Finger Pointing Songs: part 3. The Rolling Stones. Or, Wife Beating Man.

That famous newspaper headline – stir those brothers up, why dontcha?  Disappointing lack of punctuation though, showing that there’s probably never been a golden age of people being literate.

The shadow that Bob Dylan cast over the sixties wasn’t only long and broad, it was dark and cold.  Once he’d broken through, any number of scruffy young ‘poets’ came out of the woodwork and started telling it like it was.  Social justice songs were back on the agenda but that was before his performance at the Newport festival in 1965 which lead to Pete Seeger allegedly blowing a gasket and attempting to cut the electricity to his bands amplifiers by taking an axe to the power cables.  Dylan’s 1965 rebirth in electricity coincided with his really vitriolic finger pointing songs and the success of those spawned a legion of imitators.

The Rolling Stones had started life as Rhythm and Blues purists.  Well, to the extent that five young men from the London suburbs could be R&B purists, without a history of their families being used as slave labour and experiencing racial segregation in the Mississippi delta.

“Can you imagine a British-composed R&B song? It just wouldn’t make it.”

Mick Jagger, 1963.

He soon changed his tune though, having watched John Lennon and Paul McCartney finish off I Wanna Be Your Lover in front of them so that they could have a new single to record.

“It was a throwaway. The only two versions of the song were Ringo and the Rolling Stones. That shows how much importance we put on it: We weren’t going to give them anything great, right?”

John Lennon, 1980.

The Beatles could knock this sort of thing off in their sleep, but the fact that they did it in a corner of a room that Mick and Keef were also in had a big impact on them.  They realised that they could probably have a go at it too.

Their early songs weren’t too great and they only really got going once they realised that going a step closer to copying other people’s songs as well as their methods might reap dividends.  The Last Time was their first great song, even if…

“We came up with ‘The Last Time’, which was basically re-adapting a traditional  gospel song that had been sung (written, actually) by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time (all the way back to 1958, seven years prior to the time when The Stones decided they’d written it instead).”

Keith Richards, 2003.

By 1965, The Stones were as influenced by Bob Dylan as anyone else, at least lyrically.  The Kinks, too, provided inspiration for them.  Their albums Aftermath (1966) and Between The Buttons (1967) contained quite a few songs that trod pretty closely to Ray Davies’ vignettes about “…boring people doing boring things…”  Indeed, 1968’s Beggar’s Banquet picked up the character song baton again, after dropping it when they went all cosmic on late 1967’s Their Satanic Majesties Request…

Even though Brian had the cruel face, it was Mick who was the owner of The Stones’ cruel tongue.  Keith Richards has written far more lyrics than he’s given credit for (and Jagger has written far more of the music than he’s been given credit for) – and some surprising ones, too.  Keith wrote the words for Wild Horses and Angie – both tender love songs.  Mick wrote the guitar riffs (yack) for Brown Sugar and Moonlight Mile, both of which are easily mistaken for classic Keef.

  1. Play With Fire.

This was released before Like A Rolling Stone and shows Dylan’s acoustic influence.  Well, that might be pushing it somewhat because it sounds nothing like anything Dylan ever recorded.  If anything, this is bordering on Baroque ‘n’ Roll, which Dylan apparently had no truck with.  Also, the only Stones who appear on this record are Mick and Keef themselves.  Violent, unhinged lunatic Phil Spector played a detuned guitar instead of having a bass guitar on it and noted soundtrack writer and orchestral arranger Jack Nitzsche played the harpsichord and tam-tam, which is allegedly the eastern sounding gong effect that I can’t hear anywhere on the record.

The music sounds like it’s on the brink of being very pissed off, which matches the lyrical content.  The acoustic guitar and harpsichord are redolent of a quiet, hard man unconsciously tapping his fingers on a table in a spit-and-sawdust public bar as he listens to something he doesn’t like one little bit.  The (not actually a bass) guitar plods and does nothing overly exciting, as it shouldn’t here because the bass should keep the whole thing grounded and this is perpetually on the brink of not being grounded at all.  It never reaches a point where you think it’s going to suddenly burst forth from the speakers and show you the extent of the singer’s anger, which maintains its threatening feel.  Musically, the feeling is all about the singer maintaining a calm disposition in the face of the provocation of the little rich girl to whom it’s addressed.

