Mick Jagger Bob Sarlin - Essay

Bob Sarlin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 Words): The Best of the New Singer/Songwriters (copyright © 1973 by, Robert Sarlin; reprinted by permission of the author), Simon & Schuster, 1973, pp. 29-37.∗