Late-night thoughts about the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world
Couldn’t sleep last night when I wanted to. Eli’s got an afterschool job, so he’s working late on homework and I don’t want him to be the only one in the house still awake. Thought I could work or write for a bit, but I wound up watching part of Shine a Light and I wrote the following:
It’s almost embarrassing how exciting the opening of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” still is at this late date. The greatest rock’n’roll band in the world, ladies and gentlemen, the Rolling Stones.
I’m not delusional. I realize, as I write this in 2009, that the Stones, the great Rolling Stones, haven’t released a thrilling album since Some Girls (31 years ago) and they haven’t released a good one since Tattoo You (29 years). I also realize that Mick and Keith and probably Charlie care only for themselves and their bank accounts. They’ll whore themselves out for any product and they’ll put out any piece of crap, cut any corner, to make another unnecessary buck. All evidence suggests that they’re creeps. To which I respond: So what? The sound of Keith’s guitar and Charlie’s drums and Mick’s harp is smarter, slyer, truer than anything anybody can say in words. They’re as full of life and potential as a screaming newborn. I believe that. As people, the remaining Stones stand for no one but themselves — and sometimes even that seems like too much work for them. But when that guitar and those drums lock in, even on one of the many crappy songs from the past quarter-century, that primitive genius Keith playing exactly the wrong note at exactly the right moment, it’s something to believe in.
I mean that. I’m sure I would detest the members of the Stones if I spent much time with them, but I feel as close to their music as I do with almost any person. And I do have fulfilling, intimate friendships; I’m not looking to music for something I can’t get in real life. Even when the Stones don’t believe in what they’re doing (1981-present), I do. The sound of “Street Fighting Man” or “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” or “When the Whip Comes Down”: that’s what makes life worth living. The novel I’m trying to write (i.e. the novel I should be writing this very minute) is the story of people who know that or who are afraid of what it might mean. All these people made a choice whether they were going to live normal lives or go into rock’n’roll. Decide one way and you can’t go back. The people who said “yes” to something different feel paralyzing self-doubt on an ongoing basis. They fantasize what it might be like to live like civilians, but for all their protestations they know there’s nowhere else for them, nothing else -– except for love, for some of them, sometimes -– worth bothering to believe in. When their work or their lives dip, it’s because they’ve lost their faith in those guitars and those drums. Same with Mick, Keith, and Charlie.