Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar

I just read Gene’s comment about the Political Correctness Police in the comments to the Now I’ve Got A Witness post (about the ranking of every Rolling Stones’ song). I started reading the list from the bottom up, and was noting the very excellent songs ranked near the bottom of the list. Short and Curlies, in particular, apparently because it is misogynistic ignoring the jamming instrumental track behind the lyrics.

In any case, I come at the Political Correctness Police a little differently. I believe people have a basic right to express their opinions, and I also believe people have a right not to be aggressively attacked with hateful speech. Since those two positions are not mutually exclusive, the resolution is one of constant negotiation with oneself and with those within earshot.

For me, there is a big distinction between words said by a person directly to another person in such a way that the implication is personal, and the same words issuing into the public space in a more general way. The former is hate speech, the later is hateful speech (if the subject is hate) and hate speech is perhaps not illegal but certainly morally reprehensible, while hateful speech can be extreme and uncomfortable and repulsive, but its immorality is far from automatic and should be given every benefit of the doubt.

Which brings us to the Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, which is certainly one of the most rampantly offensive and rocking songs in their oeuvre. A writer named Lauretta Charlton wrote a defense of the song in Vulture a couple of years ago,  and quotes Mick Jagger as saying, in 1995, “I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I’d think, ‘Oh God, I can’t. I’ve got to stop. I can’t just write raw like that.’”

I can imagine a world without the hatred and history of Brown Sugar didn’t exist (I have a good imagination), and in such a world such a song probably wouldn’t exist. But that isn’t our world, and if in 1969 Jagger didn’t pour out the lyrics to the song (which he in subsequent years in live shows changed, because he felt uncomfortable singing the originals) as he did, our world would be a lesser place. Fuck those Political Correctness Police.

David Marchese ranks Brown Sugar as the 10th best Stones song of all time.

Hear It Anew

Never thought of this as a rocknroll song but they rock the shit out of it. I heard that Keith wasn’t happy with this song in particular and that’s why the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus was never aired. Typical musician. Embrace the garage, Keith.

Also notable in that Brian Jones is still around. Maybe Keith was pissed because the camera is on Jones when Keith is playing.

Roots

Have we done anything on murder songs? We should. This one isn’t exactly murder but the threat is refreshingly explicit.

I wonder how many real murders have been directly – inspired isn’t quite the word here – influenced shall we say – by songs? It must have happened a few times. Music has been a major player in various murder cults of course, and war of course, but individuals who committed murder under the influence of a song – how rare is that? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyway, Sonny Boy II has his very own blues style, and I happen to think that he’s one of the greatest singers ever, not to mention maybe the best harp player, both instantly recognizable at any rate, and his band swings the blues good.

 

Afternoon Snack: Roxy Music, “Prarie Rose” meets Talking Heads, “The Big Country”

I cannot same that I am as crazy about Roxy as my mate Gene, but I do indeed love them, their sound, and a shitload of their songs.

I have my loves–Out of the BlueVirginia Plain, and All I want is You–but Prarie Rose has something to it that pushes beyond being just a favorite Roxy tune.

Aside from being just a wonderful piece of music and lyric, their are links to both Talking Heads (The Big Country) and Big Country’s In a Big Countrythat line being core to Roxy first.

Here are the Heads, live in a song that sort of has that great feel between driving and laid back thanks to great drumming laying down that fantastic groove.

Here is Roxy from a few years back, and though the hand held IPhone camera is way shaky, the audio is pretty good, and Phil Manzanera just fucking kills his solo even if we cannot really see him (check the video behind Ferry and I think that is a simulcast?)

Stuart Adamson’s fine Big Country band will be saved for another day!

Lyrics

The worst lyrics ever have to be “We Are The World.” As far as I remember, every line in the song is a lie. Maybe there are a couple of mere bland statements, it’s been a while and it can never be too long, but anyway it’s close. I won’t inflict it on you. All I remember at this late date is “We are the world” – no you’re not, you’re a collection of pop stars. “We are the children” – I don’t hear any kiddies in there, maybe you could have flown some in from Africa. To meet your wonderful selves, the ones who “make a brighter day.” Somehow it didn’t work out that way.

I don’t care about lyrics because wopbopalubopawopbamboom is good lyrics. But when you hear bad lyrics blaring that’s another story. Lucky for me I can’t understand a lot of them. Usually I don’t want to know what the singer is saying. I’m fine with I love you so never let you go. Please come back. Come on come on let’s do the go somewhere and fuck.

It’s not that I don’t like good lyrics, it’s that if they try to be good they must actually be good. I love the words to Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, and I would play it for you, except that the only Dylan version I can find is again too painful to dump on you, you a busy guy/gal and all. But ya know, I’ll post it to illustrate how a great lyric can be destroyed by the vocals. The wedding band behind him doesn’t help either:

Sorry. That is atrocious, from the big star Bob, who won’t allow his songs on youtube because I guess he doesn’t have enough money. Always fighting for justice that Bob.

There are some great picture-painting lyrics. Some go back a long way, like to 1936. Bryan Ferry at his best:

There, that makes up for Dylan. Sublime kitsch. Ferry covered “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall” on the same album, a delicious juxtaposition with “It’s My Party” and of course “Sympathy for the Devil.”

Ferry is a great lyricist. This is a song in danger if falling down the memory hole it seems to me, one of Roxy’s best:

 

 

Night Music: Gene McCaffrey, “This is the End”

My buddy Gene wrote this song, and with each iteration he raises the level of the vocals and the cleanness of the mix. Which is good. But the reason to love this song are the propulsive guitars and the rock solid drums. This thing kicks from the stall to the cleaning stall and probably even to the sleeping stall (I’m borrowing my daughter’s horse vocab here).

A metaphor lives forever.

http://www.reverbnation.com/bluegene/song/19254234-this-is-the-end

Night Music: Reform School Girls, and Don’t Touch Me There

If you have ever been in a band–and I hope my buds Steve and Gene affirm this–you are doomed to play covers.

Speaking for myself, and the Biletones, between my own catalog of originals, and that of  bandmate/singer/rhythm guitarist Tom Nelson, we could easily play a two hour set of tunes we penned.

However, especially if your group does not have, shall we say, “a name,” then for the most part you have to get used to playing Little Queenie, Dead Flowers, Moondance, and a zillion other tunes that I have played way more often than I wish.

Still, it goes with the territory, as people want to hear and dance to stuff they know. We do play Tom’s Rich Girlfriend as a regular tune, and have done my own Geography Matters, as well as a couple of more Tom wrote (Bad Dreams, DUI Bars) but for the most part we have to squeeze the desire to play originals into playing more obscure covers.

That means we play a chunk of Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco, all of which are fine by me, to go along with Queenie and the more mainstream cover ilk.

Sometimes those odd covers work (Gravity’s Gone, by Drive by Truckers) and sometimes not (Having a Party by Sam Cooke, and Borrow your Cape by Bobby Bare, Jr.).

Well, about a month ago, the song Reform School Girls, by Nick Curran and the Lowlifes appeared on the weekly practice list.

The song is a great paean to the Phil Spector sound, as well as an homage to the Bitch Groups like the Shangri-Las, and well, once we started playing it, I found myself humming it for days at a time.

Written by the very talented Curran, who sadly passed away from oral cancer in  October of last year at the age of 35, Reform School Girls is as beautiful a send up to the genre as is the Tubes Don’t Touch Me There.

Enjoy!