100 Awesome Things – Part 24

This is different to anything I've posted before…

It's Rita Hayworth dancing to the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive".

You read that right. Lovely Rita dancing to "Stayin' Alive".

I first saw it awhile back but Roger Ebert posted it (and another of Rita dancing to Belafonte's Jump In The Line) today again and I've watched it three times in a row. Just hypnotising.

A few things: whoever put this together has a lot of time. Just collecting the clips must've been a task and a half. Then to find the right bits to sync up… then to actually do it. It's amazing, incredible and terrifying.

I love the internet: it proves constantly that no matter how much of an obsessive fan I am, there's at least a dozen people even more so.

I love what a great reminder of Hayworth's brilliance it is. She wasn't a Cyd Charisse-league dancer (very few were), but she was full of vivacious energy. One can tell she's working hard without looking like she's working hard. And anyone who can keep up with Gene Kelly must be at bare minimum a Pretty Bloody Good Dancer.

I love how it shows she could do All-American (once she was whitewashed by the studio, naturally) Cute Girl stuff like Cover Girl and harder-edged (for musicals) like Pal Joey. I love how the song also pulls out even more of the raw sexuality from Miss Sadie Thompson. That's a very good film, by the way, and I recommend it to you all. Not a musical in the way you're probably thinking, though she sings and dances a bit.

Mostly what I love is that, a bit like the That's Entertainment!i movies, this one little video reminds me why I love the movies. Why I love those old musicals more than almost any other kind of movies (Valentino and Flynn's swashbucklers rate higher, but barely), and the undiluted joy and comfort they've provided me over the years, through some dark times. They were an escape for me, as for others before me, into a world where everything was beautiful, right triumphed over wrong by the end, where everyone was skilled in their arts. I knew then as I know now, that such a place exists only in movies.

In the 1930s, when sound was new, and in the 40s, musicals were spectacle and escape for people living through terrible, terrible times. Though there are notable variations, you more or less knew what you were getting with a musical. A nice love story, some comedy and fun, some great songs and some excellent dancing, and beautiful things on screen.

Singin' In The Rain is the best musical motion picture of all time because it does all of those things spectacularly well.

The genre worked itself to death, of course, like any successful genre will. The great practitioners retired or died and weren't replaced because the death of the Studio System (sucky though it was to say the least) also meant that the training grounds disappeared. You don't get many Triple Threats like Gene Kelly any more.

Mind you, I don't think there were many then, either… that kind of talent is always rare. That's probably why watching a clip like this is so enthralling.

I know a lot of people think I'm grumpy, that I'm over critical, that I'm hard to please and don't like anything. None of those things are exactly true, because I have stuff like this running in my head. That means my standards are higher than most people and things can meet, but it also means I have access to unparalleled wonders and all I have to do is dream.

PS: I also have a sekrit love of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Movie is dark as hell but brilliant for it. Soundtrack is the stuff one dances to in the living room at 2am. I apologise to no one.

*

Previously on 100 Awesome Things:

Part 23 – Philip Lynott – "Somebody Else's Dream   
Part 22 – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – "Your Long Journey"
Part 21 – The Doors – "The Ghost Song"
Part 20 – The Rolling Stones – "Paint It, Black"
Part 19 – Big Mama Thornton – "Rock Me Baby"
Part 18 – Thin Lizzy – "The Boys Are Back In Town"
Part 17 – Nat King Cole – "Mr Cole Won't Rock and Roll"
Part 16 – Rory Gallagher – "A Million Miles Away"
Part 15 – The Shadows – "FBI"
Part 14 – Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina – "I Found A Dream
Part 13 – Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo – "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 – Chas and Dave – "Rabbit"
Part 11 – The Beatles – "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 – Duke Ellington – "The Mooche"
Part 9 – The Doors – "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 – Queen – "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 – Thin Lizzy – "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – "Monster Mash"
Part 5 – Craig Ferguson – "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 – The Bees – "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 – Marvin Gaye – "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 – The Dubliners – "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 – The Allman Brothers Band – "Statesboro Blues"

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100 Awesome Things – Part 23

I started on this challenge in Spring and wanted to get a final post in before the Year of Suck ends. And then I didn't.

