“I had a dream last night. I was piloting a plane. And all the passengers were drunk and insane. Lost all the treasure in an overseas war. It just goes to show you don’t get what you pay for!”
The world is still here.
So are death, taxes and The Rolling Stones.
Shortly after Eileen and I moved to Des Moines upon my appointment as Program Director of KSO Radio in 1964, a group of young investors brought a new English band into town who were heralded as a bunch of “dirty Beatles”, sporting not only “long hair”, but “street clothing”, an “insolent attitude”, “coarse language” and “rude behavior”. I found the first two allegations to be true, but the last three were nothing more than flamboyant record company press agent drivel.
Their first American release, an explosive remake of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, had not been a smash hit, but had brought them to the public eye. Standing before the microphone in only a partially-filled auditorium with easily less than several hundred in attendance, it was clear the boys were very much on the ascent given the unusually enthusiastic welcome accorded by the crowd following my words of introduction.
“Ladies and Gentleman. The Rolling Stones!!”
I found the Stones to be thoroughly engaging, although genuinely exhausted. They were disappointed in the turnout, but pleased to be playing in “The States” and were convincingly confident that better things lay ahead. They were looking forward to again spending some recording time in Chicago on their tour and were particularly excited about a return visit to Chess Records in the Windy City where Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and other Black Icons had put it in the grooves.
Judging from the title of their first million-seller which was to come out of the Chess sessions, Mick and company certainly found playing within such sacred studio walls the source of inspired “Satisfaction”.
Shortly thereafter, our two year old daughter Laurie stopped repeatedly going “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” like the Beatles and started imitating Mick Jagger’s “Come-On!” which sounded more like “Ka-Mow!” Her Irish grandmother asked me if she had been “exposed to Negroes”. Of course, with her father blasting every cut off “Aftermath” at top volume on the family “Stereo Hi-Fi” from dawn till dusk, she had — and in a particularly important way.
The Rolling Stones’ early successes and later global triumphs brought final international recognition to the primitive urban blues typified by their heroes at Chess Records, especially African-American artists such as Muddy Waters, writer of “Rollin’ Stone”, for which the band is named.
While early Rock & Roll represented an explosive fusion of “Country & Western” and “Rhythm and Blues”, both basic music forms purely American in origin; it was the English who engaged in an amazing resynthesis — elevating “black music” to a position of cultural preeminence in the world of white Rock. It was The Rolling Stones who effectively did this first and, to many and to this day, do it best.
And it’s The Rolling Stones I still find myself listening to these days on my morning walks up Stagecoach, now on an iPod cranked to 11, finding continuing inspiration from a band celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary this very month.
Their newest lyrics are as ancient as their old — eternal, primal hope springing forth — utterly irrepressible even in the worst of horrid circumstance.
National debt? Fiscal cliff? War weapons on civilian streets?
“All I hear is doom and gloom. All is darkness in my room.
Through the night — your face I see.
Baby, come on!
Baby, won’t you dance with me?”