Mick Jagger 1944– Keith Richard 1943–
Jagger—British songwriter, singer, musician, and actor.
Richard—(Also Keith Richards) British songwriter, singer, and musician.
Jagger and Richard are the longest-running songwriting team currently active in rock, as well as one of the most successful. Their biting, sexually provocative lyrics combine with stinging rock 'n' roll to earn the Rolling Stones the title of "The Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World," in the opinion of many critics and fans.
Jagger and Richard were childhood friends, and decided to form a musical group while both were at art school. The original band also included Brian Jones on guitar, Bill Wyman on bass, and Charlie Watts on drums, and they took their name from a classic Muddy Waters's blues song. The Rolling Stones were originally a blues-based band, borrowing heavily from Howlin' Wolf, Waters, and Chuck Berry. Jagger and Richard's first songwriting efforts were unexceptional, and most of their first albums were filled with covers of blues standards. Suddenly, they began writing some of the most vital rock songs of the mid-sixties. "Get Off of My Cloud," "Under My Thumb," "19th Nervous Breakdown," and especially "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" demonstrate their contempt for traditional values, highlighted by Jagger's snarling vocals and the band's hard-driving rhythms. The inevitable and endless comparisons to John Lennon and Paul McCartney eventually proved pointless, for each team created a different style of rock music, with the Stones's nose-thumbing at society and preoccupations with sex gaining a surprising amount of popularity.
Beggar's Banquet marked the height of social consciousness in Jagger's and Richard's writing. "Sympathy for the Devil," "Street Fighting Man," and "Salt of the Earth" all discuss the theme of man's inhumanity to man. This was to be one of the Stones's last major social commentaries, perhaps because of their reaction to the 1969 Altamont Speedway tragedy, where a black man was beaten and stabbed to death by a group of Hell's Angels at a Stones concert. This incident is documented in the film Gimme Shelter. For this or other reasons, Jagger and Richard varied their songwriting output in the seventies. Songs like "Brown Sugar" and "Star Star" are throwbacks to their mid-sixties songs about women, but their decadence was much more overt in the new songs. This decadence also carries over into lyrics about drugs, such as "Sister Morphine" and "Dead Flowers." However, Jagger and Richard established themselves as fine balladeers with "Moonlight Mile," "Angie," and "Till the Next Goodbye," all slower, more introspective songs. They even dabbled with disco in "Hot Stuff" and "Miss You." Whatever the musical content, the lyrics still seem to dwell on their usual themes: sex, women, love, and drugs.
Despite numerous drug busts, Jagger's leaves of absence to make movies, and rumored breakups, Jagger and Richard always seem to return with a series of strong songs. In fact, they seem to thrive on adversity, creating their best work at the worst of times.
I call [Their Satanic Majesties Request] "interesting." I could just have appropriately said "intriguing," "provocative," "esoteric," even "obscure"; not to mention "fascinating," "delightful," and "ominous." (p. 12)
[Traces] of Beatlery on the album itself are few in number and for the most part superficial; other influences—those of Frank Zappa and, conceivably, Bob Dylan—strike me as being of considerably greater significance….
[Though] their musical means may be different, the Stones are evidently concerned to make a statement indicating their solidarity with the Beatles, as indeed they had already begun to do with We Love You. More than that, the Stones attach enough importance to the idea of the unity of mankind that they make it the subject of both the opening and the finale of the album's frontside.
But while the Stones share a common ideology with the Beatles, the musical expression of that ideology … is handled in a radically different fashion. (p. 13)
[Earlier] in this essay I mentioned that one could detect the influences of Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan on Their Majesties: it is time now to make good that claim.
Zappa first, then, since his influence is the more obvious. To anyone who has heard the Mothers of Invention parody the debauchery of Saturday night in any good, clean, heterosexual, middleclass bar, in America...
(The entire section is 1246 words.)
The Rolling Stones are constantly changing but beneath the changes they remain the most formal of rock bands. Their successive releases have been continuous extensions of their approach, not radical redefinitions, as has so often been the case with the Beatles. The Stones are constantly being reborn, but somehow the baby always looks like its parents….
Since [the] beginning the Stones have tried their hands at a lot of things: arrogance, satire, social commentary, "psychedelia," lewdness, love songs, you name it. Each phase seemed to flow naturally from the one that preceded it and none of their phases ever really changed their identity as a band. In every album but one it seemed to me that they managed to feel the pulse of what was happening now and what was about to happen. For example, "Satisfaction," that classic of the rock and roll age, both expressed the feelings of a moment and foreshadowed what was about to unfold: the elevation of rock and roll to the primary cultural means of communication among the young. There we were in the early summer of 1965 with folk music dead and nothing really exciting going on. And then there were the Stones sneering at the emptiness of what so many people saw all around them, not telling you to do anything about it, but letting you know that they feel it too. The music, with its incessant, repetitious, pounding guitar and drums, and that tension filled voice, was so permeated with violence that...
