Back in the pleistocene era, that long-ago age in which I was born, Elvis Presley was king.
That was the era, we’re told, when two closely related phenomena were invented – pop music and teenagers.
Right from the start, part of the point of both was to get up the noses of the new teenagers’ parents.
Hard to believe now, maybe, but Elvis achieved that with his sneer and his impertinent dyed, greased quiff. Not to mention the trademark pelvic thrust.
You might wonder how the human race propagated itself before Elvis’s generation invented sex.
Only one thing was missing from this intoxicating new mixture, and that ingredient was invented/discovered [cross out whichever doesn’t apply] by the pop-teens of the next decade.
The year 1967 was a momentous one for youth culture. It would be remembered as America’s hippy Summer of Love. But before that it was the year the Rolling Stones became masters of the art of getting up parents’ noses. Partly by putting stuff up their own.
First their song Let’s Spend the Night Together so shocked America it had to be re-titled and re-cut as Let’s Spend Some Time Together.
Then came the infamous drug bust, which splashed them across all the nation’s more lurid front pages. And dumped Mick Jagger in Brixton Prison.
Who’d have thought then that pouting, hedonistic rebel would 35 years later become Sir Mick?
But that’s the way it goes. Each generation’s young shockers grow up to become staid and dull.
Leaving the young that come after them to reinvent the wheel. Or at least to invent again the cocktail so neatly summed up by Ian Dury as sex ’n drugs ’n rock ’n roll.
Not that there’s much rock ’n roll about the insipid music purveyed by Miley Cyrus. But she seems to be doing a cracking job of infuriating parents.
Not by her music. And not by her offstage life, which as far as I can read between the lines may actually be squeaky clean. But by her act on stage, which is anything but clean.
In fact, it’s downright smutty. Lots – and lots and lots – of talking and acting dirty. And talking (as distinct from taking) drugs.
Which is fine, up to a point. Well, two points really.
The first is that it all seems so phony, so calculating, so deliberately contrived to sell a new image as a naughty girl. The key word there being “sell”.
And the second – the thing which has actually upset so many parents – is that her audience is still so impressionably young.
It’s one thing to foster teenage rebelhood as Elvis, the Stones and so many others have done.
Quite another to force on primary-school children the notion that behaving as if you’re in a cheap porn movie is the way for a girl to succeed.
I’m not sure, though, that the new naughty Miley is really any worse than the goody-goody version we had to endure before.
The scrubbed-up, everything-lovely, Disney Channel sickly-sweetness of Hannah Montana was every inch as carefully designed and manufactured.
It’s shiny, materialistic, grab-what-you-can “wholesomeness” at least as damaging to the morals of our young. Not to mention their teeth.
... but Elena deserved all the love and respect
The obsession with them is so great, the top sports stars must sometimes get mightily sick of journalists. Some of them don’t much bother to hide their contempt.
And then there are those who are engaging, polite, who seem genuinely pleased to meet you.
Elena Baltacha was very much one of the latter kind.
The expressions of grief at her death last week revealed how loved and respected she was on the national and international tennis circuits. She was – and deserved to be – as well loved by all who knew her at a less exalted level too.
Two years ago I interviewed her for the EDP and spent a very pleasant hour or so in her company. She was as warm and open with me as she was with all the staff and other members at the tennis club in Ipswich where we met.
At the time, though she had been British No.1 for most of the previous decade, she was uncertain of her place in the forthcoming London Olympics. She wanted it, she told me, mostly to fulfil a thwarted ambition of her mother’s.
In 1980, three years before Elena was born, her father Sergei was in the Soviet football team that won Olympic bronze in Moscow. Her mother, Olga, was picked for the pentathlon but couldn’t go.
“My brother was one year old at the time and she had to stay home to look after him,” Elena explained. “So I’d love to take part in the Olympics, not just for myself but for my mum.”
But for the injuries and illness which afflicted her whole career, Elena might have been the shining light in world women’s tennis that Britain has so long craved. I’m glad she at least made those Olympics.