Tag Archives: Mick Jagger

Rock ‘n Read: Some Girls (33 1/3)

I recently finished Cyrus Patell’s book on The Rolling Stones 1978 album SOME GIRLS.  Patell’s book is part of the 33 1/3 series, which for those of you unfamiliar, are short little books written by one author and are dedicated to one classic album.  It’s basically a long-form version of my Classic Albums Revisited posts, which I once did on this very albumThis is the third or fourth book in the series that I’ve read, though currently there are 80+ books in the series.  The 33 1/3 series covers more than just classic rock, there are rap, metal, and country albums in the series as well.

3313somegirls

The books cover the behind-the-scenes/making of-aspect of the albums in addition to providing a track-by-track analysis.  Typically the book will be constructed around a theme of some sort, and of the small sample I’ve read, include a personal story from the author’s life.  Patell’s book on Some Girls is built around the conceit that The Stones record is basically all a love-letter (of sorts) to the late 1970s version of New York City.  Most but not all of the songs, Patell points out, are in some way about New York.  It’s pretty obvious, but strangely enough I never really made that connection.

Some Girls also is structured around Patell’s childhood in New York, around the time of the album’s initial release.  The death of one of his beloved teachers, the author’s first brush with death, plays a pivotal part of the first few and last chapters of the book.  Although I did find it interesting, I almost wish Patell had just stuck to The Rolling Stones.  Had this book been a typical long format book I wouldn’t have had as much of a problem with Patell’s personal connection to the record—but Some Girls (like all the books in the series) is a very short, very compact book.  I had a similar issue with the series entry on PET SOUNDS, but unlike that book, I walked away enjoying Some Girls.

My enjoyment of Patell’s book is two fold: he provides an excellent history of the band and the band’s efforts to record SOME GIRLS while at the same time giving a great history of late 1970’s New York.  He doesn’t just tell us that “Miss You” was written as a nod to the current disco culture, he explains to us that Mick Jagger and company were hanging out the infamous Studio 54.  Then Patell proceeds to give us a brief, but informative history of the club.  Patell’s deft ability to balance band history and history-history is what makes Some Girls such an enjoyable read.

There was one minor annoyance that almost got me to stop reading the book, and that was the author’s reliance on Keith Richards memoir Life.  At the start of the book there were so many long quotes taken directly fromKeith’s book that I nearly put the book down because it seemed like I was basically re-reading Life.  Thankfully, once the author turns away from basic band history and starts discussing the album in detail these direct quotes from Life are less intrusive.  Look, I get it, Patell wasn’t able to actually talk with Keith Richards…but some of the quotes are ridiculously long, taking up damn near an entire page.  I’m glad I didn’t give up on Patell’s book because it really is a good read.

Even if, like me, you’ve read five or six books on The Rolling Stones you should still check out Some Girls.  Patell’s analysis of the songs both lyrically and musically (he gets pretty deep into chords and tuning) is worth a read. If like me you’re a big fan of SOME GIRLS you owe it to yourself to check out Patell’s book, it’s a quick but insightful read.

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Crossfire Hurricane & Becoming A Better Stones Fan

I love documentaries.  I really love them.  I don’t think I’ve seen a bad documentary, per say.  I subscribe to the theory that at the very least, a documentary will tell or show you something you didn’t know, and thus it wasn’t a complete waste of time.  Some are better than others.  The Martin Scorsese film on Bob Dylan, for example, is a damn good documentary.  Recently, I sat down and watched HBO’s Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane, which while not as good as Scorsese’s No Direction Home, was entertaining.

crossfire hurricane poster

And how could anything about the Rolling Stones not be entertaining? As far as legendary bands go, the Stones are tops when it comes to drugs, debauchery, death, and deceit.  All the makings of a compelling documentary, right?  Well Crossfire Hurricane covers all the major points in the band’s storied career, but doesn’t really dig in very deep.  Some of it felt rushed and major chapters in the band’s career are glossed over. It wasn’t until the credits started to roll (and I thought, “That’s it?”) that I saw what the problem was: the band were the producers.

So Crossfire Hurricane is really the whitewashed version of the Stones as told by the Stones. If you’re super-fan, you’re not going to necessarily gain any new insights, but the backstage/behind-the-scenes footage is worth seeing.  We see the Stones at the height of their success doing drugs and running around half (or totally) naked backstage.  It’s all very cheeky and fun.

I really wanted to recommend Crossfire Hurricane as THE Stones documentary to see…but it’s not.  The real story is what happened after the credits had rolled: the next morning, all I could think about were the tunes.  I fired up Spotify and started skipping around in the band’s massive back catalogue. And then a funny thing happened: I discovered my all-time favorite Stones song.

