Thursday, July 12, 2012

(28th in a series of) Stepping Stones "My Fellow Aficionado's"

Song: Fool to Cry
Album: Black and Blue
Released: April, 1976

If you are going to enjoy a musician or band, it’s a bonus to have a fellow aficionado or two to bounce thoughts off of, as well as to be guaranteed someone will be joining you when the act makes its way through town.  I’ve been fortunate to have those connections for many of my favorite songsmiths.  Mac has been my most consistent compatriot over the years in all three phases of the process; discovery, concert attendance and digging deeper into the cuts.  He has also opened my eyes to a handful of songwriters I may have never gotten to know much about otherwise, including Jonathan Richman, Linda and Richard Thompson, and the Grateful Dead.

Though Mac has been top shelf as a music-aficionado comrade, he does not stand alone.  Through the years I’ve had cohorts for virtually every musician I’ve enjoyed listening to:  The Who and solo spinoffs (Kurt, Mac, Dave, Bec, Bouv); Neil Young (Nancy, Bouv, Jeff); Pink Floyd (Pete, Jen); Bob Dylan (Jeff, Mac); The Kinks (Fred); the Beatles and solo spinoffs (Pete); and R.E.M. (Pat) all come to mind.  Ok, I’ve been on my own with Leonard Cohen (though Nancy loved his show at the Wang Theatre several years back, much to her surprise).  But for the most part, I’ve been able to converse in truly appreciative ways with others on just about every musician of interest from Joe Jackson to the Cars, Iris Dement to Gram Parsons, the Band to Joni Mitchell, and Elvis Costello to the Clash.

There was one band, however, that for far too long I never had a fellow enthusiast to connect with:  The Rolling Stones.  A few loose ties had cropped up off and on, but not many.  There was that guy in North Adams, Craig, who I wrote briefly about in Stepping Stone # 1.  There was another North Adams student, Romeo…..good friend of Bouv’s: Huge Stones fan.  He even looked like Mick Jagger.  Then there’s my colleague at USGS, the son of a preacher man, who I wrote about in SS # 2.  Other than those examples, though, I’d been alone in my deeper appreciation.  Closer friends had attended shows with me, yet there’s a big difference between simply getting your ya-ya’s out and basking in the moment.  Everyone can appreciate this sentiment with examples of their own I’m sure: Cases where you are heavy into something and others are simply curious.

Yes, I was running solitary in the Rolling Stones department for some time.  And then, in the early 90s, Amy introduced the family to Paul…. a fellow Stones aficionado, who ultimately landed in our family no less.  I knew pretty early on this interest of his was no fluke.  No smoke and mirrors here.  Brother-in-law Paul knew his stuff.  It took a bit of grilling to tease the most interesting tidbits out.  Most big brothers might circle the wagons to see what lurked there in the heart when it came to an interest by someone in their little sister.  Not me in this case, at least not in a traditional sense.  Once I knew Paul was waving that Glimmer Twins banner, I quizzed him on all things Stones while trying to black out the image of the Richard Nixon books on his bookshelf:  Favorite song?; favorite album?; favorite band member?; song meanings?; who did he think was leader of the band at certain stages of their career and why?; was he interested in emulating the relationship between Keith Richards and Anita Pallenberg? (hopefully not).  That kind of stuff.  He passed with flying colors….on most accounts.

You know someone is a Stones fan when he gets pumped about the band’s performance in their 1968 Rock and Roll Circus documentary:  The Rolling Stones themselves refused to release this show for decades, knowing they were clearly outclassed by their guests, the Who.  You know someone is a Stones fan when he has all of their studio albums and most of their compilations.  You know someone is a Stones fan when he names one of his dog’s “Angie” and another “Hannah” (after the gal in Memory Motel), has a photo of the band on his bathroom wall (in homage to the cover of ‘Beggars Banquet’?), and attends all 3 venue sizes of the their 2002 ‘Licks’ tour, including stadium (Gillette), arena (Boston Garden) and theatre (Orpheum > The Stones played the deepest of cuts at the Orpheum:  I’m forever envious).  You know someone is a Stones fan when his coffee table is littered with a virtual band bibliography. 

You really know someone is a Stones fan when he purchases Ronnie Wood’s limited edition vinyl boxed set “I Want You To Hear This”.

And with Paul, Amy came along for the ride as well:  A veritable 2 for 1 so to speak.  I could see it in Amz eyes not long into their relationship.  She was hooked, not just to Paul, but to the band he loved.  And so, concert attendance became a big event for all of us, as did listening to the Stones at parties, at one of our homes, or on a joy ride.  Amy’s interest was not superficial by any means.  She became a fast learner, asking the deeper questions and offering some intriguing insights of her own.  It was all great, mostly because it was unexpected.  But then again, I should have known better….. Amy, like me, has the potential for occasional bouts with late-bloomer syndrome.  I mean this in a good way, as it’s rare to open the mind up to something new as life weaves its way beyond your formative days.

Ok, so why Fool to Cry for this week’s Stepping Stone?  Well, way back during the original Gem Videos, I rolled out two Rolling Stones songs.  The first was Waiting on a Friend (GMVW # 41):  Turns out I had hit on a common gem of a song with Paul that I could not recall being the case when I grilled him years earlier.  The second, Memory Motel (GMVW # 83) I knew for sure would connect with both Amy and Paul.  However, since I had already used it as a Gem I had to dig a bit deeper.  I got to thinking about Rolling Stones ballads, seeing as Angie, Waiting on a Friend, and Memory Motel, favorites of the Citarell’s, are all on the slow, ballad-like side of the scale for this band. 

I’m not big on several of the Stones most popular ballads, Beast of Burden, and Wild Horses, but I do thoroughly enjoy most of the others, particularly Memory Motel.  And the album that Memory Motel is on, ‘Black and Blue’ happens to have another great ballad (rare for this band), that being Fool to Cry ( ).  I’ve had this one lined up for about a month now, and coincidently it happens to be one of a handful of songs the Stones jammed together on just a few weeks back in preparation for who-knows-what.  I’ve never seen them play it live.  It would be something.  Regardless, it reaffirmed the selection for me.

And so, Fool to Cry is my offering to my fellow Stones aficionados in the family, lovers of the balladeer side of the band (along with much else).  Ballads are hard to pull off in Rock and Roll.  There has to be subtle variety in the song, as most ballads sound drudgingly repetitive.  But the Stones make this ballad work:  There are the 3 stages of the song; daughter, lover, friend, all giving advice to the protagonist, the broken man.  There’s the guitar accentuating the very first “oooo, Daddy you’re a fool to cry” (44 second mark of the url link).  There’s Charlie Watt’s slow drum role in the 3rd stage of the song (3:10 mark).  There are Mick Jagger’s professional adjustments throughout, keeping the song fresh almost on his own.  And fascinatingly enough, the repetition of “Daddy you’re a fool to cry” works wonders.  It gets more meaningful as the song goes on.  Perhaps there’s something to the Buddhist “om” mantra after all.

Well, it’s time to retire for the day.  I’ve gotta get up early tomorrow; take a stroll through the woods and ponder some more on Paul’s most recent observation on the Rolling Stones, that being that Keith Richards is Mick Jagger’s bitch.  I’ve thought long and hard on that one.  I had always thought it was the other way around.  But there’s always room for reevaluation.

Especially when mulling over the insights of a fellow aficionado.

-          Pete

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