(The entire section is 1255 words.)
It begins with a crazed wildcat yelp and the primordial rhythms of hand drums on a rampage. It builds maniacally in intensity and complexity, the vocal brawling, the drums double gunning, the bass pumping, and the piano twisting the melody and rhythms together like so much heavy two-ply twine. The guitar whines, the voices hoot, and the lyrics blast the consciousness with a pageant of chaos. It's a bit pretentious in spots, has a couplet or two of unadorned truth and some specious nose-thumbing at history, but it gets you moving, jiving, and throttles you with its raunchy nastiness, the furious ranting that ranges far beyond the lyrics. "Sympathy for the Devil," the opening cut from Beggars Banquet …, is a song full of what rock 'n' roll is all about, and for all who lament the bastardization of rock. The Rolling Stones have finally come through. They show all too clearly that what had generously passed for 1968 rock was just a scene of loudmouthed mediocrity and studio claptrap….
One of the finest songs on the album, "Jigsaw Puzzle," is openly reminiscent of Dylan. It's a narrative, flowing with characters and instant vignettes, a preoccupation with outlaws and outcasts in their latter-day incarnations: tramps, grandmas, soldiers, and a rock 'n' roll band:
Oh the singer looks so angry
at being thrown to the lions
and the bass player...
(The entire section is 465 words.)
I have always been partial to the Stones. They have a much surer and, it seems to me, more realistic vision than the Beatles and they have been much more willing to explore the possibilities of rock rather than lean on other musical styles when they get in a bind. I have felt for a long time and feel even more strongly now that the Rolling Stones are the best group in rock-and-roll.
Banquet is by no means a perfect album. At one point Mick Jagger leans too heavily on rural blues. The lyrics of Sympathy for the Devil, which the group seems to think is the best cut, are pretentious and confused and the point of view is muddled. But this is carping…. I really don't think it would be too strong to call this the best rock album ever made; certainly it is among the half dozen best. (pp. 84-5)
[The] Rolling Stones' Street Fighting Man acknowledges the need for change while questioning the likelihood of success today. Their performance is tough, focused, together; the Beatles [on Revolution] are soft, spongy, and uncaring. Unfortunately, the Beatles have always been easily accessible and pleasant and the Stones difficult and sometimes ugly. It is always an effort to appreciate and especially to love the Stones. But it is worth the effort. (p. 85)
John Gabree, "The Beatles' Ninety-Minute Bore, and the Rolling Stones' 'Beggars Banquet'," in High Fidelity...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
[The major conflict of Sticky Fingers is between] driving, intense, wide-open rock versus a controlled and manipulative musical conception determined to fill every whole and touch every base….
On "Brown Sugar" wide open rock wins by a hair, but it is a hollow victory. Opening cuts on Stones albums have always been special….
At their best [the] opening cuts were statements of themes that transcended both the theme itself and the music that was to follow. As I listened to Sticky Fingers for the first time I thought "Brown Sugar" was good, but not that good. I certainly hoped it wasn't the best thing on the album. As it turns out, there are a few moments that surpass it but it still sets the tone for the album perfectly: middle-level Rolling Stones competence. The lowpoints aren't that low, but the high points, with one exception aren't high….
[On] "Wild Horses" there is a point in which the only thing that will work is a good note, well sung, sustained and sufficient to stand on its own. It is not to be found. A musical attitude is not a replacement for a musical style and style is not a replacement for essential technique, which is what is missing here.
The longing of the lyrics coupled with its ultimate hope constitute as much of a theme as there is on this record. Typically (since Between the Buttons) the Stones' statement alternates between aggressive...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
There are songs that are better, there are songs that are worse, there are songs that'll become your favorites and others you'll probably lift the needle for when their time is due. But in the end, Exile On Main Street … spends its four sides shading the same song in as many variations as there are Rolling Stone readymades to fill them, and if on the one hand they prove the group's eternal constancy and appeal, it's on the other that you can leave the album and still feel vaguely unsatisfied, not quite brought to the peaks that this band of bands has always held out as a special prize in the past….
The Stones have prospered by making the classic assertion whenever it was demanded of them. Coming out of Satanic Majesties Request, the unholy trio of "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Street Fighting Man" and "Sympathy For the Devil" were the blockbusters that brought them back in the running. After, through "Midnight Rambler," "Honky Tonk Women," "Brown Sugar," "Bitch" and those jagged edge opening bars of "Can't You Hear Me Knocking," they've never failed to make that affirmation of their superiority when it was most needed, of the fact that others may come and go but the Rolling Stones will always be.
