Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Rolling Stones

In the early 60’s when The Ed Sullivan Show was one of the main outlets for actually seeing the bands we heard on the radio, I remember seeing both The Beatles and The Stones and getting into a small competition with my brother about who was better. We both loved The Beatles, but my brother was taken aback by The Stones’ scruffy appearance. I loved it, and immediately became a Stones booster. The early singles I remember hearing-Satisfaction, Ruby Tuesday, Paint It Black, Mother’s Little Helper were just magic to my ears. And the way they looked! They weren’t perfect kewpie dolls like The Beatles, they looked like well-dressed street-toughs.

Mick Jagger and Jr. Wells-October -
70-photo by Dick Waterman

Ultra Rare 1st press mono of their 1st album
with the poster

Throughout the 1970’s, they offered up a string of incredible albums that helped create the idea of album-oriented rock. “Sticky Fingers,” “Exile on Main Street,” “It’s Only Rock N Roll,” “Goat’s Head Soup” and “Some Girls” defined the era for me as much as any albums. They also continued to be the most visually stimulating band. Seeing both “Gimme Shelter” and “Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones” in the theatre was a frequent and moving experience. I remember seeing “Ladies and Gentlemen” at a movie theatre on Evans and Monaco that later became the Rainbow Music Hall. That movie remains one of my favorite rock and roll documentaries. The band is absolutely at their peak-Mick is the master of the universe, counterbalanced by new boy Mick Taylor’s expressionless performance. While barely moving, he sprays out the most incendiary, fluid lead guitar lines you’ve ever heard. He doesn’t get the attention that many other 60’s peers get, perhaps because of his short tenure, but his playing in that movie stands up against any other lead guitar player of the era. Between them stands the greatest rock star of all time-Keith Richards. If you have never understood the appeal of Keith, I’d point you to that movie. Like some protean form of human quicksilver, he oozes around the stage, seemingly barely conscious, except for the fact that the human riff machine is the chugging engine behind every song, providing the chunky rhythm and memorable hooks to every classic, then stepping up to play the heroic leads on songs like Sympathy For The Devil or Jumpin’ Jack Flash. Even today, Keith is still the coolest. Like a modern-day pirate with a guitar instead of a scabbard, he’s on the ship-friggin’ in the riggin’ for all of us.

Live, The Stones are the only band from the 60’s that still offer a reasonable facsimile of what they once were. Their shows are still thrilling spectacles filled with surprises and songs you actually want to hear. They constantly defy expectation. They are the only band I’ll still travel to see, and when I do it’s never a disappointment, because that magic still exists. I’ve had the opportunity to meet them several times, and interestingly they are the opposite in person. Tiny, chalk-white, humble, polite and sweet they were completely disarming in their ordinary courtesy. When my wife leaned into Mick’s ear and said “I’ve loved you since the 60’s and you’re even better looking in person” he got a huge grin on his face “Thank you daaahling, that’s so kind of you.” How many times has he heard that? A billion maybe? He acted like it was the first compliment he’d ever received. Keith slouched around, his handshake like a dead fish, but he had a wink and a backslap for everybody. He knows exactly who he is-so few people can claim that.

Keith reaches nirvana At Folsom Field,
Boulder 1981
Poster from The 1965 Denver Coliseum show,
and photo from that show

Maybe that’s the real magic behind The Rolling Stones-they represent the pinnacle of rock elite, yet they still seem connected to their roots at some very primal level. They ARE the rock and roll dream. Local boys who done very, very good. Here’s some of my favorite stuff.

Paul Epstein