“The Pete Townshend Page #6”

February 25, 2010 at 10:04 pm (Music, Pete Townshend, Reviews & Articles)

More from one of the most literate of rock stars. Written for Melody Maker, Jan. 16, 1971…



You can’t help wondering, can you? When the government of this country destroyed commercial radio several years back we at least were able to say that they were acting normally…belligerently ignoring the fact that a whole industry which made the country millions of pounds owed much of its success to pirate radio and its so called ‘minority’ audience.

That was very much in keeping with their normal democratic way of going about things.But the latest ideas we are getting from Mr. Chataway are even more obvious. Four years after the act they suddenly realise that there IS money to be made. They want some. They realise there IS an audience for commercial radio. They want their votes. It’s in the light of this kind of thinking that pop music and its offshoots are seen by sporty chaps like Mr. Chataway.

The pirate radio system was not really perfect, the format methods used by all of them were easy to rig and one could buy time for any record on the air.

The people who talk of the days when the disc jockey played exactly what he wanted should talk to John Peel. Peel is someone who passed through commercial radio into a position in Radio One that gives him more freedom than any other disc jockey with the BBC.

Not even the waxworks (Tony Blackburn) gets as much choice in what he plays. In pirate radio, which was run like American top forty radio, it was, of course, mainly the DJs who decided the format and the advertisers who paid the costs.

In a way though it had the same drawbacks as Radio One, in that it had to reflect the majority preferences, the mums at home would still be listening to a good helping of Tom Jones, Ken Dodd and Gerry Monroe, even if pirate radio was around today. The advertisers would not buy time unless they thought the maximum number of people were listening. Their products’ sales would tell them the stations with the biggest audience.

In the same way the BBC has to please the majority because it is a service which the public have to pay for, through licences, thus the programmes become heavily structured in chunks of nearly several months. The same records are played over and over again, because the majority of people are slow to catch on. 

Many people only buy records once they are in the charts and probably never react to them when they are first played on radio. Nevertheless, the BBC in Radio One is holding a terrifying monopoly. If one isn’t polite to such and such a DJ or producer he can ruin your career.

It’s lucky that most of the DJs and producers on Radio One are not as aggressive as most of the groups! I’m always having goes at Tony Blackburn, for example. It’s a bit hard but then he is the epitome of the Radio One Disc Jockey. He is popular, friendly, clean cut and knows damn well on which side his bread is buttered. There are some very beautiful housewives in this country man! Ask any milkman.

What Tony Blackburn does reflect is the way that an individual who gets such a lot of air space on the BBC like him, can influence the musical taste of thousands of people. That’s obviously unavoidable, and all the DJ can do is to try to be as up front as possible and take the pelting of the “minorities.”

But surely the healthiest way to put Radio One and even Tony Blackburn into perspective is the way BBC television was put into perspective in the fifties by ITV…Competition.

The BBC is doing all right really, it has four channels of radio space (in actual fact it has hundreds when you include the world services), and manages to please nearly everybody. But Radio One IS NOT a Rock station. It’s an easy listening station.

These categories are defined in American broadcasting very clearly. If one is a housewife, one listens to stations that play music that is a little like, say, Terry Wogan’s show or Tony Brandon. If you’re younger than twenty-nine, however, you listen to good old Rock and Roll. Yards and yards of Beatles, Stones, Creedence, Steppenwolf, Zeppelin, Steve Stills and the rest. All the good soul and Tamla singles are played by these stations too. Not ALL Tamla singles, period, which seems to he the case of Radio One.

The two different listening I worlds all buy their records in the same shops and are represented in the same chart which is fair, the chart is really a money-spent graph, nothing else. For some reason it works out that two basic station types is enough, but then the days of big business with singles is numbered even in the States.

If you look back at old American albums, for example Tamla albums, you’ll he amazed to find how bad many of them are. They just used to concentrate on singles. Today Tamla albums are good track for track. The Temptations for example produce amazing albums as well as superb singles.

