(Editor's note - At the end of this article, I have printed a letter received via the web site about this article as well as Tabitha's reply. I hope all the adulation doesn't go to her head. Now, let's get down to brass tacks as Tabitha Talks:)
Welcome to my latest column! This is number five (but who's counting?!). I'd love to report that writing about '60s music gets easier and easier, but that would be lying. I almost threw in the Martha Stewart approved, color coordinated, TBR embroidered towel after I finished the piece I did on Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs. Most girls my age would have gagged after listening to "Li'l Red Riding Hood" and "Wooly Bully" back to back, but I subjected myself to six whole albums as well as a bunch of other songs from a CD compilation (multiple times!!) and I lived to tell the tale (as seen in Misty Lane Magazine - ed.). But just because I survived didn't mean I was eager to tackle another group right away. I spent about a month listening to nothing but old records by Beck and Radiohead. At that point, I decided I had emptied my brain of residual Memphis beat bologna and was ready to take on another challenge. Garage & Beat head honcho Edwin suggested I do a piece on the Beatles (I swear that guy can't open his fool mouth without sounding like a Fab Four cheerleader!!). I talked to Bryce about that concept and he agreed with me that it was probably way over my head. When my dude (Bryce, not that relic Edwin!) brought up the Rolling Stones, I thought he was kidding. In my mind they are practically synonymous with the Beatles. After a bit of soul searching, though, I came to the conclusion that I had nothing to lose by offering a nineteen year-old newcomer's views on the so-called "greatest rock and roll band in the world" (How pretentious is that??!!). Bryce promised to help me do research and come up with a workable angle for a short piece. It's weird that Edwin and Bryce do so much of the work for these missives and yet they want me to put my name on it because I have the street cred (thanks to my dad). However, since I refuse to exploit my last name, they are totally wasting their time. The day I announce who my father was is the day I quit doing this stupid article. I don't mind a few close friends knowing that I write about '60s music, but I wouldn't want this to get out over the Internet and have every kid at school thinking I'm trying to be some hot shot star. No, I prefer to remain an anonymous teen from Beverly Hills who is going to listen to ten early Stones CDs (thank God there are no vinyl LPs involved!) and tell you what I think. Oh, by the way, don't think the monogram I mentioned above is a clue to my '60s rock star dad; I made up the "B" and the "R" as a red herring (reading all my mom's pulp mysteries has helped me add some needed spice to my writing). The first thing I did for this piece was get Bryce to give me a brief overview of the Stones. He explained that a lot of young folks were polarized in the '60s; teens that liked the Stones thought of the Beatles as simpering wimps and teens that liked the Beatles thought of the Stones as loutish copycats. Bryce also told me that the Beatles wrote the Stones' first non-blues or rock standard song and suggested that might be a good starting point. He also told me about Mick and Keith becoming the songwriters and Brian Jones being the truly creative genius. I've barely gotten started with this article and already I know more about either the Beatles or the Rolling Stones than I really wanted to. I'll relate the inside scoop, via Bryce's stories (in my own retarded words) as I see fit, but I want to stick mostly to my feelings stirred by hearing the songs (most for the first time!) and checking out the album art. I've decided against using "I Wanna Be Your Man" as the opening concept because I want to deal with the albums and that tune was only released as a single originally. (You'll excuse me if my time frames are off; I hate doing research so sue me!!). Although Bryce and Edwin gave me all kinds of good advice, I came up with the theme for this article myself. There won't be a banner headline announcing it, but after looking at all of the CD covers, I've decided to christen this piece, "The early evolution of a decidedly dreary looking bunch of British brutes." I've seen recent pictures of Mick and Keith and some of the others and time has been ferociously unkind to them. I will try not to let their grim exteriors affect my appraisals of their music. If they had looked more like David Beckham or Brad Pitt, though, I'd have a whole lot less trouble.
