The Doors – TV Interview (1969)

September 23, 2008 at 11:57 pm (Music)

I don’t know what show this was taken from but this is a 10-minute interview from 1969. Jim is smoking a cigar & definitely seems stoned on something – definitely a 60s hippie vibe emanating from him.
In the interview they discuss rock & roll as a religious experience and the difference between written & spoken poetry.
What is most fascinating about this interview is that right at the end Jim completely predicts the future of music – that in five years time, music would be more electronic and that one guy would get up on stage and use nothing but electronics & tapes to play music. That all came to pass within a few short years. Think of German artists like Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk, and then of course all the synth-pop artists later on, such as Gary Numan and OMD.

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The Doors – “Touch Me” (TV – 1969)

September 23, 2008 at 11:43 pm (Music)

Taken from “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” – 1969. Is it just me or does Robbie Krieger have a black eye?

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Lenny Kravitz – “Let Love Rule” (Video – 1989)

September 23, 2008 at 11:13 pm (Lenny Kravitz, Music)

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Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77″ (1977)

September 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm (Reviews & Articles, Talking Heads)

Rolling Stone review from Issue #251 – 1977 – written by Stephen Demorest…


Talking Heads are the last of CBGB’s original Big Four to record (following Patti Smith, the Ramones and Television), and their debut is an absolute triumph. Dressing like a quartet of Young Republicans, playing courteously toned-down music and singing lyrics lauding civil servants, parents and college, Talking Heads are not even remotely punks. Rather, they are the great Ivy League hope of pop music. I can’t recall when I last heard such a vital, imaginatively tuneful album.

David Byrne’s music is refreshing, abundantly varied and fun to listen to. He takes the buoyant, post-Beatles singles format of the Sixties—brisk pacing, great hooks, crisp playing, bright production—and impulsively veers off on unexpected tangents that are challenging without becoming inaccessible.

This is the band that had its early critics talking about minimalism and, like Jonathan Richman, Talking Heads do indeed triumph by the economy of their sound. But where the ingenuous Richman is dangerously precious, there is no nonsense about Talking Heads. Byrne’s spare guitar patterns, Jerry Harrison’s modest keyboard fills, Martina Weymouth’s understated bass and Chris Frantz’ efficiently Spartan drumming convey a taut earnestness that’s bursting with energy.

“The Book I Read,” like so many of their songs, burbles with excitement, a feeling of expansion overcoming restraint. “Pulled Up” is the real champ, though, a fiercely exhilarating rush of aural amyl nitrate.

Vocally, Byrne’s live-wired personality vibrates his precise musical framework like a caged tiger rattling its bars. (That he sings in a stiff, reedy, “bad” voice, grasping for higher notes like a drowning man lunging for air, only heightens the drama.) Exploring the logic and disorientation of love, decision making, ambition and the need for selfishness, he gropes for articulation like a metaphysician having difficulty computing emotions.

Given his relatively unlyrical nature, Byrne’s burgeoning persona is not in the least tentative. “No Compassion” asserts all the impatience of Lou Reed in a bad mood, while “Psycho Killer” pulses with vehemence.

For me, the direct, crisp, jaunty Talking Heads and the abstracted, unrestrained, fiery Television stand as the Beatles and Rolling Stones of the restless, displaced Seventies. Not only is this a great album, it’s also one of the definitive records of the decade.  

Stephen Demorest

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Don DeMicheal – “Miles Davis: The Rolling Stone Interview” (1969)

September 23, 2008 at 1:05 pm (Miles Davis, Reviews & Articles)

This was published in RS on the day I was born, Dec. 13, 1969…


Jazz’s Picasso Puts It in Black and White


Miles Davis stands in relation to jazz music as Hemingway stood to the American novel, as Picasso stands to art.

What he does can change — and has changed — jazz history. His is the kind of creativity that is not limited to personal virtuosity but is based upon a conceptual capability that opens the doors to perceptions of new ways to view music.

In a music which is turbulent, constantly evolving, subject to whims and fads and exploitation, Miles has been for almost twenty years the public conscience of his art.

At the end of the Forties, he pioneered in the use of harmonies and tonalities which evolved into the “cool school.” His series of 78 rpm discs cut then for Capitol (still available and fresh sounding on a Capitol Birth of the Cool LP) are definitive.

Then jazz becomes lost in the miasma of modern classicism. It lost its balls. Miles brought it all back home with one appearance. He came on stage at the Newport Jazz Festival and he played a blues. It was so funky, so down home, so deeply grooving and swinging that the whole cool school was wiped out in less than a year. The blues was called “Walkin'” and his disc of it, on Prestige, remains a classic, one of the most influential recordings of the Fifties, as musicians all over the world abandoned the conventions and tricks of the cool to follow Miles.

Since that time, Davis has led a succession of small groups, quintets and sextets, which have set the pace in jazz. He joined with composer Gil Evans to produce a series of Columbia albums by larger units. Sketches of Spain was and is a remarkable achievement, sounding as modern as tomorrow’s news after almost a decade. With John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley and Philly Joe Jones, he made the intriguing All Blues, quotations from which you hear today in blues bands and rock groups and jazz combos.

No single personality in jazz has set style and led movement to the degree Davis has. He comes from the music of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker and began as an obvious follower of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. But like all true creators, he quickly abandoned anyone else’s mold to make his own. What Miles plays sounds easy. He does not accentuate the speed or the run or the swooping leaps and strides across intervals from the bottom to the top of the horn as the virtuoso players do. Instead Miles packs into his playing the kind of intensity that is rare in any performing artist, and even in jazz only a few have managed it.

When he plays a blues he has the searing concentration of emotion Blind Willie Johnson got in “Wreck of the Titanic.” When he plays a ballad, he sings through the horn with the eloquence of La Nina de los Pienes, Edith Piaf, Ray Charles or Nina Simone. When he finishes playing he is damp and emotionally drained from the effort. It is almost painful.

Like all great creative artists, he has big ears. He is the first major jazz artist I know of to seriously listen to Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. He was listening to Dylan before most of the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” fans ever heard of him, just as he dug flamenco and classical and all other kinds of music.