We will never he so money oriented in this country to have stereo FM radio playing Rock albums even before there is a demand. Unlike Americans we don’t understand the business theory of CREATING demands by allowing people to hear or see what it is they’re going to buy.

An act in this country could never sell enough albums to make it worth a record company’s while to buy advertising air space either. I think Dick James Music will have to admit this soon. They bought space on TELEVISION to advertise Elton John’s new album. It was only a few seconds a night but must have cost quite a packet. Even if Elton John is God he’ll never sell enough records in this country to buy his Rolls Royce. He’ll have to use dollars mate. So as we resign ourselves to the fact that we’ll never hear stereo Rock on the radio in this country we have to ask when we’re going to hear MONO Rock on the radio. 

The most endearing thing about Pirate radio was the fact that you could mark all the stations on the dial of you radio (at one time there were about six you could hear clearly in London), and turn off bloody Ken Dodd and listen to a good down-home WHO record, if you fancied. When the Who record finished and the new station played Ken Dodd you could switch him off yet again and possibly even find the Who again somewhere.

Of course there are people who did the opposite — switched us off and searched the air waves desperately for Ken Dodd, getting pastry crumbs all over the radio. All the stations were just as bad as Radio One is today, but you did have a choice, and you did get competition.

A year ago I would have jumped for joy at the news that the government was going to hand Radio One over to commercial interests. I would have revelled in the idea of producers and programmers having to THINK again about what they played rather than letting their own worn out BBC cloth ears decide for them. Today I’m nervous.

We’d lose Mike Raven and his Blind Blake records. We’d lose Pete Drummond and John Peel, Scene and Heard and What’s New. There are so many good things which are unfortunately outweighed by all the bad things, all the Light Programme type things which should really be on Radio Two.

I don’t think a commercial Radio station would operate in the same way somehow. I think they would work for MAXIMUM audience at all times of the day and night, and this means it will end up sounding like Radio One at its worst, perhaps with a few records you wouldn’t normally hear being bought onto the stations’ weekly format. The Rind of things you see on television are NOT reflections of Radio format or what it would like turn out. Discussions, live shows, interviews, specials, etc, are not heard on American radio for example.

Granted, FM Rock radio has done a lot to change this, but slowly and surely the advertisers get their clutches on the whole thing. They don’t want breathing space for their listeners, they want a killing floor. Television appears to have a lot of variety because it’s on for a fairly short time. Radio is on all day and the biggest audience period is during the morning and afternoon, when people aren’t really listening, when radio serves as background music.

A station in direct competition with Radio One and its present format would he fantastically exciting though. It would be limited to the same amount of needle time I expect, although the BBC has more trouble with Unions and Copyright bodies than other sections of the music world. Perhaps it would also attract some of the better DJs who can’t work with BBC, like Kenny Everett, even DJs from FM stations in America.

There are so many brilliant guys over there who would gladly get out of the rat rate to be in Britain. At least radio has little chance of becoming a political vehicle in this country. All stations in America are running anti-drug “commercial” spots in prime time, this is compulsory by Federal Law. What would be the most exciting aspect of all would be the possibilities of doing radio shows in studios designed to record ROCK, not Max Jaffa.

Perhaps they, the BBC, would let out the eight track recorder they have been threatening us all with and make some decent live tapes themselves. Stanley Dorfman is proving Rock can be properly recorded in live entertainment. Admittedly it is hard work when you have visual aspects to consider as well as acoustical separation problems, hut he’s doing all right.

The BBC can do it if they try. If they aren’t rushed, and if they’re pushed. Let’s have another radio station that has to fight the BBC for its audience, one that realises the good and the bad at Radio One and avoids making the same mistakes. The audience figures will decide just what is minority listening and what isn’t. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, it could be so incredible.

