This just came up on shuffle. I have loved this song deeply from the moment I bought the album, the (on cassette!) day it came out. So I figured I would excerpt the entry for the song, from my book, Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones. Forgive the lazy lack of formatting.
All About You
January-February 1979, Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas
November-December 1979, Electric Lady, New York City (possible overdubs)
LP Emotional Rescue June 1980
Hanging Around with Dogs: The Stones Slip Into Another Valley.
A perfectly fine LP, Emotional Rescue has some good songs, a few genuinely hilarious ones like the title song, (“I’ll be your knight in shining armor … on a fine Arab charger….”), and at least one great one, the ballad “All About You,” sung by Keith. It is a bitter lyric about being “sick and tired of hanging around with dogs like you,” virtually spit out by Keith. As with many Stones songs, it could be viewed as a breakup song with a lover, but was more likely a vitriolic reflection of bad times between Keith and Mick. Though their relationship was given a bit of a jump start as Mick helped Keith through his trial and rehab, tensions became acute as the two clashed over business and the direction the band should take.
Overall, though, the Emotional Rescue LP marks the real drop-off in quality of new material by the Rolling Stones. Many will argue that the next record, Tattoo You is among their best, and I would agree that it is an excellent collection. However, let’s set that aside, as that record consisted purely of outtakes from their golden period, rescued from the dustbin, fleshed out, and polished, mostly by Mick and Chris Kimsey. “Emotional Rescue started in the same place in Paris,” Kimsey explained. “It started where we’d left off [with the Some Girls sessions]. There were quite a few tracks left over from Some Girls that we didn’t use and Emotional Rescue was a strange album for me. I don’t remember much of [the sessions] because it didn’t seem very good to me at the time. [The sessions] spawned Emotional Rescue which was a very different sounding record. It was a little haphazard, that album. And then we sort of moved off to Nassau to do more tracking and overdubbing, and then went to New York. The great thing about Some Girls was, it was Paris and then we mixed it in New York. That was it. And I think it sounded better for that rather than hopscotching all over the place.”
As Peter Silverton wrote in his review of Emotional Rescue for Sounds in 1980, “Emotional Rescue as the least committed Stones record ever…. It’s the most obvious way of dealing with your own myth. Just pretend it doesn’t exist. And do the best you can. The cover would maybe have you believe otherwise. The thermographic photos (of the Stones and who else?) hint that there’s a little looking below the surface.”
And that was a good review! Which is sort of the point. Mick more or less stopped investing himself in Stones songwriting around this time, chasing after hits and putting in less personal inspiration. The album as a whole is laid back, as if the band needed to express their stored-up aggression on Some Girls, and, having accomplished that, they went back down to the islands and Paris to record a chill collection of light Euro-disco, faux reggae, cartoonish new wave, and polite pop-rock. “Mick is a great flavor-of-the-month person,” said Charlie. But if “Miss You” was a heavy throbber, then “Dance (Pt. 1)” was a skinny-bottomed boy’s chardonnay-sipping pose at a passé Paris discotheque. The dance material just sounds like a flimsy version of the obvious influences of Chic and early Prince. But the songs seemed to become exercises in Stones-like posturing for Mick, as the band struggled to keep it all together as a unit, even while reaching ever-stratospheric heights as a money-making touring entity. “My attention span is so limited,” said Mick in 1980. “You know, I just love to make up songs and I don’t even like to finish the words. I just like to sing ooooh all the way through. And then I’m happy after that. I don’t want to do anymore. That’s it. I don’t even want to hear it again.” By his own admission, songs were disposable.
For those looking for actual humanity in Stones records after Some Girls, a good place to start would be the Keith-sung ballads, like this one. They might not always be the “best” songs, and they were almost certainly never considered possible hits, but the heart and soul of the band could usually be found hiding in those booze-besotted, nicotine-fogged corners of the records where an increasingly raspy Keith stepped up to the blue-spotlighted mike to offer his take on matters. “(Mick and Keith) fought a lot during that album because Keith thought Mick was getting his way too much,” Kimsey told an interviewer, “and Keith had to fight for what he believed. Keith fights for his half of the Glimmer Twins.” The biggest source of tension at this point did involve that musical cliché, musical differences. According to Bill, Keith accused Mick of “listening to too many bad records.”
