Thursday, August 7, 2008

Torn and Frayed

Exile on Main St.
Side Two, Track Two
"Torn and Frayed" – 4:17

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Well the ballrooms and smelly bordellos
and dressing rooms filled with parasites.
On stage the band has got problems,
they're a bag of nerves on first nights.

Rock and roll autobiographies come in all kinds. There's the tediously frank Lennon style ("Ballad of John and Yoko", "Mother"), the comic bragging style perfected by Springsteen ("Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out", "Growing Up"). You have the sepia-toned nostalgia of Van Morrison's "Cleaning Windows", the egomaniacally specific "Solsbury Hill", and the whatever-it-is of "Nutbush City Limits". Wikipedia has a long list of these type of songs. The Stones check in with "Torn and Frayed", ostensibly about the wearying life of a band who is not the Stones on the road.

Joe's got a cough, sounds kind a rough.
Yeah, and the codeine to fix it.
Doctor prescribes drug store supplies
Who's gonna help him to kick it?

The recording itself is a sloppy mess of a mix, sloppier even given the sloppy standards of Exile. This has been the subject of some complaints, notably Mick, Jagger who has been vocal in his remarks. I'll address his comments in a future post. Me, I don't mind the mix at all. I said it before, but Exile's greatest virtue is the scope of its ambition, and it almost seems to me that the band wanted to follow these ambitions without having to worry about little things like getting a good sound on the bass or recording the high hat properly.

Well his coat is torn and frayed.
It`s seen much better days.
Just as long as the guitar plays
let it steal your heart away.

It is well known that Mick was getting a little fed up with the rampant drug use within and around the band. Here, at least, he used that frustration to good use, coming up with some of his best lyrics on the album.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sweet Virginia

Exile on Main St.
Side Two, Track One
"Sweet Virginia" – 4:25

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Thank you for your wine, California
Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit
Yes I got the desert in my toe nail
And I hid the speed inside my shoe

Some of the best lyrics Mick ever had a hand in. Musically, "Sweet Virginia" is sort of the sequel to "Love in Vain", although Charlie Watts and Bobby Keys show up to give the song a more rocking backbone. One of the things I noticed here that could be applied to any number of songs from this era: the Stones had a way of sounding incredibly sloppy but actually playing very precisely. Much of the charm of this song is hearing Charlie ramble around the kit seemingly aimlessly and Mick slur his lyrics incoherently, as if half asleep.