Pete Townshend

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The Henry Kaiser Band – “Heart’s Desire” (1990)

February 25, 2010 at 4:56 pm (David Fricke, Music, Reviews & Articles)

David Fricke’s May 17, 1990 Rolling Stone (issue #578) review of experimental guitarist Henry Kaiser’s live album of freewheeling improvisation, Heart’s Desire


Guitarist Henry Kaiser wasn’t just blowing paisley smoke when he inscribed the words a psychedelic dance party on an advance tape of this album a few months back. Heart’s Desire is genuine fry-yer-mind fun. Recorded live with no studio funny business, it ping-pongs between heavy blooze, loony tunes and giddy acid jamming, rich with the motley strains of Jimi Hendrix, Richard Thompson, Captain Beefheart, Burt Bacharach and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

This double album (also available as a slightly abridged single CD) is actually an in-concert reprise of Kaiser’s 1988 covers LP, Those Who Know History Are Doomed to Repeat It, in which he hot-wired great lost hits by Beefheart and the Grateful Dead. Four History numbers, including the Dead’s epic “Dark Star,” reappear on Heart’s Desire. All but one of Kaiser’s present band mates also played on History; the new recruit is Dead keyboard alumnus Tom Constanten.

While History was a refined studio testament to psychedelia’s continuing vitality, the performances on Heart’s Desire capture the rough, exploratory spirit of a late set at the Fillmore. Neil Young’s song “The Loner,” Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe” and “Are You Experienced?” all get extended freakout treatment, with Kaiser and second guitarist Bruce Anderson going on long, turbulent solo tangents. Robbie Robertson’s “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)” climaxes with a shower of staccato guitar shrapnel, while Richard Thompson’s “Don’t Let a Thief Steal Into Your Heart” is taken at a hopped-up avant-bar band groove.

Of course, when anything goes, anything can go awry. “Anyone Who Had a Heart” gets an ill-advised blues-rock mauling; Constanten’s flat singing deep-sixes “The Ballad of Shane Muscatell.” Also, the dominance of distinguished covers here does not always flatter the band’s few originals. But whereas History was a conscious exercise in futurist psychedelia, this is a celebration of the free-flow performance style that characterized the ballroom glory days in San Francisco. Forget that tab of acid you’ve been saving for a rainy day – drop this on your Victrola instead and psych out to your heart’s desire.

David Fricke

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Robert Christgau – “The Rolling Stones: Can’t Get No Satisfaction” (1972)

February 25, 2010 at 9:42 am (Music, Reviews & Articles, The Rolling Stones)

A July 1972 Newsday article around the time their double album magnum opus Exile on Main Street was released…

The night a friend in California called and told me about Altamont, I was having dinner with a woman I’d met a week before — just when the crowd at the speedway was beginning to gather, in fact. We had sat in my apartment and listened to Let It Bleed, and as Mick Jagger sang out the climax of “Gimme Shelter” to Merry Clayton — “Love, sister, it’s just a kiss away, it’s just a kiss away” — I touched her for the first time. There were contradictions there — did I love her just because I wanted to kiss her? — and contradictions within contradictions — did Mick really mean that? — but I ignored them as always. The Rolling Stones epitomized the thing I loved most in the world, rock and roll, and they could induce me to ignore anything. I played their records all the time.

The phone call from California changed that. In the year or so after Altamont — the end of 1969, all of 1970, and into 1971 — I almost stopped listening to the Stones, and whenever I did, the contradictions welled up in me. Admittedly, my reaction was uncommonly intense, and most of those who shared it had always dug the Stones as symbols, not as a rock and roll group. Their response to Altamont was comparably abstract.As Mick Jagger told an interviewer recently: “Of course some people wanted to say Altamont was the end of an era. People like that are fashion writers. Perhaps it was the end of their era, the end of their naïveté. I would have thought it ended long before Altamont.” Yet one must suspect an artist as subtle as Jagger of being disingenuous here, as if he were ever anything else. Writers focus on Altamont not because it brought on the end of an era but because it provided such a complex metaphor for the way an era ended.