And above all he is the most honest musician I have ever met, of any kind, of any color. “Don’t ask me nuthin’ bout nuthin’, I just might tell you the truth” might have been written for Miles. But then he is so totally concerned with music, and music means so much to him, that he can be blunt and honest where others have to be more diplomatic. Miles is all music. He gives you no clues. He doesn’t tell you it’s a soprano on In a Silent Way nor does he tell you how many hours of thought and planning and rehearsing went on before the two sessions (of three hours each) in which the album was cut. The message is all in the music and the music is all that matters. Which is the way it is with a major artist in any field — the art is all there is. (RALPH J.GLEASON)


Miles Davis was leading his quintet through a roaring version of “Walkin’,” and the small bandstand at The Plugged Nickel, the Chicago jazz club, was literally rocking with the music’s heated vibrations. Miles, knees bent, shoulders hunched, horn aimed on a 45 degree angle at the floor, blew wide open into the microphone. The rhythm section wrapped itself around his solo, rising to meet him as he soared, whipping over him when he coasted. At the end of the chorus, he took horn from his lips, wiped his mouth with the back of his left hand and looked around the crowded room with a pained expression.

After what seemed an eternity — is he through or isn’t he — Miles leapt back into the fray with a ripple of notes that twisted and squirted upward with astonishing speed.

At the bar, a middle-aged patron rubbed his ears, squirming in obvious displeasure. “That’s not music to me,” he shouted over the torrential blast from the bandstand. He stabbed a forefinger at his temple. “Too much jamming it in. Too loud. They’re all good musicians but . . .”

The man really loved Miles, he was quick to add — the way he used to play six or seven years ago. Those pretty things like “My Funny Valentine.”

“I wouldn’t even come down here,” he said “except I know Mike [the club’s owner], and he lets me in free.”

Davis finished his solo, carefully placed his horn on the piano and walked toward the bar as Wayne Shorter got into a soprano saxophone solo.

The man at the bar smiled as Miles passed him. “Great, man!” he offered, but Miles kept on toward the end of the bar as if he hadn’t heard him. The diminutive trumpeter ordered a nonalcoholic drink and perched himself on a bar stool, a worried look on his face.

Miles and I had never said much to each other — and there had been more than a little animosity on his part — during the seven years I was with Down Beat magazine. Stories about Miles’ salty relations with jazz writers are legion, and, many of them, firmly based in truth. My first encounter with him was in 1960. He was in Chicago, playing a Rush Street club, I had just recently joined the Down Beat staff, and I was eager to present him with magazine’s Critic’s Poll plaque (one of dozens of awards he has won over the years).


You’re a Sad Motherfucker

Asked if it would be possible to present the plaque to him at the club, Miles’ reply was immediate and barbed: “You’re not going to plug that god-damned magazine on my bandstand. Give it to me at the bar.”

Four years ago, at The Plugged Nickel, our last encounter ended in a heated, profane argument that centered on Down Beat: the social attitudes of its owner; who do critics think they are, writing about music; if Down Beat is a music magazine, then it should publish nothing but music, no words; how he never read the magazine because it was prejudiced and why the hell did I (as editor) put Nancy Wilson’s picture on the cover of a magazine that’s supposed to be about jazz?

And so — though I left Down Beat’s employ two years ago — I approached Miles with some trepidation now. An interview had been arranged through an intermediary, but . . .

“I don’t want to talk now, man,” he said, not so much as a brush off but a plea for understanding. “I’m thinking about this.” His hand made a sweep toward the bandstand. “The music. Call me tomorrow.”

The middle-aged man started again. He’d come to hear Miles and he hadn’t heard any trumpet solos. (Miles had soloed on everything so far.) The conversation revolved back to Miles-ain’t-like-he-used-to-be. About then Davis began an acid-etched “Stella by Starlight.” He played it much as he has for the last several years — with an inner pain that touched the heart. The man at the bar finally quieted down.

A couple of days later, Davis said: “The old people come up to me and ask, ‘Why don’t you play the way you used to?’ I say to them, ‘Tell me how I used to.'”

The fans of Miles early Sixty style, despite all, have a point: the music of Miles Davis has continually evolved over the years, particularly the last few, during which it has grown out of bop and ballads into something that combines elements of rock and the avant-garde, something distinctly unique.

Yet Miles had a point, too, even if only by implication: there is a strong thread of continuity that runs through his music from the mid-Forties to today. Most would call it style; he would probably call it approach. Whatever it is, it suffuses everything he does — and he does everything his way, on his terms, whether it be playing music, conducting business, attiring himself (he has been in the advance fashion guard for at least the last twelve years) or merely talking about a wide variety of subjects, from music to boxing.

And everything he does (and some things he doesn’t) are part of the Miles Davis mystique, which has grown to legendary proportions, fed by truth, half truth, pure fabrication, and, most of all, by its bearer’s sometimes brutal frankness.

“I always thought that nobody could do anything better than me,” he explained, when we got together to talk. “I don’t have no second guesses. At least I don’t assume anybody can do it better . . . I’m just bashful. I have nothing to say that’s bullshit. So when I hear bullshit, I can detect it.

“Like, I can’t be on none of those television shows, ’cause I’d have to tell Johnny Carson, ‘You’re a sad motherfucker.’ That’s the only way I could put it. If I did that, right away they’d be telling me, ‘You’re cursing.’ But that’s the only way I can say it. I was supposed to be on Steve Allen’s show, and I sent him a telegram telling him he was too white, his secretary was too white, his audience was too white. And he wanted me to play for scale! Shit. I can’t be standing up there before all those white broads . . . and all of them got maids. I can’t be associated with that kind of shit. I got a maid myself. See, whatever they do, they’re trying to get those middle-aged white bitches to watch it.”

Miles chuckled softly at a question concerning all the far-out Miles Davis stories that are in circulation. “They’re probably all true,” he said. There’s the one about how he lost his voice (the Davis voice is a legend unto itself): He had a throat operation in the early Fifties and was not supposed to speak for a period of time, but he became so angry at a record company owner that he began to shout; from that moment, so the story goes, he has not been able to talk above a hoarse, rasping whisper. Another version of the story substitutes a booking agent for the record company man.

Davis doesn’t come close to fitting the stereotype of the black jazz musician. He’s not from a poor family (his father was a well to do dental surgeon), nor was he reared in a big-city ghetto or sharecropper farm — he grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, where his parents were solid members of the middle-class — the black middle-class of a viciously racist city, which means that, despite his family’s affluence, he suffered all the indignities heaped upon black people in the United States.

“About the first thing I can remember as a little boy was a white man running me down the street hollering, ‘Nigger! Nigger!'” he told a Playboy interviewer a few years ago.