Kimsey expanded on the fraying band dynamic: “It was different [than working on Some Girls]. To me, it was like Keith was waking up. I think he had missed quite a few years. I didn’t feel that there was much energy or determination with [Emotional Rescue]. It’s an album with my least favorite songs. It’s a real odd mixture.“ Kimsey noted that the Mick and Keith were working separately more often. “It was almost like doing a Mick album and a Keith album. Keith had really started really digging into himself and enjoying his own songs more. There was a lot of time spent on his songs, with him overdubbing vocals, vocals, vocals, vocals.”
By the spring of 1978, Keith had more or less kicked junk for good, with the nursing of Mick and Jerry as they stayed up in Woodstock, New York, along with Keith’s personal manager, Jane Rose. By getting off the stuff, Keith effectively drove the final nail in the coffin of his relationship with Anita, who Keith might have been with forever had she cleaned up along with him. Instead, she plumbed lower depths, including the scandalous affair of a 17-year-old would-be suitor who shot himself in the head with a revolver while playing a game of Russian roulette at her rented house on Long Island with her children present.
In October, 1978, Keith had his trial in Toronto and was given a sentence of one year’s probation. The government of Canada really did not want to imprison a popular rock star on the trumped-up charge of trafficking, which they knew full well was not his intent. The fact that Margaret Trudeau had been hobnobbing with the band at the exact moment and at the location of the bust only sullied the matter politically. But it was a Stones superfan, a young blind woman named Rita Bedard, from Quebec City, who gave the presiding judge an elegant exit from the controversy. She convinced Judge Lloyd Graburn to show leniency for Keith. She explained that she had followed the Stones from gig to gig and that Keith asked the truckers that hauled their stage rigs to take her with them and assure she got to the next show safely. “She came forward and went to the judge’s house, after office hours and at night, knocked on his door and told him this story,” writes Keith. “Two days later I had the next hearing and it was, ‘OK, you’re sentenced to perform a concert for the blind,’ which we gladly did.” The Stones and Ronnie’s side band, the New Barbarians, Keith taking part in both acts, performed the show for the Canadian Institute for the Blind in April, 1979.
The outgoing Ronnie was also the catalyst for a general newfound appreciation that the band found for each other. “There’s such a great rapport going now between the band that people actually say to each other, You played great tonight! – which we’d never say,” said Bill Wyman at the time of the 1978 tours. “That’s never been said in 12 years. I’ve never been told, ever, You did a great set tonight. I’ve only been told, You were out of tune tonight.”
But Ronnie was also speaking up for himself at this time. “Ronnie [was] trying to claim a stake in the songwriting,” Kimsey continued.” Because he would come up with bits he never got credited for. I mean, Ronnie would always say, ‘Chris, make a note. I wrote that! I wrote that! That’s my bit!’”
Things between Mick and Keith continued to vacillate between love and hate. Keith had written the Some Girls track, “Beast of Burden,” for Mick, “…to say, ‘Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden,’” according to Keith. “The weird thing was, he didn’t want to share the burden anymore.” By 1980 was now a control issue, and Mick did not want to relinquish that aspect of his power. “The phrase from that period that rings in my ears all these years later is ‘Oh, shut up, Keith,’” he writes. It cut him badly. So while there is undoubtedly some of Anita in “All About You,” it seems to have more in it about Mick, who Keith felt was condescendingly treating him like a child.
“That song was hanging around for three years,” Keith told Rolling Stone in 1981. “After researching to make sure it wasn’t somebody else who wrote it, I finally decided that it must have been me.” While Keith was recording vocals for ”All About You,” he asked Earl McGrath, who was running Rolling Stones Records, to come up to the roof of Electric Lady Studios. There, Keith said he threatened McGrath that he would throw him off to the pavement below if he did not act to somehow repair the damage being done between Mick and Keith. “I said, you’re supposed to be the go-between with Mick. What’s going on,” writes Keith. “I wanted to let him know how I was feeling about this. I couldn’t bring Mick up there and throw him off, and I had to do something.”
Such urgent desperation can be heard in the lyric of “All About You.” It’s a killer R&B ballad, a devastating and deeply emotional track, raw, stark, savage, and tender, one of the most soulful songs since Exile. And like the gospel-informed ballads on Exile, part of what makes “All About You” so affecting are the backing vocals, rough-and-tumble harmonies layered on by Keith and Ronnie. The overlapping phrasing, off-mike mumbling, the drunken horns, and late-night weariness amount to a stripped-down deconstruction that echoes like the lonely hollows in the space that Keith remembered hearing as a kid coming over the midnight airwaves from Radio Luxembourg, the “end of Lonely Street” darkness heard on the sparse “Heartbreak Hotel.” In addition to guitar, Keith filled in missing space left after the original basic tracks with piano and bass. “I never knew what Keith was going to (put) on it, I never knew what he wanted…” said Charlie soon after a very sparse sketch of a track was recorded. “But it was a great track to play. That’s being a drummer, you know? … How he made a song out of it, I don’t know.”
“It had a little bit of sentimental input there about his feelings for Mick at the time. Just listen to the lyrics,” said Bobby Keys, who was back on his first Stones album since Goats Head Soup. Keith has said that “All About You” was just one of a few songs with at least some of the barbed lyrics aimed at Mick. He writes, “It was at that time when I was deeply hurt.”
Buy the book here, or at your favorite indie retailer. I believe I also have a few signed hard cover copies left. Email email@example.com, if interested.
Demonization is natural and can even be enjoyable, particularly in the hands of someone who is sharp-witted, sharp-tongued, a great writer, or rhetorical speaker. Many of us love to throw sharp jabs, flip and cutting remarks, or witty rebuttals to those whose positions seem indefensible to us. Especially in the age of social media, when we no longer have to type up a letter to the editor, get a stamp, start the walk to the mailbox, and…. oh, never mind, it passed.
And there are certainly despicable people who knowingly exploit fear for their own gain — political or monetary, particularly in the media and politics. But most ordinary people, and even some in media and politics are just afraid themselves, just like we all are to varying degrees. Most of what is bad in life is motivated by fear and insecurity. For example, the person who seemed most fearful in that video from Minnesota was the cop who did the killing. His screams were haunting. Is it okay to feel bad for him? To wonder what the hell it must be like to realize you have done something like taking another person’s life out of fear? He screams empty attempts at rationalization and Diamond Reynolds is like the calm voice of his/our conscience, somberly informing him what he just did. Of course, the real tragedy was for the victims. The cop gets to go on with his life, if he can manage. From the sounds on that tape, I am not so sure.
Not to draw a straight line from the cop’s rationalizations. But in the fallout, with the Black Lives Matter movement getting dismissed by “all” or “blue lives matter” counter-sloganeering, and then with yet another Lone American Gunman taking the lives of five police officers, we find ourselves heading back to our respective corners and habitually reactionary stances. We all try to rationalize our positions, many formulated out of fear. We find ourselves correct and righteous sometimes and incorrect and shamed many other times. Then we dig deeper into our respective foxholes. So then we are left with people on either sides of a battleground. And instead of trying to do the hard work toward progress and mutual agreement — which is almost always slow, incremental, and usually tedious and frustrating, at best leading to mediocre compromise — we go for the short edorphin-stimulating blasts of being “right.” More “likes!”
This was no more evident than in the Democratic primaries this year. It was understandable; finally, after years of the left getting pushed to the center and then the center-right, the more idealistic left of us saw promise of moving the needle toward the sort of true Dem ideals thought to be left behind during the hangover of the Great Society, if not largely forgotten after the New Deal saved the country. But the reality is that the country seems far off from being that far left — or right — again, unless another Great Depression or world war comes along, God help us. Meanwhile, people who are ostensibly on the same “side,” who agree on 90%+ of issues great and small, started belittling each other and demonizing the other’s fave for nominee of the party. Rational discussion becomes passionate and bitterly personal disagreement.