Time: the final month of the decade that spawned that unprecedented and probably insupportable contradiction in terms, mass bohemia, popularly known as the counterculture. Occasion: On America’s ultimate frontier some three hundred thousand bohemians come together with their chosen images, five formerly lower- to middle-class Englishmen who fuse Afro-American music with European sensibility. Denouement: An Afro-American bohemian is murdered by a lower-class white Hell’s Angel while the Englishmen do a song called “Sympathy for the Devil.”

As civil war this sequence may have been small potatoes — the dope snuffs in the interstices of San Francisco’s black Fillmore district and hippie Haight were a lot worse–but as a work of art it was exquisite, the culmination of the Stones oeuvre, not to mention a great movie script. Keith Richard, the stud to Jagger’s sybarite, acknowledged its aptness in his own rough way: “Altamont, it could only happen to the Stones, man. Let’s face it. It wouldn’t happen to the Bee Gees and it wouldn’t happen to Crosby, Stills and Nash.”

Richard may be rough, but his use of the passive “to the Stones” is also a trifle disingenuous. After a century of psychotherapeutic speculation we ought to understand that if something can happen only to you, you are probably helping it along. Not that the evasion matters. If it is typical of the Stones’ genius that their responsibility is difficult to pinpoint, it is typical of their burden that everyone who’s into blame blames them anyway. After all, Altamont was as much the Grateful Dead’s show as it was the Stones’. The Stones consulted with the Dead when the event was conceived, and recognizing that a free concert in California was Dead turf, scheduled them to perform last, although in the end the Dead fell back before the bad vibes. The Angels were — and still are — the Dead’s friends, and the Stones’ Altamont coordinator, Sam Cutler, went to work for the Dead when it was all over. Yet no one ever accused the Dead of laying their star-tripping bummer on Woodstock Nation West — least of all me. Ignoring the contradictions once again, I instead found myself transformed into a Grateful Dead freak.

I ignored the contradictions, but I was quite aware of them. Even as I stomped out the key lines of “St. Stephen” — “Talk about your plenty, talk about your ills/ One man gathers what another man spills” — I recognized how smoothly the Dead Americanized volatile intellectual imports like karma and eternal recurrence. Only within a culture as benign and abundant as that of Northern California could anything real and humane accompany such vast cosmic notions, but it did, and the Dead were its highest manifestation. They were not uncomplicated men, but within the controlled environment of the concert hall they generated a joyful noise that went beyond complications, and I was happy to sing along with Jerry Garcia on “New Speedway Boogie”: “Things went down we don’t understand/ But I think in time we will.”

The catch was that I already understood — understood that giving the Angels police power at the hub of that sprawl was a criminally naïve extension of the American karmic principle, popularly known as do-your-own-thing. But I also understood that if the Dead were naïve, then Mick Jagger — who accuses others of naïveté, remember — was probably something nastier. I would call it criminally ironic. Jerry Garcia’s serenity is religious, and smug; Jagger’s detachment is aesthetic, and jaded. Like most Stones fans, I felt more in common with Jagger, so after Altamont I got it on with Garcia. He was from another sphere — I felt no responsibility for his errors. Jagger had been doing my dirty work for years.

The phrase “dirty work” is fortuitous — suggesting working class, baby work out, down and dirty, dirty-minded — but too pejorative at the outset, for above all, the Stones were and are the greatest rock and rollers ever. For pure rock and roll the only conceivable competition comes from Chuck Berry — not Elvis or Little Richard, not the Beatles or Creedence of the Dead. The Stones’ devotion to rock and roll turned us on and brought us through. If the Dead soared beyond their own complications, then the Stones rolled right over the contradictions. They always gave us a rocking good time, and they had a good time themselves while they did.

But the contradictions were there. Good times were always at the heart of rock and roll, absolutely, but the good times had to be won, like anything else. What has made the Rolling Stones so special is their understanding of how long and paradoxical the struggle for really good times must be. Unlike the American folkies — their more privileged and romantic analogue — the Stones were always antiutopian. They never idealized, and they never expected to be pure as a consequence, they were never put off by the commerciality of rock and roll. In fact, having been released from some of the dreary stiffness of the English class system by the tough, joyous physicality of their Afro-American music, they were if anything eager for whatever material benefits might accrue, though they certainly weren’t counting on them.