The picture that the lyrics paint is one of a girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth.  Born and raised in the upmarket towns of London, with all the trappings that come with that entitled lifestyle – tiaras, diamonds and chauffeur driven cars – she must have done something to piss her father off because the third verse tells us, “Your old man took her diamonds and tiaras by the score. Now she gets her kicks in Stepney not in Knightsbridge anymore,”

Stepney being, then at least, a poverty stricken area of London.

What did she do to cause her father to cut her loose in the mean streets that she was unprepared to deal with?  It’s never made clear, but as The Stones’ manager of the time Andrew Loog Oldham took the tack of publicising The Stones as the far less wholesome equivalent of The Beatles (“Would you let your daughter go with a Stone?”)  it seems to be a distinct possibility that what she’s done is go out with Mick Jagger.  Maybe not, of course.  I’m only guessing.

Still, having sacrificed all her shiny things and her fancy areas of London to slum it with noted rough-and-tumble-salt-of-the-earth Mick Jagger, if she was expecting a loving arm around her shoulders and some sort of affirmation that everything’s going to be alright because they’re in L-U-V, she’s going to be disappointed because the closest Mick gets to providing succour is when he tells her in the last verse that now she’s got some new diamonds and she’ll be getting more – the very next line is, “But you’d better watch your step, girl or start living with your mother,”  because if she messes Mick around, she’ll be sorry and she’ll get burnt.

Ooh!  Scary Mick Jagger, eh?  Well, he was seen as being a bit risqué for the times – which Loog Oldham encouraged – but this is nasty stuff, have no doubts about that.  And it all fits together, even though Mick’s clearly a pansy who talks a good fight, at least against a society rich girl…

“I could have written Satisfaction, but you couldn’t have written Desolation Row,
Bob Dylan to Keith Richards, 1960s.

That hurt Keith Richards, even if he agreed with him.  Taking it another step, Mick and Keef couldn’t have written Like A Rolling Stone either and Play With Fire is the proof.  Both songs are about poor little rich girls for whom neither Bob nor The Stones have any time.  The difference is that Bob’s take on the subject is immense and The Stones’ isn’t.  Both are quite nasty, but it’s only The Stones who give the impression that resorting to physical violence is a definite possibility.  Cruel as Like A Rolling Stone is, you never get the impression that Bob’s going to be resorting to using his fists to get his point across and that’s more or less exactly what The Stones’ song suggests.  Mick’s no Bob Dylan in the lyric department, although I very much doubt that Bob could have written Brown Sugar.  Nor wanted to, I daresay, no.

2. Get Off Of My Cloud.

“I never dug it as a record. The chorus was a nice idea, but we rushed it as the follow-up (to Satisfaction).

Keith Richards, 1971.

I’m a big fan of the video above.  Check Mick out.  If we ever get to the point where dictionaries have GIFs to illustrate words, Mick’s performance should be next to the noun ‘ninny‘.  I do love him for it, though.  Brian can’t decide whether to be smug or alluring and ends up looking mildly constipated.  The rest of The Stones barely feature in that clip.

Still, it’s 1965 – the year of the finger pointer – and here The Stones are, detailing how great everything is where they are and what they don’t want is anyone coming along and laying their bum trip on them.  Get Off Of My Cloud is a fancy-arsed, American-politeness way of saying, “Fuck off.”

Keith Richards often talks about “…the ancient art of weaving…”  when he’s talking about how two guitar players play together and how he and Brian would swap around who was playing lead and rhythm parts but I tend to think he’s making a big deal out of nothing much.  Mostly, one or the other plays the rhythm (and it’s usually, if not aways, Keith) and they stick to their roles, despite him attempting to make out that there’s something more complicated going on than there actually is.  On this single, Keith plays the rhythm guitar and Brian plays the easy-going doodle-doobie, doubly doo-doo that goes all the way through the verses.  In the chorus, they syncopate rhythm parts which is one of those things that sounds more complicated than it actually is.

Lantern jawed offstage pianist Ian Stewart plays on this, but there’s nothing outlandish about his playing, he’s just following Keith mainly.  As did Charlie Watts on drums, mainly.  Bill Wyman isn’t often cited by anybody much in terms of great bass players, probably because he’s a bit funny looking and he was very famous in the late 1980s for getting married to 18 year old Mandy Smith when he was 49, bearing in mind of course that he’s admitted to dating her when she was 13 years old and first having it off with her when she was only 14, for Christ’s sake.   Why Operation Yewtree haven’t picked him up, I have no idea.  Not that The Stones didn’t have history in terms of such sordid statutory rape – Stray Cat Blues cf: “I can see that you’re fifteen years old.  No I don’t want your I.D.”  Maybe that was seen as being alright in those days, but I doubt it for most normal people.  Jimmy Page was well known for having had sex with underaged girls in the early 1970s too.  Why he’s not been before the beak for it again, I have no idea.  Anyway, providing we can get past Wyman’s pretty disgusting past – and I don’t know if we can – he’s a very much underrated bass player.  On this record however, he’s not doing anything too outlandish, but he drives it along effectively, even if you wouldn’t really notice what he was doing unless you paid special attention.  Perhaps somebody should have been paying a bit more attention to Mandy Smith in the mid eighties…