This continual topping of one's self can only go on for so long, after which one must sit back and sustain what has already been built. And with Exile On Main Street, the Stones have chosen to sustain for...
(The entire section is 658 words.)
For the first year and a half of Beatlemania, the Stones were No. 2 only in publicity—their sales lagged beyond the Dave Clark Five's and barely stayed ahead of the Kinks' and the Animals'. Then came "Satisfaction." It was the perfect Stones paradox—the lyrics denied what the music delivered—and it dominated the summer of 1965. Driving home from rainy retreats, vacationing parents and their children shouted out "I can't get no" in unison, while older brothers and sisters decided that the middle verse was about a girl who won't put out because it's her period. A whole country was brought together, sort of, by Mick and Keith's anthem of frustration.
Suddenly, the Stones' project of radical self-definition was becoming a mass movement—against everything that kept the world within our reach and out of our grasp, everything that stopped us from making felt possibilities real. Mick and Keith now wrote most of the material. They voiced the enthusiastic hostility of the new mass bohemianism more directly than the rhythm-and-blues artists, who usually muted the hostility because they were too busy just surviving to pursue hopeless battles. The Stones and their constituency were sure enough of their own survival to covet something better, but the Stones at least, were much too realistic to expect to achieve it. Their anger was just part of a vicious circle.
In the end, in fact, their anger was directed not at the...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
The Stones still have the strength to make you feel that both we and they are hemmed in and torn by similar walls, frustrations and tragedies. That's the breakthrough of Exile On Main Street.
Exile is dense enough to be compulsive: hard to hear, at first, the precision and fury behind the murk ensure that you'll come back, hearing more with each playing. What you hear sooner or later is two things: an intuition for nonstop getdown perhaps unmatched since Rolling Stones Now, and a strange kind of humility and love emerging from dazed frenzy. (pp. 44-5)
Exile is about casualties, and partying in the face of them. The party is obvious. The casualties are inevitable.
Sticky Fingers was the flashy, dishonest picture of a multitude of slow deaths. But it's the search for alternatives, something to do (something worthwhile, even) that unites us with the Stones, continuously….
Exile On Main Street is the great step forward, an amplification of the tough insights of "Gimme Shelter" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want." A brilliant projection of the nerve-torn nights that follow all the arrogant celebrations of self-demolition, a work of love and fear and humanity. Even such a piece of seeming filler as "Casino Boogie" reveals itself, once the words come through, to be a picture of life at the terminal….
(The entire section is 505 words.)
[Hot Rocks portrays the] evolution of a rock & roll band from superlative interpreters of mostly borrowed R&B in a style that was never far from pop, to being pop artists, philosophers and social commentators couching their vision and fantasies in a style that seldom gets all that far away from R&B….
The crucial thread running through almost all of the Stones' early work, and much of what has followed, is the tension in the alternation of themes of utter arrogance and disdain, and of the sense of ennui and frustration deriving from living, however highly, in these desperate times. "Get Off Of My Cloud" brought the former razzberry to a pinnacle of derisive noise that many, including Jagger himself, found excessive, while "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" was, of course, the primal and perhaps still definitive statement of the latter condition. The balancing of these two senses is at once the strength and limitation of the Stones' strength, because nothing is more universal now than boredom and dissatisfaction and the Stones' particular brand of charismatic swagger has been affected by more adolescents than any other posture of the generation; limitation, since yesterday's outrageous strut is today's cornball signal to get the hook, and keeping a sure grasp on the shifting modes in malaise o' the day is one of the most difficult feats for any artist to maintain in this fast-mutating era.
(The entire section is 872 words.)
Rejecting the banalities of their own culture and adopting instead the more realistic, if less "noble" and comfortable, attitudes of the black American ghetto resident, the Stones laid the foundation for the counter-culture by translating these black attitudes into an attractive image for alienated white youth. The importance of this black "blues" influence is nowhere more apparent than in the argot of the Stones' lyrics, and an examination of the existence of a black blues lexicon in the Stones' lyrics provides a unique method of studying the Stones' acceptance and extension of black urban cultural attitudes. (p. 367)
Jagger's fascination with what his father … called "jungle music" extended to a deep interest in the blues argot. He has been quoted as saying that lyrics are not very important in rock music, but his own admission that he used to put his head to the speaker until he had deciphered all the blues lyrics as well as the obvious effort and skill that go into his own lyric writing belie this.
In the blues records Jagger was indeed discovering a "jungle argot," a language of an urban jungle of alienation and repression. If, as a British middle-class youth, he could not fully comprehend this jungle, he could relate to it in a real and powerful way. (p. 368)
To fully comprehend the implications of the Stones' lyrics, one must perceive the significance of this blues argot from which they...
