Saturday, June 9, 2018

Booze and Pills and Powders

The Rolling Stones : Before They Make Me Run

On June 9, 1978 The Rolling Stones released their last great album, Some Girls. This was my entry point into the entire Stones legend, followed shortly by Hot Rocks and then More Hot Rocks. Rather than leading the way, the Stones take their cues from what's happening around them : disco ( "Miss You"), punk ( "Lies") and country ( "Far Away Eyes"). The title track may have been a joke, but it went over my head and upset various groups.

If Richards was absent from his usual contributions, he showed up in first on "Before They Make Me Run", an all time favorite  often covered live by Steve Earle. 

Great album to play on your earphones as you're wandering around New York City.

From Paul Nelson writing for Rolling Stone :
 Q: Do you think the music of the Rolling Stones has an overall theme?
A: Yeah. Women. - Keith Richards

With Bob Dylan no longer bringing it all back home, Elvis Presley dead and the Beatles already harmlessly cloned in the wax-museum nostalgia of a Broadway musical, it's no wonder the Rolling Stones decided to make a serious record. Not particularly ambitious, mind you, but serious. These guys aren't dumb, and when the handwriting on the wall begins to smell like formaldehyde and that age-old claim, "the greatest rock and roll band in the world" suddenly sounds less laudatory than laughable, you'd better dredge up your leftover pride, bite the bullet and try like hell to sweat out some good music. Which is exactly what the Stones have done. Though time may not exactly be on their side, with Some Girls they've at lest managed to stop the clock for a while.

On the new album the Stones have stripped down to the archetypal sound of two or three guitars, bass and drums, and it's wonderful to hear the group blazing away again with little more than the basics to protect them. Everything's apparently been recorded as close to live as we'd want it, and the overdubbing and extra musicians have been kept to a minimum. "Respectable" takes a close look at the peculiar position of the Stones, circa 1978, and boasts lines like these: 
We're talking heroin with the President 
Yes it's a problem sir, but it can be bent... 
You're a rag trade girl, you're the queen of porn 
You're the easiest lay on the White House lawn... 

before it inexplicably begins to lose interest in itself. "When the Whip Comes Down" and "Lies" are a neat combination of white heat and old hat, while "Miss You," "Imagination" and "Shattered" are a good deal better than that. And the title track is every bit as outrageous ("Black girls just want to get fucked all night/I just don't have that much jam") as everyone says. This song may be a sexist and racist horror, but it's also terrifically funny and strangely desperate in a manner that gets under your skin and makes you care. On "Some Girls," Mick Jagger sounds like he's not only singing like Bob Dylan, but about Bob Dylan: "I'll give you a house back in Zuma Beach/And give you half of what I owe."

"Before They Make Me Run" and "Beast of Burden," Some Girls' hardest-hitting songs, are sandwiched between "Respectable" and "Shattered" on side two. It's probably presumptuous to suggest that these four tracks are about the present predicament of this stormy band, but I think they are. When Keith Richards sings, "Well after all is said and done/Gotta move while it's still fun/But let me walk before they make me run," there's no doubt he's talking about the music, his drug bust and the possible end of the road, about which he writes brilliantly ("Watch my taillights fading/There ain't a dry eye in the house..."). And when Mick Jagger implores, 
Ain't I rough enough 
Ain't I tough enough 
Ain't I rich enough 
In love enough 
Oooo, ooh please. 
 he's got to be thinking about himself and the Rolling Stones, among other things. It's too bad the answer to all his questions isn't an unqualified yes. In a better world, it should be.

From Robert Christgau writing for the Village Voice :

 The Stones' best album since Exile on Main Street is also their easiest since Let It Bleed or before. They haven't gone for a knock-down uptempto classic, a "Brown Sugar" or "Jumping Jack Flash" -- just straight rock and roll unencumbered by horn sections or Billy Preston. Even Jagger takes a relatively direct approach, and if he retains any credibility for you after six years of dicking around, there should be no agonizing over whether you like this record, no waiting for tunes to kick in. Lyrically, there are some bad moments -- especially on the title cut, which is too fucking indirect to suit me -- but in general the abrasiveness seems personal, earned, unposed, and the vulnerability more genuine than ever. Also, the band is a really good one -- especially the drummer. A

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