Mick’s vocals sound urgent, like he’s in a hurry.  The first line, “I live in an apartment of the 99th floor of my block” is an interesting start.  For starters, that’s a tall building, perhaps suggesting that he lives in the clouds in reality.  Second, ‘block’ isn’t ever used to describe English streets, not like it is in America, anyway, due to the ancient streets of Britain not really being laid out quite to symmetrically as American ones tend to be.

There are a lot of words in the song as Mick babbles his way through it and what he describes is a scene in which he’s just getting hassled, man.  First by a man who flies in, dressed in Union Jacks, trying to sell him detergent (which is a throwback in itself to the lyrics of Satisfaction), then, while he’s having a party at 3am, his neighbours ring him up to complain about the noise and finally, he drives out to where it’s quiet to get away from these squares and breadheads but falls asleep and a bunch of (presumably square, breadheaded) parking wardens have stuck parking tickets all over his windscreen.  After each of these slights, the chorus is his response, which is, basically, “Fuck off and leave me alone,”  George Harrison could have written this.

You could argue that this isn’t much of a finger pointing record at all, but it is in the same way that Sunny Afternoon is – it’s just not pointing the finger at any one person in particular.

What else stops it feeling like a genuine finger pointer is that the music and melody are so jubilant.  If Get Off Of My Cloud was a dog, it’d be a labrador puppy.  The juxtaposition of the snarky lyrics and the jumping-up-and-down-with-excitement music and vocal melody is groovy for sure, but really, much as I like it, I don’t think it really works especially well – hence Mick and Keef being a bit down on it.  When you write a song, you know it inside out.  When you hear a record on the radio, you tend to pick out a couple of words here and there and get the feel of it.

Maybe Mick is really pissed off, but it doesn’t really sound like it.  Even lyrically, it sounds as if he’s doing exactly what he feels like doing and the detergent man, the neighbours and the parking wardens might be around, muttering, but the effect they appear to have on him is minimal.

Where Play With Fire sounded genuinely threatening, Get Off Of My Cloud sounds oblivious.  Keith’s comment that they were being pressed for a follow up to Satisfaction rings true: Mick’s still on the Satisfaction trip about pushy washing powder salesmen.  The music’s great, but it doesn’t work with the lyrical content at all.  Which, in itself, is ironic because the only reason the record exists in the form it does is because of pressure from square breadheads at the record label hurting them for a follow up to the worldwide smash hit that was Satisfaction.

The making of Get Off Of My Cloud – the being hurried – works with the lyrics, but they should have probably waited until Mick came up with lyrics that worked better.

Especially Brian’s guitar riff, which sounds laid-back, relaxed and groovy.  Man.  It’s a great riff but it doesn’t fit with Mick’s lyrics.  None of the music does.  Which isn’t to say that you shouldn’t ever have a pretty tune backing up barbed lyrical content because that can work really well – as we’ll find out later, but the clearly-not-that-arsed-really lyrics set against the laid-back music don’t give any impression that Mick means what he sings, quite unlike Play With Fire, which does sound like he means it – and the instrumentation supports the message, which some might see as a step backwards for The Stones.  Not that they wrote finger pointing songs off as something that didn’t suit them because on their next album – Aftermath – they really hit their stride.

3. The Aftermath finger pointing songs.

i) Out Of Time.

ii) Stupid Girl.

iii) Mother’s Little Helper.

iv) Under My Thumb.

Four finger pointers on one album?  I guess Mick wasn’t getting enough sleep in 1966.

In fairness, even though they’re all on Aftermath, you won’t find them on one single slab of vinyl because, like The Beatles releases of that era, the American albums had different tracklists to the British ones.  The Americans didn’t get Mother’s Little Helper and, to be even fairer, nobody got Out Of Time because that was given away to Chris Farlowe and The Stones’ version didn’t get brought out until the end of the decade.