This has been a fascinating experience so far. So often I sit down with a specific video or theme in nind and almost always end up going in a different direction, sometimes even choosing a different video.

This time may be the same. I don't know yet. I've had this particular post in mind for awhile but the chosen video has changed each time I considered it.

I don't think I'm going to say much this time.

Twenty-seven years ago yesterday, Philip Lynott died. I've had this blog over a decade now and I've probably run out of things to say in my doomed-to-fall attempts to express what is in my heart about Philo's life, death and the life we've lived without him.

I thought about posting the video for "Old Town", in which the King of Dublin walks amongst his subjects.

Then I thought about posting the video for "King's Call" which is about the death of Presley. It felt appropriate to use a song about the death of hero to illustrate the death of the writer, my own hero, how he appeared to feel about his subject the way I felt and feel about him. But that was a downer and I really try not to associate too much pain with Philo. It's not good for me.

Indeed, I use anniversaries in an attempt to get on with life during the rest of the year. Otherwise I might just crumble under the weight of so many varied griefs.

So, no downer. Have a link to a documentary about him, if you want more info.

Then I got to thinking about Philo's particular strengths. You couldn't call him the greatest bass player in the world, but I like his work, and how his starry side means the bass is often prominent in Lizzy songs. I thought about his abilities with language, especially rhyming (Around/Town in "Jailbreak" notwithstanding).

There's one thing I think Philo truly excelled at, and that's writing rock songs about rock music. "The Boys Are Back In Town" qualifies for this in one of its interpretations. "Don't Believe A Word" is in my opinion the most perfect song about rock music, but I've already told you that.

I mean, who else lived that life as whole-heartedly, full-throatedly, all-encompassingly as Philip Lynott, the man who was even a rock star when he was brushing his teeth, as his wife said? Who else has embraced the highs, lows and contradictions of that life as much as family man/lothario, romantic/hard man Philip Lynott? There's precious few people in that club, and maybe only Keith Richards is alive to tell the tale. (Membership of club, like so much in rock is up for argument.)

And so, I leave you with nothing more than the video I've picked. The song is a solo B-Side from 1981. I bought a copy of the German 45rpm just for this song. I love it for possessing a cool bassline and being another example of Philo's ability to put into words how 'rock star' works. More importantly, for how it doesn't..

Maybe a downer after all. Then again, he's been dead 27 years so finding an up-side is tough. A downer or just an honest (for once, from him) examination? Discuss.

*

Previously on 100 Awesome Things:

Part 22 – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – "Your Long Journey"
Part 21 – The Doors – "The Ghost Song"
Part 20 – The Rolling Stones – "Paint It, Black"
Part 19 – Big Mama Thornton – "Rock Me Baby"
Part 18 – Thin Lizzy – "The Boys Are Back In Town"
Part 17 – Nat King Cole – "Mr Cole Won't Rock and Roll"
Part 16 – Rory Gallagher – "A Million Miles Away"
Part 15 – The Shadows – "FBI"
Part 14 – Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina – "I Found A Dream
Part 13 – Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo – "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 – Chas and Dave – "Rabbit"
Part 11 – The Beatles – "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 – Duke Ellington – "The Mooche"
Part 9 – The Doors – "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 – Queen – "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 – Thin Lizzy – "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – "Monster Mash"
Part 5 – Craig Ferguson – "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 – The Bees – "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 – Marvin Gaye – "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 – The Dubliners – "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 – The Allman Brothers Band – "Statesboro Blues"

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Protected: 2012: Year In Review

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Protected: Update Meme, Borrowed from Everyone!

