You shouldn’t take it so hard.

Remember getting LPs for Christmas?

It seems so long ago that those slim, square packages — usually stood off to the side, so as not to get crushed or bent by some other present — used to show up under the tree.

I realized today it’s been 25 years since I got one particular LP for Christmas.

I’m pretty sure I knew what it was going to be before I ripped it open. But I was happy to get it anyway.

Talk Is Cheap
Merry Christmas, 1988.

Keith Richards’ first solo album, Talk Is Cheap, came out in October of 1988.

Its vitality and variety quickly earned raves from all kinds of media outlets, which proclaimed it the best Stones-related album since Tattoo You — or, by some reckonings, Some Girls.

It was greeted as a reassuring sign that somebody in the Stones’ orbit still had the mojo, following a string of disappointing Stones-related releases in the previous five years. (Think Dirty Work, Undercover, She’s The Boss and Primitive Cool.)

I was 15 at the time and already a hardcore Stones fan, tuning in reverently to “Saturday Night Live” that fall to watch Keef honk n’ scratch his way through several of the album’s songs.

I was more than glad to buy into the hype at the time. I hailed Talk Is Cheap as proof of Keith Richards’ inherent rock’n’roll godliness — as well as tacit proof that the Stones would steamroll everybody with their sheer awesomeness, if that prancing poove Mick Jagger would only let Keith run the show.

Once I remembered its anniversary, I decided to take Talk Is Cheap out for its first spin in a long time, to see if it measured up to my memories of it, and to 1988’s praise.

My first thought, on seeing the cover again, was: “Jesus, he looks so young!” — which is a hilarious thing to think, given how trashed we all thought Keef looked in 1988.

(The quarter-century since Talk Is Cheap has not treated Doris and Bert’s boy gently. Course, he hasn’t treated it gently either.)

I’m pleased to report that Side 1 of the record is still a delight — six songs that span just about everything good about Keith Richards. There’s a little Chuck Berry, a little funk, a little soul, and a bunch of warm n’ crunchy Stones-style rock.

“Make No Mistake,” an intimate soul duet with Sarah Dash, was always a hidden treasure of Side 1 for me. Keith sings it in a terrific lower-register whisper-growl, and shows he knows more about singing than he usually gets credit for.

I hadn’t heard any Al Green in 1988, so I didn’t recognize how closely the song mimics the classic Hi Records/Memphis soul sound, with its thumpy drum and percussion underpinning. (Memphis soul supremo Willie Mitchell arranged the horns.)

Even though I now know what style Keef was copping, I still think “Make No Mistake” is a highlight. I love the changes, and Keith’s understated delivery, and the slow burn of the music, and the way the protagonists gradually give up on trying to hide their attraction.

Side 1’s closer, “You Don’t Move Me,” is famously shot through with Keith’s then-current enmity for Jagger, which was a trip back in time for me as well.

The Stones are pretty much a nostalgia act now, and I don’t imagine it matters to anybody whether Mick and Keef are getting along or not.

It felt weird and distant to imagine that people used to care about that, or that millions of music fans used to hold some sort of anticipation about whether the Stones would ever get back together.

(Given the music the Stones have made since the late ’80s, those millions of fans need not have cared so deeply. With one or two possible exceptions — “Almost Hear You Sigh” comes to mind — the reunited Glimmer Twins haven’t produced that much in the way of essential listening.)

I was never as attached to Side 2 as I was to Side 1. And, listening through 2013 ears, I’m forced to admit there’s a reason for that.

The songs on Side 2 (all by Richards and Steve Jordan) are jammier, less fully formed, and less driven by songcraft than the tunes on Side 1.

And they don’t wear as well. “Rockawhile” and “Locked Away” verge on monotonous, seeming much longer than their actual running times.

And album closer “It Means A Lot” consists of five minutes of Richards’ spiky, spanky Fender Telecaster vamping over (for the most part) a single chord.

For Richards aficionados, it’s a tasty treat to listen to his tone and licks as he stretches out. But there’s just not much underneath, as far as the bone structure of a song goes.

In my memory, the pleasures of Side 1 have always outweighed the way Side 2 runs out of steam.

(Maybe it’s a tribute to the genius of effective song sequencing: Knock everyone out on Side 1, and they’ll be so buzzed that they give you a pass on Side 2. Or maybe it says something about the weaknesses of other Eighties Stones albums that even a great half-album seems like something to rave about.)