Out Of Time is my least favourite of this set of four anyway.  I quite like Chris Farlowe doing it, but The Stones’ version goes on for far too long and doesn’t do anything interesting enough to justify its length.  It’s still a finger pointing song, this time back to a girl who made the mistake of dumping Mick and, too late, realised that she’d made a mistake.  But she’s out of time now.

Yeah, the finger points, but it lays out what’s happened in the first three lines and doesn’t really go anywhere.  Musically, they’ve chucked the kitchen sink at it.  Brian Jones is back on the marimba and what he plays is, well, playful, like his contributions most often were.  Keith does the Stax/Motown stabbing clean guitar on the offbeat thing, Bill’s bass is lithe and propulsively inventive – if a bass guitar could be in a good mood, it’d sound like this.  The backing vocals are piled up, doing all sorts of things, which The Stones’ hadn’t really explored too far by this point.  The drums are polite, even the rat-a-tat-tat bridging between choruses and verses.  An acoustic guitar is extravagantly plucked at the beginning of the verses from the second one onwards but the overall effect is that of frenetic turd polishing.  This is The Rolling Stones’ equivalent of The Beatles’ Maxwell’s Silver Hammer: you can do whatever you like to it, but it’s not going to stop it being a bit crap.

The main problem, yet again, are the lyrics that have almost nothing else to add to the first three lines.  There’s no surprises, no shifts of perspective, no realisations to add to the first one.  It’s a drag, man.  Let’s move on,eh?  Maybe a middle 8 would have helped matters, but as Mick evidently shot his bolt in the first twenty seconds, probably it wouldn’t have made any difference.

Stupid Girl is one straightforward title, isn’t it?   A bit close to the bone if you ask me which, again, nobody did.

“Obviously, I was having a bit of trouble. I wasn’t in a good relationship. Or I was in too many bad relationships. I had so many girlfriends at that point. None of them seemed to care they weren’t pleasing me very much. I was obviously in with the wrong group.”

Mick Jagger, 1995.

“It was all a spin-off from our environment… hotels, and too many dumb chicks. Not all dumb, not by any means, but that’s how one got. When you’re canned up – half the time it’s impossible to go out – it was to go through a whole sort of football match.”

Keith Richards, 1971.

I’ve included these two quotations because I think it’s interesting to compare the differing viewpoints of the two writers.  Mick’s is the usual because it’s all somebody else’s fault.  Keith’s, you can sort of understand a little bit because he’s talking about the dawning of teenage hysteria in the 1960s and, at least to most adults, that sort of wetting yourself, screaming and pulling pop stars’ hair out is pretty stupid.

Still, The Stones were bad boys – at least as far as the media of the day was concerned – and this might just be seem as playing up to it.

Musically, it’s a real step backwards.  Out Of Time, whatever else it is or isn’t, you can’t fault the effort put into it.  Stupid Girl is half arsed, even though it does its best to be jaunty.

Lyrically, Mick appears to have gotten himself an idea and run with it until, well, he runs out of steam.  It’s a list of the things that aren’t really a problem for Mick – which is big of him – followed by yet another list of things that are a problem for him.  The problem I have with it is that none of the problems – whether they’re an issue for Mick or not – sound especially, er, problematic.

The clothes she wears aren’t a problem, nor is the way she combs her hair but the way she does her makeup apparently is an issue.  The way she powders her nose is evidence of her vanity, according to Mick.

Next verse, being a gold digger isn’t a problem, perhaps oddly.  However, she’s also a bit clingy, but that’s okay too.  What’s not okay is the way she talks about someone else who she doesn’t really know is “the sickest thing in the world.”  Wow, eh?

From that point onwards though, everything is a problem for Mick and those things are: being a bit like a lady in waiting to a virgin queen; bitching about things she’s never seen; she’s a bit feline: sometimes she purrs, which is allowed, but the hissing isn’t pleasing to Mick.  She can dye her hair, but that won’t matter, and wearing different shoes doesn’t either.

All those things, even the things that he’s not arsed about make her a stupid girl, according to Mick.

Yet again, Mick lets the side down with shitty lyrics, even though the music’s not really up to much in the first place.   One of the issues that some people have had with The Stones over the years – especially since the mid 1970s – has been their propensity to leap onto the nearest bandwagon.  But I’m getting the distinct impression that they’ve always been bandwagon hoppers at heart.  The finger pointing song, as I’ve said, has never been more in vogue than in 1965 and, even though these songs were brought out in 1966, it’s close enough.  I strongly suspect that Mick wanted – and has always wanted – to be of the moment, in tune with the times and Keef has always taken the piss because of it.  I always thought it was when they went a bit disco with Miss You that they really didn’t have any ideas of their own but now?  Well, I suspect that ideas have always been quite thin on the ground in The Stones’ circle.  I’m down on Mick about it, but realistically, Keith has been playing variations on the same guitar theme since 1968 without ever really broadening his outlook much.  Maybe that’s a good thing for some people but, as I’ve said, what I’m into are ideas.  I do like The Stones: honest, guv, even if it doesn’t much sound like it at the moment.