STICKY FINGERS, compliments of Andy Warhol.

STICKY FINGERS, compliments of Andy Warhol.

I was listening to STICKY FINGERS while doing my laundry, when I heard “Bitch.”  I’d of course heard it before, but I didn’t hear it until this week.  The cocky, self-assured Jagger vocals, the brilliant Keef guitar lick…it was your standard-issue Stones song until the horns kicked in.  Holy shit, the horns take “Bitch” from good to fantastic. It was like hearing “Satisfaction” for the first time: I was blown away.

Which got me thinking, if a great never-played-on-the-radio song like “Bitch” could hit me like a bolt of lightning—what other astoundingly great Stones songs am I missing out on? Suddenly being a more causal Stones fan doesn’t seem so cool.  There is only one course of action: I must listen to everything by the Stones to ensure that I’m not missing out on any other gems.

To be fair, “Bitch” was a B-side to “Brown Sugar” so it wasn’t cast off into complete obscurity, but with B-sides like this who knows what awesome deep-cuts I’m missing out on.  These are the problems of a true music-nerd.  There are too many great bands with too many great songs left undiscovered.  Whenever I find a blank spot on my musical map, I try to fill it in.  That a band like the Rolling Stones has so many blank spots on my map is embarrassing, to be sure.  So even though I’m pretty sure I could die a happy rock-enthusiast without hearing the entirety of the Rolling Stones 80’s output—I’m gonna listen to it all.  Just knowing the singles and key albums is good, but the odds ‘n sods/deep-cuts are what keep me going, both as a fan and as a human being.

That endless quest for my next favorite song, that’s the very essence of what DEFENDING AXL ROSE is all about.  In the coming days, weeks, and months, I’ll post more about my travels in the Stones back catalogue.

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Highly-Unscientific Rock Poll: All-Time Greatest Front-Man

Sometimes there are questions too big for one man. Sometimes, in the search for ultimate truth, we must seek the guidance of others. And then there are times when one wants to increase traffic to one’s blog by actively seeking participation of one’s small readership by stoking the fires of eternal debate…

Yes friends, it’s time to review the lastest statistical disaster I like to call my HIGHLY-UNSCIENTIFIC ROCK POLL!  It’s been a while since this poll was conducted, sorry that it took so long for me to get my act together but I had some stuff come up and I wasn’t able to devote myself to DEFENDING AXL ROSE like I should have/like to. I knew that this poll would be controversial but I didn’t know just HOW near and dear Rock Frontmen were to people’s hearts. What makes a good font-man?  He (or she) has to be charismatic in addition to being a good singer/performer.  A good front-man is like an ambassador for his/her band.  Musicians can be pretty difficult to get along with and some of the best technical players are completely unable to connect with human beings–and that’s where a front-man comes in.  Unlike just about every other part of a band, a front-man is really hard to replace  (more on that later). Anyway, I opened Pandora’s box and asked DEFENDING AXL ROSE’s followers “Who is the All-Time Greatest Front-Man?”  Here are the results:

8, 7, and 6 (no votes) Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, and Kurt Cobain:  Honestly, these were all solid choices and the fact that MICK JAGGER got ZERO votes should tell you how cut-throat this poll was.  Jagger pretty much came to define the classic rock front-man: the swagger, the bat-shit crazy dance moves, the delivery. Roger Daltrey is another excellent “classic” front-man in the same tradition as Mick Jagger.  The Who was an explosive band (literally, go ask Pete Townshend about how explosive they were–if he can hear you) and to front a band like The Who was no easy task.  More than just being a rocker, Daltrey paved the way for more theatrical front-men when The Who started doing rock operas. Kurt Cobain was the most modern front-man on the list and as such, Cobain’s role in Nirvana was much different than tossing his hair and strutting around like a rooster.  Cobain helped popularize the “tortured” front-man.  By making himself less accessible to fans, Cobain drew us all in closer.  That’s very different from Jagger’s chicken-dancing.  Still, as awesome and important as these front-men were (seriously, try to picture their respective bands without them) they got no love from my poll-takers.

3. (TIE one vote each) Axl Rose, Robert Plant, and Lemmy Kilmister: I bet you thought I voted for Axl Rose, didn’t you?  Well as much as I love and respect Axl, I didn’t vote for him.   And from the way this poll panned out, not very many of you voted for him either.  Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin’s self-proclaimed “Golden God” only got one vote as did Motorhead’s fugly metal-head Lemmy Kilmister.  Lemmy and Mick Jagger are the only two front-men on this list that I’ve actually seen in person and let me tell you–Lemmy was waaay cooler in person.  He’s ugly, loud, brash and he know it. Robert Plant’s mellowed significantly over the years, so I can understand why many people don’t hold him in as high regard, but in his hey-day he was considered a force of nature.  Guitarist Jimmy Page has spent the past 30 years trying to find someone as dynamic as Plant to front his music–and he’s come up dry.