(The entire section is 1927 words.)
History has proven it unwise to jump to conclusions about Rolling Stones albums. At first Sticky Fingers seemed merely a statement of doper hipness on which the Stones (in Greil Marcus' elegant phrase) "rattled drugs as if they were maracas." But drugs wound up serving a figurative as well as a literal purpose and the album became broader and more ambiguous with each repeated listening.
At first, Exile on Main Street seemed a terrible disappointment, with its murky, mindless mixes and concentration on the trivial. Over time, it emerged as a masterful study in poetic vulgarity. And if neither of the albums had eventually grown on me thematically, the music would have finally won me over anyway.
Now Goat's Head Soup stands as the antithesis of Exile—the Stones never worry about contradicting themselves—and it is a wise move, for it would have been suicidal to carry Exile's conceits any further. Compared to the piling on of one raunchy number on top of another, Soup is a romantic work, with an unmistakable thread of life-affirming pragmatisms running through it. It is set apart not only from Exile, but every past Stones' LP, by its emphasis on the ballad. Its three key songs—"Angie," "Comin' Down Again," and "Winter"—are suffused with melancholy. But of the five rockers, only "Star Star" ("Starfucker") rings out with classic Stones sass. The others exist either...
(The entire section is 730 words.)
A good Stones song does two things at once: it moves the listener through the sheer power of the music, and at the same time intrigues him in the words (what are they saying?). It's impossible to figure out, at times only select phrases become translatable. In each case, Jagger has selected them well.
"Jumping Jack Flash," the Stones' first hit single of 1968, is probably their all-time power song. Embodying a roaring, repetitive guitar riff, the song is the joyful cry of an unashamed rabble rouser, one who has outgrown an unpleasant childhood and all difficulties to come to the point where he rather enjoys himself…. "Street Fighting Man" is a most curious record, another good example of the intertwining of rock and youth culture. The narrator announces the need for revolution, but admits that his hometown isn't very political, and claims that all he can do to help the cause is sing rock 'n' roll. This song brings out an interesting point; that is, rock is not revolutionary. It is, in fact, the current opiate of the masses. (p. 231)
A masterful collection of hard rock and the Rolling Stones version of blues, [Beggar's Banquet] was also one of their few not made up entirely of hits, that also kept up the pace. The feature piece was not a hard rock, though. It was a sultry, percussive piece called "Sympathy for the Devil," which ran over six minutes in length and chronicled episodes of violence in...
(The entire section is 640 words.)
If you couldn't be quite sure what the Beatles were after, it was clear that the Rolling Stones were after your sister, or, as some said, your ass…. What the Stones helped achieve was the acceptance of rock as a form of anti-Establishment protest. The Beatles, with their mod suits and smiling faces, could not have done this, but the Stones, so obviously at odds with the sedate society that fostered them, did.
Yet neither band was making any real statements with its lyrics at the same time; both chose instead to follow precedent and keep their lyrics banal and secondary.
With the arrival of the Stones, rock-and-roll was established as the most vital medium available to young people. Jagger's intentions with regard to the society in which he functioned were unmistakable. Where rock-and-roll musicians had once been satisfied to suggest, through beat and double-entendre lyrics, that their listeners might do well to look into sex as sport, Jagger threw out a challenge. He was not only a blatantly suggestive performer, but clearly committed to raising his middle finger to the Establishment. Although rock had long served this role for many of those who listened, now this one little British cat had made it clear once and for all that rock was the loudest and angriest protest music that had ever emerged. (p. 36)
Bob Sarlin, "Rock-and-Roll!" in his Turn It Up! (I Can't Hear the...
(The entire section is 258 words.)
[In] their early recorded period between 1963 and '66 [the Stones] looked to Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley, who had fierce, raucous styles, and then increasingly to the more polished, urban soul sounds of Tamla Motown (Marvin Gaye) and Stax (Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding)….
The basis of their music, therefore, was strongly blues and black rock and roll, with Jagger and Keith Richard originally inclining towards Diddley and Berry….
The blues, which heavily relied on implicit sexual themes, was well-suited to the Stones … because they were able to emphasise sex as a weapon in a deliberate stance of anti-authoritarianism….
The fortunes of the Stones were closely tied in with a need among young audiences in the Sixties for ever more extreme symbols of their liberation from parental control and rejection of authority, and therefore they functioned as a kind of reaction against what the Beatles had come to represent: a cultural yardstick and an establishment within pop music itself.
Together, however, they effected a potent assault on traditional values, both in social style (fashions and behaviour) and music (a new honesty, relatively uncompromised by the bland sentimentality doled out by Tin Pan Alley)….
In their songs, the Stones implanted [the idea of rejecting society] in several ways, the principal of which was a sexual theme, generally handled...