Mother’s Little Helper is bordering on Ray Davies territory.  It’s about valium, but it also dips right back into Jagger’s overworked complaints about efficient kitchen based products.  Granted, he’s not whining about washing powder here – for a fucking change – but he does appear to take umbrage at depressed housewives buying frozen steak  and instant cake which seems a bit harsh to me.

In fairness to Mick, if not to depressed housewives of the mid 1960s, he’s pulled his finger out a little bit on this song.  The opening line’s great – “What a drag it is, getting old…”  because it is, isn’t it?  Well, in some ways it is.  I’m sat here now, rapidly bearing down on fifty with infected sinuses and what would then have been called lumbago.  Which is to say, lower back pain.  I’m not crippled but getting over these things takes a lot longer than they used to.  In the past, I might have tweaked my back if I’d done something unusually energetic or a load of heavy lifting.  This current little bout of uncomfortableness was caused by a tiny little cough a week last Friday.  Nothing, really, yet I’m walking around like an arthritic ninety year old.  When I was a younger man and I first heard this song, I didn’t have a lot of sympathy for the depressed housewives’ tales on this song.  I enjoyed it alright, but more in terms of the music, which I’ll go into in a minute.  Lyrically, I also enjoyed it but, shamefully, in a bit of a Nelson Muntz, “Ha-Ha!” level.  Old fucks, huh?  Ha-Ha!  Now though?  I feel their pain.  I wonder what Mick thinks about it now.

Still, whether it’s unreasonably cruel or not, I have to hand it to Mick for not just tossing another load of bile out there to give him something to do while Keef and co were throwing shapes and falling over onstage.  It’s good stuff, even if it is a bit mean.  Actually, not only is it a bit mean, it’s also hypocritical because, if any rock ‘n’ roll band is known for being druggy, it’s them, isn’t it?  Mainly Keef, yes, but not just him.  What’s this song about?  It’s about the older woman’s struggle to cope with modern life and how she has to take drugs to deal with it.  And, let’s face it, it’s pointing the finger, isn’t it?  So yeah, maybe this song does have better lyrics than a lot of other Stones’ songs, but it’s still a load of shit because The Rolling Stones have precisely no room to talk when it comes down to drug consumption.

Still, the music’s great.  It sounds admonishing.  It sounds a bit like a sitar, but it’s not, even though Brian could quite merrily have played the riff on one.  It’s a slide guitar, which was another Brian speciality from the days of Little Red Rooster, when he was doing his Elmore James impersonations.  This one though, is done on a 12 string guitar, which is unusual for a slide guitar riff.  Keith claims he played it, and maybe he did, but if he did, it’d have been to piss Brian off, which is mean too, isn’t it?  Whoever plays it, it’s a great idea because it sounds like a finger wagging.

In short, Mother’s Little Helper is an awful lot better than Out Of Time or Stupid Girl, even if it has nothing approaching self-awareness at its heart.  It’s still mean, but at least Jagger’s made a bit of effort.

I purposely saved the best one ’til last – even if it might be the epitome of nastiness in a song – Under My Thumb.

“It’s a bit of a jokey number, really. It’s not really an anti-feminist song any more than any of the others … Yes, it’s a caricature, and it’s in reply to a girl who was a very pushy woman,”

Mick Jagger, 1995.

That’s the sort of quote that could be boiled down to, “I was only joking when I slapped her, but she had it coming anyway,” isn’t it?  I sometimes wonder about Mick Jagger.

Under My Thumb‘s probably in my Rolling Stones top ten records and, if I’m going to think about why that might be, I think Brian Jones’ marimba part might be the main reason.  It’s a cyclical and jaunty little figure, not so much impertinent as insouciant, whilst maintaining  a more irreverent than important outlook.  Intricate in its instrumental implementation.  And that’s quite enough alliteration.  It is great though; you couldn’t call it relentless, even though its incessant wiggle up and down the wooden bars never settles and never recedes.

The reason that the marimba riff works with the song’s theme in the way that, for instance, Get Off Of My Cloud‘s doesn’t – even though they’re both simple, cheerfully perky little hooks – is because Get Off Of My Cloud is, like Satisfaction (a riff that does work well) it’s a cry of “Fuck off,” and the guitar hook’s not in sympathy with that at all.  In Under My Thumb, I think of the marimba as being the insidious, everyday grinding down of this woman’s spirit.  It’s giving the impression that it’s playful, you know, like banter (for fuck’s sake – I hate ‘banter‘) but the fact that it never lets up in its relentless pattern – like the gang hired to catch Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid don’t – it makes me think of those films in which a woman on the receiving end of domestic abuse is out with her brutal husband and he makes an apparently innocuous joke which nobody outside their relationship would pick up as being threatening, but the wife knows.  The wife knows that she’s done something because his apparently friendly joshing has a far darker subtext to those – i.e: she – who know what it means.

Maybe I’m not putting that very well.  what I’m getting at is that Brian Jones’ marimba sounds like a wife-beater joking, but not really, in front of his wife and she knows exactly what it means, even if nobody else could possibly pick up on it.  Quite unlike the obviously threatening harpsichord and acoustic guitar of Play With Fire.

Under My Thumb, as the title more or less makes explicit, is about the total domination of another human being.  If Out Of Time is smug, Stupid Girl is plain nasty, and Mother’s Little Helper is an aural sneer then Under My Thumb is Tina Turner biopic, What’s Love Got To Do With It? from Ike’s unrepentant perspective.  It’s a thoroughly unpleasant sentiment expressed with pride.

I’ve been thinking about The Rolling Stones a bit recently.  The weddings band I accidentally joined this summer have been asked to play a load of Stones songs in a pub at the end of November, so I’ve been paying rather closer attention than I have in the past in order to work out what I’m supposed to be playing – and the conclusion I’ve reached, at least lyrically, is that The Rolling Stones were, basically, the Gangsta rap of their day.  Obviously there’s far less effing and jeffing on their sixties output than in even 90’s Gangsta rap – I’m rather out of touch, funnily enough – but it’s all there: the deeply misogynistic attitude carried like it’s something to be proud of, the glamorisation of sex, violence and drugs – to the extent that they could sneak allusions to them into their records.  Does that make it real, though?  It’s not difficult to recognise that Jagger was playing a commercially viable role because he’s hardly Ice Cube, is he?  Mick’s more the sort of person who does an interpretive dance routine about someone popping a cap into someone else’s black ass than an actual perpetrator.

Still, you don’t have to be some sort of Big Deal on the Mean Streets to be the sort of person who decides what his wife is going to think, do and say.  Mick seems like e’s relaxed and enjoying it: he decides what she wears, what she does and when she speaks. And she’s “…a squirming dog who’s had her day,”  Unless “she’s the sweetest pet in the world.”.

Keef, unusually, doesn’t really nail the rhythm guitar part – while Mick and Brian are jovial and on point, Keith’s hesitant and somewhat behind the beat.  Charlie swings and Bill, yet again, shows us why nobody really hold him up as being great on the bass, even though he often was.   Not on finger pointing songs, apparently.  Ironically, given Mandy Smith, I suppose.

So, all these finger pointing songs in such a short space of time and what can we learn from it?  Mainly, for me, that The Stones are inconsistent musically, veering from absolutely immaculate, to competent, if incongruous when coupled with lyrics.  Mick, too, is inconsistent in one way and yet utter consistent in another.  Sometimes the lyrics are just badly put together with rhymes at the end of every line, with no variation at all in melody.  Sometimes the words don’t remotely match the tone of his voice and sometimes he’s absolutely spot on.  Where Mick’s consistency lies is in his unrelenting nastiness.  He’s absolutely ruthless and, whether or not he’s playing up to a classic Rock ‘n’ Roll trope – The Bad Boy – he’s pococurant about it too.  He must have known.  Even if he didn’t then, he must know now and they still play some of these songs – certainly Under My Thumb.

The Rolling Stones’ finger pointing songs don’t, on the whole, work all that well as far as I’m concerned because Mick Jagger doesn’t really get it.  He tries to get it right, but he goes too far.  Like Derek Bentley, who ended up getting hanged for murdering a policeman after he interpreted his so-called-mate’s cry of “Let him have it!” as meaning, ‘Shoot the bastard,’ as opposed to ‘Give the gun to the nice policeman.’  Except in this case, Mick was just trying too hard to impress the big boys and ended up sounding like a dick.  I feel sorry for Dick Bentley but Mick’s just horrible.


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