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100 Awesome Things – Part 22

I started writing this yesterday. It was going to be about Led Zeppelin. They're all around at the moment what with the Kennedy Center Honors and the release of Celebration Day. I saw a bit of the O2 gig aired on BBC2 on Saturday and I was impressed with how not-sucky it was. How the three of them and Jason Bonham are all good enough musicians that it doesn't matter how snake-hipped or lion-maned one is.

And I was listening to the playlist I titled 'The Zeppelin Has Landed' on my iPod while I pretended to edit the novel o' doom. I hadn't decided what song to feature for certain.

Then in conversation with my dad and my brother at Costa Coffee at lunchtime, I realised what the date was. No, I cared not about 12/12/12. It's my brother's birthday on 14th so I gave him his present – a Noam Chomsky t-shirt, because that's how the kid rolls. Then I remember what today's date must therefore be.

If Wednesday was 12/12/12 and Friday was 14/12/12, then it follows that Thursday must be 13/12/12. And once we'd done birthday things, that mattered a great deal to me.

You see, my grandmother Maria died on 13/12/72, so today marks forty years since my family had to learn to live without her.

Once my brother had headed back to work, I settled in his vacant spot next to my dad and asked him to talk about Maria. He doesn't do it much, and usually cries off citing 'I can't remember.'

Well I discovered something: with a bit of time and a few gentle prompts, he can remember. Sadly, he is like my granddad in that he doesn't tend to talk about these sort of things.

I grew up with two of the four grandparents you're generally assigned. A maternal grandmother and a paternal grandfather. Awesome, and more than a lot of people get. I missed having Maria, though. I knew it even as a small child. My middle name is Marie, by the way. As a primary school child I went through a phase of using Maria instead, as if it could bring me closer. She was a ghost, someone else's memory.

I have never believed in the phrase "You can't miss what you never had" because I never had her and I always, always missed her.

Maria was born in the twenties in a town which was Italian at the time but had been Austro-Hungarian when her father embarked on his sailing career (embarked, boom boom) and would be Croatian by the time he retired. She was a teenager at the start of the war and an adult by the end of it. During that time she did some work for the local resistance (details unknown to me), was blown down a set of stairs in an explosion, and otherwise existed under an occupying force. Oh, and she had to live with the knowledge that her cousin of the same name was marched off to Auschwitz and would never know which Maria the bastards had intended to take. (Other Maria survived but was not allowed back home because the then powers that be presumed survivors must've collaborated with the enemy).

I ask you, could you live with wondering if your cousin was sent to the ultimate horror on your behalf? All the while living in or near starvation under an oppressive regime, while also being both young and pretty? Of dealing with air raids because your town has been chosen as a naval centre… of everything.

By the end of the proceedings, my granddad's unit had fought its way through North Africa and Italy. Long story short: Pretty young woman. Handsome young soldier uses Supply connections to 'borrow/commandeer/nick' some meat for her family. Marriage ensues in late 1945. My dad born in Italy in September 1946. Family goes to London. They live happily ever after.

That last bit isn't entirely true. The London to which Maria came was a bomb crater. The people had practically naff all for years after the war ended. I've seen film, photos and bomb maps of the area she came to (where I live, give or take a few hundred yards or so) and it was a crater, and I'm not exaggerating (except the brewery, saved according to legend because they used beer to put out the fires). She arrived in a big, stinking, deprived city where she knew nobody and they spoke a language that wasn't hers. She had to present herself and her child to In-Laws she'd never met, who hadn't seen their eldest son since he'd gone off to the war at the start of proceedings – almost a decade by that point.

It's at about that point that I think I'd probably break down as a quivering wreck of PTSD, fear, disappointment, hunger, fatigue and everything.

Well, Maria did have a breakdown in the 50s and I don't blame her or judge her for a nanosecond. I haven't mentioned yet that nobody who has spoken of her to me has a truly bad word to say about her. They speak of her endless generosity and kindness, her willingness to talk to just about anybody no matter who they were, how she was so often the centre of any gathering. In conjunction with my granddad, a man with more charm than Errol Flynn and Clark Gable combined with a beekeper, I can only imagine that people swarmed around them, that they were most always the centre of any group of people, as my dad describes. I would've loved to have seen them together…

I cannot express to you the deep, abiding sense of loss I feel when I consider Maria. I'm sure my relationship to my granddad would've been different. I even worry we would not have been so close. I wonder what he would've been like with her around. He never remarried after she died. I know of no relationships – I would not be unduly surprised to learn of something trivial/shallow, but I never heard a word of anything ever. He lived more years with her than without her, and rarely spoke of her to me. He didn't talk about things he found painful, not the war, not her.

We once had a brief exchange when I found some jewellery in a little box in a drawer in our living room. 'You know whose that is, don't you?' he asked. I don't know if he was just being his cheeky self or if he truly felt like he couldn't say her name right then. I don't know. So much is supposition, guesswork and just plain wondering…

To pull this back to music, which I always intended to do… as I said, I was listening to my Zep playlist. It also includes Solo Plant, of whom I am a big fan. The last album on the list is Raising Sand, which he made with Alison Krauss and T-Bone Burnett. The last song on there is called "Your Long Journey" by a country musician called Doc Watson. It's a lovely, very sad song… the record was released in October 2007, not many months after my granddad shuffled off the mortal coil, so you can imagine how I felt about a song all about a loved one dying before oneself.

"God's given us years of happiness here, now we must part/And as the angels come and call for you, the pains of grief tug at my heart."

Yesterday, after my dad and I went our separate ways, I put my iPod back on. The coffee shop we'd been hanging out in is about three units down the street from the church my grandparents attended, and I went inside to light some candles and take a moment for her. I have many issues with Catholicism, but it was her faith and her church so it's not a hardship for me to make a gesture for her there. And as I left, the song that came on my iPod was "Your Long Journey".

Religion/faith/spirituality aside, I think it's a great but very sad song: one of the best on the album in terms of the blend of the two voices. Plant's performance is restrained, understated. The harmonies are quite lovely, the arrangement simple and evocative. The lyrics are at once deeply sad and yet hopeful.

Regardless of a specific faith or religion, I know what I hope is waiting after death. All I really want is to see Maria and my other ghosts. I hope more than entirely believe it will happen, but that hope is what gets me out of bed some days. To see Maria at long, long last.

Then yesterday, I was listening to "Your Long Journey" and thinking about Maria and Granddad. They were married for 27 years but he lived another thirty-five without her. I only ever knew him in the context of his widower-hood, I knew only the man required to live without her. I only knew the man for whom 'Your Long Journey' is so very appropriate. In 2007 when I first heard it, I thought of it in terms of him and me, but now it seems much more appropriate for him and her.

"Oh the days will be empty, the night so long without you my love/And when God calls for you I'm left alone/But we will meet in Heaven above. Oh my darling… my darling… my heart breaks as you take your long journey."

As far as I'm concerned, this is on a par with Joe Brown's version of "I'll See You In My Dreams" in terms of loss music, different to that I talked about in my post about "Paint It, Black." The grief is different. Less violent, more hopeful. Because if we meet again, we can handle a separation for awhile, right? We're at either 'Bargaining' or 'Acceptance' in the Five Stages of Grief. It also rather pointedly reminds me that I do not – cannot – know the pain of losing someone with whom you were in love and who returned that same kind and depth of feeling. "Your Long Journey" is not for me.

One final thing: I asked my mother for her favourite memory of her mother-in-law. She emailed back with just:  'Lots of memories of Maria, always smiling.'

After everything, Maria was always smiling. She must've had a steel backbone after all, to be smiling after everything.