I listened a bit today to extreme right wing radio on WRKO in Boston today. I do it sometimes like I am picking a scab. And I hate myself after. But I don’t recommend it to anyone because it is precisely the worst of the worst exploitative and dishonest media you will find. And listening in to in order find satisfaction in being “right” over those ignorant callers is a base objective. In doing so, I was reminded of just how polarized so many important discussions have gotten in this era — not just “them,” but also “us.”. Sure, we can blame it on the early success of such right wing radio, which lead to the extremely successful Fox News and, as a less successful reaction, MSNBC (I understand it is not a perfect analog for the left to what Fox is to the right, but reactionary and schtick it often is) and the biting and deeply necessary satire of the Daily Show and its spawn
We all feel beaten down. But beat on against the tide we must. I bet pretty much all of us have relatives and friends that we love who are on the other side our political, religious, and other strongly-held beliefs. I am as guilty as anyone in reducing complicated issues to social media posts. How can someone I otherwise respect vote for Tump? How can anyone support the NRA and a fraudulent interpretation of the Second Amendment that results in ongoing carnage? I have only a vague idea or two. But that is better than having my default “no fucking idea” and writing them off — unless they truly are hopelessly unreformed and hateful racists, of course. And I am not connected to any of those, I hope. But some are indeed very afraid, Fox News on all the time making them even more fearful. But I am trying to understand, just as I did during the post-9-11-Bush Dark Ages. If we don’t understand we get further polarized. And I have seen politics ostracize close members of my own family to their death, literally.
And as my family and I are readying ourselves for a week-long vacation together abroad, during one of the more tumultuous times in our modern history, I just want to go, escape, and enjoy the company of others, to laugh, see another part of the world, and have a great time. I would rather not discuss anything like the above because understanding on some issues usually seems like such a hopeless goal. But I will do my best to remain open and compassionate, as I hope to do in all manner of my life. For, as the Buddha or some other wiseass said, “it is all a bubble of froth.”
My love for this song grows each time I hear it. I feel it would have been one of the best songs on the original Exile on Main St. release had they finished it. So here I revisit the final chapter of my 2013 book, Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones.
As of this posting, I have just a few remaining hardcovers to sign and send for $10.
Plundered My Soul
July and October-November 1971 Villa Nellcôte, Villefranche-sur-mer, France (Keith Richard’s rented house)
Autumn 2009, Henson Recording Studios; The Village; Mix This! (All in Los Angeles); One East Studio, New York City; Unidentified studio in London.
LP Exile on Main Street Deluxe Reissue May 2010
Single, April 2010, charting at 200 in UK.
I’m lucky to have been with (Mick and Keith). There’s a magic about them that people like. They always argue, but they always love each other…. I’m fortunate to be in there as part of that…
– Charlie Watts
People distill their stories over time and they polish them up. And after a while you don’t know whether they’re true or not.
– Mick Jagger
Watch my taillights fading/There ain’t a dry eye in the house.
– Keith Richards
Talk about pleasing the ears of an old Stones fan; I literally pulled over in my car when I heard this for the first time on the radio. It sounded so much like vintage Stones, with an unmistakably current-sounding sheen of production, that I assumed it had to be some other, contemporary band adroitly mimicking prime-era Stones. What does it say that my first impression was that it would be another band doing the Stones as opposed to the Stones themselves reclaiming their Holy Grail sound, their secret formula, thought to be lost forever, buried under the cellar floors in Nellcôte?
But in just a few bars, it became clear that it was Mick singing. It sounded like current Mick singing over vintage Stones. They had not achieved that groovy laconic shuffle since Some Girls, if not Exile on Main Street. I thought that the band must have a new song, and that they had again struck, finally and truly, on the elusive mojo of their peak years. Unlike the “boy who cried wolf” pronouncements of graying rock critics declaring that the “Stones are back, with their best since Exile on Main Street,” this really sounded like they were back indeed. It’s a truly stunning recording.