Two Kinds: Black and White

He never denies his blackness — in fact, he is one of the heroes of the black community (little children run up to him when he strolls down the street). In almost any conversation with him, he makes reference to the difference of being black and being white in this country. His frankness has caused him to be called a racist. He most certainly is not.

Miles Davis at leisure is quite different from Miles Davis at work. Gracious, talkative, humorous and warmly human, he is excellent company. When he was at The Plugged Nickel, we spent two afternoons and a night hanging out. The afternoons were spent for the most part in his Volkswagen bus (he still has the Ferrari) driving around the South Side as he talked and answered questions, a unique milieu in which to conduct an interview, it must be admitted. The night was passed at The Plugged Nickel where the Buddy Rich band worked on Miles’ night off. That night Miles sat slumped at a table in front of the stand, not saying much but watching Rich like a hawk. (A good portion of the audience watched Miles watching.) Rich has seldom played better, and Miles made occasional knowing comments about what the master drummer was doing.

“Did’cha notice the way he cut into the band there?”

“Hear what that motherfucker did then? Just that little cymbal thing and it swung the whole fucking band.”

The day before he had talked about his listening habits, among several other things. He said he listened to anything good. For instance, he admires Laura Nyro as a performer. Recently, when she recorded in New York, Miles dropped by the sessions to see what was going on. Laura asked Miles if he’d play on some of the tracks — she’s a fan of his — and Miles studied the proposition, as he listened to what was going down. His conclusion was that — much as he’d like to play behind Miss Nyro — all the holes where he could play had already been filled in. Maybe next time.

Miles likes much that goes under the name of rock and roll. “But I don’t like the word rock and roll and all that shit. Jazz is an Uncle Tom word. It’s a white folks word. I never heard that shit until I read it in a magazine.”

There’s rock bands and then there’s rock bands, Miles says. “It’s social music. There’s two kinds — white and black, and those bourgeois spades are trying to sing white and the whites are trying to sound colored. It’s embarrassing. It’s like me wearing a dress. Blood, Sweat and Tears is embarrassing to me. They try to be so hip, they’re not. They try to sing Black and talk white. I know what they do: they try to get Basie’s sound with knowledge . . . put some harmonies in it — instead of a straight sixth chord, they’d use a — shit, I can’t call chords anymore — a raised fourth or some shit like that, with the tonic on top. It was done years ago.

“White groups don’t reach me. I can tell a white group just from the sound, don’t have to see them. It’s all right for a white guy to talk about them, to keep up with what the white brothers are doing, but I listen to James Brown and those little bands on the South Side. They swing their asses off. No bullshit. All the white groups have got a lot of hair and funny clothes — they got to have on that shit to get it across.

“Some of those white groups are nice, though. I was listening to one last night — but when I listen, I put something in . . . like, ‘that would be nice if they did such and such.’

“But Jimi Hendrix can take two white guys and make them play their asses off. You got to have a mixed group — one has one thing, and the other has another. For me, a group has to be mixed. To get swing, you have to have some black guys in there.

“See, white guys can only play a certain tempo. [Taps fingers at a medium tempo on the bus’ dashboard.] They can play here, but they can’t play here [slightly faster tapping] or here [fast tapping]. When you got a fast tempo, you gotta have some shit going on — keep it running under. The average rock group can play at a medium tempo [tap, tap, tap, tap], but a little more [taptaptaptap], they can’t play it. For me, if I listen to a white group, they got to have some spades in there for me to like them in more than one tempo. Spades got that thing — they can tighten it up. Tony [Williams] has a mixed group [a trio], and that white guitar player, John McLaughlin, wouldn’t play the way he’s playing with Tony if he was in a white group. John’s harmonic sense is fantastic. But his time . . . Tony’ll take care of that. Even with just a little luck he’ll sound good.”


Yeah: Think Fast

Davis‘ new album, In a Silent Way, has McLaughlin among the personnel. Using a rock player seemed quite a departure, even for Miles, and one might wonder why he did it.

“I didn’t use John as a rock player,” he said, “but for special effects. John’s no more a rock guitar player than I’m a rock trumpet player. You don’t have to be a special kind of player to play rock. That’s what we were playing when I first started playing with Eddie Randall’s Blue Devils in St. Louis — played the blues . . . all the time.”

Miles has never stood still. He has continually arrived at new concepts, new directions, and then, just as his colleagues in the jazz world have picked up on it, Miles is already somewhere else. His career is an elusive and tremendously influential path of changes.

His approach to trumpet comes up when Miles talks about his boyhood in East St. Louis. There weren’t many records in the Davis household, but a lot of musicians came by to stay all the time, and Miles, aged 13, listened hard when they played.

“The approach to the trumpet by my instructor in St. Louis, Elwood Buchanan, is so slick. You can’t help but play fast if you approach the trumpet like he does. He approached trumpet like he was going to really play it — and he did.”

For example: “I wouldn’t approach playing the trumpet like Louis Armstrong, ’cause right away it would stop me — that’s too late for me. Know what I mean?”

That Louis has already done it?

“Naw. It’s the approach. It’s the difference between speed and the way you think and if you have to have a drink when you play, and it’s the way Buddy Rich sits down on the drums — you know, he can play fast by the way he sits. Speed, right there. The way Tony Williams plays, that speed. I mean, a fighter can look at a fighter and tell if he has speed. I’m fast. The trainers can tell just by looking at me — I got small legs and round shoulders. Just looking at a race horse — you can tell just by the lines.”

If Miles hadn’t modeled his style after Louis Armstrong, what about Dizzy Gillespie? No, Diz wasn’t so much his man as Clark Terry, fine trumpet player with Duke Ellington for years, whom Miles had heard often as a boy, and Buchanan, Miles’ teacher, and an obscure player named Buddy Anderson — “those guys that play fast.”

But Diz plays fast.

“Dizzy,” says Miles, “didn’t play fast like that — light and fast and under and fast.”

Under? That’s the difference, in Miles’ terms, between a polished, well-schooled musician like alto saxophonist Benny Carter racing through his licks, and Charlie Parker, the spiritual/technical father of Be-Bop playing fast. “I mean,” Miles explains, “to play fast and take the drums away, and you still hear it fast but it’s not a run.” With time mixed into it. “Yeah. Think fast.”

