Shine A Light

I am just returned from the simulcast of the UK Premiere of the Martin Scorsese film of the Rolling Stones.

As I always seem to do with the Rolling Stones, I find myself somehow underwhelmed. I always am. I don’t hate them. I have some of their records. There are some songs that I really loved. Hell, I covered Satisfaction once at an open mic. I introduced it by saying “Let’s do this better than they did at the Isle of Wight…” but still. They sucked at the Isle of Wight, by the way. Truly, they did.

The thing is, I was sat there in a cinema full of Stones fans, some going totally crazy and all I could think was: “Yeah, and?”

I suppose it’s that I’ve never in all my life bought into the hype. That WORLD’S GREATEST ROCK AND ROLL BAND shit they started when the Beatles broke up.

There are two big questions that nobody sits on the fence for if they love music: Elvis or the Beatles? The Beatles or the Rolling Stones? Now, we all know that I pick The Beatles each time. I’ve always found some disdain for the way the Rolling Stones seem to have (or perhaps, those around them, or the fans) sought to boost their reputation by mocking the Beatles. “Yeah, we’re the real rockers, we’re the tough/hard/dangerous ones!”

I never believed in their myth-making, incessant as it has been. I don’t really give a shit what Keith has taken down the years, and although I find it amusing to a point, I have never been able to shake off the feeling that a lot of people died trying to be him. Is that his fault? Well, that’s a question for another time…

The big problem for me is Mick Jagger. I mean I find it really hard to like that man. I find it difficult even to watch him as he performs, with all those nonsense moves which, I’m sorry, have only got more ridiculous as he’s aged. He’s the Paul McCartney of the Stones, the guy who is just begging you to love and adore him and will do anything to achieve it. He’s Mr Entertainer, cut from the same cloth as McCartney, as Bruce Forsyth, as Mickey Rooney. In another, earlier world, he would’ve been a music hall hoofer. In another, later world, he might’ve been one of those keep fit people on breakfast TV.

You’ll observe that I haven’t actually said a word about the film yet. It opens well enough with a few choice scenes as regards the set up of the show, and Scorsese’s need to see a set-list before the show actually starts.

He is told that the lights will burn Mick if they’re on him for more than 15 seconds, or something. He replies:

“We can’t set Mick Jagger on fire” which is said with just a hint of a question mark. This is hilarious, of course. Mick shows himself to be a rather snotty sort of character at times.

At this point, I’d like to tell you that I was given a free Shine a Light simulcast t-shirt as I went in, which nearly made me fall over – The Stones never give anything away for free. Hell, a large amount of their website is members only, and that’s $99.99.

Anyway, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate them, and the music doesn’t suck – certainly not like their festival appearance at the Isle of Wight last summer, which was rotten (although most people didn’t seem to notice) but it’s not… it’s not world-shattering. Maybe if I were a real fan I’d be beside myself – I certainly know what it is to get completely wrapped up in a rock film. It’s just not that great. At times it’s not all that flattering, either. I wonder whether they had any editorial control or whether Scorsese did what he did without their permission (I certainly hope so).

Where was I? I could tell you that it was interesting to see the Clinton party arrive for their meet and greet, and the band’s quietly contemptuous but otherwise polite reaction. I could tell you that it was fascinating to see that the majority of the people close to the stage were suspiciously young and New York Trendy. Presumably the middle aged fans were in the back or up on the balcony. I found one young lady with straightened hair and a perfectly flouncy white peasant shirt and fashionably wide black belt to be particularly amusing – while all around her are going mad, she is posing with one hand on her hip and the other rather feebly punching (tapping, actually) the air almost in time to the music. A picture is worth a thousand blagged tickets, no?

Anyway, I’ve made brief mention of the fact that Mick Jagger is a posing tosser, but that’s hardly news. What I found quite interesting was watching Keith. If Mick is McCartney then I suppose that leaves Keith with the don’t-care-fuck-off pose John Lennon filled in the Beatles. Make no mistake kiddies, it is an act. He might be better at pretending it’s not an act, it might be a different act, but it’s an act nonetheless. His schtick is to seem like some haggard old bluesman from a delta somewhere, and to seem uncaring/cool/out of it. It’s a fucking act and somehow, at the point he said “It’s nice to see you. It’s nice to see anybody” I found it distasteful. He does that gag every show, pretty much, the ‘oh, I’m lucky to be alive, me’ thing. Mick Jagger’s an old peacock, but at least he’s more honest about it.

Really, I don’t hate them. I actually like them a lot. The problem is, I think I like them much, much more than I respect them which is a problem. They’ve been on the same Greatest Hits tour since about 1981… and I find that at odds with both the idea of ‘ROCK AND ROLL’ and with musicality. I cannot respect them, and they have yet to give me cause to.

What about the film? Well, I liked it, I really did. There were a few moments that were laugh out loud funny. I liked the choice of archive interviews selected, although I find it somehow distasteful again that when it purports in some ways to be a review of their career the names Brian Jones, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor (to name three) are mentioned nowhere, although they appear very briefly in some of the bits of archive film.

Still, Brian Jones was 90% cunt and 10% tosser, as the story goes.

Thing is, there was nothing much about this film that could only have been done by Martin Scorsese. It’s not like back in the days of The Last Waltz when it wasn’t really being done. Plenty of shows are filmed now, plenty of shows with roving cameras and cameras behind the band and at the side or below. There was nothing truly out of the ordinary and the ending seemed horribly cliche – a bit like a moment in that Britney video where it’s Famous Singer Girl being followed and pawed by hangers on and so on and so forth. This would be fine if it hadn’t been made by Scorsese. Wasn’t he supposed to be one of the greatest movie directors ever?

The first time I saw The Last Waltz, I stopped the DVD and started it again straight away. I think I watched it a second time all the way through and then a third time skipping through the bits I could live without (Neil Young, obviously).

I would love to love the Rolling Stones. But I don’t. I don’t respect them enough for that. I might shove Forty Licks and Sticky Fingers on my iPod now if I can find them… but I still have A Bigger Bang waiting to be listened to. It’s a band that’s been coasting for at least as long as I’ve been alive, and I find that lazy. Still, Mick’s not really much of a singer, Keith’s hardly as good a guitarist as legend has it (he really can’t play solos in the same manner as say, Clapton or Page.).

What was really cool was seeing that Ronnie Wood, for all his reputation as a jester, really takes the job of playing very seriously. He is also very good at his job.

Charlie Watts is a very cool man also, and the one moment where he looks right in the camera and shrugs with a sigh sums up the whole shebang as far as I’m concerned.

Guest spots by Jack White and Buddy Guy: Cool.
Guest spot by Christina Aguilera: She’s a very good singer, but I dislike her music generally. Watching Jagger lech over her was rather distasteful, especially after she left the stage and he basically muttered in that way men sometimes do when they see an exceptionally beautiful woman. Ick. Not because he’s old necessarily, but because it’s him.


The Rolling Stones claim to be the World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band. I would argue that they’re not even Britain’s greatest rock and roll band. Hell, they’re not even the greatest rock and roll band from Britain in the 1960s, the 1970s or the 1980s. Perhaps they’re the greatest rock and roll band with members from Dartford. Maybe – I’d have to check Wikipedia for that.

However, it was good to be there for the simulcast amongst Stones fans – it made for a decent atmosphere. Other than that, colour me both underwhelmed and ultimately, sorry, bored.

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