COMMENTS:  The Stones are known as the greatest hedonistic party band of all time -which reputation they richly deserve, but it only tells one side of the story.  All that partying and carrying on left them with more to regret than most bands.  For every night of snorting, smoking and screwing everything in sight, there will eventually be a morning of reckoning.

Naturally they learned to harness the hangovers, breakups and general dissipation for artistic purposes.  They wrote a number of classic breakup songs, which constitute an under-appreciated aspect of their work.  These songs constitute some of the best work of their late prime period, that is to say the '70's.

"Ruby Tuesday" is the original model Stones breakup ballad.  It is probably the least emotionally deep of these picks.  It is a beautiful, wistful song, but it is not really heartbreak.  It is more a tribute to a free spirit than a description of suffering.  "Good-bye, Ruby Tuesday.  Who could hang a name on you?"  The acceptance comes fairly easy.  Apparently the narrator felt great affection, but not particularly great need or attachment.

The structure and presentation of the song were especially unique.  They weren't rock and roll, or blues, but some kind of stately Elizabethan English ballad, especially the verses.  By the time Brian Jones laid the recorder part on the top, you might be expecting to hear it at a Renaissance festival.  By the time they pick up the tempo for the big sing-along chorus, all her old paramours at ye olde pub have joined in to pay their respects.

One particularly good aspect of these Stones ballads is their emotional honesty.  Mick Jagger loves his role as rock music's Master Thespian, usually playing villainous roles as Satan or Jack the Ripper.  This is all well and good, but tends to encourage emotional withdrawal, and lack of commitment to his material.  "Dancing with Mr. D," for example, is just going through the motions; it's pure schtick.  Mick would come in and write those songs of broken romance, though, and they were real and straight from the heart with no sign of affectation.  That's why "Angie" was the big hit single from the album, and hardly anyone remembers "Mr. D."

"Memory Motel" just aches with pure loneliness.  After the years of partying down, the things that Mick has passed up start mattering more, things like family and a stable supportive romantic relationship through all the ups and downs.

The lack of permanence has finally started to get to him.  "You're just a memory of a love that used to mean so much to me."  He's over even being in love with her.  He doesn't miss her so much as he misses having someone who means something.  Now he's just sitting here alone.

The song is an r&b ballad.  It sounds quiet in the isolation of his motel room, but it has a good pulse and outstanding dynamics.  He builds it up, then drops it back a little and takes it home.  Credit must in significant part go to Charlie, as always, for knowing just how to finesse it.

The most distinctive aspect of the recording is in Jagger's vocal.  He works his way up past his normal range, pushing himself.  He does not end up with a gimmicky falsetto like "Emotional Rescue," though, but with the nearest effect to vulnerability he ever achieved.  This is as close as Jagger ever got to the famous high lonesome sound of Bill Monroe, though this is certainly not specifically bluegrass.  He ends up with a unique personal style for his effort.

"Wild Horses" is the deepest and most emotionally complex song of this lot.  It has alternating strands of loneliness, regret, judgement, resignation and hope.  "Faith has been broken.  Tears must be cried.  We have our freedom, but we don't have much time...Wild horses couldn't tear us apart.  Wild horses, we'll ride them someday."  Besides being nicely poetic, how many different directions does that go at once?

This song is also the most rhythmically compelling of the bunch.  The simple quiet acoustic guitar changes form an instant undertow that will drag you down into this world.  I couldn't tell you why, but these elementary chords have haunted me for years.  This is before Charlie and Bill start working their magic, and you know they do.  By the time they all work up their full head of steam for the last chorus, the whole effect is distinctly that of a sweeping epic.

It sure seems like it is describing a real relationship.  Who has broken faith in what way?  Why don't they have time?  It is enigmatic, but the melody is so quietly urgent and indelible that anyone would surely assume that this is about a real life relationship of Mick's.  I don't know, nor these decades later care who Mick was addressing.  I'll just say this is totally convincing, and if this was just a made up dramatic scenario then Mick really is the Master Thespian.  Acting!  Genius!



Rolling Stones 1964 General Images Collection, page 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12

Rolling Stones 1964 The Big Beat   2   3   4   5

HELL'S ANGELS ALTAMONT PHOTOS, PAGE 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18


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