The return of the Sixties rock band to Chennai was greeted with much nostalgia. Here are two perspectives to their music – one by someone who grew up with their music and another who wasn't even born during their heyday
Rock star comebacks are tricky things. Very few attempt it, and most do so while clinging fiercely to all that they were, years ago.
So what do you do with a band that politely asks each other if they should break for oxygen? Proudly announces that their average age is now 65? Tells us that there's an ambulance parked outside, just in case, and they hope there will be pretty nurses?
You sing along, and pray like mad that you end up like that when you're 65.
“I wonder how many of their girlfriends are here,” chuckled Shyam Sunder Damodar, who opened for The Mustangs. He gave a one-man concert with his own backing tracks, old favourites such as “Devil in Disguise” and Cliff Richard's “Sway”, which he noted with mild disgust the younger generation thinks was sung by the new-fangled Michael Bublé.
“Stella was our favourite college,” winked Haroon Mohamed. The cheers are lukewarm. “WCC?” he tries, and the hoots are louder. “And, cradle-snatching from Good Shepherd!” he adds on a final triumphant note.
And then, 40 years after The Mustangs had struck their last chord together, the band that cut the first Western LP in the country began the evening with one of their most popular songs, “Satisfaction”.
They began a little nervously at first — who wouldn't be — in front of a packed Museum Theatre audience comprising people who are waiting for the past to be resuscitated, and a few steely-eyed youngsters in Sepultura t-shirts. Not easy.
But they certainly did make it look easy. There were all the old classics — “She's a mover” and “Runaway”, “A Taste of Honey” and “Wooly Bully.”
“This was the music of the Sixties,” says CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat, who was in the audience. “This was what played in our corridors, and on our records. What we grew up on.”
Derek Norris, hips swaying, his voice carrying most of the songs, with his smooth, seductive saxophone. A tireless Anand Padmanabhan, who went at the percussion for over two hours without missing a beat. George Cheriyan, who picked up an electric violin for a lovely “One-Way Ticket”. Christopher Ratnam with a voice that lent itself perfectly to his Elvis medley. Haroon with his bass guitar, and one-liners that strung the whole concert together.
It was a meeting of old friends, each song heavy with memories and an easy camaraderie that had aged like wine over the four decades. So, the technical troubles and the odd off-keys were forgiven, forgotten.
After the interval, John Isaac, well-known for his folk music, strummed a languid guitar to “Bye Bye Love” and “Waiting for a Train”, with Christopher joining in. “Little Ole Wine Drinker Me” had many eyes glimmer, gently, sadly. The Mustangs closed it all with “Tequila”, full of life and joie de vivre. If this was a taste of the Sixties, those of us who missed it and its music, lament. There was, of course, “Mustang Sally” as well. “Guess you better slow your Mustang down, You been runnin' all over town, now,” it goes. Nonsense. They certainly aren't going to be slowing down anytime soon.