(This piece first appeared on my old blog two years ago today. I have not edited it except to update the date reference.)
“Did you ever wait for the longest day of the year and then miss it?” — Daisy Buchanan, “The Great Gatsby”
Thirty-two years ago tomorrow, on the eve of the longest day of the year, the Rolling Stones released the single and album “Emotional Rescue.”
The rest of the album is useless.
But the lead single is my favorite Rolling Stones guilty pleasure, and indeed one of my five favorite Stones songs of all time, with no camp or irony at all built into the equation.
“The Great Gatsby” is probably my favorite novel of all time.
I’m not usually a lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous junkie; but lust, money and crime are always a powerful mix, and I happen to like the way F. Scott Fitzgerald rings those particular changes.
There is something indescribable, something languid, about the production of “Emotional Rescue” that reminds me of “The Great Gatsby.”
It doesn’t specifically remind me of Gatsby and Daisy per se, but it sounds like something that might have been playing in the background scenes if “The Great Gatsby” had been set in 1980.
Put it another way: Imagine Gatsby’s mansion was haunted — like the Overlook Hotel — in a way that made each generation of inhabitants come to the same sad ends.
When the 1980 Gatsby met the 1980 Daisy, and they saw flames in each other’s eyes, and the living room curtains ruffled gently in the summer breeze, “Emotional Rescue” was playing on the stereo.
(I’m trying to cast that scene in my mind as I write. Brooke Shields would have been too young for Daisy; maybe one of the Hemingway sisters?)
Perhaps it’s because Mick Jagger was part of jet-set society by 1980, but I somehow imagine this song as being informed by the milieu of the East Coast richies with whom Mick was hanging at the time.
The California cocaine cowboys of Frey and Henley are not the lead players in this song; the narrator and his desired are bluer of blood, softer around the edges, if no less devious for it.
When Mick sings “You’re just a poor girl in a rich man’s house,” I can practically smell the Givenchy and see the lush jumble of hastily discarded riding clothes tossed over the chair by the bed.
(Or, if I blur the scene a little bit, I can see a pile of lavish silk shirts so beautiful as to bring a conflicted, shallow young woman to tears.)
And really, I could see all that business about being a “knight in shining armour” riding a fine Arab charger coming out of Gatsby’s mouth.
Maybe not in those exact words … but the concept of “I will take you away in style” (with the strongly possessive undercurrent of “You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine”) seem to match pretty strongly with what Fitzgerald’s anti-hero offered his would-be lady love.
(or was Nick Carraway the anti-hero? Hmmm…)
As for the production values of “Emotional Rescue,” it’s all pillowy high-hat and silky saxophone and rubbery bass and humid electric piano.
Electric guitars are hoi polloi — nay, infra dig — in this company, like mud on the carpet or cut-off blue jeans at the country club; and you’d have to listen pretty intensely to find one anywhere before the fade.
The very rich are different from you and me.
Unlike Fitzgerald’s character, we never find out what cards Mick’s character might have up his sleeve, or what false-propped subterfuge he used to get into the big house in the Hamptons in the first place.
But, unlike “The Great Gatsby,” we get to be right there in the room when the Big Advance is made.
I bet it worked for a while, like Gatsby’s.