A collection of posts from my original weblog...or the inscrutable rantings of a madman...could be both...

Monday, July 28, 2003

Back again, kids!! I won't have the new Super Furries record for a couple of weeks yet, so..onto other stuff..

In the Hope I Die Before I Get Old category...Sir Michael Jagger has officially observed his 60th birthday..talk about a "sleepy London Town"...I can't even imagine him sitting there amongst the turmoil in 1968, picturing himself a multi-millionaire and *knighted*, fer feck's sake!! Well, he's survived the near-break-up of the band he helped found, Altamont, the death of brilliant (and troubled) original guitarist Brian Jones, disco, the punk explosion and a couple of marriages. He hasn't managed to side-step irrelevance quite so gracefully--resurrecting his war-horse of a band every so often for a lucrative tour, mainly for the ageing baby-boom generation to try and rock out the way they did in '72, and for the young'ins to try and get a taste of "the bad boys of rock-n-roll" in their natural environs. Unfortunately, they've become enshrined in the various press reports and rumours flying around their camp...Keith Richards' heroin addiction, the "naked lady in a rug" episode (actually Marianne Faithfull) from their 1967 run-in with Sgt. Pilcher and the English drug squad, the debauchery aboard their private jet for the '72 American tour, Jagger and David Bowie allegedly caught in bed by Bowie's ex-wife Angela, and on and on. So much so, that it nearly overshadows the Stones' music sometimes. In light of this, I'm going to attempt to list my five favourite Stones' tunes (with a Schizoid Man tip-o-the hat to M.A.D. and Cheek):

1) Jumpin' Jack Flash (1968) ~ The first fruits of the '68 sessions with uber-producer Jimmy Miller (Traffic, Family) was a "back-to-the-blues/rock" track, after the disappointing response that greeted their full-length flirtation with psychedelia, "Their Satanic Majesties Request", in late 1967. They convened in Olympic Studios and conjured up this near-perfect, riff-oriented rocker that put them once again at the fore-front of the radical sect of the counter-culture, managing to capture and distill '68s turmoil with a combination of Charlie Watts' signature solid beat, Keef's and Jones' chugging guitar riffs and Jagger's urgent/laid-back vocals. The lyrics alternate between the frightening, furious imagery of the verses and the positive laid-back chorus ("But it's all night now/in fact it's a gas..") It marked the moment when the psychedelic counter-culture was starting to implode from it's own excesses and make The Stones it's Dark Princes of 1969, a role which they would relish, then regret--and also featured Jones' last full performance as an original member of the group.

2) 2,000 Light Years From Home (1967) ~ A stand-out track on what many consider to be the worst of their 60s oeuvre, "Their Satanic Majesties Request", it takes the space theme of Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive and fleshes it out to become an aural sci-fi novel. Radio static, plucked piano strings and eerie mellotrons provide the setting, and Jagger's lyrics fill in the rest ("Bell Flight 14 you now can land/See you on Aldebaran...")..the clincher is the chorus, though: It's so very lonely/You're 2,000 light years from home..."--and they somehow make you *feel* far from Earth and the distance and the loneliness. I believe they made a promo film for "2,000 Light Years.." with black-lights and The Stones in their psychedelic finery--a flower-power moment that wouldn't last.

3) Rocks Off (1972) ~ There's too many great snippets on Exile On Main Street, their double-album blues-n-stuff opus from 1972--I could never list them all. "Rocks Off" is, very possibly, my favorite song on all of "Exile.." and one of the best album-openers ever. The opening riff (courtesy Richards) and Jagger's slowed-down "Oh yeeeeah!" are burned into my memory from listening to it so much. Watts' drum fills are ass-kickin' and the mix is deliberately muddy, like an old blues record--but that's the sound they were going for..they felt old, even in the early 70s, especially after their friends (and only rivals) The Beatles had split two years previously. They had relocated to France, as tax exiles from Britain--and indulged in whatever vices they could. The result of those sessions was "Exile..", a druggy, disturbed look at their lives at that point, focused through a dirty, grimy lens. They even return to psychedelia for a break in the middle of "Rocks Off" (the "..hypnotised" bit) before the raunch-rock knocks it back out again. "..Kick me like you did before/I can't even feel the pain no more...". Amen brothers and sisters.

4) When The Whip Comes Down (1978) ~ A sort-of obscure track from their 1978 "come-back" record (and the second with rookie Stone Ron Wood), Some Girls. The lyrics are Jagger's depraved story of a small-town gay guy who moves to N.Y.C. and gets what he's looking for--it's like a gender-reversed "Venus In Furs" for the squares. This tune could have been a lame joke on Jagger's part..but it's the buzz-saw guitars and Watts to the rescue again...clearly they were attempting to "out-punk" the punks, and they nearly succeed, but for Jagger's prancing. I think they were trying to release a somewhat cleaned-up version of their infamous "Cocksucker Blues" single from 1970--the one they delivered to Decca when they were told they needed one more 'A'-side to fulfill their contract. Needless to say, it never took up space in the shops.

5) Love In Vain (1969) ~ The centerpiece of their 1969 album, Let It Bleed, it's a cover of a tune by mysterious Delta bluesman, Robert Johnson. Mick & Co. don't handle it with any of the panache of Johnson--but their mutant version brings out the heartache and longing in the lyrics, especially Mick Taylor's slide riffs. "Love In Vain" would become a staple of their live shows throughout the early 70s--but I feel the definitive version was captured by Jimmy Miller in Olympic Studios in 1969.

...and as a bonus for Sir Jagger..I asked Flaming Pixie what her all-time favourite Stones track is..and she replied with:
Paint It, Black (1966) ~ This is one of my favourite ones, too. Brian Jones reportedly spent days learning the sitar, just so he could lay down the riff for this tune--then barely touched it again. It was worth the effort. The sitar, along with Watts' pounding beat and Jagger's sneering vocal, seemed like a warning in the midst of the heady spring/summer of 1966. "I see the girls walk by/dressed in their summer clothes/I have to turn my head/until my darkness goes..." screams Jagger, as if he's going mad, then reels himself back in...until the finale..."I wanted to see it painted, painted, painted..painted black..I want to see the sun, blotted out from the sky..". The Stones started to take their roles as the "anti-Beatles" very seriously--and at this point, their karma was still relatively good, but a few years down the road........

..and just a small correction from my last post...I stated that At The Drive-In were based in California--they were actually based in El Paso, Texas (Cheers to ...Trail Of Dead from the Flaming Lips BBS for notifying me of that) Alright, musos--I'm outta here!!