You can miss what you never had…



Previously in this series:

Part 21 – The Doors – "The Ghost Song"
Part 20 – The Rolling Stones – "Paint It, Black"
Part 19 – Big Mama Thornton – "Rock Me Baby"
Part 18 – Thin Lizzy – "The Boys Are Back In Town"
Part 17 – Nat King Cole – "Mr Cole Won't Rock and Roll"
Part 16 – Rory Gallagher – "A Million Miles Away"
Part 15 – The Shadows – "FBI"
Part 14 – Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina – "I Found A Dream
Part 13 – Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo – "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 – Chas and Dave – "Rabbit"
Part 11 – The Beatles – "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 – Duke Ellington – "The Mooche"
Part 9 – The Doors – "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 – Queen – "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 – Thin Lizzy – "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – "Monster Mash"
Part 5 – Craig Ferguson – "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 – The Bees – "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 – Marvin Gaye – "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 – The Dubliners – "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 – The Allman Brothers Band – "Statesboro Blues"

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100 Awesome Things – Part 21

Sixty-nine years ago today, give or take some hours, Jim Morrison entered the world. I assume he did so kicking and screaming.

I actually started writing this post a few days ago after a comment on one of my favourite feminist blogs related to a Doors song, then I got caught up in a conversation with a work friend slash bandmate I shall call Mark (because it's his name).

Then I ditched it, because it was the same old "boo hoo me I was a freak at school" toss. Let me try again. Once more, with brevity.

I would not be a Doors fan if I'd been happy at school. The Doors aren't for happy, contented people. The cool kids might put up the poster and wear the t-shirt, but they don't feel it in their souls. They don't need to because they are happy, contented people. Or think they are. Like Alec Guinness as Yevgraf in Doctor Zhivago said of the war: "Happy men do not volunteer."

The Doors are for the outsiders, freaks and despairing children, and you're supposed to grow out of it. Well, I'm still waiting to grow out of it. I suspect I won't now. Every time I think I'm over them, done with them, every time I think he no longer has any power over me, something proves me wrong.

I clung to Jim back in the day. Loved him like the deserts miss the rain, to borrow a line from himself. I needed him, just as I'd needed Lennon a few years earlier, would need Philip Lynott and Rory Gallagher a few years later. Lennon taught me to not give a rat's arse what people thought of me, Morrison helped me believe it. I listened to The Doors' Greatest Hits constantly on the flight to New York City when my mum took me there for a weekend in honour of my 18th birthday (and no, I still can't believe she did such an amazing thing either).

Jim Morrison was literally the sound of my coming-of-age, not just that weekend, but when I began to put myself back together in California. I loved Jim when I arrived in California on the evening of 10th September 2001 (yes, really. My first morning was 'interesting' to say the least) but when I left in July 2002, I was entirely consumed by him. Just click the Doors or Jim tags on this very journal – it's partially recorded here. This post in particular does a good job of reflecting what was going on in my head.

Like the guy in High Fidelity asks: "What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music?"

I know the answer for me: I was already dying from the inside out and the music sometimes made it worse but mostly, I was saved by it. I'm truly not exaggerating to say Lennon and Morrison saved my life, far more than they ever made it worse. Jim Morrison was an outsider and a freak just like me and he was there when I needed him the most.

And Mark, if you're reading, that's what I was trying to say and basically took a million words to babble at you. Sorry about that. Pubs aren't really conducive to deep or intricate conversation, are they?

Right, that's the Me Nonsense out of the way. Now for the Doors nonsense and the video we're all here for.

I think it's fair and accurate to say that Morrison's poetry divides opinion. I've seen it described as pretentious and 'Sixth Form' and I've seen it described as fantastic. I think the answer is somewhere between the two. There are some turns of phrase which are quite, quite beautiful and some lines which are cringeworthy.

And I think 'pretentious' is missing the point. He was trying, at least. Had he lived, had he cleared his mind, I think he had the potential to be truly great, but that didn't happen (also something I was trying to say in my pub conversation that got mangled). He could've been the incisive voice of his generation but his personal weaknesses prevented it. That's life, right?

The video I'm posting today is of the first Doors song I ever truly loved, and it's also a fantastic example of the sublime and ridiculous nature of Jim's work. Ladies, gentlemen and those betwixt, between and otherwise, I present to you "The Ghost Song".