I was fairly impressed that the lads chose to dress in suits for the cover shot of their first long-player, England's Newest Hit Makers until Bryce told me the band was probably coerced into looking this presentable by their record label execs. The boys appear a little disheveled in the photos, but pretty clean cut for the most part, if you ask me. It's a trip to imagine that their appearance was considered remarkably wild, unkempt and outlandish at the time. There is a book called Nankering With The Stones, which Bryce read recently and suggested I read before starting this piece. He said it would give me a good idea of what the Stones were up to and how they lived when they began their recording career. I asked him to tell me some stories and he related tales of the young fellows stealing food from their elderly neighbors, taking turns sleeping with young girls they picked up at gigs and peeing on the author (their roommate at the time, who they gave the nickname of Nanker Phelge) for grins. It sounds lovely, but I think I'll pass. This earliest of the group's albums sounds a lot like a bunch of ancient blues records my dad used to worship when I was about four or five. I'm sure he still loved his "pure black soul" (as he called it) when I got older, but by the time I was going to school my mom let me listen to my own music. You better believe I distanced myself from my old man's caveman crap immediately. It's hard to explain, but it sounds okay now. (I guess it's like watching silent movies and finding well-conceived intrinsic beauty instead of just a lack of color and a general absence of technical sophistication. It's sort of phat to learn about history when you can experience it firsthand rather than just read about it from someone else's perspective. Maybe I'll take a bunch of history classes in college next year.) Most of the songs on England's Newest Hit Makers are covers. I had to go to my dad's vinyl collection to get the credits because the CD has none! It's weird that they would do so many well-known songs. Maybe they seem more common to me because I heard them so often as a kid because of my dad, but "Carol," "Not Fade Away," "Can I Get a Witness," "Walking the Dog" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You" are songs that must have already flooded the market by the time Mick and his grubby chums had their way with them. There are three songs on this album that are band originals, but one of them is attributed to Phelge, the roommate fellow who wrote the Nankering book and another is attributed to Phelge and Phil Spector (And forty years later he finally shoots someone!). They probably used the Phelge name to avoid being sued for plagiarism. "Now I've got a Witness" is an instrumental track and it sounds like zero-personality filler to me. "Little by Little" sounds like it was probably an existing blues tune they put their own lyrics to. The best song on the album is "Tell Me," which is the only one with the Jagger/Richard credit. This album isn't bad, for well-played covers of obvious blues and rock standards, but I'm looking forward to hearing the albums with more of their early original songs.
The shaggy barbarians were in pretty much the same mood for their second album. 12X5 opens with a rocking Chuck Berry song called "Around and Around," but the next tune, "Confessin' the Blues" is more indicative of where the lads' hearts were at. There are seven cover songs here, but aside from "Under the Boardwalk" and "Susie Q" they are a bit more obscure than those found on the first record. I had to do a double take when I realized the Stones didn't write, "Time is on My Side" or "It's All Over Now." Those are both songs I've strongly associated with the Rolling Stones since I was old enough to know there was a band called the Rolling Stones (That's almost thirteen years worth of misconception for me!!). The Nanker Phelge name is used for two songs, a vocal number, "Empty Heart" and an instrumental, "2120 South Michigan Avenue." They aren't bad, but they aren't really that wonderful either. I don't know how you derive such a precise address from such a nondescript and banal song, but perhaps my imagination isn't as good as theirs. Sticking with tried and true material was probably not such a bad decision if this was all they could come up with on their own at the time. The songs with the Jagger/Richards tag (yeah, Richards, not Richard. I'll have to ask Edwin or Bryce about this.) aren't much more special. I like "Good Times, Bad Times," "Congratulations" and "Grown Up Wrong" alright, but they aren't songs I remember from the oldies stations and most of them seemed to play loads of Rolling Stones songs all the time. It must have been a blow to the boys egos to get so much more action from other songwriters' material than their own, especially when the Beatles were cranking out hits faster than they could even record them. Bryce just told me an ugly story about the Stones. Maybe it helps explain why they were always regarded as ugly louts. I asked Bryce which one played the keyboards because some of the songs are so rich and warm because of the piano or organ. He explained that Ian Stewart was a member of the band until they got signed and then he was relegated to being more of a keyboard session guy (and a roadie!) because he wasn't as good looking as the others. Wow, talk about losing major cool points!! (I was hoping I'd find out there was a feel good movie moment later on, in which the guys finally saw Ian's inner beauty and asked him to be an official member, but I won't be needing a Kleenex any time soon.) It must have been especially painful for Ian when they settled on the title of this album. Hopefully, Ian was well compensated financially and enjoyed being appreciated for his musical talents behind the scenes. It might have even been nice, on some level, not having to deal with the problems associated with being famous. Of course, these are probably the same sorts of things the Stones told Ian to help him get over being jilted. I really don't think finding out about the group's dirty dealings during the second album has anything to do with it, but I prefer the earlier record.
