As what remains of the literary world eagerly celebrates the arrival this month of none other than Keith Richards’ long-awaited autobio “Life,” I thought I’d just keep this particular ball, well, rolling with…..
TEN REASONS WHY THE ROLLING STONES WERE THE WORLD’S GREATEST ROCK AND ROLL BAND
1. BRIAN JONES’ HAIR
Not only the longest and the blondest, but the most distinctive coif to come out of the (first) British Invasion – hence his invariably being positioned as the focal point of the band’s publicity photos, not to mention album covers. “Personally, I always make a point of cleansing my hair after every meal,” a young Brian would defiantly inform the press when asked if the band, as their promo boasted, bathed only during months with an “R” in them.
2. ANDREW LOOG OLDHAM
Take equal parts Col. Parker and Phil Spector, mix with a liberal helping of Laurence Harvey (cf: Expresso Bongo), garnish with a dash of Anthony Burgess, and you have the wonderlad who transformed himself from failed pop crooner Sandy Beach to frustrated Brian Epstein gofer to chart-topping svengali of the world-famous anti-Beatles all in a mere eighteen months. Needless to say The Rolling Stones, not to mention Malcolm McLaren, would not – in fact, could not have ever risen to successfully battle the rock wars without the skilled example of ALO.
3. THEIR STAGEWEAR
As a young impressionable tyke of nine, I remember how totally dumbstruck I was when chancing upon the Stones on a Red Skelton television special circa ’64. After months spent innocently bopping to squeaky-clean moptops on The Ed Sullivan Show, imagine my stupefaction when Mick Jagger, striped sweatshirt hanging, first suggestively shook his maracas in my parents’ living room. Keith hunched menacingly black and pirate-like over his Les Paul. The rhythm section, shaggy and sullen. And, ever the individual, Brian Jones nattily attired in a modish three-piece, every golden lock in place. It must’ve worked: My grades, to say nothing of my standards, started tumbling the very next day.
4. THE “PRODUCTION” ON THEIR RECORDS
The scene is Olympic Sound Studios, London, May 10, 1963 as recording of “Come On,” the Rolling Stones’ first release, has just been completed:
Roger Savage (engineer): “What about the mixing?”
Andrew Loog Oldham (producer): “What’s mixing?”
And thus the stage was shakily set for decades of recordings which in many ways gave birth to, and in retrospect certainly define, the very essence of garage, grunge, roots, and/or punk rock. From their initial cacophonous Oldham-by-the-seat-of-his-Levis sessions straight on up to their current multi-million-dollar-yet-still-somehow-Portastudioesque-sounding productions, Rolling Stones records are best-selling examples of the fine are of Feeling over Finesse; of Emotion over Edification. And the ultimate irony? “Come On” is now available on SACD.
5. CHARLIE WATTS’ DRUMMING
Especially on “Paint It, Black”!
6. THEIR ALBUM COVERS
From December’s Children to (the untruncated original issue of) Some Girls, without forgetting Through The Past Darkly, Sticky Fingers (particularly the Spanish edition!) and the until-recently-banned Beggars Banquet, Stones songs have always come both lovingly and luridly packaged inside the most quintessential photos, graphics and liner notes this side of The Who Sell Out. Grand Prize Winner? Without a doubt the bloody-morning-after portrait adorning the superb Between The Buttons, again starring Brian “Miss Amanda” Jones. (Runner-up: that infamous she-male sleeve covering the original “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby” single).
7. “CHARLIE IS MY DARLING”
Forget A Hard Day’s Night, Lonely Boy and even Gimme Shelter: for a true docu-style glimpse of those once-swinging Sixties, Charlie Is My Darling – produced, of course, by Andrew Oldham – boldly treads where no Arriflex had been before (ie: into an Irish hotel ballroom circa 3 A.M., where those shit-faced Glimmer Twits butcher Elvis tunes whilst sliding tumblers full of champagne back and forth across a grand piano top). Also watch the band being savagely attacked on stage, and hear Brian describe what “surrealism” means to him. hmmm… I wonder why this has still never been screened in North America?
8. THEIR INSPIRED CHOICE OF SONG MATERIAL
Nary a Stones album or concert has existed solely on the works of Jagger/Richard(s)… some dusty old (rhythm’n’) blues tune has been given the nod, and been performed in testament to, the moss upon which the band has always rolled (excepting during that Satanic Majesties detour). Hands-down Number One fave cover-tune Of All Time, however, has to be their little-heard manic mangling of “I Wanna Be Your Man” which, with all due respects to Ringo, absolutely shreds the Fabs’ version. And howzabout that Dylan cover on The Rolling Stones Stripped, huh?!! Anyways…
9. THEIR IMPECCABLE FLAIR FOR SELF-PROMOTION
From the early daze of urinating on gas stations (“we piss anywhere, maaann…”) in 1965 to their jet-setting, trend-setting string of designer drug busts in the Seventies, the Stones have always been their own best press agents. Not surprisingly either, having graduated with day-glo colours from the Andrew Oldham “As Long As They Spell The Name Right” school of PR. And long after most of his bass-playing contemporaries had retired to Britain’s loftier cricket estates and dry-out clinics, the oldest Stone was still taunting ires by marrying every schoolgirl-slash-model within reach. I miss Bill Wyman.
10. LEWIS BRIAN HOPKIN JONES, 1942 – 1969