Trying To Get To You

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The 60 Greatest Rolling Stones Songs Of All Time (#50-#41)

And round two begins...

50. “Not Fade Away” (1964, from
England's Newest Hitmakers)

Jovan Mrvos writes:

It’s April 1964 and the location is Chicago, Illinois. I’m 15 years old and a sophomore at a large all boys high school. I’m working at a fancy grocery store on the North side. Life is hell. My parents are all up inside of me. I’m stone cold girl crazy going to school with 5000 other Neanderthals. I’m drinking Budweiser and Canadian Club but looking for reefer whenever I can. I’m confused and starting to get early stages of being dazed.

Top Forty radio rules the fetid air waves and WLS is the king with their Silver Dollar Survey and at number 26 (up from 33) after four weeks are England’s newest hit makers, (ha!) with their rambunctious version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away.” And it has got me hooked lined and sinkered. I was just a tad bit too young for the original (more my older brother’s thing) but was set up perfectly for this.

Part of my (pre-New York Dolls) “personality crisis” was that I never quite fit in anywhere in my world at the time. My ‘hood was rock solid working class borderline “greaser” culture-racist at heart and intolerant at soul but I loved the gritty bottom of blues based music that was starting to leak out of the UK. Sure, I loved The Beatles harmonies, but it was their Chuck Berry shit that made me nuts and when the Stones popped, I had my identity. I was no mod; I was a rocker…not some amped up Teddy Boy but a long haired misfit just trying to get laid or loved, whichever came first.

Back to “Treasure Island” (the grocery store that I was working in and stealing from). When the store would close at night- we would have to mop the floors and re-stock and would change the station from wall-to-wall MUZAK to 89AM and run goods out the back door to pick up on the way home. It was there that I first heard the sounds that simply would change me forever…”I’m gonna tell ya how it’s gonna be…you’re gonna give your love to me…I’m gonna love you night and day… well love is real and not fade away…” Crazy ass harmonica and that gone daddy gone Bo Diddley beat…Game Over.

Thus began a lifelong relationship with the Stones, one that like any other has had its ups and downs, but has sustained for 40+ years. And, as a side bar, came to full fruition when in 1989 I was The Stones A&R person at Columbia for their Steel Wheels LP and did about a dozen dates with them on the tour. Highlight (among many) was being up at Quad Studios with Michael Brauer remixing the first single ("Mixed Emotions") when Mick came up with a leggy Italian by the name of Carla Bruni but, that, my friends, is a story for another day.

“Your love for me has got to be real
For you to know just how I feel
Love is real and not fade away
Well love is real and not fade away”

49. “Bitch” (1971, from Sticky Fingers)

I’ve always relished how unsentimental the Stones can be about love, and on this track, they depict love as both an agent of disorientation and the ultimate distraction. A bitch, indeed. The riff is like a ’65 black GTO with the pedal floored, driving at 100 mph at night down a dark two-lane road, and between the guitars and the horns, it’s a perfect three minute ride. Only Mick Jagger could write and sing a bad metal/S&M lyric like, “When you call my name/I salivate like a Pavlov dog” and make it sound just right.

48. “Before They Make Me Run” (1978, from Some Girls)

Keith Richards isn’t the coolest man in rock n’ roll; he isn’t even the coolest member of the Rolling Stones. (That honor goes to Charlie Watts.) But to many, he is rock’s greatest outlaw, and this is his greatest anthem. If Frank Sinatra had been a rock and roller, he would have sung this song. Think of it as Keith’s “My Way.”

47. “19th Nervous Breakdown” (single release, 1966)

Right from the start, The Rolling Stones projected a bohemian decadence that made them very attractive to the children of the upper class and won them entry into that world. Jagger soaked it all in, and in “19th Nervous Breakdown,” he depicted the world of the idle rich; the Edie Sedgewicks of the world - beautiful, spoiled and doomed, and he lacerated them. He must have known that his put downs would only make him more attractive to them.

46. “It’s Only Rock And Roll” (1974, from It’s Only Rock And Roll)

Chuck Berry is the Louis Armstrong of rock n’ roll, and the Rolling Stones are his greatest progeny. In the midst of their mid-70’s nadir, one of the relatively few highlights was this updated and mutated version of Berry’s “Little Queenie.” Of particular note is the ridiculous video, with the band in sailor suits, overwhelmed by of all things, bubbles.

45. “The Last Time” (single release 1965, from Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) released 1966)

This one is thanks to early manager Andrew Loog-Oldham, who, knowing that there were a limited amount of great R&B songs that the band could cover, locked up reluctant songwriters Mick and Keith in a room until they came with something that they could “take to the boys without being embarrassed.” It’s got one of Keith’s great early riffs, which as writer Dave Marsh later noted, seemed to compensate for the band’s lack of a horn section. The song also helped to establish the Jagger persona – tough and callow – and he sounded far more convincing singing this then more than a few of their beloved R&B numbers. And while they didn’t know it at the time, “The Last Time” served as one of the first nails in Brian Jones’ coffin: Once Jagger/Richards had their writing, the terminally insecure former leader of the band was forever on the outside looking in, getting the Mick and Keith freeze out.

44. “Stray Cat Blues” (1968, from Beggars Banquet)

“Would you let your daughter date a Rolling Stone,” asked a tabloid in the mid-60’s, as Andrew Oldham positioned the band in the media to be the anti-Beatles. Perhaps at first it was only imaging, but the band soon learned to live into it, and with tracks like this one, where Mick proposes a threesome with a 15-year old girl and her friend, it’s easy to understand why they were both revered and reviled as objects of both fantasy and worrisome reality. Perhaps Mick can be dismissed as joking on this, but everything here probably happened in reality, and the snarling guitars and the sinewy bass mean nothing but some very nasty business.

43. “Street Fighting Man” (1968, from Beggars Banquet)

Recorded in the Spring of 1968, when the world seemed to be unraveling (Paris student riots, Prague Spring, the murders of MLK and RFK), the band took all the events in, heard the youthful call for revolution, and viewed it far more skeptically than any of their peers – which had them be wiser than any of them. “Think the time is right for Paris revolution/But where I live the game to play is compromise solution,” sang Mick Jagger, former student at the London School of Economics, his cynicism serving him very, very well.

42. “Shattered” (1978, from Some Girls)
New York City in the late 70’s was a gritty and grimy mess, and Some Girls was the perfect match for that version it – dirty, tough and pornographically sexual. For a certain kind of person, New York City in that era was the greatest adult playground in the world – the same kind of person who didn’t just love the Stones, but lived them, too.

41. “Little T&A” (1981, from Tattoo You)

“Tits and ass with soul,” sings a very much in love Keith Richards, and it’s a line that has always served as a dividing line for me. If you’re offended by it, we probably shouldn’t meet for lunch. If you love it, we might want to talk about getting married.


allan said...

"Think the time is right for Paris revolution"

Are you sure? I have thought -- for nearly 30 years -- that is is "palace revolution".

(Also awaiting #s 1-10)

Jim Lamberson said...

I knew Jovan back in the day.....he paid it forward and turned my head around and brought me together with music that changed my life. Good man, a colorful and articulate immensely enjoyable friend he was. Great to see his words here. He has many a story for any day.....

Anonymous said...

Great writing Jovan. Sending love in music SJ xxx