In 1945, when he was 18, he convinced his father to send him to the Julliard School of Music in New York City instead of to Fisk University, his mother’s choice. By that time he had been musical director of Eddie Randall’s Blue Devils (a local high school band), written arrangements, been offered a job on the road with Tony Bradshaw’s band (his mother wouldn’t let him go, and he didn’t speak to her for two weeks), and filled in on a few gigs with Billy Eckstine’s band, which then featured both Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. There was no achievement higher than playing with those cats in the realm of Be-Bop — except, of course, to split for New York, the capitol of the new music itself.


Bird Was Greedy

Miles spent his first week in New York — and his first month’s allowance — trying to find Bird (Charlie Parker’s nom d’Be-Bop).

“I roomed with Charlie Parker for a year,” Davis once said. “I used to follow him around, down to 52nd Street, where he used to play. Then he used to get me to play. ‘Don’t be afraid,’ he used to tell me. ‘Go ahead and play.’ Every night I’d write down chords I heard, on matchbook covers. Everybody helped me. Next day I’d play those chords all day in the practice room of Julliard, instead of going to classes.”

Today, he puts down Julliard because it graduates trumpet players “who haven’t got tones good for anything — they have a legit sound and it’s a white sound.” He quit the music school in 1946 — “all that shit they were teaching wasn’t doing me a damn bit of good” — and began playing with Bird’s group, even though he was unsure of himself and often faltered. His recollections of the great jazz innovator are less than fond.

“First thing, he was a dirty mother-fucker, man. I loved to listen to him but he was so fucking greedy. Just greedy — you know how the greedy people are. But he had a hell of a mind.”

Parker also was the king of the junkies, a side of him that had an influence on Davis.

“I got hooked [on heroin] . . . in 1949,” Davis once told an interviewer. “I got bored and was around cats that were hung. So I wound up with a habit that took me over four years to break.”

During the year he got strung out, he began rehearsing with a group of young musicians — among them baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, altoist Lee Konitz, arranger-composer John Carisin, pianist John Lewis — who got together to play and talk music in arranger Gil Evans’ basement room in New York. Evans, the oldest of the group, had been chief arranger for the Claude Thornhili band and Evans’ scores had made a deep impression on Davis when he first heard them (they have remained musical collaborators through the years).

“He liked the way I played and I liked the way he wrote,” Davis says.

The music played and written by the men in Evans’ basement was bop-derived but more tightly arranged, more languid, cooler. The records the nine-piece group made under Davis’ name, for Capitol in 1949 and ’50 set off the so-called Cool Era of jazz.

Ironically, as the cool school — consisting almost exclusively of white musicians — gained the ascendency, Miles Davis’ career faded to the point of oblivion. He was reduced to playing as a single at any club that would give him a few nights’ booking, and with any local rhythm section that might (or might not) do an adequate job of accompanying him.

In 1954, however, his fortunes and personal life changed for the better.

“I made up my mind I was getting off dope,” he said. “I was sick and tired of it. You know you can get tired of anything. You can even get tired of being scared. I laid down and stared at the ceiling for 12 days, and I cursed everybody I didn’t like. I was kicking it the hard way. It was like having a bad case of flu, only worse. I threw up everything I tried to eat. My pores opened up and I smelled like chicken soup. Then it was over.”

The next year, Davis was given a rousing reception at the Newport Jazz Festival. Critics welcomed him back in open-armed reviews (he commented later that he played the way he always played, so what were they talking about). His comeback, as one writer put it at the time, was in full swing.

He tied with Gillespie in the trumpet category of the Down Beat International Jazz Critics Poll, coming “practically . . . from out of nowhere,” as the magazine described his feat. His Prestige records began selling well, and he was, with such public acceptance, able to form a quintet that was to become one of the finest — and most influential — in jazz history.

By the end of the Fifties, Miles Davis was one of the hottest musical properties, as the bookers say, in the country, jazz or otherwise. And Miles had made it without selling out. His music was as uncompromising as ever, perhaps more so. Everywhere he played, whether at a night club or concert hall, the people queued up in lines that sometimes stretched a block. Many came to see rather than listen, for it was during these heady times that Davis ceased being just a superb musician and became a personality.

The people loved it when he turned his back on them, when he walked off the stage during others’ solos, even, by God, when he didn’t show up. He could work as much or as little as he wanted, and his price was high. Young men copied his tastes in clothes (then it was very Italian, now it’s sort of personal mod-ish). The stories of his cars (much interest in his white Ferrari), his amours, his cursing, his boxing — all were grist for the legend mill. There was even a Bell Telephone ad that showed a man in a hotel room talking into a phone saying something like, “I was sitting here thinking of you while Miles played ‘My Funny Valentine’ and I thought I’d call. . . .”


I Pick Who I Like

“All the money, cars, clothes, the bitches — all that was to match my ego,” he says today.

Musically, he had reverted in part to the Bop of Parker, but with greater flexibility, sophistication and lyricism. Out of that rich ground, however, other flowers grew.

Saxophonist John Coltrane, who was a member of Davis’ group during most of late Fifties and who in the Sixties became a musical giant in his own right before he died in 1967, once described his impressions of Davis’ music when he returned to the band after a brief absence in late 1957.

“I found Miles in the midst of another stage of musical development.” he said. “It seemed that he was moving . . . to the use of fewer and fewer chord changes in songs. He used tunes with free-flowing lines and chordal direction.

“In fact, due to the direct and free-flowing lines in his music, I found it easy to apply the harmonic ideas that I had. I could stack up the chords . . . I could play three chords at once. But on the other hand, if I wanted to, I could play melodically. Miles music gave me plenty of freedom. . .”

Coltrane was talking about the modal pieces Davis was featuring more and more, compositions based on scales instead of chords. A Davis album made during this time, Kind of Blue (Columbia), influenced the shape of jazz almost as dramatically and widely as the Capitol Records made a decade before.

The music of Miles Davis today stems in part from that period but more from the influence of the young men he has hired since 1963. Before then, he tended to play with older men who had come up about the same time as he. In ’63, however, his rhythm section consisted of men who had grown up on his music, not Charlie Parker’s — pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Tony Williams. Though these three have since departed, their replacements are of the same generation.

“I pick who I like,” he said. “But they usually like each other too. All of them are talented, and when they play, it gets off the ground. I give them their heads, but I try to tell them what sounds best. I tell them to always be prepared for the unexpected — if it’s going out, it might go out more, an extended ending might keep on going.”

His sidemen during the last few years have always been young.

“They’re the only ones I know who can play. A lot of guys are good musicians, but it’s what they can do in my group that counts. You can’t build a band on friendship. A guy might be a good guy, but if he can’t play . . . See, if I was gonna get a drummer, he’d have to play fast, y’ understand?

“It’s quality that makes music good. If you get the right guys to play the right thing at the right time, you got everything you need. I could take guys who’ve played with me — like Ron Carter, Herbie and Tony — and they could play anything. I could put together the greatest rock and roll band you ever heard. But the quality of music is in the musicians too. Guys get together and make music good. I’ve heard so many good songs fucked up because they weren’t directed right, not going in the right direction. I’ve had Herbie and them start off in the wrong direction, and I had to say, ‘Hey! Wait a minute.'”

Direction, as well as approach, is a strong member of the Miles Davis music structure. Each of his last two albums, Kilimanjaro and In a Silent Way, has a small line of type on the cover that reads “Directions in music by Miles Davis.” None of his earlier albums have it.

“It means I tell everybody what to do,” he said lightheartedly. “If I don’t tell ’em, I ask ’em. It’s my date, y’ understand? And I’ve got to say yes and no. Been doing it for years, and I got tired of seeing ‘Produced by this person or that person.’ When I’m on a date, I’m usually supervising everything.”


What Kind of Shit Is That?

Miles despairs of convincing anybody as to what is, and what is not, good music. To find good music, you’ve got to seek it on an individual basis. “You have to listen,” says Davis, “learn by trial and error. You can’t go by talk — that’s the way people sell things. You can sell anything. If you want to sell a car, paint it red. It can be the raggedest car in the world, but somebody’ll buy it. Rebel with a natural — he’s a winner today.”

Then it’s all just old-fashioned show business?

“Yeah. A white man can take a black man with a natural and run him for Congress, as long as he’s good looking and a little tall. Sell him but don’t sell him. Y’know, “If so-and-so were in Congress, he’d . . .” Or “So-and-so doesn’t want to be in politics, but . . .” Same thing in music. Look at Johnny Winter — that ain’t nothing. They’re telling the black people that he’s not exactly white and telling the white people he ain’t exactly black. Now, what kind of shit is that?”

A couple days after the Buddy Rich night, I met Miles at Johnny Coulon’s gym on 63rd Street where he works out when he’s in Chicago. After he’d sparred and boxed a few rounds, skipped rope, punched the small bag awhile, got a few pointers from a trainer, had Coulon (a little old man who was bantamweight champ many years ago) give me the visitor’s tour of the gym, and had changed from his fight togs (he has a white terry-cloth robe with his name inscribed across the back, just like pro fighters) into a fringed outfit that was reminiscent of the Old West, we headed for the parking lot.

Before we got there, a car stopped beside us, and a man jumped out. It was Larry Jackson, who had played drums with Miles when both were boys in East St. Louis. He is now president of two Chicago locals of the United Steelworkers, a fact that Miles kidded him about unrelentingly. Rich’s name came up, and Jackson said, “Miles always loved Buddy. He used to tell me all the time, ‘Play like Buddy.’ He always wanted the drummer to play like Buddy Rich.”

Jackson and Miles’ eldest son, Gregory, joined us for lunch at one of Miles’ favorite eating places, Floogie’s. (Gregory is also a boxer and won three titles while he was in the Army, a point of considerable paternal pride.)

With all of us crowded into a booth, Miles the Provider emerged. He made sure everybody got something to eat, offered to share his food (he’s now a vegetarian as well as a nondrinker and nonsmoker), advised his son on what to eat, and generally held court.

When we left the restaurant, a huge man with a cane called out, “Hey, Miles. You’re looking good.”

Miles gave the man a mock blow to the stomach and said, “How ya doing, Kid.”

“You know Kid Rivera?” he asked me. “He was one of the greatest, wasn’t you, Kid?”

“Those days are gone, Miles.”

“You look like you could still go a few rounds.”

We went on to the parking lot and climbed into the bus. As he drove, Miles rambled over a wide range of topics.


It’s a God-Damn Lie!

He talked about why he boxes — it gives him strength, is good for his wind, makes him graceful and shapes his body. To play music well, a musician must be in good physical condition.

“And the way I play,” he continued, “I play from my legs. You ever notice?”

I allowed as how I’d noticed he bent his knees.

“That’s to keep from breaking my embouchure . . . If you drop your hands, you’ll break your embouchure and break the flow . . .”

I still wasn’t clear what he had meant the other day about mixed groups. When he said mixed groups, did he mean it in the traditional way — that is, musicians of different races?

“The race has a lot to do with it, man, because black people can swing. There’s no getting around that.”

White people can’t swing?


What about Buddy Rich?

“Buddy Rich is some different shit, man. How many Buddy Riches you got? You got one Buddy Rich. I’ll tell you one thing, if Buddy’s got a black audience, he plays different. You just get vibrations from black people that are swingier than from white. That’s why when Mike Bloomfield plays before a black audience, his shit’s gonna come out black.”

His own group’s playing for a black audience is not much different.

“There’d be just a slight change,” he answered. “We’d just tighten up a little more, y’know. It’s an inner thing. It’s just like if you’re playing basketball and you got five black brothers on the team, they got some inner shit going that you can’t get from a white guy. Now, when you get a white guy in, you usually get him for strength or for some sort of shot . . . he’s got a good eye or something. But that inner thing and that speed and that slick shit — you got to have them brothers there because there are things that they do that they did when they were little kids that the white boy don’t know about.”

Miles had hired the pianist Bill Evans, who is white, for the simplest possible reason: “I liked the way he sounded.

“But he doesn’t sound now like he did when he played with us. He sounds white now.”

But his ex-drummer, Tony Williams, a black man — that’s another matter. Williams is just possibly Miles’ favorite musician. “Tony can swing and play his ass off. Tony Williams is a motherfucker. To me, the way you think about Buddy Rich is the way I think about Tony Williams. I don’t think there’s a drummer alive can do what Tony Williams can do.

“When I play, I want whatever is going on to be going on. I don’t want it to be no . . . well, to say bullshit is too easy an out. I want it to be . . . That’s why I like Buddy and I like Tony, because if they do something, they’re doing it. They’re doing it to finish it, y’know. To end it. You know what I mean? If you were boxing a guy and he kept pressing you and you knew he wasn’t gonna lighten up unless you get him off your ass by slipping and sliding, setting him up and feinting him, well, that’s what Buddy and Tony are. They play the fucking drums. But they’re different. They’re the same, but they’re different. Tony plays more rhythms and times than Buddy.

“Buddy plays off his snare drum, but Tony can play all over the fucking drums — but with a sound that matches the chords that you’re playing. Buddy doesn’t play any fucking chords.”

Chords? Miles’ fabled temper heated up at the theory, which has been expressed by some noted academic or another, that since European music is directed toward chords and chord changes, and African music isn’t . . .

“It’s a god-damn lie,” he shot back. African music is directed to sound. That’s the way we play.”

“I mean chords,” I parried.

“Chords? We don’t play chords, we play sound.”

“I’m talking about chords — stacking notes on top of each other. With this in mind, he felt that Be-Bop, because it was so directed toward chords, was more white than black.”

“He’s full of shit. And he must be white. Yeah, that’s why he’d say some shit like that, ’cause white men don’t know anything about music and sound, y’know. The only thing they can do is try to make things so they can sell it . . . to finalize it by saying some shit like that. We play by sound. I mean I’ll give Chick [Corea] a chord and the sound I want from the chord. He knows I’m musically intelligent enough to give him that. If I don’t give him the sound and the approach, he can’t play it the way I want to hear it. But there’re so many variations on the sound I give him that he’s got to get the sound first.

“A lot of people don’t know that shit. They look at Buddy Rich and they idolize him . . . I don’t blame you, ’cause he’s a white man, and white people always idolize white people. They think Negroes are born with rhythm. But you got to cultivate that rhythm, man. I know some guys who’d be corny motherfuckers if they didn’t have some other guys with them, and both of them are black. But one of them is almost corny and one is super hip; you put the two together and they get even . . . In other words, you could put Mike Bloomfield with James Brown and he’d be a motherfucker.”

We had been driving all the while since leaving the restaurant. By this time, we were heading toward the Loop, going past the rows of public (i.e, black) housing that line the west side of S. State Street.

We stopped for a red light, and a passel of black children crossed in front of us.

“White people own all this shit,” he said, hunching over the wheel and peering up at the buildings.

“Own the whole country,” I added.

“They don’t own me.”

“You got a white booker, haven’t you? A white record company?”


They Don’t Own Me

“They do what I tell them to do, man. They don’t own me. I make my own records. We’re just in business together. I mean it’s all right to be in business with a white man, but for him to own everything and dictate to you is outdated, and it was outdated when I was born. I’ve never been that way in my whole life and I never will be. I’d die before I’d let that shit happen to me. I don’t know about any other bands, but when you say white booking agent, Jack [Whitemore] and I are good friends. Jack asked me, ‘Miles, what you want me to do, which percentage you want me to take — five, ten or what?’ If I don’t feel like paying him shit, he ain’t gonna say nothing, but I wouldn’t take advantage of him, because of my attitude. He knows the way I think. And I don’t want him to take advantage of me.”

“You want to deal with guys who are fair,” I observed.

“Right. But I think George Wein is unfair. I’m on his tour, but I think he’s using me. I wrote him a letter and told him. He tells other people how much I make. He kinda glorifies that, y’know.

“We gave a benefit for the Metropoliton Opera band, and they don’t even hire Negroes. And I was gonna tell Duke [Ellington] not to do it, but I told George, ‘Now George, you make sure they hire some Negroes.’ But a Negro player told me they get their white cousins and all that bullshit in line to play with them. That’s some sad shit. That’s when I talk about a white band and I say it’s shit, that’s the shit I mean, passing the thing down the line. [Nods head toward black people on the street.] See all those colored here? It’ll be just like this 20 years from now. That’s what burns me up.”

The mention of the Metropolitan Opera triggered remembrances of his disillusionment with Juilliard and academic studies.

“They asked me did I want to be dean of Howard University’s music department,” he said.

Would he like to do something like that?

“Hell no! See, I don’t think like that, man. I don’t like them bourgeois niggers. That’s why they’re rebelling at Howard. For a long time, they wouldn’t even have jazz concerts on the campus of Howard University.”

The other day, he had said he was in favor of students taking over their universities and that if he’d had his choice of teachers he would have taken Dizzy Gillespie.

“I’d have different guys for different things,” he said. “Get Dizzy for the freedom in music, and a white guy who’s stricter on tradition and form, and learn both of them. Then you go your own way. Now you can get black people who’ve been conditioned by white teachers so that they can’t think and they just know straight music — they don’t know anything about no freedom in music. I mean, you don’t need the white man no more at all. Now, I’m not one of those people who say Negroes are superhuman. But let everybody do his own thing. Let it come out the way it comes out, not the way you might want it to be.”

Don DeMicheal

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Steely Dan – “Aja” (1977)

September 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm (Reviews & Articles, Steely Dan)

Michael Duffy wrote this review for Rolling Stone (issue #253) – Dec. 1, 1977…


Aja is the third Steely Dan album since songwriters Walter Becker and Donald Fagen discarded a fixed-band format in late 1974. Since then they have declined to venture beyond the insular comfort of L.A. studios, recording their compositions with a loose network of session musicians. As a result, the conceptual framework of their music has shifted from the pretext of rock & roll toward a smoother, awesomely clean and calculated mutation of various rock, pop and jazz idioms. Their lyrics… remain as pleasantly obtuse and cynical as ever.

Aja will continue to fuel the argument by rock purists that Steely Dan’s music is soulless, and by its calculated nature antithetical to what rock should be. But this is in many ways irrelevant to a final evaluation of this band, the only group around with no conceptual antecedent from the Sixties. Steely Dan’s six albums contain some of the few important stylistic innovations in pop music in the past decade. By returning to swing and early be-bop for inspiration — before jazz diverged totally from established conventions of pop-song structure — Fagen and Becker have overcome the amorphous quality that has plagued most other jazz-rock fusion attempts.

“Peg” and “Josie” illustrate this perfectly: tight, modal tunes with good hooks in the choruses, solid beats with intricate counterrhythms and brilliantly concise guitar solos. Like most of the rest of Aja, these songs are filled out with complex horn charts, synthesizers and lush background vocals that flirt with schmaltzy L.A. jazz riffs. When topped by Fagen’s singing, they sound like production numbers from an absurdist musical comedy.

The title cut is the one song on Aja that shows real growth in Becker’s and Fagen’s songwriting capabilities and departs from their previous work. It is the longest song they’ve recorded, but it fragilely holds our attention with vaguely Oriental instrumental flourishes and lyric references interwoven with an opiated jazz flux. “Aja” may prove to be the farthest Becker and Fagen can take certain elements of their musical ambition.

Lyrically, these guys still seem to savor the role they must have acquired as stoned-out, hyperintelligent pariahs at a small Jewish college on the Hudson. Their imagery can become unintelligibly weird (Frank Zappa calls it “downer surrealism”); it’s occasionally accessible but more often (as on the title song) it elicits a sort of deja vu tease that becomes hopelessly nonsensical the more you think about it. Focus your attention on the imagery of a specific phrase, then let it fade out. Well, at least it beats rereading the dildo sequence in Naked Lunch.

The last album, The Royal Scam was the closest thing to a “concept” album Steely Dan has done, an attempt to return musically to New York City, with both a raunchier production quality and a fascination with grim social realism. The farthest Aja strays from the minor joys and tribulations of the good life in L.A. are the dreamy title cut and “Josie,” which hints ominously about a friendly welcome-home gang-bang. The melodramatic “Black Cow” is about love replaced by repulsion for a woman who starts getting too strung out on downers and messing around with other men. “Deacon Blues” (a thematic continuation of “Fire in the Hole” and “Any World”) exemplifies this album’s mood: resignation to the L.A. musician’s lifestyle, in which one must “crawl like a viper through these suburban streets” yet “make it my home sweet home.” The title and first lines of “Home at Last” (presumably a clever interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey — I don’t get it) put it right up front: “I know this superhighway/This bright familiar sun/I guess that I’m the lucky one.”

More than any of Steely Dan’s previous albums (with the possible exception of Katy Lied), Aja exhibits a carefully manipulated isolation from its audience, with no pretense of embracing it. What underlies Steely Dan’s music — and may, with this album, be showing its limitations — is its extreme intellectual self-consciousness, both in music and lyrics. Given the nature of these times, this may be precisely the quality that makes Walter Becker and Donald Fagen the perfect musical antiheroes for the Seventies.

Michael Duffy

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The Rolling Stones – “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (1967)

September 23, 2008 at 12:18 pm (Reviews & Articles, The Rolling Stones)

Written by Jon Landau for the 5th issue of Rolling Stone – Feb. 10, 1968. This was a mostly scathing critique on The Stones’ foray into psychedelic music. There is alot that I don’t agree with here, but I understand the sentiment…  


New LP Put Stones’ Status in Jeopardy


The Rolling Stones have been the best of all possible worlds: They have the lack of pretension and sentimentality associated with the blues, the rawness and toughness of hard rock, and the depth which always makes you feel that they are in the midst of saying something. They have never impressed me as being kitsch.

Their Satanic Majesties Request, despite moments of unquestionable brilliance, put the status of the Rolling Stones in jeopardy. With it, the Stones abandon their capacity to lead in order to impress the impressionable. They have been far too influenced by their musical inferiors and the result is an insecure album in which they try too hard to prove that they too are innovators, and that they too can say something new.

The album is marred by poor production. In the past there has been a great gulf between production styles of the Beatles and the Stones. The Beatles production is often so “perfect” that it sounds computerized. Sgt. Pepper really does sound like it took four months to make. The Stones have never gotten hung up on that kind of thing. There is far greater informality to their sound and they probably have recorded more mistakes than any other group in pop music: vocals out of key, out of tune twelve strings (December’s Children is loaded with them), forgetting lyrics, you name it.

In the past such mistakes all made sense because it was part of the Stones’ basic statement, their basic arrogant pose. With the shift in pose to something quite different, something nearly “arty,” the weak guitars and confused balance merely become annoying. Instead of tightening up the rudiments of their production, the Stones confuse the issue with their introduction into the instrumental tracks of countless studio gimmicks.

These production gimmicks create the aura of newness which surrounds this album. It gives the listener the feeling that he is hearing something that the Stones haven’t done before. However, shorn of all extraneous artifacts, the songs that comprise this album are nothing new. We get simple folk chorus type stuff, (“Sing This Song All Together”); English folk melodies a la “Lady Jane,” as in “In Another Land”; occasional attempts at the old audacity and guttiness. (“And I awoke/Is this some kind of joke?”), all of this in combination with the ever-present intent of proving that they are poets, like John Lennon or Donovan, and all that.



What is missing from all this, and what is so obviously and desperately needed to turn the whole thing into good Stones, is the instrumental and vocal style that has made the Stones so potent in the past, right down until Between the Buttons. But, those styles have been replaced by the kind of amorphous and aimless instrumental styles characteristic of American freak-outs (at least if they had borrowed from the Who . . .). Thus we get oscillators and vacuum cleaners, pathetic doodling on the guitar, fuzz-tones without end, and we get the mandatory eight minute freakout. Groovy.

The Stones were always exemplary of one of the best of all rock qualities: tightness. They have always been economical, the opposite of ornamental. Having a very clear idea of what they wanted to say they could go into a studio and make it all up on a three minute cut.

One song which best illustrates the virtues of this approach is “Connection,” from Buttons. It contains all of the Stones’ virtues, but particularly the tightness. It is stark: just staring at you absolutely naked, no embellishment, no pretense, no apology. That is what the Stones have done, to varying degrees of effectiveness, on all of their former recordings. They were the exemplars of telling it like it is.

But, like everyone else, the Stones’ heads do not stand still. They are a little less certain now. They are unhappy with their old style but they lack the artistic certainty to create a wholly new one. The result is that Satanic Majesties is necessarily a transitional album and, as such, it contains few of the old virtues. The new ideas are presented in such an undeveloped state that they do not achieve a valid identity of their own.

The basic motive of this album is a kind of meandering undercurrent of production effects and electronic gimmicks, meandering instrumental breaks which do not follow the songs they are a part of, and an attempt at either creating, or possibly satirizing, Sgt. Pepper type unity. In substance, the songs and much of the instrumental style used in the body of the songs offer very little which is new, and much which is inferior to what they have done previously.

“Sing This All Together” has a pleasant enough melody combined with its idiotically pretentious chorus. The horn riff they use at the end of each verse is a variation of the horn riff on Otis Redding’s “Love Have Mercy” (Dictionary of Soul, Volt 415).

