Friday, May 1, 2009

Please hold...

I'm having a bit of trouble arranging for the hosting of the songs. Until I figure it out, here's Brian Regan being funny.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Felice Brothers - "Frankie's Gun!"

The Felice Brothers - "Frankie's Gun!"

[Download link]

Sometimes I tell people about this blog and they might think, "Wow, you must love music." Then they might read the blog and think, "Wow, you must hate music."

I'm 38 years old. Over the last decade, my musical life has revolved pretty much around artists that came and went before I was born. It's all Napster's fault: who among you will forget that glorious six-month period in 2000-2001 when Napster was at its height of popularity, when its broad network not only made it possible to find virtually any song you could think of, but thanks to the introduction of low-cost broadband, you could download all of these songs faster than you could listen to them?

It was during this period that I gave up listening to radio. Even forgetting the interminable commercial breaks, why would I listen to songs some other guy had selected when, waiting for me at home, were three Aretha Franklin albums I'd never heard before? I mean, why take a chance on some programming director's taste in music? Aretha in Paris might not be the best album in the world, but it was almost certainly going to give me more pleasure than any random hour of music I would hear on the radio.

Aretha led to the broad soul scene of the sixties, and Napster helped me discover journeymen singers like OV Wright and James Carr. Sixties Soul led me to the "hard" gospel groups of the fifties, and Napster once again stepped in to point me in the direction of singers like Inez Andrews and Dorothy Love Coates.

And believe me, once you hear Dorothy Love Coates belt out You've Been Good To Me it's hard to go back to the more sedate fare that has ruled the airwaves in this century.

A few years ago friend of the blog Ron Littlejohn posed a philosophical question to me: when was the last time I was into a band that was new and hip at the time I was into them? I had to think — I really dug Public Enemy, but I didn't get into them until the mid-90s, 5 years after it was hip to be into them. I loved Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen, but I don't think it was ever hip to like these guys. I loved a lot of local bands at a time when it was hip to like them, but I think it goes against the spirit of Ron's question to answer with no-name bands. Finally, I answered with The Black Crowes, whose Southern Harmony and Musical Companion represented the band's musical high point in 1992.

That's right: I haven't been into a new band since 1992. For someone who was raised on the glory days of top 40 radio, who got to hear Prince, Van Halen, Cyndi Lauper, and Run DMC all on the same station, this was depressing.

Today, however, I come to you with news. No longer shall I hang my head in shame. For I have found a band whose music excites me in ways I feel a little funny about discussing in public. I don't know anything about The Felice Brothers, but their song "Frankie's Gun!" had me smiling like a ninny when I first heard it. Smiling not only because it is a truly great song, but also because I proved to myself that I haven't completely closed myself off to new music.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Goats Head Soup Roundup

Goats Head Soup Roundup

Not the worst album the Stones had recorded, and certainly not the worst in their discography — Goats Head marked the precise moment where they went from being an inspired, if inconsistent, ramshackle rock and roll band to a professional entertainment group. While there are moments of near-sublime ridiculousness and a spot or two of raw energy, what emerges from the album is a pervasive sense of 70s studio professionalism. And while the band has not yet reached the level where they are audibly going through the motions, you can hear that they are done taking chances, at least for now. We'll see whether they carry on avoiding risks on It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. (Answer: yes.)

Notes provided by Wikipedia since I am too lazy to do it myself.

Side one
1. "Dancing with Mr. D" – 4:53
Features Nicky Hopkins on piano and Mick Taylor on bass
2. "100 Years Ago" – 3:59
Features Billy Preston on clavinet and Mick Taylor on backing vocals
3. "Coming Down Again" – 5:54
Features Keith Richards on lead vocal, Nicky Hopkins on piano and Mick Taylor on bass
4. "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" – 3:27
Features Billy Preston on clavinet
5. "Angie" – 4:33
Features Nicky Hopkins on piano

Side two
1. "Silver Train" – 4:27
Features Ian Stewart on piano and Keith Richards on bass
2. "Hide Your Love" – 4:12
Features Mick Jagger on piano and Mick Taylor on lead guitar. Recorded during rehearsals at The Doelen in Rotterdam in the summer of 1973
3. "Winter" – 5:31
Features Nicky Hopkins on piano
4. "Can You Hear the Music?" – 5:31
Features Nicky Hopkins on piano
5. "Star Star" – 4:25
Features Ian Stewart on piano
Original title was "Starfucker", but the title was changed for the packaging and radio play.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Goats Head Soup
Side Two, Track Five
"Star Star" – 4:25

[Download link]

This song makes me unhappy. I'll leave it at that.