The third album has one of the craziest titles I can imagine. It might have made a lot of sense for a while after it was released, but how relevant is the word "now" after almost forty years! It reminds me of a story from when I was eight. My dad had bought a cabin in Big Bear that we went to a lot for a while and then sort of forgot about. After about two years of neglect, we went up for a winter weekend. (I remember I was eight because it was the same year I got my first pony.) Anyway, mom found a package of fish she had forgotten to pack that was still sitting on the kitchen counter. The fish was completely dry and sort of green and there was a dry brownish stain on the counter top. It was so old it didn't even stink anymore. Dad noticed that the package still proudly proclaimed the fish was "fresh" and laughed for what seemed like hours (I think he was smoking a lot of "herb" at that point.) Another funny thing about The Rolling Stones, Now! Is that it is virtually the same as England's Newest Hit Makers and 12X5. The title would be a bit more meaningful if the band had become a surf-polka fusion unit at this stage, but no, the album contains eight covers of blues and/or rock numbers written by all the same cats that were providing hits for them and other British R&B teen acts of the day and four original songs that were calculated to blend in seamlessly. Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Willy Dixon were probably pleasantly surprised to have legions of English chaps reviving all their old material. One thing I can say for the Stones is that they had pretty good taste. I remember some of these tunes from hearing my dad blast the originals when I was a kid. That kind of lasting appeal served the Stones very well. "Down Home Girl" and "Pain in My Heart" may not have received the salutes they deserved the first time they were run up the flagpole, but they are wonderful songs and these versions are terrific. I think Mick and Keith were feeding off all the tough guy rhetoric of the songs they chose to cover. This is just speculation, mind you, but they probably made a conscious effort at some point to portray themselves as rugged fringe dwellers rather than privileged white college boys. In the aforementioned, "Down Home Girl" Mick sings about "turnip greens," "cotton fields" and "pork and beans" as if he had been raised as a slave in Alabama and actually knew about such things. At least when he and Keith started writing songs they didn't try to portray themselves as being victims of canings and lynchings and the lot. The closest they came to such mimicry is in "What a Shame" when Mick moans, " what a shame, y'all heard what I said. You might wake up in the morning and find your poor self dead." In the other originals, "Off the Hook," "Surprise, Surprise" and "Heart of Stone" the lyrics deal with frustration, indignation and degradation aimed at women in their lives, real or fantasy. It's hard to imagine that's all they absorbed from listening to so many classic blues numbers. I would rate this album marginally better than the first two, but not deserving of such a pretentious title.
Things got really weird for the next couple of albums. I have been using Bryce's CDs for listening and my dad's old vinyl for bigger pictures, some songwriting credits and comparison of details. I put on Out of Our Heads and Bryce stopped me after a few songs for some background info. He said his CD copy is the British version of the album and that the American one is different. What, did Mick manage to sound more like a weary field hand on one and more like a Cockney yob on the other?! Apparently the various releases were thrown together by the record label execs and custom-made to fit one market or another. I refuse to listen to vinyl so soon after the Sam the Sham piece (the spiral distortion hum drives me nuts!) and I have no desire to buy my own copy of the American version on CD for the other songs so I will just pretend the British version is the more important one. "Satisfaction," "Play With Fire," "The Spider and the Fly," "I'm All Right," "The Last Time" and "One More Try" might be good songs, but if they were better than the songs used on the British version, I'm sure Bryce would have gotten the American one. The American version has more band originals; seven out of twelve as opposed to four out of twelve, so the British one probably is better. That might sound cynical, but I think of it more as being educated by prior experience. If Mick and Keith had improved as songwriters at this stage that would probably translate as sounding more like Amos and Andy on downers singing about abusing women. While that might sound cute and cuddly to some adolescent males, it holds no fascination for me. This music is a little better than Sam the Sham, but not markedly so. Oh well, I've given the whole CD a couple go-rounds so here goes. "She Said Yeah" is a wild blast of adrenaline about finding a girl who is as excited about making love as the singer is. "Mercy, Mercy" is a swinging blues tune about longing for lost love. "Hitch Hike" is about loving some one so much you will do anything to get to them. Likewise, "That's How Strong My Love Is," "Good Times," "Cry to Me" and "Oh Baby (We've Got a Good Thing Going)" explore themes of cherishing and/or longing for women and are done with plenty of heartfelt soul and charming enthusiasm. The new songs the band wrote, "Gotta Get Away" and "I'm Free," on the other hand, are about breaking hearts and weaseling out of relationships. At least one new Stones penned song from this set isn't a put down of women. "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" is about the group's disdain for having to deal with guys in the record industry that weren't as cool as they were. With only four original tunes here, one of which, "Heart of Stone," was already released on an earlier album, one wonders why they didn't name this one Out of Other Peoples' Heads. This isn't a bad record, but hardly the sort of life affirming artifact that Bryce led me to believe I would be discovering.
The cover of the next album is almost identical to the last. The title, December's Children (and Everybody's) is about all that is different. The cover photo is blown up a tad and devoid of the green tint, but it's the same photo, for crying out loud! (I've always liked that phrase. My dad used it a lot too.) While I was getting acquainted with the fifth Stones album I asked Bryce about the Stones' logo for their own record label on later records. He explained that the big lips were used because Mick was known for having big lips (I wonder if J. Lo will ever come out with her own record label logo, but let's not go there!). I looked over all the CDs I had written about so far, but I couldn't figure out what Bryce was talking about. Mick's lips don't appear bigger than any of the other chaps and they certainly don't seem to be abnormally mondo-huge gigantic by any stretch (No pun intended!). Then it dawned on me; derogatory cartoon depictions of black men from that era always exaggerated the size of the lips. The band wasn't satisfied to borrow the black man's music and vocal mannerisms; they felt the need to appropriate his stereotypical physical attributes as well. It's very peculiar that they thought Americans would appreciate "Satisfaction," with its cornball take on black lingo, "I can't get no satisfaction" but figured the Brits wouldn't understand. I asked Edwin about the British reviewers' spin on the Stones' phony blackness when the albums first came out. He was a little offended that I thought he was old enough to have been sophisticated enough to pay attention to such things when the records came out, but he did tell me some interesting things he had read about the issue. According to Edwin, a lot of the critics and serious record buyers of the day thought the band was rather ridiculous. They felt there was no need to support a bunch of smarmy white schoolboys pretending to be Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters when the real deal was still touring and making exceptional records. It was sort of like all the white pop bands doing ultra-slick versions of doo-wop songs in the '50s. With this in mind, it's hard to imagine that someone like me could warm up to them all these years later, but if you separate the strength of the music and the quality of Mick's voice from all the silly and/or vulgar pretensions, the music actually sounds fairly good. Four of the songs are also on the Out of Our Heads CD. Of the eight remaining, four are covers and four are originals. "The Singer Not the Song," "Blue Turns to Grey" and "As Tears Go By" are low key ballads and don't seem so vitriolic. On "Get Off Of My Cloud," though, Mick is in rare form, mouthing off to the world in general while the band chugs along with some fired up rhythm and blues boogie. Of the four covers, "Route 66" and "I'm Moving On" are live versions. It might have to do with the whole American versus British thing, but this sure seems like an album of disparate, thrown together elements. I'm sure the fellers felt they were being pretty clever, exotic and arcane with the title, but I have no idea what would give them that idea.
I almost quit last night (not that I'm getting paid anything, mind you). Bryce has been coming over practically every evening with Rolling Stones CDs for me to listen to and write about. Last night I decided we should spend some quality time together necking while watching TV. I put on the season premier of Six Feet Under and got us some boba tea to nurse. After about five minutes, Bryce said he was bored and switched the station to a Lakers basketball game. He then tried to position me so he could kiss me while ogling the ball bouncing action on the screen. He seemed genuinely surprised when I stood up, turned the TV off and told him he had to leave. He couldn't grasp the concept that we had been doing Bryce stuff practically every evening for a month (listening to the Stones) and that I felt compelled to have a Tabitha night as a healthy change of pace. I can't believe he is simple enough to get anything from watching sports anyway. Basketball is the worse; the teams will take the ball back and forth for hours with virtually nothing going on except a lot of dribbling and tossing. When the final whistle blows (or whatever the hell happens at the end of these mindless pursuits), one team will have a hundred points and the other will have a hundred and one points and that will be deemed some sort of conclusive proof that one team is worthy of admiration and respect and the other deserving of contempt and derision. I told Bryce if the game meant more to him than I did he could leave. He said the game meant more to him than a stupid soap opera about dead people and left. I cried for a while, but decided maybe he was right on some (absurd) level and spent the rest of the evening listening to Aftermath. I guess it's not that big of a deal now, but this was a remarkable album for the Stones at the time because they wrote all the songs. The word "wrote" might be a tad strong for some of the songs that are little more than Chuck Berry tunes with different lyrics and an inverted chord progression here and there, but all are credited to Mick and Keith. The opening track, "Paint it Black" is actually quite exceptional. The lyrics are way beyond what I'd heard from the lads up to this point. They must have been reading some interesting books. I understand that guitarist Brian Jones had a lot to do with breathing most of the life into the songs with his knack for unique arrangements and his flair for playing weird instruments such as dulcimers and sitars. Forget all I said about Mick and Keith reading literature; "Stupid Girl" is about as juvenile a song as I've ever heard. "Lady Jane" is a touching balled which sounds like it could have been written in ancient times. Maybe the boys were going through a second childhood and were reliving British history in song. "Under My Thumb" is one of their more obvious examples of macho chest beating. This chart topper is followed by a number of tracks that I feel are little more than filler. "Doncha Bother Me," "Think" and "Flight 505" couldn't have taxed too many brain cells. The band seems tp have been very much obsessed with clothing and hairstyles whether they were singing about how rotten girls are, how boring guys are or how far above it all they are. Speaking of filler, the last four songs, "High and Dry," "It's Not Easy," "I am Waiting" and "Going Home" are pretty mediocre. If not for the interesting arrangements, the strength of the guest musicianship and Mick's distinctive vocals, these songs wouldn't have a whole lot in the way of lasting value. There is some subtle aura of cool that makes this a fun listen, though, even after repeated spins. I think I may finally be getting behind these homely louts a little.
I can't believe I'm over halfway done with this piece and can still tolerate more Stones music. It seems like they were finally changing for the better as time went on. I know that trend didn't last throughout their career because I've heard some of their disco dance type music and a few tracks from the latest album. Oh well, hopefully they kept things snowballing for the next four releases. That's all I care about (yeah, I'm very self centered sometimes so sue me!). I made up with Bryce, but I decided to try to finish this article without him around. It's pretty frustrating having him constantly pointing at the stereo and insisting I pay attention to this bit and that flourish and putting words in my mouth. I listened to Got Live if You Want It! with no one to color the experience and I think I got a handle on it. From what I understand, the band eventually got to the point where practically every other record they put out was a live one, but this was the first. I like the crowd noises and the rawness of the music, but most of the performances are just sort of okay at best. The band did a great job of keeping the energy level high, but probably could have used a bit more rehearsal before they played these songs in a stadium. The screaming fans don't seem to notice all the flubbed guitar notes. Go figure. There isn't a whole lot of info, but this seems to be a patchwork of live shows rather than one long set. While I was finishing up the section on Aftermath, Bryce insisted on letting me know there are a few tracks on the live record, which are studio cuts with crowd noise mixed over the top. That's pretty sneaky. I'm not an audiophile, but I believe "Fortune Teller" sounds too good to be live. But then again it doesn't sound all that clean and exciting for a studio cut either. Hmmm. Thanks to this disc, I get to hear some of the songs that were not on the British version of Out of Our Heads. "Satisfaction," "I'm All Right" and "The Last Time" are pretty good songs. These funky flawed versions wouldn't have made the best first impression, but I'd heard these on oldies stations already so it's not that big of a deal. This is an interesting concept, but I can understand why this album is not one of the group's bigger sellers. If they had given it the accurate subtitle, Crummy Versions of the Stones' Best Material Smothered in Mindless Mob Noise it might not have sold at all. I don't quite understand the urge to hear your heroes at their most inept, but bands keep making live records and the public continues to support the daffy decision. Sweet! Three more CDs and I won't have to listen to the Stones (live, in the studio or bogus live in the studio) anymore for the rest of my life! Just kidding, I like some of it okay.