What bothers me about the cut musically is the archetypical (for this album) instrumental break which, in a word, is the superficial masquerading as depth. The quick guitar runs in the middle are brilliant. Unfortunately, no meaningful musical context has been created for them. They lie suspended over some musically irrelevant piano doodling and an absence of directed rhythm. For those who want to tell us that this cut contains anything startlingly new, I would point out that the break ends with the oldest rock cliche in the hook, a single chord repeated first in half notes, and then accelerated into quarter notes as in “Hang On Sloopy.” And for those who wish to argue that the Stones make brilliant use of the rock cliche, they clearly don’t as the absence of a related context virtually precludes it.



“Citadel” further illustrates the point that the Stones are not creating a genuinely new sound on this album, as melodically, vocally, and in intent, there is nothing new about this cut. What is new is the unnecessarily distorted guitars and the noisy instrumental track, as a whole. The old Stones would have done this cut very much the same way, except that the sound would have been tighter and more to the point.

To this end, Charlie Watts deserves great recognition. Of all the Stones, he seems to be least impressed with himself and he consequently turns in what is clearly the most consistent and best instrumental performance on the record.

In fact, Charlie hasn’t changed very much since Heads, nor has there been much reason for him to do anything more than refine his style. Unfortunately, the two best examples of Watts in full bloom are not included in this album, “Dandelion” and “We Love You”. The former was recorded well over a year ago and the latter was of more recent vintage. Even if you didn’t dig the songs, (I think each is significantly better than anything on this album, “We Love You” being the most advanced, sophisticated, and musically coherent thing the Stones have recently done) dig the power, brazeness, and guts of Charlie’s elemental style. In any event, “Citadel” is certainly one of the more passable cuts on this album, due largely to Watts’ drumming.

Bill Wyman’s debut as a vocalist and a songwriter is fairly inconspicuous. The song, “In Another Land,” is typically Stones, with the chorus resting comfortably in the Aftermath mold. Bill’s solo voice, deliberately obscured by the tremolo effect, is of no consequence in any event. The nicest thing about the cut is the transition from the verse to the chorus. Watts continues to drive things and the acoustic guitars create solidarity and tightness. The lyrics to the chorus are among the few that recall the toughness of the past.

“2000 Man” is one of the strong points of the album. The rhythm change is quite nice, Watts drumming is very strong, the acoustic guitars are more effective than usual, and the contrast between Jagger’s weak voice on the verses and his gutsier style on the chorus is quite effective. However, the mix could have been better, particularly with reference to the bass, and the long organ chord that ends the song is stupid.

“Sing This All Together,” round two, is the most annoying cut on the album by virtue of the fact that it includes some absolute strokes of genius which are lost by the totally inadequate arrangement and lack of musical direction. Particularly brilliant is Keith’s guitar sound. The high of the track comes after two minutes of random doodling, when Richard gets into a lovely riff and is slowly joined by the horns. For about thirty seconds, it sounds like they are going to pull the whole thing together. They don’t. The whole thing dies. There are a couple of other similarly isolated spots that occur during the cut, before Jagger gives the whole thing his kiss of death by singing the lyrics in a voice even more pretentious than the words call for, with the aid of an unbearably vulgar use of echo to make his voice and the words sound “deep.” It is embarrassing.

The best cut on the album is easily “She’s A Rainbow.” Happily, Jagger abandons his wispy, small voice pose. He allows no doubt about what he wants to get across and his voice carries a positiveness and forcefulness lacking on most of the other cuts on the album. Even so, it is a remarkably asexual love song for the Stones and as such does not approach the power of the earlier Stones’ singing on the same subject.

The performance is startlingly strong, with those rhythm guitars right up front and some very nice piano and strings, which I presume, they have nothing to do with. The dissonant instrumental break that comes before the last verse is excellent in this case because it gives the chorus added force when the band comes back in. It is short, succinct, and economical, the very qualities which are missing from so much of the rest of the album.

“Lantern” is another comparatively successful effort in which some excellent instrumental efforts help transcend a rather boring tune and a poor lead vocal. Particularly of note are Wyman’s guitar runs on the bass and his syncopated playing over extended chords at the end of each chorus. Watts’ performance is again exemplary, particularly during the verses where he leads off each line with those tight little rolls.

Richard’s guitar playing on “Lantern” is his best on the album. Richards has always been my own favorite lead guitarist in rock and he is certainly the best hard rock lead around. But after the first three Stones’ albums I never felt he got into the groove again. On Buttons he showed he was moving in some new directions, and on this cut he turns in a beautiful performance, crowding into a few small runs a great deal of musical force.



The duration of the record motion is downward. “Gomper” is a total loss, the instrumental break having nothing whatever to recommend it. The vocal is unbearable. One thing Jagger is not very good at is trying to sound innocent. The cut simply does not cohere and was produced horribly.

By the time we get around to “2000 Light Years From Home” it is possible that even enthusiasts of the sound effects and production gimmicks, and that is what I think they are, will begin to tire of them. The song itself is fine — the drumming holds a comparatively good instrumental track in place — but the continuity is murdered by oscillators and what have you. Jagger just cannot sing consistently well in this kind of restrained voice and his attempts at whispering the line, “It’s so very lonely, you’re two thousand miles from home,” are again embarrassing. He isn’t much as a poser in the image of “teller of truths.”

In a review of Between the Buttons I wrote “The Stones make you feel their presence in a way that is so immediate, so essential, so relevant, that one can’t turn his mind away from what they’re doing.” At the time I believed that the Stones were best of all our white groups, even superior in several respects to the Beatles. And I still think that.

The current album is an obvious detour in which the Stones manifest an understandable insecurity. With everyone getting into seemingly new things and other pop groups cutting huge prestige albums it is reasonable for the Stones to have felt the need to try to say something different, if for no other reason than to please their friends and the cultists.

Unfortunately they have been caught up in the familiar dilemma of mistaking the new for the advanced. In the process they have sacrificed most of the virtues which made their music so powerful in the first place: the tightness, the franticness, the directness, and the primitiveness.

It is largely a question of intent. The old Stones had the unstated motto of “We play rock.” And there was always an overriding aura of competence which they tried to generate. They knew they did their thing better than anyone else around, and, in fact, they did. The new Stones have been too infused with the pretentions of their musical inferiors. Hence they have adopted as their motto “We make art.” Unfortunately, in rock there seems to be an inverse ratio between the amount of striving there is to make art and the quality of the art that results. For there was far more art in the Rolling Stones who were just trying to make rock than there is in the Rolling Stones who are trying to create art. It is an identity crisis of the first order and it is one that will have to be resolved more satisfactorily than it has been on Their Satanic Majesties Request if their music is to continue to grow.

Jon Landau

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