Most of this the Stones shared with the Beatles. Because both groups perceived American affluence and music from a distance, they understood how very vital it was, and even more important, both were wise enough to intuit that their distance from the Afro-American source would be a necessary and authentic part of whatever they did with it. In order to be itself, English rock and roll had to stand outside itself. For the Beatles this insight was anything but ominous. Basically optimistic and rooted in American pop, they manifested their sense of distance in silliness, fun, play. But the Stones came from a darker, angrier place.

Anyway, Mick did. Although he first found it hard to choose between rock and roll and the London School of Economics, it would be a mistake to all him an intellectual — just like Bob Dylan, he doesn’t permit it. But even if he never thought of it in such terms, the way Mick acted out his distance from the music he loved was a measure of his alienation, both from himself and from his native culture. Of the others, only Brian Jones matched Mick’s occasional desperation. Keith was your basic straight-ahead rocker, and Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts were typical musicians right down to their fondness for jazz.

But all the Stones were rebels, by commitment as well as by necessity. They flaunted their clothes and hair, their collective sneer, and their music itself. It is often observed that the black-oriented rhythm-and-blues they preferred was more openly sexual than the Beatles’ pop rock and roll, but what really set it apart was the project of self-definition it implied. Like so many bohemian rebels, the Stones sought correlatives for their own uniqueness that no one else had found first. They liked not only rhythm-and-blues but obscure rhythm-and-blues, and if the Beatles rebelled into sexuality, the Stones conceived sexuality as a means to a larger rebellion.

Early analyses of their music veered between two poles — Jagger was either a great blues singer or a soulless thief — and both were wrong. Like so many extraordinary voices, Jagger’s defied description by contradicting itself. It was liquescent and nasal, full-throated and whiny. But it was not what Tom Wolfe once called it, “the voice of a bull Negro,” nor did it aspire to be. It was simply the voice of a white boy who loved the way black men sang — Jagger used to name Wilson Pickett as his favorite vocalist — but who had come to terms with not being black himself. Of course, Jagger picked up a defense mannerism along the way: He always sang with a curl of his lubricious upper lip. His style was an audacious revelation. It was not weaker than black singing, just different, and the difference always involved directness of feeling. Jagger didn’t so much sing Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” as get it over with, and although he really seemed to wish us “Good Times,” he made the prospect sound doubtful where Sam Cooke enjoyed the wish itself.

But even as Jagger equivocated around the usages of black singing, and around the lyrics themselves, he rocked. Even when the Stones were as crude and out-of-tune as their detractors claimed, they made us shake our moneymakers. Their insistence on beat and volume was so aggressive and single-minded that they drove off the tender-minded altogether, which was the whole idea. Whatever nuance we thought we pinned down in Jagger’s singing — lust or tease, self-confidence or self-mockery — he would most certainly baffle us one convolution later. Only the hard physical reality of the music was certain.

For those who heard them this way — and we were no more explicit about it than they were — the Stones were fab faves indeed, but just how many of us there were was unclear. For the first year and a half of Beatlemania the Stones were the number-two English group only in publicity — their sales lagged behind the Dave Clark Five’s and Herman’s Hermits’ and barely stayed ahead of the Kinks’ and the Animals’. Then came “Satisfaction.” It was the perfect Stones paradox — the lyrics denied what the music delivered — and it dominated the summer of 1965. Driving home from rainy retreats, vacationing parents and their children shouted out “I can’t get no” in unison while older brothers and sisters decided that the middle verse was about a girl who won’t put out because it’s her period. A whole country was brought together, sort of, by Mick and Keith’s anthem of frustration.

Suddenly, the Stones rebellious project of radical self-definition was becoming a mass movement — against everything that kept the world within our reach and out of our grasp, everything that stopped us from making felt possibilities real. Mick and Keith now wrote most of the material. They voiced the enthusiastic hostility of the new mass bohemianism more directly than the rhythm-and-blues artists, who usually muted their hostility because they were too busy just surviving to pursue hopeless battles. The Stones and their constituency were sure enough of their own survival to covet something better, but the Stones, at least, were much too realistic to expect to achieve it. Their anger was almost part of a vicious cycle.

In the end, in fact, their anger was directed not at the cruelties of politics and economics so much as at a metaphysical joke. The Stones wanted what they couldn’t have and felt detached even from their own desire. Mick accepted his inability to sing from as deep in his heart as Wilson Pickett, he even reveled in it, but he wasn’t sure he liked it, not deep in his heart. Having found the courage and insight to define his whiteness in relation to black people, he still resented having to do so, because at one of his many levels he was pure libido — he wanted everything, and he was arrogant enough to believe he deserved it. Black or white was no fairer a choice than good or evil.

The Stones’ attitude toward women was especially ambiguous. Their realism stemmed from the tough antiromanticism of rhythm-and-blues, which asserted that sex was good in itself (I’m a king bee, buzzin’ ’round your hive, and I just want to make love to you) and connected to love (we got a good thing goin’), and that love involved pain that was deeper and more complex than pop heartbreak. But almost as soon as Jagger and Richard began to compose, they created a persona whose hostility to women rose above and beyond the call of realism. The protagonist of “Heart of Stone” wasn’t just a little red rooster strutting his stuff or a heart-pained lover for whom blue had turned to gray, and he wasn’t just tough, either. He was hard, bearing the same relationship to the blues stud that the metallic incursions of the Stones’ music did to real rhythm-and-blues. It’s almost as if women in all their contradictory humanity symbolized the conditions of life which were the ultimate target of the Stones’ anger. Or maybe it worked the other way around.

In any case, it built from there. By the time of the Stones’ ascendancy-in-exile–the three-year period following their 1966 tour when they were banned from this country due to drug arrests — the heart-of-stone man who kept stupid girls under his thumb and then discarded them like yesterday’s papers seemed to have become Mick’s basic character. Actually, the Stones celebrated their share of heroines — some as autonomous as the elusive (hence imaginary?) Ruby Tuesday — and Mick’s more likable rhythm-and-blues stud got his share of the action, including classic songs like “Goin’ Home” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Moreover, many of the anti-woman songs could be construed as class revenge — Mick the real (albeit rich) finally enabled to lay open the vacuity of his former economic oppressors.

Yes, the beauty of the Stones was that they always left themselves an out. There was no need to take their sexism literally. No matter how Mick’s characters seemed to exploit his stray cats and Siamese cats and back-street girls and factory girls, chances were he wasn’t any more sincere or one-dimensional than usual. After all, Mick wasn’t even male in the usual sense. The most sexually exciting man in rock had always been the most androgynous, deliberately counterposing his almost girlish stage demeanor to Keith’s droogy leer. In fact, all the Stones had posed in drag on a forty-five jacket back in 1966. So even when Mick performed “Midnight Rambler,” that psychotic little showpiece, it could be said that he was merely exposing the petty rape fantasies of his male audience for what they were. Yet no matter what music historians will say, that wasn’t the way his male fans — not to mention his female fans–could be expected to take it. Maybe this was obtuseness, but it was also common sense. After all, the spate of antiwoman songs that appeared between 1965 and 1967 can be passed off as a devastating catalog of sexist stances, but Keith’s explanation ought to be kept in mind: “It was a spin-off from our environment . . . hotels, and too many dumb chicks.”

The 1969 tour was a triumphant exploration of the complexities of the Stones’ stance. All that irony and enigma was magnified into a complete drama of good and evil, aspiration and frustration — a joyous, bitter celebration of what could only be designated The Truth. With an omega emblazoned on his black shirt and an Uncle Sam top hat, Jagger took each of us as far as he or she wanted to go. Contradictions within contradictions — Uncle Mick could always show you one more. The triumphant sexist of “Under My Thumb” became the desolate supplicant of “Love in Vain.” The nasty triumph of “Midnight Rambler” turned into the candid need of “Gimme Shelter.” As for Altamont, it was simply the final contradiction in a long series.

It was final because it went against the whole purport of the Stones’ drama. The truth was that the world was compounded of good and evil, so that any undertaking as utopian as Altamont was doomed by definition. If the Stones audience didn’t understand it that way, it was because the Stones themselves, in all their multileveled contradiction, were unwilling to come out and tell them. They would suggest it, yes, embody it, but they wouldn’t make it plain, because the nature of The Truth is that it isn’t plain. If a fan wanted to take Mick’s struggle with male roles as an invitation to midnight rambling, well, that was the nature of the game. Like any bohemians — like any artists, perhaps — the Stones had always been disinclined to relate to the mass of their followers. The Stones were too arrogant, too idiosyncratic. Yet they had helped create a movement around their own bohemianism, and that part of them that was pure libido wanted not only to sweep regally through the alien land where they had found their roots, divesting it of several million dollars, but also to prove that they were part of all they had helped create. A part of them wanted to be good guys.

They failed abjectly, at least in the short run, but it is naïve and dishonest for their former admirers to blame them unless they also blame themselves. All of us who reveled in their irony, all of us who pleasured ourselves in their art, all of us who pursued romantic fantasies under their partial and contradictory pretenses, are just as responsible. Until we acknowledge our own acquiescence in their decisions, the Stones have a right to minimize their own responsibilities as adamantly as they do.

For no matter how they minimize it, the experience has changed them. Sticky Fingers, released in 1971 but recorded much earlier, went even further in the direction of aesthetic image exacerbation than had marked their 1969 tour. The single, “Brown Sugar,” was at once a brilliant exposure and blatant exploitation of the racial and sexual contradictions of their stance, and “Moonlight Mile” commented definitively on the relationship between sex, love, and distance from self.

But the Stones who are touring the country right now are — almost — good guys. They are less arrogant, less gleefully greedy, and more clearly concerned that their tiny portion of utopia — concerts for their still-expanding audience — be achieved as fairly and efficiently as possible. Both live and on their new album, Exile on Main Street, they are more into music and less into their own image. Especially on record, Jagger has receded a little into the background, and Mick Taylor, who was almost invisible as Brian Jones’s replacement on the 1969 tour, has come forward a little. Taylor is younger and has roots in the new tradition of boogieing jam, so this is a move toward the audience. It’s not as if the Stones have consented to join the movement they half-wittingly helped create, but they seem ready to relate to it, and somehow that doesn’t come off as a cop-out. When such dedicated artists move honestly toward their fans, you believe that love may be just a kiss away after all.

Robert Christgau


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Elvis Costello – “Beyond Belief” (1982)

February 25, 2010 at 1:17 am (Elvis Costello, Music, Poetry & Literature)

History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies, the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues
I’m just an oil slick
In a windup world with a nervous tick
In a very fashionable hovel

I hang around dying to be tortured
You’ll never be alone in the bone orchard
This battle with the bottle is nothing so novel
So in this almost empty gin palace

Through a two-way looking glass
You see your Alice
You know she has no sense
For all your jealousy
In a sense she still smiles very sweetly
Charged with insults and flattery

Her body moves with malice
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous?
And now you find you fit this identikit completely
You say you have no secrets
And then leave discreetly

I might make it California’s fault
Be locked in Geneva’s deepest vault
Just like the canals of Mars and the great barrier reef
I come to you beyond belief

My hands were clammy and cunning
She’s been suitably stunning
But I know there’s not a hope in Hades
All the laddies cat call and wolf whistle
So-called gentlemen and ladies
Dog fight like rose and thistle

I’ve got a feeling
I’m going to get a lot of grief
Once this seemed so appealing
Now I am beyond belief.

Elvis Costello

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