“The only things Mick and I disagree about are the music and what we do.” – Keith Richards
As a break (addition, really) to my 2013 reading list, I read (in an afternoon) The Rolling Stones – Quote Unquote by Jon Ewing. It’s a typical rockumentary knockoff of a book. It’s full of pictures (they’re great and span the Stones’ entire career), from their earliest days up to the mid-nineties (I picked the book up in a used book shop on a whim). And the quotes are revealing:
“I owned a Vox AC-30 amplifier, which was really something in those days. It was…quite a valuable asset. So they thought, ‘Oh, really good amp; the bass player’s nothing special, but we’ll keep him so we can use the amp.’ That was the general opinion, I have since learned. You know, they are real con artists.” – Bill Wyman
“I don’t think the Stones are more popular than Shakespeare, but he’s been going longer.” – Brian Jones
“I don’t think that rock ‘n’ roll songwriters should worry about art. I don’t think it comes into it. As far as I’m concerned, Art is just short for Arthur.” – Keith Richards
“I think that rock ‘n’ roll songs are pretty ephemeral…when I’ve done one I want to write another one.” – Mick Jagger
“I’m not amazed that the band is still going, just amazed that they get anything together. That’s our claim to fame.” – Charlie Watts
Ewing tries to tell the story of the band honestly – he really does – and there are moments when he is honest about the waste of talent and time that characterizes the lives of young men who, in the words of Fitzgerald, “possess(ed) and enjoy(ed) early.” Here he describes one of the weakest Stones albums: “Emotional Rescue…was a dud. The title track was no more than Stones-by-numbers, and the single drawn from the album, ‘She’s So Cold’ was a dreary, repetitive drone.”
This is good stuff, and Ewing doesn’t get to do enough of it. One hopes he’ll get the opportunity to write a more serious book about a topic that is both near to my heart and important to cultural history – what it means to be a rock star.
But there’s one more thing to mention here. The Rock Era is now, of course, history and the rock star is now more a meme than a term of description. And it’s clear enough from the “anniversaries” that the Stones themselves have very publicly celebrated this year – and that next year every retailer in America will celebrate remembering the other “greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world” who came and conquered the American public (and made the Stones’ careers possible in a very real way) that what was once the pulse and voice of a generation is now only nostalgia.
And hellaciously great music…
XPOST: Scholars and Rogues