Joan Jett adds irony to the mix:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Can You Hear the Music?

Goats Head Soup
Side Two, Track Four
"Can You Hear the Music?" – 5:31

[Download link]

Can you feel the magic hangin' in the air?

Easily the most ridiculous song the Stones have been involved with until this point. This is the kind of thing you'd expect to hear on a shitty McCartney album. The lyrics are insane, nonsensical pseudo-mystical babble. Favourite line:

Love is a mystery I can't demystify

If that doesn't say "phoning it in" I don't know what does.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Goats Head Soup
Side Two, Track Three
"Winter" – 5:31

[Download link]

On first listen, an utterly conventional rock ballad.

And it's sure been a cold, cold winter
And the wind ain't been blowin' from the south
It's sure been a cold, cold winter
And the light of love is all burned out

It works for me, however, as a pure mood piece, something the Stones didn't really engage in often. The banal lyrics are emotionally evocative in a way I can't really describe, helped along by the strings and Mick Taylor's kickass solo. This may be the most humble peice the Stones recorded in the 70s.

UPDATE: I listened to it again just now, and Mick Taylor's solo kicks seven kinds of ass.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hide Your Love

Goats Head Soup
Side Two, Track Two
"Hide Your Love" – 4:12

[Download link]

This is what it would sound like if Mick ever wanted to turn the Stones into a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. At least, that's what the opening sounded like to me.

"Hide Your Love" is a undercomposed studio jam. Wikipedia says it was recorded during rehearsals at The Doelen in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in the summer of 1973. I guess there's some kind of visceral thrill to listening Jagger scream "oh yeah!" over and over again, but they already did that (and did it so much better) on "Stop Breaking Down" from Exile. Besides the fluid lead guitar by Mick Taylor, the song is an unremarkable piece of effluvia from an album specialising in effluvia.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Silver Train

Goats Head Soup
Side Two, Track One
"Silver Train" – 4:27

[Download link]

How is it that I don't know this song? I mean, I've probably listened to every Stones album at least a dozen times in my life – why is it that this little rocker failed to lodge itself in my memory? Oh right: the song itself is unremarkable.

There is really not much to "Silver Train" apart from the chugga-chugga-chugga rhythm section – there aren't even any chord changes until 60 seconds into the song. Mick isn't quite as distracting here as he is on the rest of the album (although it's becoming increasingly clear that he has left any subtlety he once had behind), but there aren't any vocal hooks, or instrumental flourishes, or anything at all that would cause the song to linger in one's memory.

So why have I been listening to it on repeat for the last hour and a half?

You'll want to check this clip out for Mick's ridiculous wardrobe:

You may also enjoy Johnny Winter's version of "Silver Train" – released 6 months before the Stones' version.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Goats Head Soup
Side One, Track Five
"Angie" – 4:33

[Download link]

You know how there are some jokes you never get tired of? Many years ago, in the pre-internet days, a local weekly had a contest to find the best misheard lyric. Of course, nowadays, there are hundreds of sites that will have countless misheard lyrics, but back then these things spread by word of mouth – it was the height of comedy in my eyes to see all of these mondegreens in one spot. Today I can only remember two entries: one person believed Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" began with the line "Last night I dreamt of some bagels"; another person wrote that he had thought for years that the opening line of "Angie" was Mick Jagger singing "I ain't Jed".

I know it's not very funny, but I can still make myself laugh hysterically by saying "I ain't Jed" while looking in the mirror.

I don't know why I'm surprised that there is an I Ain't Jed YTMND page. I don't recommend clicking that link.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Your mouth don't move but I can hear you speak

Well, it's been a couple of months since I updated, but I decided to give it another shot. It's funny: if you had suggested that listening to one Rolling Stones song a day for almost a year and writing a couple of paragraphs about it would suck the will to live right out of me, I wouldn't have believed you.

