Friday, April 5, 2013

"Sympathy For The Devils?" : THE WEEKEND MIX

It's great to be back at the palace.

I love the Rolling Stones. They sit comfortably at #6 on my all time artists list. The one thing that all ten of my favorite artists have in common is that they are all capable of being horrible, even if the most devoted fans say otherwise. I on the other hand have no problem calling crap "crap."

I am interested in the fan who loves everything. Is he refusing to admit when things are rotten even though he knows it, or does the fan really and truly like it all, even the crap?

There are the thick-headed Stones fans...the older ones...who'll put their hands on a rock and proclaim "Sticky Fingers" the last good Stones record. (Pushovers will allow "Exile.")

Then you have the rookies who find a sense of acceptance by bowing down to "Exile On Main Street," but have never heard a note of "Aftermath."

Then, you have the diehards. These are the fans who look at Jagger preening and prancing with his red fedora, duetting with Mary J. Blige on a half-speed version of "Gimme Shelter" and half-heartedly declare, "Wow, he really sounds...good." I guess it's in the ear of the beholder.

These are the fans who get all misty-eyed knowing that these guys are still trying, fifty years later. (Good reason to get misty-eyed. I'm not made of stone.)  But, do they sound good? I don't think so. I don't hear it. That makes me sad. $500 ticket prices make me sadder. But I have no problem, even for a fantasy $50 ticket, admitting the Rolling Stones aren't sounding too good. The songs are slow, the band is tired, and Jagger has become even harder to listen to than in 1981, with his talk-singing and over-enunciating.

I am in the minority.  How can that be?

I'm not talking about longevity. Or legend. Or nostalgia. Or what once was. I am simply saying that right now, this band, as they are about to embark on a new tour, is one notch above a "Cocoon" reunion. And yes, that joke is about age. But no, age is not the real problem. It's what they sound like because of the age.

I find it hard to believe that anyone listening to the music from this recent tour on bootlegs or YouTube and Pay-Per-View specials is not cringing, wanting them to do well, but knowing full well, it's a shadow of what once was.

One friend said, "How can you not be excited by four original guys with a fifth guesting, fifty years later?"

Well, has anyone seen Mick Taylor play guitar for more than one song backed by the Stones lately? Dial up some of his recent Iridium performances on YouTube. It's not pretty, with all due respect to the great Mick Taylor. I have no problem not being excited by music when it doesn't sound very good.

If the Rolling Stones, Jagger specifically, stopped trying so hard to stay relevant and just focused on being true, I doubt age would ever come up. No one ever says, "B.B. King is so old, why is he touring?" It's usually, "Wow! Listen to B.B.. Do you know how old he is?" Big difference.

I think back to looking at photos of Keith from 1979, and thinking how horrible he looked. Then in 1989, we were all comparing those '79 pics to the '89 pics and thinking, "Look how good he used to look." And in 2002, we looked at the pics from 1989 and said the same thing.

Bottom line is he looks terrible. Has looked terrible since about 1979. There have been some good days. He does occasionally clean up.

That's how I hear the music.

That said, here are a dozen of my favorite Stones songs from the albums that apparently suck. It should not go unnoticed that four and a half tunes are sung by Keith and four are from "Steel Wheels," a real diamond in the doody that is the Stones' 80's output.

I'd also like to mention that anyone who dismisses "It's Only Rock & Roll," and especially "Black & Blue," just isn't listening.


Love Is Strong
Hand Of Fate
Worried About You
All About You
The Worst
Can't Be Seen
Fingerprint File
Almost Hear You Sigh
Memory Motel
Hold Onto Your Hat
Slipping Away



vanwoert said...

I always remember the over used analogy of Willie Mays struggling in the outfield in 1973 and then just wishing that the ball not be hit to him anymore. Not for his sake, but for ours.


maybe they should cover that gene chandler song you mentioned. i wish everyone would hate them. think what great music that would make. hunger is an artists best friend.

iggy said...

Thanks Sal. As always, great observations.


HippieGirl21 said...

