Is 40 too old to be a Green Day fan? Stephanie Pegler talks to women who still have a teen-like obsession with their favourite band or singer.
If you take a look at my iPod, you’ll find more than 150 of the tracks are from Green Day. Quite simply the Oakland, California, punk rock band are, in my eyes, the greatest group on the planet.
When they announce a world tour, I muse the possibilities of following them from gig to gig, before reality bites and I remember that I now have a husband, kids and a job. I sleep in a T-shirt from their American Idiot Broadway show; my car sports bumper sticks with their lyrics; I’m reteaching myself how to play keyboards with their songbook … you get the picture.
My teenage daughter thinks I’m too old to follow a band like that – in fact with the band members the same age as me she thinks they should retire and leave the music scene to youngsters like Justin Bieber, Rihanna and the latest X Factor winner. (This from the same daughter who recently bought herself a Rolling Stones T-shirt, no doubt inspired by Maroon 5 to move like the 68-year-old Jagger.)
It has never been easier to follow bands thanks to YouTube and social networking. Lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong gets evicted from a plane because his pants are hanging too low – he tweets about it and the fans are up in arms before he’s even had time to finish arguing with the flight attendant. Someone’s recording a surprise gig with their mobile phone and streaming it live across the net – a Facebook fan group will let you know in time to tune in.
I’ve often thought it was fortunate that the internet was not around in my tween years when Duran Duran ruled my world. How much would it have interfered with school, sports and friends? But perhaps I’m no better now than I would have been then.
Are you ever too old to obsessively follow a band or singer? Here I talk to five other 30-plus women who still harbour strong ties to their favourite idols.
Clare, Victoria and Anna-Clare are three Madonna fans who know each other through the Madonnalicious website.
Clare, a biomedical scientist, created the site 10 years ago, when there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. “It was a way to share UK Madonna news with fans around the world (and scans of my big collection of Madonna clippings from back in the 1980s). As word spread of my site around fan forums, the readership went up and became very popular. With more readers, I got more people contributing news and helped it to grow. It won the BT Digital Music Award in 2004 for the Best Unofficial Site.
“Everything seems to come from the internet these days, either browsing news sites or getting information from other fans from around the world. Newspapers and magazines are now late with the news as it will have broken on websites hours/days before.”
The 38-year-old Londoner says: “I’m not sure that I can completely define what it was that made me become a fan. I guess it was just her image and her pop songs that hooked me, also the connection made between Madonna and Marilyn Monroe was quite strong back then which interested me.”
Some of her favourite pieces of memorabilia include a Brits Do It Better T-shirt worn by the pop singer during her 2004 Re-Invention tour and an autographed message from Madonna congratulating her on the site’s 10 years. “I don’t think fandom should be limited by age, if there is something/someone you are passionate about then enjoy it, don’t feel like you should hide it,” Clare says.
Forty-year-old Victoria, a personal assistant from Hampshire in England, first got into Madonna in the mid-80s. “It was when I saw the Material Girl video – being an obsessed Marilyn Monroe fan I instantly fell in love with Madonna’s homage to MM in that video,” Victoria says. She says the internet has made it much easier to keep track of news, “although we are still waiting for Madonna to sign up to Twitter – her manager tweets on her behalf every now and again”.
Her best experience includes winning a competition to be in the dance pit on the stage for Madonna’s 2004 Re-invention tour at Earls Court. “During Deeper & Deeper she held my hand which felt like an eternity but in reality was no less than a couple of seconds; then I burst into tears!!”
Victoria’s husband also enjoys Madonna’s music and has been front row with her several times. Even her mum has gone to concerts with her. “Thankfully they understand my love for Madonna and am glad I’m not a complete stalker loon fan! My boss just thinks I’m crazy when I go to more than one show when she tours!”
Victoria, who is currently also a big Lady Gaga fan, believes there is no such thing as being too old to follow a singer. “I also like Barry Manilow and I can tell you the ‘mature ladies’ can have a far more obsessive nature!!”
Anna-Clare, a 33-year-old office manager from Blackpool in England, says she’s been a fan since the Like a Virgin era in the 1980s. “I didn’t start collecting memorabilia and seeing her on tour until 2001 after leaving university and getting a job to fund the habit!”
She set up http://www.annaclare.com in 2006 as a way of keeping track of her collection and letting others know what items were available to collect. “She is an absolute ICON! A combination of being able to reinvent herself along with her music, performances – they don’t make stars like that anymore!”
One of her best experiences was from late last year. “In October I was lucky enough to go to the W.E. premiere in London and ended up at the pre-drinks party at Claridges (pictured above right) which she attended and then sat on the same row as her in the cinema. That is something I won’t ever forget!” And one of her most treasured items is a signed picture of her Madonna memorabilia room (or the M-useum) which won a competition run by Madonna’s official ICON fanclub (pictured top). “An obsession doesn’t have to be an unhealthy thing – I look on it as a hobby or interest that maybe got a little out of hand!”
Kara, a 33-year-old medical office manager, got hooked on boy band New Kids on the Block when their first hit Please Don’t Go Girl was released in 1988.
Donnie Wahlberg is her favourite member, although “I went through a period where I had a crush on all of them”. “Donnie is a sweetheart! Every time I have ever met him he was extremely nice to me,” she says. “He takes the time to look you in the eye and he seems to care about what you have to say. He has a great personality and that is what appeals to me the most.”
Kara recently travelled to Philadelphia to see Donnie at an appearance and her husband took a much-loved photo of Kara with her 42-year-old hero (pictured below). “Can you tell from the picture that I was glowing? My husband understands that I ‘loved’ Donnie before him so he is okay with it!”
Kara still has her collection of NKOTB dolls and badges and goes to concerts whenever they tour near her home State of Maryland. She keeps track of the band through fan groups, Facebook and Twitter. “I communicate with the ‘normal’ fans who don’t go crazy to the point where they are 30-somethings and still single, thinking that one of the New Kids are going to fall in love with them.”
BLAZE OF GLORY
Romi, 41, a married mother of two from Wisconsin in the US, has been following New Jersey rock band Bon Jovi since they recorded Runaway in the early 1980s. “The music is so energetic and makes you want to sing along. They are an amazing group that really supports their members. Jon (Bon Jovi) is just a down-to-earth kind of guy, very loyal and it shows in the length of time they’ve been popular,” she says. “It’s not an unhealthy obsession. I don’t spend too much or do crazy things. I just really love the band and music and love to support them.”
Romi, who is a member of the JBJ Fan Club, says the lead singer is her favourite. “He’s incredibly good looking. He has a great smile and personality to match. What’s not to like?”
She says her best experience was celebrating her wedding anniversary with her husband at a concert in Milwaukee a few years ago. “Both of us are huge fans and always have been,” she says. “My husband gave me an autographed picture for our anniversary last year!”
And what do her friends and colleagues think? “They know how much we all love them. Anytime they’re in the news, we get the information. It’s great to be able to share his music with my kids. Wanted is the first song my son knew all the words to at two years old! My kids are 7 and 10 now, both were taken to see Jovi last year in Chicago – their first concert!”
Stephanie Pegler is an Australian journalist and founder of the Chicklit Club website. Her dream assignment would be writing an authorised biography about Billie Joe Armstrong.