The Rolling Stones (Final of 4 – What a Beautiful Buzz)

“Whatever they do, the Stones can only embellish a sinister reputation for miracles.” Pete Townshend in his speech inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Watching girls go passing by
It ain’t the latest thing
I’m just standing in a doorway
I’m just trying to make some sense

Out of these girls passing by
The tales they tell of men

I’m not waiting on a lady
I’m just waiting on a friend

After Sticky Fingers, the Stones reached their peak album-wise with the great Exile on Main Street. Between ’72 and ’78, they continued to tour (the decadent ’70’s) and record. Although album-wise they never quite hit the heights of Exile, some of their classic songs come from this period.

I am a total sucker for “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll (But I Like It).” Apparently the reference to ‘suicide right on the stage,’ was inspired by Bowie’s song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’ and the idea of performers such as Alice Cooper hanging themselves in concert.

And although he appears in the video, this appears to be the last thing that Mick Taylor was involved in. Stories vary as to why Taylor left. In his book, Life, Keith says, “Mick could never explain why he left. He doesn’t know why. …He didn’t want to fit in I don’t think.”

Taylor says, “I was a bit peeved about not getting credit for a couple of songs, but that wasn’t the whole reason [I left the band]. I guess I just felt like I had enough. I decided to leave and start a group with Jack Bruce (of Cream). I never really felt, and I don’t know why, but I never felt I was gonna stay with the Stones forever, even right from the beginning.”

Journeyman Ronnie Wood – who had recently joined the band as Taylor’s replacement –  collaborated on “Only Rock ‘n Roll” and plays acoustic guitar.

The Stones returned to form with 1978’s Some Girls. If I recall correctly, Keith spent a few lost years in here strung out on various drugs and was rumored to have even had his blood swapped out in Switzerland as a sort of cleansing. This was a number of years before he snorted his father’s ashes. (Really!)

“He was cremated,” Keith advises, “and I couldn’t resist grinding him up with a little bit of blow. My dad wouldn’t have cared, he didn’t give a shit. It went down pretty well, and I’m still alive.” Yes, the joke goes that we are going to have to start start thinking about what kind of world we’re going to leave behind for Keith Richards. 😀

“Miss You” was, I guess, their nod to disco which had become all the rage by then. (Count me out.) Sixteen years in, the Stones were not exactly the center of the pop universe. Let me say there are songs I like better on the album, none of them, I think, more than “Beast of Burden.” Ronnie – who couldn’t possibly have been a more appropriate replacement – pulls off a nice solo in this live version.

I’ll never be your beast of burden
So let’s go home and draw the curtains
Music on the radio
Come on baby make sweet love to me

Their last great album – from 1981 – was a disc of outtakes called Tattoo You which I believe Jagger pretty much pulled together single-handedly. Given that fact there’s certainly no “theme” to it. (Not that that was ever a concern for them). This is the album that “Start Me Up” and a nice blues called “Black Limousine” came from.

But I’m gonna post “Waiting on a Friend.” I like the song, I like the video, I like the fact that jazz legend Sonny Rollins plays the sax solo. The Greenwich Village building in the video is, for some reason, popular with rockers, also appearing on the cover of Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti.

And maybe if only to prove that the Stones aren’t just some nostalgia act, I thought I’d end this series with a song from their last studio album (2005), A Bigger Bang. It’s called “Rough Justice.” Sure it doesn’t break any new ground but what the hell. It’s still a good song. And does anybody think that they have anything left to prove after 50 years of pleasuring others – and themselves? 😀

One time you were my baby chicken
Now you’ve grown into a fox
And once upon a time I was your little rooster
Am I just one of your cocks?

I got to see the Stones a handful of times over the years in a variety of venues. They continue to tour but not on the mammoth scale they once did. Alas, can’t afford to pay a scalper 500 bucks for nosebleed seats so unless something changes that could be the last time. So to speak.

But people who are always busting the Stones’ balls about geriatric this and old-fart that? Well let’s see them get out and play like this in their seventies. This band still hits the stage like a bunch of young bloods fresh out of London, Jagger (literally) running all over the place.

He said he would not want to sing “Satisfaction” when he’s 60. As of this writing, he’s 72 and by one website’s count he’s sung it upwards of 2,000 times. Shit happens.

So anyway, that’s it for my Rolling Stones series. There’s certainly a lot more I could say but I wanted to keep this to only four posts. Given that, my apologies to the following songs:

“I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Time is On My Side,” “It’s All Over Now,” “Heart of Stone,” “Get Off My Cloud,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Paint it, Black,” “Mother’s Little Helper,” “Under My Thumb,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Play With Fire,” “Connection,” “No Expectations,” “Parachute Woman,” “Prodigal Son,” “Stray Cat Blues,” not to mention…

“Live With Me,” “Let it Bleed,” “Monkey Man,” “Sway,” “Wild Horses,” “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” “Bitch,” everything on ‘Exile’ I haven’t already posted, “Heartbreaker,” “Angie,” “Silver Train,” “Starfucker,” “Time Waits for No One,” “Factory Girl,” “Memory Motel,” “Fool to Cry,” “Some Girls,” “Respectable,” “Shattered,” “Hang Fire,” “Undercover of the Night,” “One Hit to the Body,” “Mixed Emotions,” “Rock and a Hard Place.”

If you’re looking for a good book about the Stones back in the day, check out Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones.  Booth traveled with them in the ’68-69 timeframe and so was present for the 1969 tour culminating in the Altamont fiasco.

And of course don’t forget Life, Keith’s autobiography which, oddly enough, speaks – amidst all the insanity that is the Stones –  to what a family man this rebellious rock ‘n roll outlaw really is.

Next post – A Stones-related “Song I Love” inspired by this series. 


3 thoughts on “The Rolling Stones (Final of 4 – What a Beautiful Buzz)

  1. Great post. It’s hard to single out much post-Exile for sure. Songs since seem to follow a template rather than break ground but there’s usually a stand-out or two from each album – for me “Thru and Thru” stands out.
    I’d recommend Bill Janovitz’ Rocks as a good read on the Stones too, very song-focused over mythologising.


    1. Yeah I’ve heard about the Janovitz book. There’s actually two books about Exile out there. Thanks for the reminder. Now I’ll never get back to my non-rock reading. 🙂


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