Saturday, April 05, 2008

Shine a Light

Tonight before sitting down to surf and blog I opened the fridge and realized (with horror) that I'd forgotten to buy beer today. Now, I could easily have gone down the street and bought some, but I'd already had my bath and didn't really feel like going outside. I pondered the situation for a few seconds and decided that it was time to break into the "vault." The vault is what I call my stash of selected whiskeys and such that have been given to me (mostly by students) in the years I've been in Japan. Stuff that I'm definitely too cheap to buy for myself (i.e. the good stuff). I decided to crack open a 20-year-old bottle of scotch, settle myself in, and listen to some tunes while I surfed and checked out the web. I mentioned the new REM album in the post previous to this one. Right now I'm listening, for the first time, to the new Stones album, Shine a Light.

Shine a Light is the name of Martin Scorcese's movie of the Stones in concert. Based on what I've heard from the album, I think I'd really like to see the movie...

Why do the Stones keep doing what they do? Why don't they give it up, devote themselves to playing blues, and retire gracefully? Why do they (apparently) keep insisting that they are rock stars? Well, it's like this...

Let's get one thing straight from the get-go: a shit Stones tune is still better than 99% of everything else out there, dig? I'm quite prepared to debate this logically with, or punch in the face, anyone who disagrees. Liking shit is a corollary to not liking the Stones. I've been studying this effect for years, believe me, I know. The Stones keep doing what they do because that's what they want to do, it's as simple as that. Why the fuck should they care what anyone else thinks? They smash their own records every time they go on tour. Clearly somebody likes them. As for "retiring gracefully," well, let's just say it's been a long fucking time since I've been willing to part with my hard-earned cash on a fucking Eric Clapton album. Christ on a stick, talk about shit. Say what you will about the Stones, but they still play with volume and balls. And, for anyone with ears to hear, the Stones still exert a palpable influence on rock. Listen, fucking listen, I say, to the guitar work of Keith and Ronnie over the past 20 plus years. Then listen to some of the newer young studs and tell me with a straight face and a clear conscience that, no, none of those guys ever, fucking ever, listened to a Stones album while whacking off to Penthouse (or whatever young guys whack off to these days; doh! the web, I guess!). Anyone who argues that the Stones are "irrelevant" is full of shit. And don't even get me started on Charlie...

But I digress! I'm listening to the new album with the headphones on, the volume set to "bake." The whiskey's good, and so are the Stones...


  1. Let's get one thing straight from the get-go: a shit Stones tune is still better than 99% of everything else out there, dig? I'm quite prepared to debate this logically with, or punch in the face, anyone who disagrees.

    At risk of a bloody nose, a black eye, or worse, I say: "Pish. And tosh."

    When the Stones are good, they're fabulous, no doubt about it. I still count "Midnight Rambler," "When the Whip Comes Down," and "Can't You Hear Me Knocking?" as all-time favorites, to name but three. But when the Stones bring the mediocrity, and they have a large pile of that to share, I always think, "There isn't a chance in the world this song would ever get airplay if it weren't by the Stones."


    But I do concede that, strictly speaking, you might be right, numerically. There is a lot of crap out there, compared to which even such utter dreck as "Angie," "Sister Morphine," and "Beast of Burden" might conceivably rise above.

  2. Hell yeah. I've actually been downloading a shitload of Stones lately, filling up the gaps in my collection.

    Now, should I hold down this Brendan person while you punch, or would you rather the other way around?

  3. Brendan,
    Overstating one's case is one of the joys of blogging! "Angie" and "Beast" are such popular standards that I'm surprised you used them as examples (if you want to go for the weak underbelly of my argument, you should mention the album Dirty Work--even the cover is awful!). I don't know what your beef is with "Sister Morphine" (lyrics?)...

    I think we can Brendan him off with a stern warning this time, but if he continues to debate by citing examples of good tunes, I'll get in touch.

  4. It seems I've coined a new verb form--"to Brendan (someone) off."
    I meant to say "let Brendan off."

  5. Having my name become a part of the vernacular would be a honor. Or, maybe not.

    I don't know that I can give rational explanations for why I so dislike the Stones tunes that I listed. Certainly, the lyrics of "Sister Morphine" are a small part of it. To the extent that I remember them, they always struck me as pure posing: a rich guy trying to act like he knew about life in the gutter. Just a matter of taste, though, overall -- all three of those songs irritate me.

    Don't know anything of "Dirty Work." In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever heard that title. A quick look at Wikipedia reminds me of the songs "One Hit to the Body" and "Harlem Shuffle." See my comment above concerning my conviction about songs that wouldn't get airplay if they weren't by the Stones.

  6. Oops. Meant to note how much I agreed with this:

    Overstating one's case is one of the joys of blogging!

    Indeed. And a related joy: pretending to care deeply when arguing about trivialities. I often think that for all the hand-wringing that goes on about the Web coarsening discourse, it serves as a useful outlet for flushing one's internal gripes. I can't remember the last time I had a stupid argument in meatspace.

  7. Brendan,
    I think stupid arguments are the only ones that are any fun (nothing to win or lose!). Serious arguments tend to get messy and are more like work.

    And while were on the topic (!), I will grant that the Stones likely don't know much about "life in the gutter," but would like to point out that drug references in songs (direct or indirect) were a part of 60-70s rock music, and I don't think anyone would dispute that the Stones are very familiar with drugs and addiction (so yeah, they do know what they're talking about).

    I would also like to comment on your repeated assertions regarding the Stones and "airplay," as I feel it's a matter of the utmost urgency (heh). Now, clearly the Stones are a staple of FM classic rock-type stations, but the fact is, they've never been that big on the charts (i.e. AM radio, Billboard, etc.). To my knowledge they've never had a number one song or album, the only Grammy they've ever received had to be invented just for them, etc... (I could go on...). This whole "airplay because of their name" thing is a mirage, my friend...