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Thursday, October 16, 2008

GMVW # 41: "A Rolling Stone Gathers Moss"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 41:  A Rolling Stone Gathers Moss
Song:  Waiting on a Friend by The Rolling Stones
(Songwriters: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards)
October 16, 2008

It’s always interesting to talk to a true fan of any musician/band:  Someone who never misses that band’s tours and has most of their albums.  I’m not talking necessarily about a person who collects memorabilia, constantly blogs, or attends band-centric conventions (which can be signs of a fan crossing over to collector, entrepreneur, or fanatic).  I’m talking about someone who really knows that bands music, say 3-5 albums by heart and a few others close enough.  In these cases you are usually bound to get some fascinating tidbits of information. 

Yet some fan bases are harder than others to feel kinship with for a variety of reasons.  For example, as with the man himself, Dylan enthusiasts are a complex bunch, which makes being a Dylan fan, for the most part, a solo experience. The Beatles fan base….too large and too diluted.  With so much written about them, it’s hard to come up with a new twist on the Fab Four.  As for the Who, it can be fun talking to a fellow fan, but many times I find myself repeating old subject matter. 

Rolling Stones fans:  Now you’re talking!  When I meet a Stones fan who can offer insight into a variety of topics from ‘Beggars Banquet’ to Mick Taylor’s lead guitar playing to ‘Exile on Main Street’ to the bands longevity to Brian Jones exotic instrument playing to ‘Between the Buttons’ to the supporting cast of musicians on stage and on albums to the early years to musical influences to ‘Goat Head’s Soup’ and on and on, I feel like I’m in good company.  A Rolling Stones fan can be equated with someone who gets it with Rock music in general.  It’s not to say that you can’t come at the music from another direction, but a Stones fan is an automatic Rock n Roll insider to me. 

Strange enough though, of all the bands I’ve enjoyed listening to over the years the Stones are the ones I find myself defending the most.  It makes sense to some degree:  More than any other band, the Rolling Stones consistently run the risk of looking like a caricature of themselves.  They walk a fine line between swagger and self parody.  It’s so easy to chuckle at the images that Mick and Keith portray:  The prima-donna and the waste product.  What the critics often fail to recognize though is that at the core of any critique of a band should be the music and on this front the Stones play second fiddle to nobody.  Their music, like the music of the early blues musicians, is a sound that can only come out of poor and desperate origins, often with brilliant results.

For me, interest in the Stones started with Brian Jones, particularly his abandonment of the guitar in the mid-late 60’s for more exotic instruments, including sitar (‘Paint it Black’), recorder (‘Ruby Tuesday’) and xylophone (‘Under my Thumb’).  Next, I was interested in who was playing what on all the Stones recordings:  Bill Wyman’s ‘vrooming bass’ at the end of ‘Paint it Black’; Mick Taylor's lead guitar in the instrumental portion of ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’;  Keith’s riffs in ‘It’s Only Rock n Roll’; all the musicians who contributed to ‘Exile on Main Street’, how the band came up with the sound to 'Moonlight Mile'.  The music was so good I found myself wanting to get these details down.  From there, it was simply a matter of enjoying the album-oriented songs the Stones are so good at, both live and on record. 

I’ve read a number of books on bands over the years, including the Rolling Stones.  They have quite a remarkable history.  Many musicians feel the same way:  When Pete Townshend inducted the Rolling Stones into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame he stated that the Stones were the only band he ever really wished he were in.  Listening to Alice Cooper as DJ, it is clear he’s a big fan (I also saw him at a Stones show).  To understand the fascination many have with the Stones a look at the individuals in the band over the years is a good place to start.  There’s the juxtaposition between one of the most fragile of all rock stars, Brian Jones, and the most durable, Keith Richards.  There’s the reclusiveness and unsung-hero status of Charlie Watts.  There’s the professionalism of Mick Taylor.  The band has had its own historian in Bill Wyman.  There’s the peace maker in times of internal strife, Ronnie Wood.  Finally, there’s the conqueror of the big stage, Mick Jagger (as long as he’s fronting the Stones).  No band has mastered the stadium show like the Rolling Stones, and Jagger has to take most of the credit.  When he’s on, it’s quite an experience.

It’s hard to find a good gem video of the Rolling Stones, because most of their videos are a complete goof off (See videos ‘She’s So Cold’ or ‘Worried About You’) or if live, don’t pick up the instrumentation as much as they should.  Like many Stones fans, for me their music peaked when I began listening (‘Some Girls’, ‘Tattoo You’), so the more recent music, although better represented in video form, does not rise to the qualifications of a Gem (Keith Richards would beg to differ, and in the process might  slit my throat).  Fortunately one of my favorite Stones songs comes across pretty good on video, so I will present it here as this weeks Gem.  The song, ‘Waiting on a Friend’ is one of the best songs I know about friendship.  Mick, Keith, and Ronnie dominate the video, but Charlie and Bill are there also, you just have to look down the bar a bit.

“A smile relieves a heart that grieves
  Remember what I said”

- Pete

Gem Music Video: Waiting on a Friend

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About the video: Made for MTV

Video Rating: 1

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Best Feedback: Paul

Nice Pete - if you could only see the truth/reality of the political scene I would crown you "Best Bro-in-law".  This is a phenomenal song by the stones and a good early video too - seeing Keith and Mick at "Peace" after the ugly few years that preceded it.  You can almost feel the love between the two.  It reminds me of one of my all time favorites (hint - you need to play this one soon) called Memory Motel off of Black n Blue - which is the song we named Hanna (our boisterous lab) after...

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And: Steve

I was introduced to the Rolling Stones and The Who by Pete way back in
1982! I remember meeting Pete for the 1st time in Ottawa where we both shared a suite in residence at Carleton U. It was a nice Sept day and we decide to go cliff diving into a rapids where 6 kids have drowned. Don't worry Mrs. Steeves, nobody got hurt but the water was freezing and the current was very strong. I remember standing up in the river quite a bit down stream looking for Pete when I feel this grip on my ankles, I look down and see Pete under water smiling up at me with his hands on my ankles holding on for dear life!

We hauled ourselves out of there and proceeded to consume a large bottle of rye to warm our spirits for the walk back to the U. On our back, Pete starts singing 'Sympathy for the Devil' and I am truly amazed that he knows every word. He gets me to join in with the 'Yewww, yewww' and pretty soon we are 2 drunken, wet, young men bellowing out a awesome tune on a beautiful day!

That was my intro to Pete and the Stones, I wish I could see both of them again soon.

Cheers, Pete, Thanks for the memories.

Steve

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