Remember what I said in my first paragraph about how ugly the Stones were. Well, just one look at their mugs on the cover of Between the Buttons is all the proof I need. Even Brian Jones looks like he had been worked over by the Mafia, goofy smile or not! This is a great record. I had to listen to it four times before I felt I could do the songs any justice. I called Edwin and asked him to explain some of the instrumentation and song structures, but he is completely useless. All he had to offer was something along the lines of, "This is the pinnacle of the band's creativity and shows how much power Brian had over the others." That seems pretty obvious when you hear all the offbeat arrangements and instrumentation, but the songs were all credited to Mick and Keith. Brian didn't even get a special mention for all the extra work he put into making this record so extraordinarily peculiar and enjoyable. That has to be him playing kazoo on "Cool, calm & Collected" (Hey, don't jump to conclusions; that's a complement). I doubt if any of the others would have thought to use such an uncool instrument, and yet it works wonders for the song. Even more importantly, he had the good sense not to try to work it in on any other songs. According to Bryce and Edwin, "Let's Spend the Night Together" was considered absolutely scandalous in its day. So much so, in fact, the band supposedly had to change the lyric to "let's spend some time together" in order to play it on the Ed Sullivan show (a big deal at the time, I'm told). The whole album has an odd exotic quality about it that transcends the offbeat lyrics, purposefully ominous arrangements and unique song structures. I've played this one over and over and I'm completely enthralled with the way the songs flow from one into another. I get the impression they received such strong praise for songs like "Lady Jane" and "Paint it Black" that they embarked on a mission to create a whole album of songs that pushed the envelope in one direction or another. They succeeded on many levels and even managed to have a couple of bona fide hits with "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Ruby Tuesday." I think my dad must have played this album from time to time when I was just a baby because it didn't feel like I was hearing any of this for the first time (even the more obscure tunes), when I put the album on for what I thought of as the first time. Two of the songs, "Connection" and "Complicated" are mesmerizingly hypnotic. Almost every track conveys a sense of wonder to me. Even the more mundane songs like "Yesterday's Papers," in which women are equated with disposable objects of fleeting entertainment, have a certain aura of underlying mystery. I listened to some Snoop Dogg, to get a frame of reference, and then listened to Between the Buttons again. The Stones' classic sounds clunky, naïve, old-fashioned and trite, but it also sounds warm, intriguing and timeless. I hope the next two Stones albums are in the same vein.
I think Flowers must be some sort of collection of recent hits and leftovers rather than a new set. For starters, two of the tracks are from the Between the Buttons album and others are taken from earlier albums. Maybe this is another one of those American vs. English version situations, but I don't really think so. (I know the answer is as close as going on line, but I'm getting very weary of doing this article and I am not going to spend any extra time consulting experts or historians or pundits or anything else so sue me!) I have heard that this is the favorite album of a lot of Stones fans. That makes sense because it is mostly all tuff and no fluff (Take that all you clever reviewers and rock journos! I can come up with phrases as obnoxious and obvious as you!) so it's a no brainer. While Between the Buttons has a fairly uniform dark undercurrent, Flowers has a bouncier and breezier feel, overall. It's not the Bee Gees (I was making fun of them one day so Bryce played me some of their early stuff. It's not bad, but I will NEVER do an article on those dweebs!), but most of the music is more uplifting and toe tapping giddy than the menacing, suicide provoking bad boy blues the Stones are known for. Several of the old-timey songs the group used to exhibit their "versatility" are interspersed throughout, "Lady Jane," "Backstreet Girl" (a waltz, for goodness sake!), "Take it or Leave it" and "Sitting on a fence." Brian must have completely taken over the studio for one called "Please Go Home." It is just another thinly veiled reworking of "Bo Diddley" except for the crazy production. This one works for me somehow. I know it's just another anti-female rant backed by shoddy ripped off music, but the sonic accoutrements make it a mind-expanding experience (whatever that might mean!!) My favorite on the whole album, though, is "Mother's Little Helper." I know it is a song about drugs and the danger they represent, but I believe it was also the band's way of telling the youth of the day that they had discovered drugs themselves and were trying to be responsible with their experimentation. I guess they threw "Ride On, Baby" on the album to keep the amount of antagonism aimed at women at a reasonable (To them!) level. It's a fun song and it's full of clever lyrics, but it seems a tad unnecessarily nasty. "Sitting on a Fence," on the other hand is about looking at the past from the comfort and special perspective of one's own fence after a long and fruitful life and marveling at the beauty of having a loving wife and doting children Hah! Fooled you; it's really just another song about embracing solitary alienation because of a soured disillusionment with family life and a firm disbelief in the concept of love. It sure has a jaunty lilting melody though. Ahhh, one more stupid album to go and then I can get back to reality. I hope it doesn't take me a couple weeks to write the next paragraph; I'd certainly hate to miss "Napoleon Dynamite" on a big screen because I'm holed up listening to music that was past its prime twenty years before I was even born! This album is okay, because of all the hits, but it isn't as special as Between the Buttons.