"The Ghost Song" was put together after Jim died, using bits of his poetry he'd recorded on his birthday in 1970 and music recorded by the other Doors in 1978. THe music is very much 'of its time' but I like it. Most of all, I love Jim's voice. His voice is the first reason I loved him back then, and I think he has one of the most gorgeous speaking voices I've heard. Up there with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole in my book.

There are also some beautiful images conjured up in the song. The first lines are among my favourite in popular music: "Awake. Shake dreams from your hair my pretty child, my sweet one. Choose the day and choose the sign of your day." Just a gorgeous image to me.

There's some stuff in there I could live without. I'm still not convinced by his Native American fixation. There's been too much appropriation of Native American culture by white America, and in some really damaging ways, for me to like or wholly believe it. You might see what I mean in the video. Rich Hall made a great programme about it which you might find on BBC iPlayer but long story short: Native American history and culture are not ours to play with, to find faux-spiritual enlightenment by stealing from a culture which was nearly wiped out and made invisible except for when it suits the victors. Given some of what has been said about Morrison's attitude toward race, it's uncomfortable.

For every beautiful line: "Music enflames temperament", there is another less accomplished: "We need great golden copulations", the sound of someone trying a little too hard. But then there's this: "Oh great creator of being, grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives." I love that so much.

Morrison is the great contradiction of sublime and ridiculous, profound and shallow. He is high art working in the low art form, or the low lurking in the high. From reading more of his work than just the song lyrics, I have a suspicion that he knew that, that it was probably intentional at least to some degree. He wasn't stupid. Up his own arse and as much as he was drunk off itl, yeah. But not stupid. He was baiting us as much as he was consumed by his own high opinion of himself, I think. Or maybe I hope that's true… because otherwise I have to accept that he was a pretentious, cock-fixated wannabe-poet – have you read The Lords and The New Creatures?

In dying so early, Morrison relinquished control over his image, his legacy, his work and gave it to the rest of us. I choose to see one version of Jim, you may see another. He is what we each need or want him to be. To me, he is a deeply flawed human being, a poet of skill with some bad moments, a voice I will love my whole life through.

He asked a question once, in one of his good lines: "Did you have a good world when you died, enough to base a movie on?"

The answer for his life is 'Yes', but did it have to be such an awful film?

Previous Entries:

Part 20 – The Rolling Stones – "Paint It, Black"
Part 19 – Big Mama Thornton – "Rock Me Baby"
Part 18 – Thin Lizzy – "The Boys Are Back In Town"
Part 17 – Nat King Cole – "Mr Cole Won't Rock and Roll"
Part 16 – Rory Gallagher – "A Million Miles Away"
Part 15 – The Shadows – "FBI"
Part 14 – Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina – "I Found A Dream
Part 13 – Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo – "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 – Chas and Dave – "Rabbit"
Part 11 – The Beatles – "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 – Duke Ellington – "The Mooche"
Part 9 – The Doors – "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 – Queen – "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 – Thin Lizzy – "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – "Monster Mash"
Part 5 – Craig Ferguson – "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 – The Bees – "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 – Marvin Gaye – "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 – The Dubliners – "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 – The Allman Brothers Band – "Statesboro Blues"

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100 Awesome Things – Part 20

Thanks to Crossfire Hurricane and certain small-scale, cheaply priced concerts, the Rolling Stones are all over the news again… my feelings towards  Stones are probably best categorised as "ambivalent".  I think "Satisfaction" is one of the greatest songs in the rock and roll genre. The lyrics are sublime, the riff unforgettable… and yet their Isle of Wight 2007 set was so… bad that I can't forgive or forget somehow.

I don't know. Maybe I bought into the 'Beatles Vs. Stones' rivalry toss and didn't realise. Maybe I'm sick and tired of the constant mythologising. Maybe it's that Brian Jones was a despicable human being. Maybe it's that Jagger's got a face only a mother could slap. Dunno.