Well, of course I soon learned that the record was a Tattoo You-like resuscitation of an outtake from those vintage years, specifically the Exile on Main Street sessions, and it was released to promote the remastered and repackaged 2010 release of Exile. But to this day, I count it as one of my favorite songs from the band. As soon as those guitars bend up and down, and Charlie comes in that typically off-kilter way, only to all click in and have the band fall in behind him, those old emotions well up and my heart swells. With Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys on a baritone sax, Bill Wyman, and Jimmy Miller coming through the speakers like old friends, all that glue is back, that singular early-‘70s hash. It contains that same crispy-fried-sunsetting-summer-hangover melancholy as “Tumbling Dice.” It has that same heartbreaking tempo, and is one more of those “sad poems” that Kerouac wrote about. While it lacks the same sort of addendum outro, it does have a similar stand-alone intro lick as the familiar “Tumbling Dice.”
Where did it come from? Didn’t all you Stones completists think you had heard pretty much all worthwhile outtakes? How did they not even find this when they were looking for old material for Tattoo You? Well, the Stones have a warehouse that Don Was compares to the one seen in at the end of Raiders of the Lost Arc, “a mini-Smithsonian,” that “goes on for blocks,” of all the tape they rolled over the decades. And they were notorious for rolling tape continuously during their marathon sessions. Was got the job of not only remastering and repackaging the official release of Exile, but also the pillaging and plundering of those vaults, and shining up recordings that had only been around as bootlegs.
When they dusted off the old tapes and found ”Plundered My Soul,” the whole basic track of the song was there — bass, drums, piano, and rhythm guitars, all arranged and ready for vocals. But Mick reckons that he and Mick Taylor had been absent from, or arrived late to the session that day in France. Mick overdubbed the lead vocal against a backdrop of new back-up parts from Lisa Fischer and Cindy Mizelle, as well as an acoustic guitar and Taylor’s leads in 2010. Everyone else is there on the backing track, playing in the same impossibly relaxed cadence. Charlie comes back in from those chorus breaks so unbelievably slow that you think there is no way he is going to get back to the beat in time.
Taylor’s 2010-overdubbed lead lines sound very much of the time and place as the original backing tracks. They could come pretty close to matching the sounds if they followed the old crinkled sepia map: used the same guitar, amp, microphone, and player and possibly even print it onto analog tape before mastering it digitally. However, it would be impossible for Was to somehow match Mick’s 28-year-old voice with 62-year-old Mick. As with all of us, the tonality of his voice had changed over the years. And though Mick brought a dynamic and assured performance, singing a compelling lyric with steadfast conviction, the lead vocal is the one element that takes you out of the song a bit. But you can get by it. And repeated plays bring the reward.
As a college kid, Was had bought Exile upon the first week of it’s release, just he had with all records up to Voodoo Lounge (when he got a “free copy” as the producer), he told NPR. But he initially found Exile “alarming … there was a sense that the revolution had been lost [laughs].” He notes, “Something like ‘I Just Wanna See His Face,’ [sic] it’s funky, but it’s a weird thing for anyone to be making in 1972.” It’s interesting that he brought up that song as an example. I would have suggested that Mick’s vocal on “Plundered My Soul” be given the same sort of off-mike, low-fi, semi-distorted sound to mask Mick’s contemporary voice. But, not surprisingly, I did not get the call to be producer.
Was did get the call and the charge of making the tracks ready to be heard. In many cases, especially those tracks from Olympic in 1969, were on eight tracks, which meant that EQ, compression, and mixing decisions had to be committed to and printed to the master tapes, as opposed to recording just the flat, unprocessed signal and fooling with it later. So in the case of the jaw-dropping, super-sloppy-but-funky “Loving Cup” outtake from the Let it Bleed sessions (or as Was says, “it’s not sloppy; it has width and depth”), Mick and Keith’s vocals were recorded, compressed, and EQ’d, with added echo, and mixed to one track of the eight available. So if you were to listen back to the master tape (not the two-track stereo mixes), most of the finished sound is already there. Though they had more tracks with which to work on the multitrack machines in France for Exile, Andy Johns and Jimmy Miller would have recorded many of the actual treated sounds and sub-mixes to the master tapes, resulting in the magical sound of Exile heard here on “Plundered My Soul.”