The last album in this (admittedly nebulous) series is the cake taker (one of my dad's favorite phrases) by a long shot. I told Bryce he could start coming around again while I was listening to Their Satanic Majesties Request because I was not able to write anything right away and felt I needed some input. The first time my mom left the room for a few minutes he grabbed my boobs as he told me how much he missed me and then tried to kiss me. I pointed out that he appeared to have missed my boobs a whole lot more than he missed me and he seemed genuinely confused with my response. He pointed out that he had spent the evening with me a few weeks earlier without pawing me and I had rubbed against him as he was leaving and said something like, "What am I, chopped liver?" There is a difference, however, between giving my body attention out of love for me and just for the sake of satisfying his base instincts. He said that he only did what he did out of love for me and told me I was overreacting, but he didn't sound very sincere. It reminded me of one of the times my mom was trying to instill in me a sense of reverential awe regarding my body and the need to insist on it being treated like a sacred temple by others. Dad walked through the room and said something like, "Honey, are you nuts?! God gave women boobs so men would have something to do with their hands on dates." That one caused an argument that lasted a couple weeks. I let Bryce stay for the rest of the evening. He behaved himself and I apologized for getting upset with him when he left, but I'm starting to have doubts about the wisdom of seeing him. He is so into sports and only likes to listen to '60s music. I sometimes think his interest in me is just to have someone to try to get to this base or that with (Yeah, people still use that baseball analogy), but he can be sweet sometimes. Maybe if I quit going out with him it would be easier to quit writing this column. Who am I kidding? I actually love writing this piece and Bryce is a tremendous help. Can you say conflicted?? I think listening to this ridiculous stoner Stones album over and over has addled my mind. (Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be doing an article here, huh?) Their Satanic Majesties Request took a lot more spins than usual to digest and it's not really as appetizing as any of the others. If "Mother's Little Helper" was a hint that the band was dabbling with pot, this album was a giant neon sign screaming, "LOOK AT US!!! WE ARE WARPED BEYOND RECOGNITION ON L.S.D.!!!!" I'll bet even Brian Jones was embarrassed at how far removed from contemporary reality this one sounded if he ever sobered up long enough to listen to it with sane ears. There are a couple of cool songs, but the extreme zaniness is the only thing most folks of my generation could possibly take away from the album if they heard the whole bloody mess. There is speculation that the Stones were trying to keep up with the Joneses (Beatles), but keeping up with and copying are quite different. "Sing this All Together" is basically just "All You Need is Love" with more chaos. The sequel (sorta), "Sing this All Together (See What happens)" and "Gomper" are just "Revolution #9" type garbage with different movie snippets, tape loops, recordings of each others' bodily functions, etc. "On with the Show" is the same sort of album theme song the Beatles used for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I'm surprised they didn't just use the Beatles' SPLHCB opener and change the lyrics to:
Their satanic majesties request is here, we
hope you dig it thoroughly.
Their satanic majesties request is here, we're as high as Beatles, can't you see?
I think "She's a Rainbow" is a great song. I also like "Citadel," "2000 Man (ironically, pretty dated now!)" and "2000 Light Years From Home" okay, but they are not good enough to make this a decent album when you factor in all the art crap. I think the only thing the Stones managed to do with this record is prove they couldn't handle drugs. Edwin and Bryce both claim to enjoy this album. My dad has (had, that is, they are mine now - big whoop!) five sealed copies with the 3-D cover and a copy that was played so many times the vinyl is practically white now. I've also seen this disc on a few folks' "top ten albums of all time" lists. I think they are all either lying about liking it or want to be thought of as edgy cool so much that they force themselves to like it. Well, there you have it. I would have been much happier passing on this psychedelic meg (the opposite of gem), but at least I have a newfound respect for all my mom's anti-drug tirades. With this turkey out of the way, I am finally finished!
I turned in my article and Edwin asked me to do a wrap up paragraph. Arghhhh!!! Okay, I can spend a couple more evenings if it makes everyone happy. I like the science fiction illustration Edwin came up with for the title block and the girl on the alien planet actually does look a tad like me. I used to think Edwin might kind of like me, but not anymore. He introduced me to his girlfriend the other day. Julia is a total babe and a true sweetheart! They make a really cute couple. Maybe Bryce will be a little less jealous of me working with the Garage & Beat dude when he reads this too (I write from the heart and feel everything should be out in the open.). As far as the Rolling Stones' first ten albums are concerned, I'm glad I listened to them and might actually go back to Between the Buttons again if the mood strikes. The rest of the records have their moments and I don't dislike them, but I can't imagine why I would want to revisit them after the many hours I spent slogging through them to do this piece. It's probably unfair to judge the members of the band based on their music and the few stories I've heard about them, but I've never experienced as rotten a bunch of musicians as this group. If there has ever been a more derivative, backstabbing, repulsive, misogynistic, racially jealous, self-important bunch of stuff strutters in the music business, keep their name to your self. I don't want to even think about it!