Friend of the blog Ron Littlejohn has been after me to start updating the blog again. He told me that it was unconscionable that I quit right after the peak Stones period, that I wouldn't have to deal with the precipitous decline in quality after Exile. He also reminded me of my stated goal for Blogging the Stones, to look for nuggets of gold in the Stones discography that had eluded me before. I couldn't argue his logic.

So here I am again. I'll give it another go, and hopefully I'll be able to follow through to the bitter end. Wish me luck.

Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)

Goats Head Soup
Side One, Track Four
"Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)" – 3:27

[Download link]

Where was I? Oh, right. "Heartbreaker with your .44". It's not so much that this song sucks, it's more that it is an almost perfect example of generic hard rock from the 70s. The funk touches – the clav, horns, wah pedal – are completely vanilla. From the opening line Mick Jagger is in self-parody mode. The drums sound great though.

It always fascinates me how the Stones went from being one of the most inventive rock and roll bands in the world on Exile to an innocuous purveyor of plodding undistinct mid-tempo rock on their very next album. Their ambition changed into blandition har har.

That's terrible.

Here they are doing the song in 1973:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Coming Down Again

Goats Head Soup
Side One, Track Three
"Coming Down Again" – 5:54

[Download link]

Why does every song on this album sound like a Tattoo You reject?

That's probably unfair. It's just that I heard Tattoo first, as an impressionable young man. If I was born in 1961 instead of 1971 I would probably be commenting on how the Stones ripped off their own Goats Head album to make Tattoo.

Anyway. "Coming Down Again" is an almost impossibly vanilla ballad, overproduced and 70s-mellow in that way I hate so much. Wikipedia tells me that

"Coming Down Again", in the words of Tom Maginnis, "...concerns the well-worn topic of love gone bad." The lyrics tell of Richards' relationship with then-girlfriend Anita Pallenberg and his taking of her from Brian Jones.
Heavy. I'd love to hear how Keith approaches this soul-bearing topic...
Slipped my tongue in someone else's pie
Tasting better every time
He turned green and tried to make me cry
Being hungry it ain't no crime
Oh. Wow, Keith. What say you never write lyrics again, okay?

Also, Mick's funny backing vocals.

Friday, November 7, 2008

100 Years Ago

Goats Head Soup
Side One, Track Two
"100 Years Ago" – 3:59

[Download link]

I spent 10 minutes trying think of what song the Stones ripped off for "100 Years Ago" before I gave up. My conclusion: although it appears that the band created the song from scratch, it is bland enough to recall a thousand other mediocre songs.

Some passing notes because the song is far too forgettable to inspire me to compose actual paragraphs:

  • No, it's really bugging me: what song are they ripping off for the first section of the song? If you know, drop me a line.
  • That is Billy Preston on the clav. Man would play for anyone, wouldn't he?
  • That is the full Mick Voice for the "lazybones" bit.

  • Let's let wikipedia do my job:

    Credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, guitarist Mick Taylor said at the time of its release, "Some of the songs we used (for the album) were pretty old. '100 Years Ago' was one that Mick [Jagger] had written two years ago and which we hadn't really got around to using before."[1] The song is described by Tom Maginnis in his review as having a, "wistful air with a country lilt... before making several tempo shifts into a funky, sped-up groove..."[2] The song's lyrics see Jagger reflect on aging;
    Now all my friends is wearing worried smiles, Living out a dream of what they was; Don't you think it's sometimes wise not to grow up?
    Went out walkin' through the wood the other day; Can't you see the furrows in my forehead? What tender days, we had no secrets hid away; Now it seems about a hundred years ago
    The song then veers into a distinctive breakdown, slowing considerably before Jagger begins singing a verse in a noticeable drawl, before speeding back-up and turning into a funk jam of sorts.[2]

    Recording took place at Kingston's Dynamic Sound Studios in November and December, 1972, with a final mix conducted in June 1973. Jagger performs lead vocals and is accompanied by Taylor on backing. Taylor performs the song's guitars while Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts perform bass and drums, respectively. Nicky Hopkins provides piano while Billy Preston performs clavinet.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dancing with Mr. D

Goats Head Soup
Side One, Track One
"Dancing with Mr. D" – 4:53

[Download link]

Yeah, this is what happens when you let Mick run the recording sessions instead of Keith.