Mick has talked about having to get into character, into the frame of mind he was in 1971, and he does capture much of the spirit on “Plundered My Soul.” “He did not try to write as if he were still 28 years old,” said Was. “To his credit, I must say that he wrote from the perspective of who he is today. In fact, it was a very emotional session for me. Because just hearing him, just watching him do it, the visual that came, I saw the video [laughs] in my head, and it was him walking through that house in Nellcôte, but today, and there were likes sheets over the furniture…. As Keith told the Chicago Tribune in 2010, “I enjoyed gong back through [Exile]. Going back through the tracks, I could smell that basement and all the dust. It was very evocative.”
Keith, never one for the phone or email, but a great lover of the fax, faxed a handwritten note to Was before the 2010 sessions that read, “You don’t have to make it sound like Exile. It IS Exile.” At another point, Keith had also said that messing around with the album could be “like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa.” It’s a thankless task stepping into the job of producing the Stones in general, but certainly repackaging something as sacred as Exile. Any producer is going to get a backlash from old curmudgeonly Stones fans. But at the very least, Was’ work with the band — old and new stuff alike — adhered to the old adage, first, do no harm. He was conscious of overstepping, but wanted to make sure the finished overdubs were things that people wanted to listen to repeatedly, not just once out of curiosity. His charge, as he saw it, was to make Jimmy Miller proud. “I thought of myself as his designated driver,” he said.
This plundering of the archives continues through 2012 with Some Girls, the Brussels Affair, packages of old live concerts and films, live DVDs, and all the inevitable and welcome hoopla for their 50th anniversary. Old suckers like me shell out money for stuff like a Scorcese Imax concert movie and official releases of music we have had on various bootleg copies since we were kids. Even after all of the favorite new artists we’ve discovered over the ensuing decades, the Stones are our guys. We make pilgrimages and pay homage via the heart-stopping face value of tickets that would have shamed even the most unrepentant scalpers in the old days.
“Plundered My Soul” went a long way to scratch that itch of nostalgia. As much as Mick is loathe to admit it, nostalgia itself, just like “Tumbling Dice” and all of Exile on Main Street, is somehow engrained within the very marrow of the Stones bones. That same yearning can still be heard in Mick’s sixty-something voice as he ad libs out of “Plundered My Soul,” as if that old music did indeed bring him walking back through the ghostly dreamscape of Nellcôte that Don Was had envisioned.
They are mythological heroes who still — miraculously, in Keith’s case — walk amongst us. The image that we carry with us — of their lives as demigods who have discovered the Holy Grail and the “Secret Sign/That’s known to all the artists who have known true gods of sound and time” — fuels this legend, the lies and the half truths, the glamorous sheen the glosses over the often ugly reality.
Sure, many want to slurp up the slimy gossip rags’ latest litany of Ronnie’s rehab stints or tawdry altercations with some juvenile Soho cocktail waitress, or Mick’s latest May-December conquest. And who among us didn’t laugh when we heard about Keith falling out of a Fiji coconut tree as the reason for the suspension of the Bigger Bang tour –but only after we found out he was all right. (Could you imagine the irony if he died that way?) We marvel at the Rolling Stones as truly great artists who have collaborated for 50 years on a phenomenon so much bigger than any of them individually. The body of work is monumental, without parallel, and it seems certain that no one will ever come close to an approximation.
As the Stones hit their 50th, we “Raise a glass for the hard-working people.” As long as they keep going, partying in the face of it, they shine a light in the darkness and give funky form to life’s splendor.
Some years ago, I think in 2006, my group, Crown Victoria were recording something at Q Division and then we had some time at the end of the night. At least that’s how I think it went down. So we opened up a microphone near the upright piano. I played acoustic, drummer Tom Polce played electric, and Phil Aiken played the piano and we did a half dozen covers. Here is one of them, another Bob Dylan song. By the way, I count the last cover, another Bob song, as one of my least enjoyable to listen to. I was experimenting with putting one of his ranting songs into a sort of electronic setting. Gets annoying, though.
