The Rolling Stones have inspired approximately 40 billion words of effusive praise, irrational hate, and all points in-between. Yet, it’s astonishing how few of those words actually address how their various musical parts have fit together, especially at their peak.
Voyeuristic tales of drug abuse, debauched sex, satanism (real or imagined), more drug abuse, intraband feuding, more debauched sex, record sales, lawyers, court appearances, and wanton destruction of animate and inanimate objects — some of whom were named Brian Jones — you will find no shortage of material on these marginally interesting topics.
Even when music is the pretext for discussion, it’s usually no more about music than fast food is about food. “The Stones are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all-time” is not an engaged critique. Pithy marketing hook? I’ll give you that. Possibly true on any given night between 1965-1981? Sure. But, how are they great? And how was that greatness passed on to future bands? Gimme specifics, not publicist jargon.
Lest you think I’m all mouth and no money, I’ve tackled “Sweet Virginia,” “Sway,” and the relatively obscure, “All Sold Out” in previous Lounge sessions. Agree or disagree with my analysis, at least I’m talking about the tunes. On that note, what do you say we use “All Sold Out” as a jumping-off point and examine two of my favorite songs from the perennially underrated Between The Buttons (1967).
Rolling Stones – Connection [Mono]
Generally credited as a Keef lead vocal … his first with the Stones … in truth, it’s a co-lead with Mick. And as usual, their harmonies are ragged, yet wondrously conjoined, Jagger carrying the mid-range and Richards riding just over the top. This wobbly vocal magic would bear fruit a little over a decade later, when John Doe and Exene Cervenka of X (pictured left) harmonized with a similar sense of glorious imperfection. In fact, “Connection” would be a perfect X cover. Can someone make that happen? Thanks.
Musically speaking, this is pretty much a Keef arrangement, with his guitar riffs pulling against the beat as Charlie Watts (and Mick) push the band forward. If you don’t hear the New York Dolls and early Replacements all over this tune, you ain’t paying attention. For what it’s worth, I also hear the Neckbones, but only about 100 of us have the good fortune of getting that reference.
Rolling Stones – Miss Amanda Jones [Mono]
Mick Jagger – lead/background vocals
Keith Richards – electric guitar, background vocals
Bill Wyman – bass
Charlie Watts – drums
Ian Stewart – piano, organ
If “Connection” is an X cover waiting to happen, “Miss Amanda Jones” may as well be a Faces template, specifically A Nod Is As Good As A Wink…To A Blind Horse. Not only does “Amanda’s” intro echo the first guitar riffs in “Too Bad,” but the riff breaks and guitar tone throughout “Amanda” are heard throughout “Stay With Me.” If the Stones are “the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band of all-time,” this bit of buried treasure demonstrates why. It wasn’t a hit, no one outside of Stones nerds (or John Hughes fans) have heard of it, but its concision, rough delivery, fuck you production sensibility, and abandonment of self-indulgent musicianship were precisely the musical values that gave birth to punk, which saved rock music … including the Stones … from itself. For those of you scoring at home, the badass rock continuum runs roughly (and incompletely, I admit) like so:
Stones > Faces > Dolls > Ramones > X > Replacements
Suffice to say, expect further examination of this continuum here on the Adios Lounge. Until then, can someone please tell me, who the fuck IS Mick Jagger????