It was 50 years ago today, July 12, 1962, that the Rolling Stones performed their first gig at the Marquee Club in London. The Stones were formed in April of 1962. I was born a month later, making us contemporaries of a kind. I find that the older I get the more I appreciate them in ways unmatched by any other performers of popular music, with the possible exception of James Brown. When I was younger, the Stones were never my favorite band but they were always there, and now, oddly, they're there more than ever as I become increasingly fascinated by their music, legacy, and longevity. If I have a favorite band now, it is certainly The Rolling Stones. I know it's only rock and roll- but I like it.
The Rolling Stones, July 11, 2012. Photo by Rankin.
My recent deep interest in the group began by reading Keith Richards' autobiography Life, and since the book's sold more than a million copies, I doubt I'm the only one. For me, the best parts about Richards' book aren't about his feelings about Mick Jagger, his relationship with Anita Pallenberg or his bouts with drugs. It's when he writes about the music that the book really comes alive: how he adopted five-string tuning to get his unique sound; recording acoustic guitars through the tiny amps of cassette decks in order to get something just right; his approach to how rock should sound; and how his musical influences have manifested themselves within the music of the Stones. It's fascinating reading and has prompted me to go back time and again to listen to the music, hearing it differently now. I also appreciate Jagger's lyrics much more now than I did when I was a kid.
Richards once said something along the lines of "Nobody complains about Muddy Waters still being out there touring- why do they criticize us?" And yet there's the rub- Muddy Waters performed until he died in 1983, at least 25 years after his most influential work. The most recent album by the Stones, 2005's A Bigger Bang, was no embarrassment to their legacy and is a strong enough album that had it been released in the 80's, would have resulted once again in the press claiming "a long overdue return to form" (which some indeed did).
Did I need to hear it? No, of course not. But it did present a recent chapter in the continual evolution of a group of extremely talented, knowledgeable musicians who had been performing together at that time for over forty years. And that creative longevity interests me. While a similar case can be made for the likes of Paul Simon, Paul McCartney and a handful of others, what can I say? They just don't rock me the way the Stones do. Nothing they've ever written has held a life-long hold on me like "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" and "Midnight Rambler" have managed to do. If I never heard either Paul's music again I doubt I would notice- but I would with the Stones.
Anyway, they certainly don't need me to justify their legacy. The music speaks for itself. I'm just fascinated by how well it's held up. So to mark their anniversary, I'm going to be posting thoughts on their 29 studio and 10 live albums over the next few months, starting in chronological order with the first releases. The early albums which have US and UK versions will be combined. Links to the tracks and albums at MOG will be included in each post. If I haven't exorcised the bug by then, maybe I'll include the films. Compilations (there are 30 so far) will be left out. For the record, the first album of theirs I bought was Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!- and yes, I still have it.
And yes, I do plan on being at Glastonbury next year for their final gig- which will be thirty five years after I saw them for the first time in 1978. Until then, let it rock- while it would be difficult to choose a very favorite song, this is certainly one of the contenders: