it’s wednesday morning. what is one to do when she boards the subway ten minutes late to find a crazy man preaching a book of revelation-esque hellfire and brimstone version of christianity on the very subway car she has selected?
the only logical thing is to get a seat facing away from said crazy man (check) and listen to something reasonably loud on one’s headphones (check).
for this morning’s ride, I selected early rolling stones as my drown-out-the-crazy music of choice:
ignore with me their current status as the band who annoyingly won’t quit and keeps touring forver. ignore that the stones do not command the cool factor they once did, and may have drifted into “music that old goofy white people like to awkwardly boogie to” territory:
let it die, chaps! let us remember you as you were, instead of forcing us to see you as saggy old sober men who try to strut about like teenagers and open every show with the ear-numbingly-obvious choice of “start me up.” (full disclosure: I have seen them live twice, and yes, it was kind of awesome, if not partially due to the spectacle aspect of it all). ignore with me also the culture’s never-ending fascination with keith richards (not that he’s not interesting, but aren’t we over that yet?)
let’s just focus, as I did this morning, on some of their music from the ’60s and ’70s. because much of that was legit, right? right.
this morning’s playlist included the following gems:
1. “it’s only rock ‘n’ roll” (1974) a song with which I have randomly become recently obsessed. it’s my imaginary karaoke song (I do not karaoke). I dig the lyrics and it’s kind of a rockin tune, though I wouldn’t classify it as intensely significant or meaningful. the video is a hoot: sailor suits, bubbles and mick’s patent winning-attitude-but-kind-of-awkward-british-strut.
2. “gimmie shelter” (1969) is perhaps one of their best. aside from being what seems like a timepiece for an era of social and geopolitical turmoil, it’s just so solid musically and lyrically. it’s one of the only major stones songs to prominently feature a female voice (vocalist merry clayton, who makes the track, in my opinion–her powerful and twice-cracking voice lends a “form matching the content” kind of vibe).
3. “sympathy for the devil” (1968) perhaps the perfect antidote to a wacky subway preacher, if only in a literal sense. lyrically a bit of an epic (which may be an overstatement, but I guess a pop singer appropriating the voice of lucifer over 40 years ago is pretty epic, if you ask me). when listening to it today, I noticed for the first time the cool piano instrumentation, which is definitely there, despite being somewhat overshadowed by the vocals and electric guitar. not sure if it’s a “challenging” piano piece, but it sure is cool and I bet it could have some legs just played alone. this track is famous for it’s “whoo whoo” lyric repetition, which was allegedly anita pallenberg’s idea (at least I think I read that once) and the thing that made the song work when it was being written. very cool.
4. “under my thumb” (1966) the track that makes all the feminists cringe due to some of its more unsavory lyrics (“she’s the sweetest pet in the world” type stuff, and referring to a woman as a “squirming dog, who’s just had her day”). but taken less seriously, as intended, it’s an ok track. the element I find most interesting is the use of the marimba and its juxtaposition with the fuzzbox. apparently that was all early member brian jones’ influence, since he was a multi-instrumentalist, and it seems as though he made a lot of cool musical contributions (he’s often credited with advancing the band’s early sound).
5. “paint it black” (1966) one of the best examples of early badass stones and a very influential track (anyone else think the clash’s 1982 “rock the casbah” and “paint it black” sound like distant cousins?). its trademark sound was achieved through use of the sitar, which brian jones apparently taught himself to play after a visit with george harrison (who famously used the sitar in my very favorite beatles song “norweigan wood” in 1965). an excellently quirky and uptempo but sad pop song.
so, if nothing else, my point is this–headphones can really make or break your daily commute.