Anyone who knows a moderate bit about me has likely encountered my tremendous love of the Rolling Stones. It wasn’t always that way. I actually grew up on the Beatles, joyously singing Lennon-McCartney tunes in harmony with my little brother, day after day (<– see that Easter egg?). Dad had a couple of Stones albums around, but I started getting into that bluesy British sound through Cream and Stevie Winwood. The Stones were yet another name in a long list of amazing bands from the British Invasion era.
Along came Voodoo Lounge in 1994. I was 13 and living in Winnipeg, the album was being lambasted as every Stones album since Exile on Main Street seems to have as a sign of their being washed up or sold out, and the Stones were touring through town. I had to go, and did everything reasonable, and also probably whined a lot, to be able to. In the end, my mother deemed me too young and forbade me to attend although she went; I suppose the resulting chip on my shoulder might’ve been the start of a tremendous and ever-deepening musical love affair. When the Bridges to Babylon tour passed through in 1997, nothing known to humanity was going to stop me going. So I did, along with my mom (who probably felt guilty about the last time), her brother, and a friend of his; the mighty Blues Traveler opened, and the rest is for another post.
When I take a moment to realize that that was nearly 20 years ago, I’m slightly terrified by the passage of time. But I digress.
In 2008, I saw part of Shine a Light on a flight that turned out to be too short; nonetheless, Scorsese effectively delivered my jaw to the floor by way of his intimate and visually delicious treatment of a Stones’ show. Then in 2010, Life happened: Keith Richards’ gorgeous and larger-than-life (well, obviously) self-narrative/life synopsis. I devoured it as soon as I could get my greedy little hands on a copy…and what an adventure it was! Look, if I had to pick a favourite Stone it’s Charlie Watts, and it always has been. But suddenly I understood the depth of heart Keith brings to the group; the soul: Keith is the Rolling Stones. He also seems a fundamentally decent human being with deep sensitivity and a love of books, so that’s also endearing.
Life was the tipping point, and I was enamoured. There was no going back.
So, despite my tendency/aspiration to be a music history nerd, it caught be somewhat by surprise to see this CBC piece demarcating today as the 50th anniversary of the Stones’ first album release. What??! This is the storied era of Andrew Loog Oldham locking Mick and Keith into a kitchen, threatening not to release them until they had composed an original song. The story, and indeed that London era, is so vivid in my imagination and especially in my ears. Yet the Stones are well into their 70s (or nearly, in Ron Wood’s case), and somehow still vital, still cutting new ground, still defying those critics who have proclaimed them as “washed up” since 1973. Rock n’ roll never saw that coming. They’re well past what anyone might have expected to be their prime, but the Stones are still cutting new socio-cultural, if not musical, ground. So there. Happy 50th, boys.
Bonus link: YouTube link of my longtime Stones’ favourite.