I do know that I love "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Dancing With Mr D." but I only own a couple of actual studio albums – Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, and for reasons passing understanding, A Bigger Bang. I really dig The Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus, although they're not even the third best act on the bill. Forty Licks is a great collection…

Actually, there's quite a lot of Stones tracks I love. In recent years, I even like "Don't Stop" and their new one "Doom and Gloom". Or, as Jagger mangles the vowels, "Doom and Glaaaaooooooom." The more I listen, the more I like it. Also, I really like the Noomi Rapace video. Her Jagger impersonation is tres amusing.

Hang on: Moment of Pause to consider and acknowledge that Noomi Rapace is just plain awesome. Even in Prometheus running around 2 minutes after a Caesarean section… if you don't know why that's stupid, google it.

On the Brian Jones point, let's be honest: if I removed every book and record and movie I own because the creator was a despicable human being, my flat would be empty. I am, after all, an Errol Flynn fan…

I still really want to smack Jagger every time I see him. He really winds me up for reasons not fully understood by me, really so much. When I saw footage of the O2 gigs my first instinct was to Chuck Norris that trilby off his head. Maybe it's because he is, at this point, a parody of a mockery of himself. And I found the 60s Jagger irritating too. He just winds me the hell up.

I was talking to someone just yesterday about how basically, the Stones are a singles band. Last week I saw a bit of a show on BBCfour about pop singles and someone idiotic said 'oh, albums are for boys but girls like singles'. Her reasoning for this was unsound and general. I love albums. I love the journey from start to finish and even in these days of iPods and playlists, I try to keep albums intact. Not always, but oftentimes. With Led Zeppelin III I left out the songs I didn't like so much for a long while but had to reinstate them because it felt incomplete whenever I'd listen.. and lo and behold, those songs ("Celebration Day" and "Out on the Tiles") have become favourites since.

So maybe my issue with the Stones is that I've never been able to latch onto them like other bands because they really are a song band, a singles band. Watching Crossfire Hurricane I was surprised by the number of times I thought 'hmm, yeah I do really dig that song.' I think I like them more than I remember I do.

The Isle of Wight Festival 2007 was incredibly disappointing. I mean, they were just not good. I don't think they're designed for festivals, which I could've forgiven, but they were also deeply blah, mediocre and not all that. I can't get over that because I was stood there watching them desperately wishing I could be enjoying myself and just not. I wasn't there wanting to criticise (you won't believe me, but I don't go out of my way to dislike things). I wanted to love it. I wanted to walk back to my tent on a cushion of fluffy silver clouds of that great Music High. I couldn't. I walked away wondering if I was the only one who noticed what a load of old toss it had been. And then I went to a simulcast of the Shine a Light premiere, again wishing to have a great time only to be faced with a documentary about the band so unflattering that I can hardly believe they let Marty release it.

I'd love to see them live in their own right, but I can't afford that mortgage, you know?

Perhaps my biggest problem with the Stones is this: They kinda reflect everything that's wrong with music: resting on one's laurels on a thirty-year greatest hits tour; ridiculously inflated concert ticket prices; creative bankruptcy; myth over music; cool over content…

Not all of this is their fault, I know that. Mick's only charging a million quid a ticket because he knows someone will pay it, and if he doesn't, they'll end up on eBay or secondary ticketing sites for a million quid he won't see. Their creative bankruptcy for decades is their fault but is in the eye of the beholder and "Doom and Gloom" certainly hints at a long-overdue revival, maybe the swan's last song?

Perhaps I'm just pissed off that the Stones survived where the bands I love didn't. How is Keef alive while Morrison's long been wormfood? How did they manage to stay together where the Beatles imploded into the Sue Me, Sue You Blues? Why are they lauded as The World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band when they're really only a pretty good blues band? Why were they the lucky bastards where Thin Lizzy were, in Scott Gorham's words, the 'unluckiest lucky band in the world'? These are my issues, not Jagger's, I acknowledge, but I still want to slap him.

Let me state it clearly for myself as much as anyone: I like the Rolling Stones. I am a fan. Probably not of much beyond 1972(ish) but I do like them. There are even songs I truly love.

There's one Rolling Stones song I think is truly, unquestionably great. On the basis of this song alone they deserve their place in the Pantheon of Rock Gods (although maybe not quite such a prominent place as they snatched for themselves.)

Milords, ladies, gentlemen and everyone else: "Paint it, Black."

This is their most perfect song. There are great lines in other songs but I think "Paint It, Black" is fantastic from start to finish.

I've lost people I've loved with my whole soul, and there's no song I know of that comes as close as this to getting to the heart of deep grief. "If I look hard enough into the setting sun/My love will laugh with me before the morning comes." If you've known the pain of deep grief, you know the dark implications of that line. The line which always makes my heart stop for a moment: "I wanna see the sun, blotted out from the sky." because that's how it is. CS Lewis' short book 'A Grief Observed' does an excellent job of examining and deconstructing grief (he used his own example after his wife Joy died) and describes the way the veil drops down onto the grief-stricken, like a blanket separating them from the world. That's what it is.

Grief is different for every person and for every person they've lost. My grief for Philip Lynott was different to that for Jim Morrison which was different to that for Rory (and I'm lying when I refer to it in the past tense). They're different again from how it felt to lose other people, ones I'd actually met and held and been held by, who had loved me in return, who had given me so much, whose pain had been my pain..

When actor Peter Cushing's wife died, he spent the night running up and down the stairs trying to induce a heart attack. I walked into traffic. That's still my warning for depression you know, if I'm cutting it too fine when I cross the road. There are a lot of ways of staring into the sun. I've been into that cold, empty cave and stared into the heart of darkness, my friends, and I dearly hope that for you the closest you ever get to the feeling is listening to "Paint It, Black."

I don't remember most of 2007 and a chunk of 2008. Until the veil lifted a little, I just don't remember. I know theoretically what I was doing, and I must've passed for 'OK' most of the time…. As far as I was concerned, the sun was blotted out from the sky. I certainly worked hard to make it so, to "fade away and not have to face the facts."

There are other great songs about death, dying, grief and the rest. I'd recommend Golden Earring's "Radar Love" as another excellent grief rock song. "Paint It, Black" though, is the one which gets to me most every time. Jones' sitar riff, the hollow, driving rhythms from Watts and Wyman… its feeling of being very much of its psychedelic period and yet timeless. There is nothing wrong with "Paint It, Black" except that rogue comma in the title.

*

Previously on 100 Awesome Things:

Part 19 – Big Mama Thornton – "Rock Me Baby"
Part 18 – Thin Lizzy – "The Boys Are Back In Town"
Part 17 – Nat King Cole – "Mr Cole Won't Rock and Roll"
Part 16 – Rory Gallagher – "A Million Miles Away"
Part 15 – The Shadows – "FBI"
Part 14 – Marilyn Monroe as Elsie Marina – "I Found A Dream
Part 13 – Kenneth Williams as Ramblin' Syd Rumpo – "The Ballad of the Woggler's Moulie"
Part 12 – Chas and Dave – "Rabbit"
Part 11 – The Beatles – "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You"
Part 10 – Duke Ellington – "The Mooche"
Part 9 – The Doors – "Who Do You Love?" featuring Albert King
Part 8 – Queen – "These Are The Days Of Our Lives"
Part 7 – Thin Lizzy – "Don't Believe A Word"
Part 6 – The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – "Monster Mash"
Part 5 – Craig Ferguson – "Doctor Who Cold Opening"
Part 4 – The Bees – "Who Cares What The Question Is?"
Part 3 – Marvin Gaye – "Got To Give It Up"
Part 2 – The Dubliners – "Octopus Jig"
Part 1 – The Allman Brothers Band – "Statesboro Blues"

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