After the sprawling glorious mess of Exile, Mick had enough. "We're a professional entertainment combo," he said in my imaginary scenario, "let's start acting professional. No more recording in the basement of a French tax-dodge mansion while snorting cocaine off the naked asses of nubile groupies—we're going to Jamaica!" And they did, recording Goats Head at Dynamic Sound Studios in Kingston. But don't expect their surroundings to contribute any exotic sounds: as "Dancing with Mr. D" shows, this album could have been recorded anywhere, at any time, by virtually any competent band in the world.

Beginning with Goats Head Soup, Mick Jagger's desire to turn this boisterous, ramshackle group of degenerates into the world's most popular faceless band started to become a reality.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Exile on Main St. by Robert Greenfield (book) -- I give up

I do a bit of book reviewing here and there on the net. A long time ago I made the decision to avoid criticising books for stylistic choices made by the author. The idea here is that the way a writer's style affects a reader is so subjective that it would be unfair to negatively characterise a book simply because it rubbed one reader the wrong way—it may be that other readers are captivated by the story and are not affected at all by the writer's style.

If you've read my last few posts on Exile on Main St. by Robert Greenfield, you may have picked up on the fact that the author's style rubbed me the wrong way. I am going to stop writing about the book because I know I won't be able to do so fairly: Greenfield may have written the greatest story ever, but I wouldn't be able to tell because the way he writes drives me insane.

So I'm moving on to something that will undoubtedly bring joy and sunshine into my life and yours: the Rolling Stones' 1972 classic Goats Head Soup, sure to be pure aural magic from beginning ("Dancing with Mr. D") to end ("Starfucker").

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pogo - Alice (nonstones)

Pogo - "Alice" – 2:43

Sorry for the non-Stones content, but I needed to get the bad taste of that book out of my mouth and make a post about something I actually like.

Here's the youtube description:

The music video for my song 'Alice', an electronic piece of which 90% is composed using sounds recorded from the Disney film 'Alice In Wonderland'.

I don't know anything about electronic music, but one of the things I really like is the way Pogo remixed the vocal track to create a new melody, one which performs leaps in pitch that would be impossible for a singer to perform live. That and the mellow rhythm track really makes it for me.

Go to Pogo's page to download the track.

Exile on Main St. by Robert Greenfield pp 13-15

Exile on Main Street: a season in hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (prologue)

  • p. 13:

    The Players
    Keith Richards: He is our hero. He is also our antihero. In itself, this is entirely postmodern. But then in many ways, so is Keith. In this particular rock 'n' roll passion play, he is our Jesus of Cool.


    Why is Keith so cool? To put it plainly, the man simply does not give a shit. All things that matter most to all the faceless, colorless individuals who control the world outside of rock 'n' roll are of no concern to him.

    Jesus Christ. Show, don't tell.

  • p. 14: Did you know that Keith has no time for crap? That he does not care about details? That money means nothing to him except when he wants to spend more of it? It's true, man. That's what the author tells us, using those exact words. This is not a book that relies much on subtlety for characterisation.

  • p. 15: "By the time Keith comes to live at Nellcôte, he has already long since left behind bourgeois values." Aaarrrggh. The author did not just write those words. I refuse to believe it.

  • p. 15: "Always, the man [Keith] marches to the beat of a different drummer, one whose name does not necessarily happen to be Charlie Watts." Author Greenfield is never one to miss a chance to savage a cliché. Goddamn this book is going to be torture.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Exile on Main St. by Robert Greenfield pp 4-12

Exile on Main Street: a season in hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (prologue)

  • pp. 4-10:
    Welcome to Villa Nellcote. You do know how to get there, right? From Nice, take either the Grand Corniche, the twisting, turning high road built by Napoleon to follow the ancient Roman route along the jagged coast of the French Riviera, or the Moyenne Corniche, the twisting, turning middle road from which Princess Grace of Monaco plunged to her death in 1982, or more conveniently, the always crowded Basse Corniche, which runs at sea level right beside the sparkling blue Mediterranean.
    The author is setting the scene. That is the opening paragraph of an interminable physical description of Villa Nellcôte, the house where the Stones recorded the bulk of Exile, and the setting of the book under discussion. I know what you're thinking: "It's just a house, why should the author spend 6 pages describing not only its layout, but driving directions to the house?" Why indeed.