Shows! We had a nice rehearsal last night, the first in over a year. We are getting excited for two interesting sets at the Paradise in Boston on June 21. That might end up being our only US show for 2014. In addition, though, we will be playing this fantastic festival on Vlieland, an island off of Holland, on September 5. Into the Great Wide Open. Beaches! Rides for the kids! Camp fires! Beer! We will be doing the “Buffalo Stance” with Nenah Cherry and hanging out with old friends, native sons, Darryl Ann. We will also be playing a warm-up show at our old Den Bosch haunt, the Willem II on September 4. We cannot announce one more date yet that will be in Belgium on September 6. We will do so as soon as it is confirmed. These will likely be all of our shows for 2014. Please come to see us. We do not really tour much anymore.
Anthony DeCurtis writes:
That historical context is an important aspect of the book’s great appeal. In the section on “Sway,” a lesser-known song on “Sticky Fingers” that is a favorite among Stones aficionados, Janovitz makes reference to the deaths of Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, as well as the drug problems of Keith Richards and Jagger’s then-girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, all to demonstrate Jagger’s tough-minded conviction that “if you live that ‘demon life,’ you have to expect such outcomes.” The entry is both smart and feeling, and it deepens our comprehension of the song. Janovitz has a touching, and entirely uncritical, fondness for Richards’s rickety ballads, and he often finds a rough-hewed poetry when writing about them. Discussing Nicky Hopkins’s lovely piano part on “Coming Down Again,” for example, he describes how the “guitars hang and flutter around it like a tattered cape on a scarecrow skeleton.”
Finally, the measure of “Rocks Off” is not how unassailable Janovitz’s song choices are. They’re not. His 50 differ from mine and very likely will from yours. But he is consistently illuminating, not only defending his songs well, but inspiring you to think more strenuously about the selections you would add or delete. His tone is neither truculent nor condescending; he just wants to expand your appreciation of a band and music that he loves. The ability to inspire such thought and feeling is why so many people still care about the Stones — and the Beatles — even after 50 years and counting.
Read whole review here.
From WNYC and NPR:
When I was a freshman in college in 1985, I went down to Georgetown with Marybeth Fottler, Jason Bassilakis, and Tim Donovan for spring break. We stayed at Bass’ sister’s place. The drinking age was still 18 there. It has just changed in Massachusetts. We went bar hopping, of course, and saw a chalkboard sign on the sidewalk for a jazz club in the basement of a seafood joint called the Pirate’s Hideaway. The name Dick Morgan was on the board. I had been taking a jazz class with Archie Shepp at UMass. We once had Max Roach as a substitute teacher. All of a sudden, I thought I knew a ton about jazz and recognized the name Dick Morgan. Looking back now, I think it was because he was on a Charlie Byrd record. Either way, we stopped in.
The place was classic Crusty Crab — fishnets, lobster traps, dock lights, anchors, buoys, the whole bit. Downstairs, the band was cooking, Morgan on the piano. There were high-top tables. We ordered schooner after schooner of beer. We applauded the solos. In my mind, the instrumentalists were appreciative. More beer. More applause. Until the band took a set break.
I said to my friends something like, I should go over and say thanks, and that we appreciate the music, you know, that we are not just some drunk college kids, that we came to hear some jazz. Again, this is 30 years ago and, try as I might, I have not been able to wipe this from my memory. In my memory of it, my friends were encouraging, me. But they were probably just dot discouraging me.
I got up from my stool at the high-top table. My legs felt a little jelly-like. I had what the Aussies call “wobbly boots.” Nevertheless, I quickly mustered up the drunk courage and strengthened my legs, concentrating on moving my feet forward one at a time. And I made my way to the table of musicians and their dates.
I was in the act of extending my hand and saying something like, “Hi, I just wanted to say we really enjoyed the set and I take a class with Archie Shepp,” when something horrible happened. I had not noticed that the table or booth they were at was (again, in my memory of it) a step up and I tripped into their table of drinks, knocking them all over the musicians and dates. I was mortified and tried to apologize. Dick Morgan was exceedingly polite as he righted the table and wiped off his lap and that of the smartly dressed woman next to him. I just kept saying “I’m so sorry.” He even said something like, “Oh? Archie Shepp?” The rest of the band shot me looks and the women were visibly and audibly upset with me.