I’m still willing to grant Talk Is Cheap a generous evaluation, anyway.

When I call it a “great half-album,” I emphasize the great rather than the half-album.

And, well, it’s served me better than anything else I can think of that I found under the tree on Dec. 25, 1988.

The sound of strangers sending nothing to my mind.

(Edit: I’ve been told Thursday morning the lede of the blog post in question is “This may be the last time,” not “This could be.” I’m not sure it hasn’t been changed since I posted this; and either way, it’s still a cliche.)

Few things make me quite as furious as lazy or thoughtless writing.

And one or two of the folks at my local media outlets (not all of ’em, mind, just one or two) are champions in that department.

Like the music writer at one of my local papers, who led his blog entry about the upcoming Rolling Stones mini-tour thusly:

This could be the last time.”

If you’ll excuse me a moment, I feel my skin turning green and the buttons popping off my shirt …


… whew. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

In fairness, my local inkslinger is not the only professional writer to go with the easy cliche.

A Google search turned up at least a half-dozen examples from the past 24 hours, from such major media outlets as the Associated Press and the Newark Star-Ledger.

And really, it’s not the fault of today’s writers that the cliche about “The Last Time” got flogged to death by credulous writers covering the ’81 tour, or the ’89 tour, or all the tours thereafter. In fact, this is the first generation of writers that is actually justified in using it.

Unfortunately, their lazy forebears ruined it but good. The well is dry; the cliche has been exhausted; but unimaginative or deadline-harried writers just can’t seem to let it go and find something fresh.

People spend a lot of time discussing the decline of traditional media. None of the media scholars will ever study “The Last Time,” but I’d suggest it as a microcosm of a broader slackness and predictability that is one reason for the decline.

(It’s the same kind of predictability that, a few days before Christmas each year, always seems to lead to a story where the reporter goes to the post office and talks to people standing in line. A few years ago, both local papers not only ran their own versions of that story on the same day, but did so under similar headlines about “mailing it in.” People have drowned in less irony than that.)

When we know what we’re gonna get fed, sooner or later we don’t have to check in for it any more. Predictability equals slow death, no matter how much America seems to love the obvious sometimes.

And in that one blog post – in that single line, “This could be the last time” – is a reason why Keith Richards might outlive the American newspaper.

A stop in Excelsior.

Blame my man Jim Bartlett for this post; I had forgotten a brainwave I had until he reminded me the other day.

He’s been reading what sounds like an interesting book about Eric Clapton and the rise of British blues in the Sixties. And the other day he wrote a post about Cream’s 1968 U.S. tour, a grueling affair that brought the future icons of Limey blues-rock to such obscure places as Beloit, Wisconsin; Wallingford, Connecticut; and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Tour itineraries are fascinating to me (JB writes) —where bands went, who they played with along the way, what happened to them while they were on the road.

I would second that. And I find tour itineraries from the Fifties and Sixties particularly interesting, because they capture the unusual places rock bands used to play before the music became truly big business.

There appears to have been a point — I’ll arbitrarily set it at maybe 1972 or ’73 — when the rules and economics of the arena-rock business solidified.

If you were a megastar like Zeppelin or the Stones, you played Madison Square Garden, the L.A. Forum, the Philadelphia Spectrum and similar venues.

If you were big but not quite so big, you mostly worked a circuit of less prestigious hockey rinks — the New Haven Coliseum, the Hartford Civic Center, and a lengthy list of places whose names interchangeably jumbled the words “War,” “Veterans,” “Memorial,” “Arena,” “Coliseum” and “Center.”

But before then, a tour itinerary was more likely to be a mix of whatever ballrooms, clubs and theaters were in the mood to accept live rock n’ roll crowds at that particular point in time.

When the Rolling Stones announced their 50th anniversary shows in Newark and London, I had an idea to do a little research and write a list of 10 Places You Wouldn’t Guess the Rolling Stones Ever Played. I figured I’d go back to the early days and look up some of the places that made do as rock n’ roll venues before the music grew into Madison Square Garden.

The list ended up at five instead of 10. Like the Beatles, the Stones got big enough early enough to play good-sized venues.

Still, here’s a tour itinerary that brings back the good ol’ days of stuffing four or five long-haired English lads in a station wagon and seeing who would book them:

1. Excelsior Amusement Park, Excelsior, Minnesota (June 12, 1964) — Rock music and amusement parks have a long, rich history, from “Palisades Park,” to KISS and the Phantom of the Park, to Milli Vanilli‘s fateful gig at the Lake Compounce amusement park in Connecticut.

Yes, it only makes sense that music should go where the kids are. Still, I bet there are people whose grandkids refuse to believe they once saw Mick and Keef play at an amusement park 20 miles outside Minneapolis.

2. Worcester Memorial Auditorium, Worcester, Massachusetts (April 30, 1965) — The Stones did not play Boston proper until November 1965. I’m guessing this obscure 3,500-seat civic hall was chosen as a stopgap alternative to Boston Garden and other indoor venues (such as college gyms) that may have made themselves unavailable to the band. In a measure of its significance and esteem in its community, the building is now used to store state trial court records.

3. Manning Bowl, Lynn, Massachusetts (June 24, 1966) — Another attempt to book a Boston-area concert without having to deal with the Gahden or the civic fathers, I’m guessing.  A high-school football stadium in a Boston suburb known as the City of Sin, Manning Bowl’s sole other claim to fame was having hosted the home games of a former NFL team called the Boston Yanks. (The NFL of the Forties, like the Rolling Stones of the Sixties, was not the juggernaut it would later become.)

4. Lagoon Amusement Park, Salt Lake City, Utah (July 23, 1966) — What’s worse than playing an amusement park outside Minneapolis? Playing one outside Salt Lake City, two years later, after you’ve had a half-dozen Top Ten hits and gotten a taste of big halls like Maple Leaf Gardens. This venue is frequently listed as “Davis County Lagoon,” which may have been its name in the Sixties.

5. Rubber Bowl, Akron, Ohio (July 11, 1972) — I’m cheating a little bit here; the Stones were certainly not up-and-comers traveling in station wagons when they played this gig. Still, the Rubber Bowl is no one’s idea of a prestigious music venue.

Exactly one week after playing Washington, D.C.’s huge Robert F. Kennedy Stadium, the band washed up at the good-sized but thoroughly obscure Rubber Bowl, in a city I’ll bet none of the five Stones could find on a map.

The band skipped both Cincinnati and Cleveland on the ’72 tour. I like to imagine their booking agent on a long-distance phone call during tour scheduling: “No Cleveland? No Cincinnati? Bollocks. What else is there in Ohio? (pause) The Rubber Bowl? (lascivious chortle) We’ll take it!”

Fazed cookies.

Later this month, Rhino Records will release a 10-CD Joni Mitchell box set, consisting of all her studio albums from 1968 to 1979.

I can’t help but wonder who the target audience for that would be.

I mean, if you’re deep into Joni Mitchell, you probably already own those albums. (Or, like me, you have acquired most of them at some point over the years and kept the ones you liked.)

And if you’re not that deep into Joni Mitchell, a 10-CD box set is more than you’re going to spring for at one throw. You’re more likely to try one album at a time, checking out clips on YouTube or Amazon to find the ones you like the sound of best.

So, I don’t get it.

But it is not La Mitchell we are here to skewer tonight; it is the Rolling Stones.

As you have no doubt heard, the Stones plan to release one of those greatest-hits-plus-two-new-tracks compilations next month. (Rumor has it one of the two new songs is actually pretty hot. I haven’t listened to it yet.)

By my count, this will be the 12th officially released Rolling Stones hits compilation, as follows:

Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass)
Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2)
Hot Rocks 1964-1971
More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies)
Made in the Shade

Sucking in the Seventies
Rewind (1971-1984)
Singles Collection: The London Years
Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones
Forty Licks

That’s a subjective list: It could be longer, since the Stones’ former labels have released numerous repackagings of everything from big hits to obscure outtakes. I’ve only included what I believe to be the most common and best-selling hit-based compilations, based on 25-plus years of nosing around music stores.

(My count also excludes live albums, which could be construed as greatest-hits compilations by casual fans who don’t insist on the original studio versions. As a pop geek, I am not one of those people, but I do give lip service to their existence from time to time.)

By any count, that’s an arseload of repackaging — especially when contrasted with the band’s increased absence from the studio. In the past 20 years, they have released as many greatest-hits packages (three) as new studio records.

So, then: A modest proposal.

I suggest somebody put out a Stones box set — like the Mitchell box set — bringing together their dozen greatest-hits albums, all in one place.  Preferably on 200-gram vinyl, for the audiophiles in the crowd.

Nothin’ but hits, folks — some of them several times over.

Such a box set would feature “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” five times, and “Fool To Cry” just as often.  Meanwhile, the discerning Eighties chart freak could savor four recurrences of “Undercover Of The Night.”

The public has shown it will buy the hits, again and again. So why not take cynical repackaging to its furthest extent?

Hear all the hits in their classic glory, the same way they were originally selected and sequenced by some record-company geek while Mick and Keef sunned themselves in the Caribbean.

It’s like supersizing your order at McDonald’s. Just as you can have all the familiar, unchallenging fast food you can stuff down your gullet, you can have all the hits you know and love, just as many times as you can stand to hear them. (You’ll also get all those new studio tracks you just end up skipping over anyway ’cause they weren’t hits, kinda like how you open up your Big Mac to take out the pickles.)

I think there’s something to my modest proposal, and I think the Stones are just  shameless enough to make it happen.

I might have to go buy a new cartridge for my turntable. Can’t have just any old needle making sweet love to that 200-gram vinyl, after all.

The band’s on stage and it’s one of those nights.

Further thoughts inspired by the recent 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones’ first gig.

When you’re the World’s Greatest Rock n’ Roll Band, people are eager — perhaps way too eager — to roll tape every time you start playing.

And when you have millions of fans worldwide, there’s money to be made from selling those tapes — no matter their level of sonic fidelity, or what kind of burping or stumbling they contain.

I went through a phase years ago where I downloaded a bunch of live recordings off the Internet. It roughly coincided with a phase when I rediscovered my love for the Rolling Stones. (The first phase is over; the second, not necessarily.)

So, click here, click there, and I downloaded a whole mess of stuff.

And at the end of this jag, when I sat down and added it up, I had no fewer than eight full CDs of the Rolling Stones rehearsing.

(Plus a ninth bonus disc of them frantically trying to get their shit together. I’ll get to that.)

Since the 50th anniversary of the first Stones gig is probably pretty close to the 50th anniversary of the first Stones rehearsal, I dug out all those CDs and listened to them again.

I thought it would be fun to write brief reviews of each one. And if you’ve gotten this far, maybe you’ll think it’s fun to read ’em:

June 1, 1975, Baton Rouge, Louisiana (2 CDs): This isn’t exactly a rehearsal; it was the first performance of the Stones’ ’75 Tour of the Americas, with a paying audience in attendance.

But the Baton Rouge shows, according to various reports, were considered warmup gigs — a chance for the band to break in new guitarist Ronnie Wood in a relatively low-pressure, out-of-the-way setting. So they were sort of public rehearsals.

I’ve heard worse documents of the ’75 tour than this one. It’s an audience recording, and the fidelity and the performance are both OK, especially if you turn it up. The band sounds like it was ready enough for the “real” gigs to come.

The set list features a few semi-rarities and period pieces, like “Luxury” and “If You Can’t Rock Me” (from the Stones’ most current studio album, It’s Only Rock n’Roll) plus two tunes with Billy Preston singing lead. They’re not must-hear by any means, but they are unique to that period.

I’d give this one a solid three stars out of five, especially if you ain’t too proud to listen to audience tapes.


1978 U.S. Tour rehearsals, Woodstock, N.Y. (2 CDs): Fast-forward to May and June 1978. Woody is now a full-time Stone, and they’re trying to get their act together once again in preparation for a tour behind the not-yet-released Some Girls album.

This recording boasts 40 songs (including a few false starts.) And its set list would make it seem like the ultimate Stones concert, ranging from old warhorses to less frequently played tunes like “Shake Your Hips” and Chuck Berry’s “Beautiful Delilah.”

The songs are rough takes at best, though; what we’re hearing here presumably took place a lot closer to the first day of rehearsals than the last.

On most of the songs, Jagger contents himself with singing a single rough verse and then dropping out of earshot, leaving Keef, Woody and the piano player (Ian McLagan?) to bounce bum chords and aborted leads off each other until they decide to break for more blow.

There is some marginal appeal in listening to the WGRn’RB blowing the dust off, I suppose.

And Keith and Woody’s marvelously grimy 1978 guitar tone is very much in evidence here. I crave that tone the same way I sometimes crave Old Bay seasoning; and while Some Girls is a better place to get my fix (for the guits, not the seasoning), this recording works too.

Two stars out of five, then.


“Saturday Night Live” rehearsals, Westchester, New York, Oct. 6, 1978: The Stones’ last live performance of 1978 was broadcast live to millions of U.S. TV viewers when the band appeared on “Saturday Night Live.”

SNL biographers Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad later wrote that the Stones peaked too early: They were a force of nature at rehearsals, but were burned out by airtime.

The CD I have (which features no fewer than six versions of “Respectable”) builds up some steam from time to time. But the fidelity is so crappy that you can’t appreciate it. Some of the songs sound like they were recorded by somebody a few floors below, while others have so much disorienting tape warp and wobble that they sound positively dubby.

Oh, yeah: There’s a version of “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” that reputedly features John Belushi singing harmony. Don’t be too impressed.

One star out of five.


August 12, 1989, Toad’s Place, New Haven, Connecticut: Having drilled in central Massachusetts for the 1989 Steel Wheels comeback tour, the Stones booked a sneak gig at a famous New Haven nightclub to test-drive some of their material before a small paying audience.

Only 11 songs on the set list — ten classics and “Sad Sad Sad,” which … well, it was 1989, and you gotta at least pay lip service to the new stuff, knumean?

As for the older stuff, it’s a little slower than it might be. But it’s the right kind of tight-but-loose, and both band and crowd sound like they’re having a good time.

Some pretty strong performances here, plus pretty good audio from what sounds like an audience recording. And Mick gets off one of the best lines of any of these CDs at the end of the show: “We’re gonna go practice some bridges. Good night!”

Three-and-a-half stars out of five, and maybe even edging up toward four.


August 29, 1989, John F. Kennedy Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2 CDs): Two nights before the proper opening of the Steel Wheels tour, the Stones set up at Philly’s decrepit JFK Stadium and ran through their set, with someone making high-quality tape off the soundboard.

Again, the tunes seem to be a little slow; maybe the presence of 90,000 screaming people was needed to give the Stones a kick in the ass. The piano player (McLagan again?) is also a little louder in the mix than he might be, with Keef and Ronnie a little undermixed.

That said, the performances are still strong. The back-to-back Eighties blast of “Undercover of the Night” and “Harlem Shuffle” in Set One sounds better than you’d think. So do the Sixties jawns in Set Two, including “Little Red Rooster,” “Paint It Black” and “2,000 Light Years From Home.”

The version of “Midnight Rambler” is especially interesting, given the prominence of the keyboard.

It doesn’t have the sheer sonic ferocity of the Get Yer Ya-Yas Out! version. (Not much does.) Instead, it sounds like the way some senior torchbearer of the blues might have interpreted the song. Less immediately hellbent, but still potent.

Three-and-a-half stars out of five.


Which brings us to the CD of the Stones trying to get their shit together — in front of paying audiences.

13 Nervous Breakdowns is a fan-compiled CD of some of the worst moments in Stones concert history. Every so often, the thin rope that binds the Stones together onstage unravels completely. And this is what it sounds like.

A few examples:

  • “She’s So Cold,” from a 1982 London show, in which Keith and Charlie Watts manage to start on opposite beats and stubbornly refuse to give in to each other.
  • “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll” from the Jersey Meadowlands in ’97, when Jagger responds to the song’s Chuck Berry-styled guitar intro by beginning to sing the wrong song (“Star Star.”)
  • “Midnight Rambler” from Seattle ’72, featuring a solid two minutes of tuning up, followed by a false start that sounds like amplifier problems.

This isn’t really something I listen to a lot. But I like the fact that someone was irreverent enough to put it together.

And it’s kinda droll to know that, despite all those hours of rehearsing over all those decades, the Stones are still loose enough to completely drop the ball from time to time.

Two-and-a-half stars out of five, for comedy value.

Encore Performances: Just another mad, mad day on the road.

This appeared on my old blog July 12, 2010. Seems appropriate to exhume it for the 50th anniversary of the first Rolling Stones gig. For what it’s worth, I did not re-check the ARSA database before re-posting this; this is based on the evidence at hand when I wrote it in 2010.

Today (July 12) is the 48th anniversary of the Rolling Stones’ first gig.
That’s worth a snort of bourbon and a couple of hundred words.