  • p. 10: An entire page discussing various rumours about the landlord of Villa Nellcôte. Scintillating stuff.

  • p. 10-12: It was rumoured (by one of the Stones' hangers on) that the landlord had lived with a Nazi at Nellcôte during the War, and that his stolen art still graced the house. This tawdry bit of gossip, unsupported bu any evidence whatsoever, allows the author to clumsily foreshadow how things will fall apart for the Stones because 30 years earlier some woman shacked up at Villa Nellcôte with some Nazi functionary.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Exile on Main St. by Robert Greenfield (prologue)

Exile on Main Street: a season in hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield (prologue)
Pages 1-4

  • An inauspicious start:

    In the short space of ten months... three of the greatest individual talents ever to grace a rock 'n' roll stage ended their lives with drugs before their twenty-eighth birthdays. That rock itself did not die seems even now like a miracle....
    The three of the greatest individual talents ever to grace a rock 'n' roll stage? Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison.

    Wait, what?

    Look, I don't want to shit over anybody's faves. But can we be honest here? Of those three, the only one who had a meaningful, lasting effect on rock and roll was Hendrix. That the author thinks that the death of Joplin and Morrison could have spelled the end of rock and roll music itself does not bode well for his historical perspective.

  • Greenfield sets the scene: it is 1970 and the world is reeling from the death of Janis Joplin, the generational divide, Kent State. "Something that had been very much alive was in fact now dying. To be replaced by what, no one seemed to know." Ominous. "As always, you could blame it on the Stones." What?

    Two years earlier, Brian Jones, who always liked to refer to himself as "the undisputed leader of the Rolling Stones," had become the first great rock star of his era to die — by drowning under mysterious circumstances in his own swimming pool.
    As sad as it may have been, I get the feeling the author is placing slightly more importance on the deaths of Jones and Janis Joplin (really? Joplin?) than is warranted.

    Also, Altamont was another sign the world was ending.

  • Okay, I get it now. The author wants to paint a picture of rock stars turning to drug use for escape or something. In addition to the weltanschauung-changing death of Janis Joplin, the members of Cream had all begun to use heroin in worrisome amounts.

    In a world no one under the age of thirty had made, where everything seemed so fucked up as to be far beyond repair, numbing yourself to the pain of just having to wake up every morning to begin yet another hopeless day seemed to make eminent sense.

Three pages of this is all I can stand for now. More tomorrow.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Exile on Main St. by Robert Greenfield (book)

I'm trying something a little different now. Having made my way through the glorious sprawl of Exile on Main St., I will now make my way through the likely less-than-glorious book Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones by Robert Greenfield. I picked the book up a few weeks ago on a whim – I since have avoided reading any reviews or even any descriptions of the book besides its back cover blurbs to avoid colouring my impressions. (I get the feeling I'm going to enjoy the experience of reading this thing somewhat less than I enjoyed listening to the album of the same title.)

Here are some Google Books details to whet your appetite:

Recorded during the blazing summer of 1971 at Villa Nellcote, Keith Richards’ seaside mansion in the south of France, Exile on Main St. has been hailed as one of the Rolling Stones’ best albums-and one of the greatest rock records of all time. Yet its improbable creation was difficult, torturous...and at times nothing short of dangerous.In self-imposed exile, the Stones-along with wives, girlfriends, and a crew of hangers-on unrivaled in the history of rock-spent their days smoking, snorting, and drinking whatever they could get their hands on. At night, the band descended like miners into the villa’s dank basement to lay down tracks. Out of those grueling sessions came the familiar riffs and rhythms of “Rocks Off,” “Tumbling Dice,” “Happy,” and “Sweet Virginia.”All the while, a variety of celebrities-John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Gram Parsons among them-stumbled through the villa’s neverending party, as did the local drug dealers, known to one and all as “les cowboys.” Villa Nellcote became the crucible in which creative strife, outsize egos, and all the usual byproducts of the Stones’ legendary hedonistic excess fused into something potent, volatile, and enduring.Here, for the first time, is the season in hell that produced Exile on Main St.

More details

Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones
By Robert Greenfield
Published by Da Capo Press, 2006
ISBN 0306814331, 9780306814334
258 pages