British geriatrics take to the rock star life

LONDON (Reuters) - They may have an average age of 78, but these rockers can tear up the stage with the best of them and are determined to take the music charts by storm.

The Zimmers, a rock band made up of 40 old-age pensioners, including one who’s 99 and another who’s 100, have released a single they hope will draw attention to the problems faced by senior citizens in Britain and the world over.

Their rendition of The Who’s “My Generation,” sung by 90-year-old Alf Carretta with backing vocals by a choir of beaming pensioners on zimmer frames, has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube.

They’ve also appeared on a prime-time British chat programme, when Carretta obligingly smashed up a guitar, been the subject of a film and are scheduled to visit the United States next week to sing on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

The publicity is set to give a big boost to their single, released on Monday, when the new charts are announced.

Brought together by a documentary filmmaker who was concerned about the plight of senior citizens, The Zimmers recorded “My Generation” at the legendary Abbey Road studios and have received support from top international producers.

While they hope their performances will draw attention to the isolation and abandonment faced by many elderly people, they’re also determined to have a good time.

“I love having a good laugh and a bit of entertainment,” Buster Martin, at 100 the oldest member of the group, told Reuters by phone as he got ready for a photo shoot.

“I may no longer be an oil painting, but I can still be a rock star.”

Asked how long he planned his rock career to go on for, Martin was defiant:

“I’ll carry on until I don’t wake up in the morning and my days are finally up.”

Several of The Zimmers have been friends for 30 years -- they used to play bingo in London together every week until the company that ran it shut down, leaving them without a hobby to bring them together.

At 69, Avis Lewinson is one of the youngest of the group. While she has sung and performed all her life, she said she’d never had so much a thrill as The Zimmers in all her years.

“It’s been fantastic,” she said. “I never did anything like this in my younger days. It’s just out of this world.”

While the performing schedule is pretty tiring for some of the older members of the band, she said there were very few downsides to the stardom and quite a few benefits.

“We have lots of fans,” she said with a giggle, “and even some groupies.”