(The entire section is 884 words.)
The purpose of this article is to put the Stones in their place: arm in arm with the Beach Boys and Dylan as creators of some of the greatest music produced in the West in this century.
"Something Happened to Me Yesterday" is still capable of dragging the most ambiguous and profound emotions out of me. I don't know what it means, but I know enough things that it means to know that few songs have ever been written to equal it. You don't need to have done acid to know that the simplest and most important experiences can never be spoken of. "Something" expresses that unspeakableness with perfect humor, implies it, hints at it, trombones and choruses it. It is musical genius.
It is also forgotten. Forgotten in the sense that it isn't on the greatest hits albums, isn't performed at the concerts, isn't mentioned in the tedious books … that exploit the Stones' current image: bored jet-set decadence. Coke and cock. Mick Jagger the great performer. Ho hum.
The image is keyed to survival, commercial survival, ego survival. It is tuned to the times. But it has little or nothing to do with the courage, the desire to explore, the leaps into the unknown that created the early albums, that ended apparently forever with the last and greatest rock 'n roll album of them all: Let It Bleed. (p. 47)
From early 1965, when I first heard "The Last Time," until 1970 …, the Rolling Stones spoke...
(The entire section is 2343 words.)
It's Only Rock 'n Roll is a decadent album because it invites us to dance in the face of its own despair. It's a desperate album that warns at the end of one side that "… dreams of the nighttime will vanish by dawn," and on the other that a Kafkaesque "someone is listening, good night, sleep tight." It's a rock 'n' roll album because it's so goddamn violent.
At its simplest level the album deals with the psychosis of being in a rock 'n' roll band and having made it as a star—and it does that better than the Who's opus devoted exclusively to that subject, Quadrophenia. At another level it uses the relationship between a band and its audience as a metaphor for the parasitic relations between a man and a woman. At still another, in the best tradition of rock 'n' roll, it convincingly flaunts its own raunchiness….
The verses to "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" sound like an assault on the audience. "If I could stick a pen in my heart / I'd spill it all over the stage …" It's only when they get to the bridge that their real target comes into focus: "Do you think that you're the only girl around / I'll bet you think that you're the only woman in town." They've fused their many resentments into a single vitriolic statement.
But the song is more than an attack. Jagger sounds like he hates, but he also sounds convincing, not ironic, when he belts out, "I know it's only rock 'n roll but I like...
(The entire section is 815 words.)
Stones albums … have been not simply happenings in their time; they've also been peculiarly responsive to their time. There is no way one could adjust his mind to make "Sticky Fingers"—a much better album, in purely aesthetic terms—as apt just now as ["It's Only Rock 'n Roll"] is. "Beggar's Banquet" was recorded when it was widely believed that rock was art and art was life. Accordingly, it was vibrant with crusading fervor…. "Exile on Main Street" and "Goat's Head Soup" caught us—thanks to Bowie, Alice Cooper, Nixon, and countless others—cynical and woozy, and they sound cynical and woozy. "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" seems to be reading the latest phase as an effort to learn how to shrug again, and it suggests something of how self-conscious we are about that. There is no prescription for how to live a glamorous outlaw life … in here, just some songs treated as some songs. It's back to life-size for us, the album seems to say, and the listener's mind may construe in there somewhere some advice (which, to be fair about it, the Stones do not actually give) to accept imperfections in self and others. That message is somewhat more explicit in the endings of some of the better novels these days; Wilfrid Sheed's Max Jamison finds a little peace for himself by concluding he must be "a son-of-a-bitch in an imperfect world." Once you admit it, it may not be so bad—that's about as good a fortune-cookie aphorism as any,...
(The entire section is 352 words.)
I had once written that the Stones were a wonderful rock & roll band, the very best in creation. But I also wrote that aging did not suit them. Their greatest gift had always been for outrage, and outrage needs youth. Therefore, I suggested that if they had any sense of completeness they should blow themselves sky-high three days before their thirtieth birthdays.
In its context, it was meant as friendly advice, a gift from an admirer, but clearly it misfired. Thirty has come and gone—Bill Wyman must be close to 40—and still they persist….
Once, the Stones were a genuine explosion. They had urgency and rage, real passion, and though they always loved to play games, there used to be a sense that, underneath, they meant business. (p. 72)
With the Stones, however, the shenanigans were inherent and inescapable. The week that "Satisfaction" topped the hit parade, I had dinner with Burt Bacharach, then the absolute arbiter on all matters Pop, and when I mentioned their name, he cast aside his fork and clasped his skull: "So violent, so rude," he moaned. "Why can't they be polite, like Paul and John? Or at least write poems, like Bob?"
So violent, so rude—that, of course, was precisely their beauty. Rock was never created for good taste or moderation. It was born for fury, and wildest excess, and the Stones were all these things to perfection. Unlike Dylan or the Beatles, they...
