In the era of reunion tours and with the resurgence of “classic” artists like Van Morrison and Neil Diamond, Martin Scorsese’s Shine A Light has resonated among die hard Rolling Stones’ and younger generations enamored with the band that has had such an influence on the last 40 years of Rock & Roll.
Perhaps it’s that today’s music is much more contrived and manufactured, but it seems that there is a desire among music listeners to get back to that raw, unbridled performance sound that The Stones typify. Love ’em or hate ’em, The Stones have done something that few Rock bands have been able to do — stay relevant throughout their 45-year “tour”. Led by the irrepressible 64 year old, Sir Mick, The Rolling Stones are truly timeless in bridging generations of Rock & Roll aficionados together.
Colette’s most recent submission concentrates on the early Stones and their musical ascent to the court of Rock & Roll royalty:
The new Rolling Stones film by Martin Scorsese gives a bracing account of an (unusually) intimate Rolling Stones concert at the Beacon Theatre, with a quick glance back to the saga of this amazingly hardy, influential and iconic band.
I can’t help recall, though, what the Stones were like when they first scored big during the early 1960s. And I’ve retrieved some telling clips to illustrate the first major phase of their career.
Consider the context and contradictions of their emergence.
They were coming up right alongside the Beatles. In fact, the Stones and Beatles were good buddies and friendly rivals, who clubbed together and swapped women and songs. But they had very different images, ironically so.
The Rolling Stones, led by the well educated (London School of Economics) and upper class Jagger, were considered the scruffy, surly rock outlaws, rebels with a sex appeal that was raw and dangerous. The Beatles, conversely, all grew up working-class in a tough section of Liverpool, but were considered the “nice boys” — the mop-top teddy bears any mother would welcome if a daugher brought one home. In reality, they were hard-driving party-dogs too as they rode the wave to fame.
And hough they shared some influences, the Stones were obviously very different musically than the Beatles.
The Beatles were rockers with an exquisitely melodic and romantic side, and a love of vocal harmony a la the Everly Brothers. The Stones had just one main vocalist and were steeped in down ‘n dirty blues and raunchy R & B. Like a lot of British kids of that era, they worshipped Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and other gritty Chicago bluesmen.
Before the Beatles became their own composers, they were doing a lot of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly covers. The Stones, before the Richards-Jagger songwriting collaboration got in gear, were covering Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.
As I kid, I recall the aura of something thrillingly, mysteriously dark and nasty about the Stones. But they were far less theatrical than now. I saw the group at DC Stadium in the mid-sixties, and Mick (dressed in a loud houndstooth jacket) wasn’t dancing around — mostly just leering at the audience with that sensual full-lipped I-dare-you-gaze and singing, sometimes with a tambourine or a little bit in-place Jame Brown-style footwork. Here’s some of my early favorite Stones tunes:
— “Have Mercy”
— “The Last Time” — on the TV show “Shindig”
— “Time is on My Side” — from “Ed Sullivan Show” (Irma Thomas made it a hit first)
Some of their best ’60s covers:
— “Little Red Rooster” (written by Willie Dixon)
— “How Strong My Love Is” (a great tune made famous by Otis Redding, who would return the favor by brilliantly covering the Stones’ “Satisfaction”)
One rap on the Stones was that they were male chauvinist pigs, to use a quaint old expression. Unlike the Beatles songs of romantic love and yearning, the Stones have a huge back log of tunes about bitchy broads, kinky sex and transgressing social norms.
These songs drew a lot of flak when they came out for taunting or outright dismissive treatment of women. Are they sexist? In my opinion: sure, but they’re really more about sexual and soical gamesmanship. They’re nasty, naughty, twisted fun, in a way no other band in the Top 40 could get away with at the time:
— “Under My Thumb” — with the late Brian Jones playing a great marimba riff
— “Get Off Of My Cloud” — the ultimate kiss-off song
— “Play With Fire” — one of my old faves
Overall, the Stones were the most sexually explicit mainstream band of the ’60s. They mocked the Sullivan show for censoring the lyrics in one lusty hit, and put out the great sexual/social frustration anthem of the age:
— “Let’s Spend the Night Together”
— “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”
You’ll notice in that 1966 “Satisfaction” performance, Mick was starting to dance around more. Gradually, he added a lot more stage shtick — which he was mocked for at first. Some of it was ridiculous — wearing a devil’s cape to sing “Sympathy for the Devil,” etc. In some ways, I actually prefer the Mick who just scorch-eyeballed the camera, rocked out in that sultry voice and made all the little girls go outta their head.
Just for fun, here’s the ultimate Beatles vs. Stones comparison, on “I Wanna Be Your Man” (a Lennon-McCartney tune, written for the Stones) — two of the greatest bands ever, both completely valid on their own terms:
— “I Wanna Be Your Man”
Thanks for another solid contribution, Colette.
I just have to add one to the “trashy women” songs that for me, is one of those generation defining songs.
Honky Tonk Women
Can’t wait for Shine A Light to come out on DVD to experience the richness of Scorsese coupled with the “enthusiasm” of The Rolling Stones. To start my long holiday weekend, I think I’ll crank up Paint it Black.