contrast, Florida-based trio Creed moved more than 887,000 copies of their new album “Weathered” to open at No. 1 this week.
Jagger and McCartney are learning the hard way that they cannot coast on their reputations as composers of some of the most important rock songs ever.
“Soiling their reputations is more like it,” said Andrew Loog Oldham, who managed the Rolling Stones in the 1960s. “Nobody told these young bucks at 20 that at over 50 their ambition may become an embarrassing disease.”
Two veteran acts are holding up relatively well: Bob Dylan and Pink Floyd, though they are in no danger of upsetting Britney & Co. The two-disc set “Echoes – The Best of Pink Floyd” has sold more than 460,000 copies after three weeks; Dylan’s acclaimed “Love and Theft” has almost reached that level after 11 weeks in release, pretty good by his terms.
The kids who bought records 20 or 30 years ago now get a headache when they listen to cutting-edge rock from the likes of Limp Bizkit and System of a Down. The market these days is driven by pre-teens who load up on pop fluff, or by teenagers who focus on alternative rock, industry executives say.
GROWN-UPS HARDER TO REACH
It’s also easier to reach youngsters – via MTV and youth-oriented publications – than to reach adults, said Andy Allen, president of Alternative Distribution Alliance, an AOL Time Warner Inc. -owned music distributor.
“Projects that are targeted toward adults don’t have that slammin’ movie-opening first week that some of the teen records have, but they do sell for a long period of time,” Allen said.
The key is spreading the word. Since radio is often averse to playing new songs by heritage acts, they must instead rely on magazine articles, television appearances and other event-oriented promotions.
McCartney has nothing scheduled in the United States for the rest of the year while he focuses on European promotion, a spokesman said. However, his new Sept. 11-linked charity single “Freedom” is receiving good support from radio.
ABC screened a Jagger special last week, “Being Mick,” but it attracted only 3.9 million viewers after being consigned to the 10 p.m. slot on Thanksgiving Day.
Jagger will play at the MyVH1 Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, and is tentatively set to perform on TV’s “Saturday Night Live” on Dec. 8, said Ray Cooper, co-president of Virgin Records America, a unit of EMI Group Plc., which also owns Capitol Records.
Cooper labeled Jagger’s first-week figures a “decent start” and was confident the record would eventually sell more than 500,000 units in the United States, propelled by the release of a pop-oriented single “Visions of Paradise” in January.
Jagger’s previous solo album “Wandering Spirit,” the third of his career, debuted at No. 11 in 1993 with 60,000 units. It was eventually certified gold for shipments in excess of 500,000 units.
“Goddess in the Doorway” debuted at No. 2 in Germany and No. 9 in Japan, but only at No. 44 in Jagger’s native Britain. The London tabloids reveled in the poor showing, to the amazement of Oldham, who now lives in Bogota, Colombia.
“He’s nothing more or less than one of the world’s greatest entertainers who’s been entertaining us, giving to our escapes and dreams, singing up the alternative for just about 40 years.”