(The entire section is 593 words.)
Exalted indifference. Innocent malice. Careless cruelty. It is these ambiguous mixtures of emotion which we find in songs like "Play with Fire," "Back Street Girl" and "Star Star"—a mixture revealing the disturbing yet fascinating quality of a child grown up too soon, like a six-year-old dragging on a cigarette. And it was this "child" who dangerously explored the ever-lurking but disapproved world of sex and drugs in songs like "Under My Thumb," "Sister Morphine" and "Monkey Man."
Yet when the Stones were at their most exploitative, they seemed their most liberating, because we became aware of the reversal of that social and psychological pathology by which the oppressed identify with their oppressors: We sensed that the Stones, from their position of indifferent power, were singing the voice of the hurt and abused, thereby magically transcending all humiliation barriers ("But it's all right now / In fact it's a gas").
And in the guise of that distant, irresponsible child who continually rejected all appropriate modes of feeling ("I'm hiding sister and I'm dreaming"), the Stones revealed secrets about ourselves and our world. From "Get Off of My Cloud" and "19th Nervous Breakdown" to "Mother's Little Helper" and "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby," the Stones once and for all pulled open the blinds, exposing—while both celebrating and attempting to exorcise—the demonic ghosts of the Oedipal family romance...
(The entire section is 376 words.)
If the Beatles brought rock 'n' roll to new creative heights with their lively literary interest in love, the Stones succeeded in the other direction, offering the generation new lows in calculated vile and degenerate sexuality.
Mick Jagger was aware of the pent-up frustration and lust inside the average kid. He wrote of hours on the prowl for "Satisfaction," got put off by ritzy suburban girls like "Lady Jane," and dumb ones from the neighborhood like "Stupid Girls."… After the childlike handholding ways of the Beatles, Jagger's approach certainly made a more viable fantasy, to say the least.
And so, just when parents were on the brink of accepting the Beatles as cute and tolerable (despite their long hair and snippy manner toward adults) along came the Rolling Stones to confirm that rock 'n' roll was still despicable, was still as full of lust as ever. For all the Beatles did in turning on a generation (paving the way for the full-scale love and peace and flowers movement later on), it was really the Rolling Stones who prevented rock 'n' roll from becoming merely updated pop music after all. (pp. 75-6)
Bruce Pollock, "England Swings: 1964–1965," in his In Their Own Words (reprinted with permission of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc.; copyright © 1975 by Bruce Pollock), Macmillan, 1975, pp. 67-94.∗
(The entire section is 216 words.)
Outrage. The very word. From their very first incarnation as a primitive, gloriously wild R&B group in the suburbs of London (such a delightful irony), the Stones have walked hand in hand with outrage; to the extent, some have claimed, with no little justification, that their contribution to the development of rock has had less to do with their musical achievements than the dizzy splendour of their defiance.
To be sure, the Stones' influence in shaping the course of popular music since their emergence in the early Sixties has not been as considerable as that of their contemporaries (and, as Michael Watts once suggested, alter ego), the Beatles. By nature, the Beatles were eclectic, and, with discrimination, assimilated musical styles and soon-to-be fashionable ideas which did much to establish them as pioneers of musical experimentation.
Conversely, the Stones have—with rare exceptions—been reluctant to create new, or at least novel, forms of musical expression. Those records which find the Stones furthest removed from the basic R&B patterns which initially inspired them ("Their Satanic Majesties Request" and parts of "Between The Buttons," for instance), are invariably their least successful.
Yet the Stones, in their singular determination to remain true to the origins of their musical and public style, have exerted a more profound influence over the behaviour and attitudes of successive...
(The entire section is 1327 words.)
There are two things to be said about this new Stones album [Black & Blue] before closing time: one is that they are still perfectly in tune with the times (a.k.a., sometimes, trendies) and the other is that the heat's off, because it's all over, they really don't matter anymore or stand for anything, which is certainly lucky for both them and us. I mean, it was a heavy weight to carry for all concerned. This is the first meaningless Rolling Stones album, and thank god. No rationalizations—they can now go out there and compete with Aerosmith, or more precisely, since just like the last two before it this album's strongest moments are Jagger singing ballads, the "adult pop" market. Barry Manilow, even….
I won't even comment on the lyrics because they don't mean shit. They're stupid and deserve to be. Not even "Memory Hotel," which I could get a cheap shot off by saying the line "You're just a memory that used to mean so much to me" applies to the Stones, but I don't believe that, I just love 'em for getting wasted, as they are, and slowly dying with such immaculate sense of timing. I mean they still can do no wrong, except if you really are dumb enough to expect a Statement, well, NO STATEMENTS HERE.