I pivoted and walked very quickly by my table of friends. Marybeth’s eyes, naturally big band brown, had widened to the size of platters and she covered her mouth, agape in shock. Jay and Tim were sort of giggling, I think. I did not linger enough to look at them. I just remember them peripherally as I continued my unbroken pace up the stairs of the club to get outside. I heard them yelling my name. but I kept walking, quickly. I could not breathe.
I made my way to the crowded Georgetown sidewalk, gasping. I continued to walk, drunkenly around D.C. that night, not knowing where I was or how to get back to JBass’ sister’s apartment. I remember looking up once and seeing the Iwo Jima monument, all lit up. I have no idea how I figured out how to get back, but eventually I did. My friends were equally pissed off at me for running away like Marcia Brady and laughing at me for the cocktail tragedy.
This all came flooding back (as I said, I could never wipe away the memory — in fact, it is a well-told tale among my old friends) when I read about Dick Morgan’s passing this morning. Truth be told, I had forgotten who it was that was playing that night. But when I saw his name in his obituary, it clicked. That was him.
Wherever he is now, I hope his lap is dry and free from the shards of cocktail glasses spilled on him by an 18 year-old wise ass.
I was up in my attic this weekend looking for baseball cards to show my son. I came across a big box of my old notebooks. I did keep journals while Buffalo Tom was in full swing, but I was not a diarist. Most of the stuff is meandering impressionistic, melancholy (if not despondent) rumination that is generally so unanchored that it is a bit of a challenge to figure out where we even happened to be at the time, unless I wrote down headings like “July 1991 Copenhagen –> JFK.” I didn’t have many entries that were straightforward “Today we played a show in ___.” But this one was more like that.
May something, 1991
BELFAST Europa Hotel
“The most bombed hotel in Europe,” said our waiter at breakfast. The IRA has bombed this hotel thirteen times in the past nine years. The televisions in the guest rooms turn themselves on and tell you to leave when there is a threat. The band, TAD, had a bomb here during their stay two weeks ago and had to evacuate. TAD are also booked by Paperclip. Why are we staying here? I don’t know.
The pub, or shell of the pub across the street, was the target of a bomb.
I walked around a corner onto a roped-off street guarded by authorities wielding machine guns. An office building with blown out windows; armored vehicles; glass all over the street; a few bystanders, most people walking on. I took photos and generally by-stood until a cop approached me. I thought he’d confiscate my film but he merely asked me some questions, holding his hands on something inside his bulletproof vest.
“Waiting for something, or….?” he asked.
“Um, no. I’m just noticing, having a look at this scene,” I said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Are you from around here? Where are you….?”
“No, I’m from America.”
“Oh, are you a tourist? Just visiting?”
“No, I’m in a band.”
“Oh, what’s the name?” He shifted on his feet.
“Buffalo Tom. We’re supporting the Wedding Present, an English band.”
“Oh, right.” He seemed to half recognize the Weddoes. I proceeded to volunteer information.
“We’re staying at the Europa Hotel. Played in town last night. Tonight, in Jordanstown.”
“Oh? How’d it go?”
“Very well, thanks.”
He pivoted to walk away, smiling.
“Is this fairly routine?” I asked, noticing his nonchalance.
“‘Fairly routine?’ No, no, no. I wouldn’t say that.”
We passed a similar scene last night. Bob almost drove our van through a roped off “threat” scene. No blast.
Probably a day after this entry, I was taking a shower in the hotel when I heard an extremely loud squawky voice and a bunch of noise coming from my room. It gave me quite a start. I scrambled out of the shower and into the room, wrapping my towel around me. The television was bellowing out the alarm about a bomb threat. I quickly pulled my clothes on over my still-wet body and opened the door. No one else was so much as opening a door, never mind running out into the hall. I went downstairs. No one taking notice of anything in the lobby. With my hair dripping, I asked the desk clerks what was going on. Was there or was there not a bomb threat?
“Oh, you didn’t see the notice about the drill?”
Here are some photos I took at the time: