Line Groth, a very talented young Danish musician, told me yesterday she’s going to be performing soon on stage with The Rolling Stones, together with her wonderful choir, Vocal Line. After recovering from my jealousy attack, I congratulated her sincerely, wished her very well, and mentioned The Early Stones, circa 1964, who will always be for me The Real Stones. She had no idea what I was talking about. So for Line, for Jens (who probably does know) and for all the Vocal Line crew, this is what I mean:
The Rolling Stones are coming to town. I don’t care.
The rest of the country is prepping and priming and primping itself like a virgin bride. We live in a country widely referred to as “the so-called Zionist entity”, routinely boycotted, divested and delegitimized by True Lovers of Peace and Truth, so when a major pop band ignores the widespread call to dis-appear here, my fellow countrymen take it as an affirmation of our very existence. We prostrate ourselves as a Welcome mat and pay $200 a ticket to stand on the grass three kilometers from the stage.
When McCartney came here a couple of years ago, everyone asked me if I was going. “No,” I responded, “I’ve already seen him with his original band.” “Oh, you mean Wings??” they said, duly impressed.
When I want to see dinosaurs, I’ll go watch “Jurassic Park” or visit the Museum of Natural History. But I get it. Appearing on-stage with The Petrified Stones is about as cool a thing as can happen today. Still (he says, his chin drooping and his cane wobbling) they ain’t what they used to be.
I saw The Stones once, when I was 16, in June, 1964, on their first tour of the US. It was a rather dodgy thing to do–many Jewish mothers wouldn’t let their daughters date boys who listened to The Stones.
They were cast as Bad, a conscious promotional ploy to contrast them with The Beatles, who were Cute (or, alternately, Adorable). But even The Beatles were considered seditious by many. Johnny Argis, the first boy in my high school to grow a Beatle-styled mop top, was suspended for wearing jeans. I haven’t yet fully recovered from that outrage, even though Woodward (the building) has long been deconstructed.
The Beatles first appeared in the US on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964 (simultaneously with their first #1 US hit, ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’), rocking and rolling the entire world. In May 1964, The Stones appeared on a much less prestigious variety show, The Hollywood Palace, hosted by Dean Martin (formerly of Martin and Lewis, The Rat Pack, a successful drunk crooner). They were almost unknown, perceived by The Establishment as the even uglier side of surly teenage non-music. Martin openly mocked them from the host’s mike. It was so offensive that an orthodoxly acoustic folk singer, in the liner note poem on the back of his August 1964 album “Another Side of Bob Dylan”, wrote: “an dean martin should apologize/t the rolling stones”. Who would have thought He even listened to that kind of music?
The entire tour was in Bill Wyman’s words, “a disaster”. The Stones wouldn’t have even a minor hit song until September, with ‘Heart of Stone’ (#19). Their first US single, ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ (given to them by their buddies John and Paul) failed to make an impression on the charts, as did the subsequent ‘Tell Me’, ‘It’s All Over Now’ and ‘Time Is On My Side’ (all hits in the UK, where apparently personal hygiene was less of an issue). They actually wouldn’t have a US hit until March 1965, with a little ditty called ‘Satisfaction’. From then on, they were legitimate stars, albeit denizens of the dark side.
On the Dean Martin show they performed two songs. ‘I Just Want to Make Love To You’, a raw R&B song, was written by Willie Dixon (‘Back Door Man’, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover’, ‘Spoonful’) for Muddy Waters (I don’t want you to be no slave/I don’t want you to work all day/I don’t want you ‘cause I’m sad and blue/I just want to make love to you). In 1964, good kids didn’t listen to songs like that. Well, I did. I’ll let you draw the logical conclusions from that. (For contrast, here’s the same song forty years on.)
The other song was ‘Not Fade Away’,their first UK Top 10 hit, written by Buddy Holly in 1957 as the B side of ‘Oh, Boy’. It’s patently based on The Bo Diddley beat. Bo is one of my favorite artists, and we’re going to write about him sometime soon. I don’t know if I’ll live long enough to tell the whole story, about how Dick Taylor, who was a school friend of Mick and Keith and an early member of The Rolling Stones, formed a fine but unsuccessful group called The Pretty Things, which took its name from their signature Bo Diddley-penned song of the same name. (Bo Diddley, ‘Roadrunner’; The Pretty Things, ‘Roadrunner’) Bo, Willie, Muddy were all members of the Chess label from Chicago, together with Chuck and Howlin’. The Stones had met Bo on their very first tour (in the UK), and recorded at the Chess studios during this selfsame first visit to the US.
People like John and Paul and Mick and Keith recognize Buddy Holly as the first singer-songwriter of rock and roll. They credit him with being their inspiration for attempting to write their own songs. Buddy’s ‘Not Fade Away’ always fascinated me, especially the opening guitar riff. Even if I live long enough to tell the whole story from the previous paragraph, I doubt I’ll ever make it to understanding the rhythm of that riff. Three Oklahoma hick kids in 1957 playing a rhythm I can’t begin to figure out. I’ve asked composers to explain it to me. Heck, out of utter desperation I’ve even asked drummers to explain it to me. Nada. Well, thank goodness The Stones simplified it.
Speaking of Keith’s ability to play the Chess (and Chess-inspired) classics, here’s a wonderful clip of Chuck Berry taking Keith to school on ‘Oh, Carol’. I don’t understand how you can get your idol into the studio and then argue with him about his creation. But then, I’m not a Rolling Stone. I’m not even a stationary one.
So congratulations to Line, Jens and Vocal Line. You’re going to climb up on stage with The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the world, and I’m sure you’ll kill it. But before you do so, you should check out the original bad boys, the real thing, The (original) Rolling Stones. For me, that youth, that vitality, that saucy insouciance, that utter chutzpa, will just not fade away.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:050: The Rolling Stones, ‘Gimme Shelter’ (Kent State) 180: Tim Ries, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ (Flamenco) 188: Imogen Heap/Vocal Line, ‘Let Go’