Axl. Axl, Axl, Axl…what happened?  He’s a bit like Mick Jagger mixed with Cobain’s stand-offishness, mixed with a gallon of gasoline and asshole.  I think he’s a brillant front-man but I think he shot himself in the foot with his inability to work well with others, a trait that every good front-man needs.  A front-man fronts a band, he doesn’t just represent himself–which Axl is often guilty of doing.

2.  Ozzy Osbourne (2 votes):  The Oz Man Commeth! I recently took a long car trip and one of the things I listened to was Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, what a band that was!   Ozzy’s great because he has fantastic range both vocally and the kinds of songs he can do–scary ass Satan songs? Check.  Whistful ballads? Check.  Rockin’ anthem? Check.  The bitting the heads off stuff sure helps, too.   He’s a legend of hard rock and I was not surprised he came in second.  There’s a reason he’s got an entire FESTIVAL named after him (he married a pushy ball-buster, I kid! I kid!).  There’s a (mostly complete) Black Sabbath reunion hitting the road right now and I would love to check them out.

Before I talk about the #1 I feel that I should acknowledge that there were a few requests that I add a few font-men, specifically Thom Yorke of Radiohead fame and Bono from U2.  I didn’t add these two because frankly, I’m not a Radiohead person (nothing wrong with them) and Bono slipped my mind.  Initially I wasn’t going to do anything but ignore these requests…then I thought about it and decided that what I would do is have another poll and then have the winners of each poll battle it out.

But that was before Freddie Mercury swept this poll.

#1. Freddie Mercury (13 votes): This doesn’t really surprise me.  When the topic of font-men come up, Freddie’s name always comes up.  You want charisma? Mercury had more than enough, he was oozing charisma.  Queen’s a awesome rock band because they were so many different things: gay/straight, operatic/balls-to-the-walls rocking, playful/dead serious–but despite their duality, they were always amazing.  How badass was Freddie Mercury?  He was still writing and recording music right up to his death.  How committed to his art was Freddie Mercury? Doctors told him for years to fix his overbite and he refused, he was worried correcting his teeth would change the sound of his voice.  That’s commitment.  That’ s love.  And you know what? He did it all for you, the listener.   If I was on my deathbed, you better believe this blog would be the last thing on my mind.  Freddie just wanted to make music and he did.  He complimented his bandmates and helped make them superstars. A few years ago, Queen re-formed and tried to solider on with Paul Rodgers, a legendary front-man in his own right (he was in Free and Bad Company).  How did that go?  Not so well…it wasn’t that Rodgers was bad–he just wasn’t Freddie Mercury.  Freddie Mercury is the greatest rock front-man off all-time.

Poll Closed.

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MAD MEN’s $250,000 Beatles Sample

So this just ties into the post I did yesterday about Girl Talk’s 100%-sample-album FEED THE ANIMALS: The New York Times is reporting that the cable channel AMC paid $250,000 to air a portion of “Tomorrow Never Knows” on last Sunday’s episode of MAD MEN. It was a great moment, one that perfectly encapsulates how the times are changing and how those times are passing a certain character (no spoilers).  Though $250,000 sounds like a lot of money to most people (myself included) I actually think that it’s a pretty good deal for AMC considering The Beatles are one of the most protective bands when it comes to their catalogue.  You see, the show didn’t just air the song performed by another singer/band–the MAD MEN episode played the ACTUAL song performed by the actual BEATLES.  This is a pretty rare event, as noted by the Times article which states the song “Tomorrow Never Knows” has never been performed on television.

With all those royalties, The Beatles have it made in the shade…

It also turns out that this marks the first instance where The Beatles have allowed one of their songs to be featured on a television series (with the only exception being the ABC animated Beatles cartoon show that ran in the 1960’s, of course).  When I saw the episode on Sunday I was pretty excited that the song was used, being the huge Beatlemaniac that I am, but I didn’t stop and consider just how pricey such a cameo by the band might be.  I feel sorta bad for MAD MEN’s creator/writer Matthew Weiner, after all when doing a show set in the 1960’s it’s pretty much impossible to avoid the Fab Four.  It was only a matter of time before AMC had to pony up the big dough to feature the band.

I wonder how pissed Keith Richards/Mick Jagger are right now?

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