Rolling Stones (by Richard E. Aaron)
A few days ago, I finished reading Keith Richards’ auto biography Life (mentioned here earlier). Really a great book. The impression of him I was left with was not that he is not just some wild party animal (which he certainly can be, of course), but that ultimately he is quite a thoughtful and humble person whose singular goal in life is the pursuit of making good music. Very inspiring, although it’s fun to read about the debauchery, too.
This picture comes from a show the Stones performed as part of Keith Richards’ sentence in his Toronto drug bust case in the late ’70s. Quite a bit of time in the book is spent talking about this arrest and the subsequent legal fallout. If convicted, he surely would have went to jail (having been in and out of trouble with the law in various countries throughout most of the ’70s prior to then), the Stones would have probably ended due to internal tensions and Mick’s desire for a solo spotlight, and that would have been that. Another great band down the tube.
It’s arguable whether or not they have done anything worthwhile since the late ’70s anyhow, but in recent years, I’ve begun to turn my opinion around about aging rock and rollers of the “classic rock” era and beyond. So much of rock and roll is tied to youth and aggression, that it just doesn’t seem the same when a thicker, greyer, wealthier version of your hero is trying to sell you on that notion. Still, does it diminish what once made them great? It’s a tough question to answer. Ultimately, though, none of these guys will be around forever, so is it wrong that they continue to perform for people that love them until they drop dead? I suppose it depends on how they’ve gotten to where they are. I wish Brett Michaels had never been resurrected by VH1 so we wouldn’t have to put up with the trashy pandering he currently dishes out to an all too receptive audience, but he was never in a great band to begin with. Conversely, I saw The Who, a genuinely great band, a couple years ago, and despite half the real band being dead, they were still incredible. I left the show thinking “no matter how hard I try, I will never be in a band a fraction as good as they are now”.
Someday, all the “important” rock and rollers will all be gone. I was really shook up the day that Mitch Mitchell died, because I came to the realization that the entirety of the Jimi Hendrix Experience was gone from this earth. There could be no more first hand accounts of what it was like to be in that band, and they were the first “important” rock band to earn that distinction. Even some of Elvis’s guys are still around. Someday they won’t be, though. Someday the Beatles will all be dead, and the Stones, too. I guess what I’m saying is, if you love this stuff, enjoy it now while you can. See the band live if they come around. Someday, rock and roll will just be a list of dead people’s names that are only an afterthought in the minds of the masses. Thousands of people turned out for Beethoven’s funeral, but what do most people think of him now, if they think of him at all?
Anyway, I posted this picture because I like it. Click on it to read the photographer’s story behind it, read Keith Richards’ book, and listen to Exile On Main Street.