Lester Bangs, "State of the Art: Bland on Bland," in Creem (© copyright 1976 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 8, No. 2, July 1976, p. 63.
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Mick Jagger was never a rocker. He wasn't a mod, either. He was a bohemian, an antiutopian version of what Americans called a folkie. That is, he was attracted to music of a certain innocence as only a fairly classy—and sophisticated—person can be. Unlike John Lennon and Paul McCartney (and Bob Dylan), his ambitions weren't kindled by Elvis Presley; his angry, low-rent mien was no more a reflection of his economic fate than his stardom was a means for him to escape it.
Something similar went for all the Rolling Stones. "What can a poor boy do / Except sing for a rock and roll band?" was the way they opted out of the political involvement that most young rebels found unavoidable in the late Sixties. But not only weren't they poor boys when they played that song, they never had been—except voluntarily, which is different…. This is not to say the Stones were rich kids; only Brian qualified as what Americans would call upper middle-class. Nor is it to underestimate the dreariness of the London suburbs or the rigidity of the English class hierarchy. But due partly to their own posturing, the Stones are often perceived as working class, and that is a major distortion….
[Insofar] as they wanted to be earthy … they risked a vulgarity that was mere indeed. Inspired by the coaching of Andrew Loog Oldham, the publicist/manager who undertook the creation of the Stones in their own image starting in the spring of 1963,...
(The entire section is 2325 words.)
DAVID DALTON and LENNY KAYE
They have participated in and provoked the transformation of the morals and manners of their generation so effectively that to future social historians the Rolling Stones might actually seem to bear out reactionary ravings that they are the ringleaders of an international conspiracy of rock & roll punks to undermine Western civilization with drugs, music, polymorphous sexuality and violence….
The Stones have been the primary catalysts in creating an adolescent lifestyle without precedence by grasping the repressed elements of society and expressing its confusions and frustrations with outlandish exhibition…. If the Beatles initiated it, it was the Stones who amplified it and stretched it to its logical conclusion, and if their effect has been less universal than that of their polar twins, the Beatles, it has also been more insidious because it is more difficult for society to absorb their antisocial stance. The Stones have always delighted in their role as outlaws…. Their punky arrogance makes them the aristocrats of the new morality. (p. 95)
As street fighters for the new sensibility, the instrument the Stones used to pry themselves and their subculture away from traditional morality and convention was the liberating monster reeking of barely concealed menace and sexuality latent in rock and blues. (p. 96)
[They] established themselves almost instantaneously with "Satisfaction," the...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
["Some Girls" is an album in] which the Stones attempt to stop what is a rot (to most observers) by heaving more beef into the arena than of late.
It's an obvious enough step, I guess, meeting the now-conventional charges of geriatric redundancy by harking back to the style of "Exile On Main Street."…
"Beast Of Burden" is more obviously late period Stones, mediocre and still melodyless in its midtempo….
The only track which brings Jagger and his lyrics upfront is the title-track, which is of musical interest only for the spit 'n' spite of the first guitar solo and for the hint of blossom in the chorus.
It starts with a promising inversion of conventional sexual roles, Jagger whining "Some girls give me diamonds … Some girls give me jewelery / Others buy me clothes," which comments (deliberately?) on the singer's increasingly ridiculous preoccupation with jet-set glam-gloss style, before heading into what must be a nod towards Brian Wilson's sexual diplomacy in "California Girls," surveying, as it does, the merits and defects of French, Italian, English and American girls.
But it ends up in downright racism with the lines "White girls they're pretty funny / Sometimes they drive me mad / Black girls just wanna get f—all night," which bolsters up that pathetic old myth about black people's randiness….
But there are three exceptionally good...
(The entire section is 488 words.)
Kicks just keep getting harder to find…. Not that the Rolling Stones care. Long ago, they realized that the pursuit of excess alone would be thankless. Younger, dumber bands—bands with no sense of style or sense of humor—would keep trying to raise the ante, resulting in pointless raunch playoffs. The Stones' purchase on high society, however, has given them the key: Attitude is everything. Keep that sneer on your lips, be a lowlife looking down from the heights of irony, and even sincerity can turn into a decadent thrill. Sleaze is the Stones' birthright, and on Some Girls they've set out to reclaim it….
There's just no warning that Some Girls rocks and rolls with the low-minded brilliance of the Stones at their best. By the end of side two, you're ready to smash windows, disturb the peace—any kind of flamboyant violence….
[Blame] it on New York City. Cut after cut … mentions the sleaze capital of the world. "Shattered," the perfect mixture of hysteria and cool … is an archetypal reaction to Big Apple pressure / pleasure…. In Manhattan, the penthouse and the gutter don't seem that far apart; the Stones can embrace or spurn each one in turn.
They take full advantage. There are putdowns ("Some Girls," "Respectable," "Lies") and straight reportage ("Shattered," "When the Whip Comes Down"), along with various poses of sincerity: "Miss You," "Imagination," "Beast of...
(The entire section is 270 words.)
The Rolling Stones supplied the soundtrack for much of my grown-up life. When I first heard "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," I was fifteen years old, and had never gotten laid…. It was unlike anything else to be heard that summer of 1965. Lurid, loud, and concupiscent, it was at once a yell of impotence and of indomitability. Its conspiratorial complaints sanctified our frustrations, and its vicious force promised deliverance. It gave us power over girl-creatures, and made of our insignificant, wastrel cock spigots of wordless insolence—which, of course, we had always wanted them to be. (pp. 5-6)
Nick Tosches, "The Sea's Endless, Awful Rhythm & Me without Even a Dirty Picture," in Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, edited by Greil Marcus (copyright © 1979 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.; reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.), Knopf, 1979, pp. 3-10.∗
(The entire section is 142 words.)
My Stones pose was weariness, a pose I've feigned pretty well ever since. But it's a pose that's taken effort to maintain and reflects a furtive obsession. Making sense of rock has meant making sense of the Stones and when Beggars Banquet came out in 1968 I changed my usual habits—bought this white album, left the Beatles' white album on its parallel shop floor pile. The Beatles still made more comfortable music but Beggars Banquet was the most interesting record I'd ever heard.
Most rock records aren't difficult to understand. They draw on commonplaces of community and adolescence: easy listening, good dancing, simple emotions, and sharp images. From this point of view Beggars Banquet isn't difficult either, just a mainstream Stones LP, party music with a sneer and a leer. But its cleverness makes the difference. The Stones, as intellectual, share an acute, almost contemptuous grasp of their own paradoxes: British makers of American music, white romancers of black culture, middle-class triflers with working-class urgencies, adult observers of youth, aesthetes of body music. Beggars Banquet is the celebration of the contradictions of British rock culture. (p. 30)
[As] writers Jagger and Richard are efficient but self-conscious. Their songs rarely take the breath away—no images to haunt like Bob Dylan's, no language as beautiful as Smokey Robinson's, none of John Lennon's plain talk. The...
(The entire section is 1684 words.)
The public's idée fixe of the Stones as ageing enfants terribles is a problem Jagger seems slyly to acknowledge on "Dance", the first track of "Emotional Rescue", when he sings "I think the time's come to get up, get out—out into something new". The joke, of course—which is implicit in the sheer bounce of the music—is that the Stones patently have no intention of doing any such thing.
"Emotional Rescue" is largely a familiar mixture of affectionate disrespect—for the musics of country, blues, reggae and other rock ingredients—and the personal affectations of Jagger, who at one moment is assuming a cod Spanish accent ("Indian Girl") and at another a Barry Gibbs falsetto (the title track)….
There were several good things on "Black And Blue" ("Hand Of Fate", "Memory Motel") and a half dozen on "Some Girls", their best album since "Exile On Main Street" in 1972. But having become hostages to their own celebrity, lacking genuine rapport (and, therefore, social context) with a young audience that mistrusts showbiz-type stars, the Stones now make music whose overall mood is playful and ironic where once its effect was urgent and cutting….
[The] emphasis of the Stones' current music is to be found in Jagger's stance: his nous for what is fashionable (surely the impulse behind "Some Girls"'s disco-style classic, "Miss You"), his throwaway humour and a dumbness that comes across virtually as...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
What could have been the anticlimax of the year is instead one of the few true triumphs of the still young decade. Two years in the making with a few bonus months to allow for last-minute fretting over mixes, artwork, and the odd potential lawsuit (the controversial and excised "Claudine"), Emotional Rescue has been worth every minute's wait…. [The] group once introduced on Get Your Ya-Ya's Out as "the greatest rock & roll band in the world" has not been reduced to five tired old sods by the passage of time or fashion. In 1980, in the face of serious competition for the title by the Clash, the Stones stay in there, throwing some of their best punches since Exile on Main Street.
Ironically, Emotional Rescue, together with its platinum predecessor Some Girls, forms a body of hard, desperately physical yet just as defiantly mature music that could be called the Stones' own New York Calling. "Get up, get out, get into something new!" rails Mick Jagger from the corner of West 8th Street and 6th Avenue, singing in "Dance" not like some jaded funkster but like a prophet in the 20th century wilderness. Once bloodied and bowed in their NYC ode "Shattered," Jagger and the Stones feed on all the adversity the city has to offer with passion and ferocity. And for their inspiration they go back to black—the music of long hot summers, frustration on the boil, sexual tension and the explosive...
(The entire section is 397 words.)