I profess to be tired of most everything labeled “classic rock.”
But I still love the Stones, one or two tunes excepted.
(I’m thinking mainly of “Satisfaction,” though I know someday I will encounter that song in a setting that makes me love it all over again.)

Throughout their career, the Stones have moved between all manner of contradictions — rich and poor; blunt and oblique; dangerous and predictable — and have adopted all kinds of musical flavorings without ever losing touch with the ragged, lusty blues pulse that defines them.
(Well, almost never.)
I find their catalog more rewarding than that of most classic-rock bands, and I do not think I will ever stop finding things to enjoy there.

It’s intriguing to me to compare the career paths of the early Stones and the early Beatles.
Lennon and McCartney (and, from early on, Harrison) spent the better part of five years slouching around Liverpool and Hamburg before becoming stars in the UK in 1962.
The Stones, in contrast, recorded their first UK single something like nine months after their first gig, and had a UK number-one album less than two years after that low-key first show.

I’d guess that the Beatles had much to do with the Stones’ quick ascent. They raised — if not created — record companies’ interest in any and all British beat bands, from the Stones to the High Numbers.
I’m also guessing that geography played a role. The Stones hailed from London, the undisputed center of Britain’s pop-music world and a great place to be discovered; while the Beatles came from Liverpool, a provincial city with about as much pop-culture clout as, say, Buffalo.

Our man Wisconsin JB wrote a post about the extent of the Beatles’ popularity before Beatlemania — checking the ARSA airplay charts to see what U.S. stations were spinning Beatles records before the avalanche of January and February 1964.
I thought that might be interesting to do for the Stones.

The Stones’ first foothold in America — or, at least, the earliest hieroglyph to be found on the walls of the ARSA cave — comes from Endicott, N.Y., where the “Not Fade Away” single showed up as a pick hit on Top 40 station WENE-AM the week of March 28, 1964.
(Where’s that, you say? Endicott is a suburb of Binghamton. Where’s that, you say? Look it up.)

Small beer, perhaps, in a survey where Limey groups the Beatles, the Searchers and the Swingin’ Blue Jeans were all in the Top 10; but a start, nonetheless.
And I’ll tell you what — the Beatles would have killed to get American airplay less than two years after their first gig.

According to Wiki, “Not Fade Away” would top out nationally at No. 48 in the Stones’ hands.
The ARSA surveys for the song show it achieving a decent degree of success in markets across the country between the first week of April and the first week of August, and even cracking the Top 20 on stations in Miami and Chicago.
(This was likely helped by the Stones’ first, brief U.S. tour in June.)

By the first week of August ’64, the Stones would have more tunes on American airwaves:
Jagger and Richards’ tentative first single A-side, “Tell Me,” would crack the Top 20 at stations in Detroit, Hartford, Milwaukee and faithful Endicott.
And “It’s All Over Now” would ascend to the lofty heights of No. 6 in Keene, New Hampshire, while also going Top 10 in Endicott.

Incidentally, an Internet search suggests that the Stones never rewarded the loyalty of the greater Binghamton area — perhaps their first foothold Stateside — by playing a gig there.
It’s not too late, blokes.

The ARSA archives also turn up one oddity: Early single “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” shows up on exactly one survey, from late July 1964 in Montgomery, Alabama.
Wonder what the people in Montgomery thought of these long-haired Anglo kids feeding them back their music.

As for the LP market, the first Stones album (the wonderfully titled “England’s Newest Hitmakers”) first shows up on an ARSA survey from Detroit/Dearborn, Michigan, the week of June 11, 1964.
That album only appears on four surveys in the ARSA archive, with the other stations hailing from New Haven, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City.
Later that fall, the “12X5” album appears on 18 surveys — including one from Endicott.

All this, of course, was a prelude to 1965, when the Stones would release three successful albums, notch their first U.S. Number One and cement their status as a smokin’ singles act.
And that, in turn, was simply a prelude to the peak of the Stones’ career — June 20, 1980, and the release of the iconic, evanescent, ethereal yet deeply human “Emotional Rescue” single.

That must be the bourbon talking.

Anyway, one more curiosity before there’s silence on my radio:
The final survey in the ARSA database for faithful ol’ WENE-AM in Endicott, N.Y., the station that loved Mick and Keef when no others did, comes from the week of Aug. 2, 1969.
The Number One that week: “Honky Tonk Women.”
Fitting, no?

Encore Performances: The gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover.

(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.