I'm a pretty young Stones fan and actually one of my favorite albums of theirs is Some Girls from 1978. I have about 3 of their albums, their 1997 Bridges to Babylon album, their 2002 Forty Licks album and their recent 2012 Grrr! album. I love their music. I wish I could see them in concert. But, sadly, I don't have the kind of money they're asking for on a ticket

Troy said...

Agreed on your comments that they just don't sound good anymore. It was a no-brainer to pass on their upcoming Chicago concert.

Contrast that to Paul McCartney who, while he struggles to hit the occasional high note, still overall sounds good and has a rock-solid backing band. I paid $150 each for my wife and I to see him at Wrigley Field and it was about the only concert I would say was worth that much. He was literally on stage for 3+ hours and sounded as good at the end as he did at the beginning.

Bottom line is that both are greatest hits tours played by aging rockers in their 70s, but I would only pay to see one of them anymore.


You can’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides

and …

It isn’t fair to dismiss / attack rockers just because they are seventy

and ...

The music business has always been a business

but …

Somewhere The Stones stopped being artists (albeit very successful and very, very rich artists) and became first, foremost (and maybe exclusively) a business.

That said … when they were good they were very good. And as this mix proves even when they were “bad” they could be “good.’

Thanks for the post, thanks for the mix and ... just thanks Sal.

Bombshelter Slim said...

What, nothing from Majesties? (to say nothing of Flowers or Buttons). Funny how the long ear of time helps one revisit "sucky" albums...

buzzbabyjesus said...

I read "Life" last year and came away liking Keith a lot less than I used to. I've made the mistake of buying "their best album since "Some Girls" more than once. I came close to downloading your zip, but looked at the titles and I just can't do it. Instead, I think I'll try listening to "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" which I got last night from Willard.
I'm a fan who doesn't cut any slack. Although I've managed to appreciate some Elvis Presley records made after his Army career.
Blame it on James Burton.

tumblingdice1970 said...

I love the Stones, but I just have no interest in this tour. They are bringing nothing new to the table, and the pale versions of the songs are just hard for me to take. I loved The Who's Quadrophenia tour this year, so it's not just about age.

Some other overlooked songs to complement Sal's list:

Coming Down Again
The Storm (b-side to Love is Strong)
Jump On Top Of Me (I thought this was the best song the Stones recorded in the 90's, and they put it on a forgettable movie soundtrack)
It Won't Take Long

When I saw the Stones at the Aragaon in Chicago in 2002, the three songs that just electrified the crowd were Worried About You, Hand of Fate and Dance (pt 1). Or maybe it was just me.

Sal Nunziato said...

"It isn’t fair to dismiss / attack rockers just because they are seventy"

I wasn't. I was dismissing them because they don't sound good. They just happen to be seventy.

Anonymous said...

I think the allure for many is the last chance they may have of actually seeing the Stones. I've had a few of my students go and they come back blown away. I don't get it based on the last 20 years of tours but's the Stones.

Lately I find myself listening less and less to the old guard rockers. It just doesn't do it for me like it used to. I felt the same way about the Zep O2 show. They sounded pretty good, but didn't move me.

I don't think its the age thing, I think it is the type of music they play. Mick looks like a jackass prancing around at 70. I saw a 63 year old Richard Thomson last week for the 1st time and was blown away. Would a long time fan of his had the same reaction? I don't know for sure but I suspect they would have.

There are going to be some old guys playing next week at the Crossroads fest. I think more will be good than least I hope so.



I'm with you and know you we're knocking the boys just because they are of a certain age.

That said ... some artists mature a lot better than others.

Dave said...

Funny side story about Stones' die hards, Sal. This takes place back when I was working as an assistant at a tattoo shop. One day, this big guy in his late 40s walks through the door, lurking towards the front counter where I was sitting. I asked if I could help him with anything. He pulls out from his leather jacket a copy of the Steel Wheels CD and inquires how much it would cost to get the cover (an image that is neither handsome to begin with, nor translates well to a tattoo) permanently inscribed around his wrist. This also gave me the opportunity to investigate all of the swollen track marks on his forearms.

Well, after 15 minutes of talking in circles about a few things he said he "had to have" he eventually tells me that he wants his back piece touched up as well, pulls up his shirt to reveal an enormous, horribly-done tattoo of the cover of Voodoo Lounge.

The next day he nervously waited for 20 minutes, looking side-to-side with the "junkie prowl" as I call it, and exited before having any work done unto him.

There's no point to this story, but if I had to try to make one up, it would be that the Rolling Stones are a lot like tattoos: they have been around forever, their future crappiness is unavoidable, and most people that are into them don't give a fuck either way.

Sal Nunziato said...

I think I'm just intrigued by all of it. I mention their age only when talking about the ability to create music.

As OldRockr1 said, "Jagger looks like jackass..." Yes, he does. And if Mick and Keith and Ronnie and Charlie set up and did an acoustic blues set, along with some rockers, it might not all seem so pathetic.

But the fact that the band is selling 1972 at 2013 prices, not to mention the obvious decline in abiltiy, is something I can't buy into.

Scott Kennedy said...

Was just thinking about this the other day. I stumbled across a concert of theirs on Palladia from the 1978 Some Girls tour.
Never been a huge Stones fan, but they were terrific in that show. They looked like they were actually trying, not just going through the motions. And Keith didn't look like he'd just stumbled off the set of The Walking Dead.
Sal is right; if they still sounded good, no one would care how old they are. But they don't. They're just making money these days, not music.

Chris Collins said...

Sigh....I've agreed with you many, many times on the Stones. I love them with all my heart but it makes me infinitely sad to see them now.

That said, they have done some good work LONG past a lot of people gave them credit. "Worried About You" is a great song. Legitimately great. As is "Slipping Away" and "Memory Motel". And thanks for including "Hold On To Your Hat", which I've always liked.

I'd also add "(One Hit) To the Body", "Winter", and maybe even "Streets of Love'

Robin said...

Regarding loving everything a favorite does/did...I can say for me with The Beatles and yes the Stones to a point (at least back in their heyday), it's not that I'm blind to their nonsense it's just that they are so personal to me, they are almost like a friend where I separate the chaff from the grain, but the chaff is still interesting to me (Dylan too, and to an extent Bruce and definitely Sinatra). I find it hard to focus on negative, and I find it hard to actively hate things, not saying that is what you mean but I don't know how to articulate it differently.

I don't really have an opinion on the Stones continuing to tour, but it might seem more meaningful if they'd broken up a while ago, and were reuniting, even if the playing weren't up to snuff...but they tour all the time it seems. And I guess for some people if they haven't seen Mick & Keith before in person, then any Mick & Keith is better than never, and I get that.

They certainly have recorded/written/played some wonderful stuff since Sticky!

Hope all is well or better with you Sal. Thanks for the great playlist. Especially love Memory Hotel.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Sal!
Agree with everything you wrote. The sad thing is, the Stones started as a blues band; if they went back to their roots no-one would be laughing (or cringing) but Mick just can't help himself. And, Buzz ... you are a hard man ... I came away from Keith's book liking him a lot more.

Sal Nunziato said...


You know, Buzz is not the first person I know to feel that way about Keith after the book. As a matter of fact, he's not even the 6th.

Sal Nunziato said...

And Anon:

Do you think Mick ever considers returning the band to their roots? He must know it would make all involved happy. Can't picture Keef fighting him, "No Mick. We have to do You Got Me Rocking again."


as far as keith or the rest of them goes, you don't get to their position
without doing some pretty horrible things. and i ain't talkin' about music. aside from being unfathomably talented they have also been ruthless.

ASH On The Beat said...

Great post Sal!

I'm no Stones philistine, but the last three decades have been awful.

The one exception was when they toured the smaller venues for Stripped.

I enjoyed that. Now it's just like watching a club cover band.

It's not as you say because they are 70, but because they are crap and it doesn't have to be that way.

Bruce still puts on a show people want to see, there just seems a lack of dignity.

Hyde Park 1969 was free, I dread to think how much it is this year.

kevin m said...

Hey Sal - I said you'd be back in a couple of weeks and here you are! As a Stones lifer, I may argue some of your points but at this point ,the celebration is the fact that they are still here and playing music. I was at the Brooklyn show (thanks ebay for the 50% price drop) and I though they were great!

I remember in '94 during the Voodoo Lounge tour saying that enough was enough. I didn't to see Jagger singing Satisfaction in his mid-50s. 8 years later I'm seeing them during my honeymoon and I was hooked again.

Yes, it would be nice to have them must play the blues on stools but that ain't going to happen.

As for the ticket prices, I don't blame them one bit. If the market can/will bare those prices, then they should go for it. Jagger has been a roaring capitalist for 40 years.

Anyway, welcome back! And I love the songs on this week's mix. Fingerprint File is one of my faves!

Anonymous said...

Nicely written, Sal, and more importantly, welcome back.
You're a much needed voice in the otherwise pale blogosphere.

William Repsher said...

On the plus side, Mick hasn't done The American Songbook!

Might be a case of damned if you do, damned if you don't. Think about it. When people say, if only Rod Stewart could make music like he used to ... but in theory, hasn't been that what the Stones have always done? They've always worked in the same genre, never really deviated from what they do best. True, you can say with diminishing returns, but they never stopped, or went synth pop, or made horribly misguided "songbook" albums.

And isn't there a bit of a curse in doing just that? The Stones have good songs on all their albums, although it's impossible to reach that Beggars-Exile peak again. The reason why old blues artists can still come off as authentic is because their genre was never age specific ... rock and roll in the 60s and 70s was, and the Stones were the best at it. They never quite figured out how to downshift into a shadier spot of the culural limelight that would allow them to grasp the elements of their music that are timeless. They're still trying to be cool in that same way, and are, at least to their fans. It wouldn't occur to them to change at this point. And even if they could, what would they change to?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr Sal

The Rolling Stones were a great band that roccked hard and had a great song writing team. I enjoy all the early albumns and black and blue. I just think they have reached their limit as they have not done anything new since bigger bang and are now just touring to reap in the money or so it seems to me.


P.S nice to have you back

buzzbabyjesus said...

Keef Riffhard has not come up with a memorable one since 1978. Jagger lost his mojo many years ago and has been a tribute act ever since. They don't hang out and the lack of chemistry is painfully obvious. Charlie would rather play jazz, and Ronnie traded a low level solo career for job security. They lost a lot when they ousted Brian Jones, even though he was already gone.


mr repsher,

some very good points. old men can be angry and funny and entertaining and cutting edge. witness bukowski. it would be great if the stones got that way. there is a huge audience of the not dead yet out there. they are way beyond cool.

for the record, there is a large body of boots of keith doing things like "the nearness of you" etc. but mostly for his own amusement. he is just a huge admirer of great songwriting. no matter the genre. since the inception of rock and roll there has been a tradition of rocking up the standards.and there have been quite a few great ones.

rod stewart clearly has the intention of pandering rather than making fresh use.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I forgot to mention Stu. His death was the final nail.

Anonymous said...

result of branding, just crank out the crap, good little consumers will buy it, if it could be made in china i'm sure it would, they have grown old, times have changed not all for better, the antiestablishment rigor of their heyday is gone

philo said...

Keith payed for Hubert Sumlin's funeral. He gets a life time pass just for that.

A walk in the woods said...

I like all periods of Stones, including the current. "Almost Hear You Sigh" is one of their best recent ones, and I've always loved "Love Is Strong". Also love all of side 2 of "Tattoo You," so "Worried About You" is a favorite too.

I'd consider paying a good bit to go see them now, but not "to see them one last time," not "because they're legends," none of that - I'd do it if they'd just play a better setlist.

That's my #1 beef with them rececently - not the issues you bring up, Sal, or others here; but just that the setlists are predictable and hit-oriented. If I knew for sure they'd play the best of their off-the-radar cuts, I'd be in.

Imagine if you knew they'd play "I Am Waiting," "Moonlight Mile," "Tops," "Almost Hear You Sigh" and "Streets Of Love" all in one show; I'd be there.

cmealha said...

Great to have you back

simonthecat said...

The last gasp as far as I was concerned was Bridges to Babylon - about half that album worked for me, and 'Saint of Me' is a pretty great song. I saw them in 89 at a dynamite show in Ames, Iowa and will always treasure the memory, but that's more than 20 years ago and as a wise man said, 'time waits for no one, and it won't wait for me'.