(Editor's note - As promised, here is the letter I received and Tabitha's reply to it:)
Dear Professor Letcher:
I love Tabitha's article on the Rolling Stones.
She's a hoot. So young, but if you're a relic, I wonder what that
makes me..... anyway, I agree with much of what the young lady
says. The 'woman' sensibility has changed so since I was her age.
Back in the day when we were rockin' in NYC it was all 'for the
guys.' We dressed for you, we danced for you, we'd lie down with
you if that's what you wanted and it was never about we girls
the 'caveman' mentality alluded to regarding 60s rock. Now I'm older and know better but the guys that came up with me haven't figured it out yet. At least she's training young Bryce properly. If he doesn't behave, out the door he goes! You go girl. I assure you, I'm taking notes.
And I am, of course, madly trying to figure out just who in the hell she is.
Let's see, I'd say she's Rod Stewart's daughter Ruby but I think the age is off although all the 'comments' she's making put me in mind of him. She's too young for Kimberly and too old for Renee so Ruby would be the only one but I think Ruby is 21 or 22 already now. Hmmmm. Davy Jones' eldest daughter is named Tabitha I think, but I also think she's older--closer to 30. And Jones isn't a blues man as Stewart most definitely is. He also never did 'caveman' stuff like "Stay With Me" [worthy of Iggy Pop that one] which of course Stewart did do.
I wonder how old Richards' daughters are, though I think they live in Connecticut, no? Or are the daughters old enough to be on their own at this point? And one would assume his daughters would know a tad more about the Stones....
I can't stand it.
Okay, one problem with this 'short' piece on
Sir Mick and the lads: "Lady Jane." Tabitha m'luv, listen
to that track a few more times. I think you'll find it's not a
sweet ballad at all, rather a way to hide a new girlfriend from
a current girlfriend if you ask me. That aside, I truly enjoy
your style of writing. I feel you've had me sit down on the sofa
and offered me a glass of wine and
now we're having a lovely chat and catching up on the last couple of weeks. There's a comfortable way you have about you that keeps this reader interested. I've been known to employ it myself on occassion. So let me know if you're strictly "Edwin's Girl" or if I might talk you into a 'shorter' review or two on some other dinosaurs of my generation for my own magazine. I'll point the editors in your direction and see if they approve as well. If so, well--you're in.
Thanks for your letter. I will try to address all your comments as best I can. My sense of who I am as a woman was shaped more by my mother than by my father (thank Heavens), but my dad's wild side does show through a bit and I am not as devout as my mother is where religion is concerned (thank my lucky stars?). I don't feel I am training Bryce as much as just being painfully honest with him about the way I feel and letting him know I am strong enough to stand on my own. I let him know the relationship only works when we both are happy and healthy. That is something we should all do. Sadly, my father has been dead for several years now. I would say exactly how many, but I seriously don't want anyone to know who I am. I am a young person who is getting an education about funky old music and sharing my experience with the few folks who read this silly web zine. (Ed. - HEY!!) I know some of the people you mentioned (though some of them I could do without knowing), but refuse to talk about them because that would help some diligent types figure out my identity. I listened to "Lady Jane" a few more times and you are right. I thought Mick was always refering to the same girl. Rather than being an exception to my harsh analysis of the guys in the band, this tune fits in well with the woman hating scenario I couldn't help noticing. I guess the big question is whether the Stones were just pretending to hate women as part of their bad boy stance. I'd like to think so, but they never seemed to let on that it was an act. Who knows how many '60s guys grew up with a love 'em and leave 'em attitude (I don't know why, but I have been using a whole lot of my dad's favorite phrases lately) because they blindly worshiped the Stones' attempt at escaping their priveledged backgrounds through being ugly with women.
p.s. I would not be adverse to doing a piece for another mag, but be warned; I take forever to write about these clunky throwbacks. Edwin doesn't own me any more than Bryce, my mom or anyone else does!