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Wednesday, December 21, 2011


          the stones

Am watching a video of the Rolling Stones in 1978, Ft Worth, Texas. I suppose it was the tour for the Some Girls album recently released. It got me to thinking now that the Stones are up in years and writing their memoirs, the millions of hours of concert footage the band probably has the rights to for endless releases of Stones concert videos. They are good business people. They know how to work it. I think the Scorcese Stones concert from a few years ago is the finest concert film I've seen of any band or music. Pink Floyd makes a good concert video, but Scorcese did it just right, like it almost wouldn't matter what band it was, the filming of the concert was so good. But using the world's greatest rock n roll band Scorcese can use artful photographing that isn't so obvious when the subject calls for artful camera work as a given.

This concert, Some Girls, is spectacular music. 1978 was when they'd been the hottest band in the land for over a decade. 1978 was also 3 years after punk came along and the music was changing away from the Stones sound. By this time, everybody in the band was an artist and master musician. Keith Richards and Ron Wood lay it to their guitars. It's from the time of the guitar hero. Both these guys gave an exhibit of how incredible electric guitar playing can be. The energy in this show is such that it makes me wonder what they're thinking about the music changing away from them, how they're thinking about dealing with it. Their sound was so fluid it could incorporate any sound they wanted to go with. They were first a blues band. Along the years I was buying their records, early 60s to early 70s, I saw every other album would be a blues album. They'd make a rock album in the vein of what is happening that year in rock, every other year. A rock album and a blues album and a rock album and a blues album. Black and Blue was one of their really super fine blues albums.

Back in that time you liked either the Beatles or the Stones, like they were Pepsi and Coke, Chevy and Ford. To my ear, the Beatles were bubble gum like the Beach Boys. I liked the blues sound in the Stones, preferred bands that leaned toward the blues instead of toward country, like Eric Clapton's bands, Allman Brothers. Neil Young leaned a little too much to country for my ear in that time. Now he just sounds like a whiner. I still like his music though. There's no finer rock album that Neil Young's After The Gold Rush. I never bought a Beatles album and bought every Stones album as they came along. Didn't need to buy Beatles because all my friends had Beatles albums and I heard them at everybody's place I knew. It was a dynamic time in rock. Bob Dylan was the other one whose albums I bought as they came out. Dylan, Stones and Clapton I listened to primarily in that time. Now to see the Stones from that time 33 years later is a wonderful moment. It tells me the music I liked then I continue to appreciate now.

I was telling my friend Lynn Worth, who plays fiddle, banjo, guitar and bass, all very well, and sings, that my years in the mountains listening closely to master musicianship everywhere you turn, hearing what makes an extraordinary fiddler or a fantastic banjo picker, hearing the subtleties in picking, my ear for listening to music has improved mightily. I believe I'm enjoying the musicianship of Richards and Ron Wood like on a new level from what I heard before. I heard them well then, but believe I hear them better now. The Stones still do it for me musically. Even though I liked the Stones a very great deal, I believe the Clash came along and satisfied my ear for rock n roll a little bit better than the Stones did. Perhaps I like them equally. It's like the Clash is the Stones the Next Generation. Joe Strummer's next band after the Clash's junkie drummer fell out and they couldn't find his equal to replace him, the end of the Clash, The Mescaleros made some awfully good albums. Then Joe Strummer died face down on the kitchen table.

I went with punk when it came along as 60s underground rock was becoming establishment and the next generation of auditorium rock, Bon Jovi, Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, were coming on doing the same things over and over. Punk was a new sound all the way around and it was a return to the 50s sound. Punk was back to basics. Guitar heroes reached such a place nobody coming along could even think about playing as well as Jimmy Page, ever, let alone be able to play better. They were all so great they put up a wall between them and the next generation. The next generation went back to the three chord method and followed the influence of the Velvet Underground, a band that didn't do guitar hero, a New York band with next to no audience outside New York. Sixties rock took about a decade for it to become mainstream rock. It took punk 25 years to become mainstream. The last half of the 70s now, looking back, was as dynamic a time in rock as the mid 60s when the San Francisco sound was going, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and Holding Co., Jimi Hendrix et al.

In 78 the Stones were really at their apex. Their solution to what to do about punk coming along was to keep on playing the blues and being the Rolling Stones. And they kept on a-keepin on. Now they're 70. People laugh at how unlikely it was for these guys to live so long, considering drugs, etc. A Rolling Stones concert is a major exercise workout for everyone in the band, except Bill Wyman who stands still the whole time. Plus, they have to work out when they're not on tour to keep the muscles flexed. Mick Jagger is making moves at 70 that I sure as hell can't do. He works out. Probably has personal trainers.

Also in 1978 the Stones were the darlings of the Jet Set, partying with international wealth, buying castles in France, and working with the Rolling Stone dedication to their careers that bought them everything they wanted. They seem to have handled unlimited wealth and unlimited fame better than Elvis. It's a tightrope to walk with no safety net and they walked it. When the Jagger and Richards songbook is printed as poems, it will be a major literary event of the year. Also, Mick Jagger's harmonica is the only harmonica in rock that doesn't sound like Bob Dylan's harmonica. I feel fortunate that the Stones and Dylans lives ran through time parallel my life. I've listened to their music from their first recorded songs to the most recent. Half a century.


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