Do the Rolling Stones still matter? Watching Glastonbury on TV

OK, I know you can’t review a gig you only saw 45% of, and that on TV. (The BBC screened 9 out of 20 tracks in the set they performed last night). I know you can’t understand the Glastonbury Festival experience while sitting at home on your sofa fending off hungry cats and distracted by texts from friends. Many of my friends are at Glastonbury as punters or working, and I’ll doubtless hear more when they get back;  I’ve never even been to the Festival – been to Glastonbury and Pilton many times, and climbed the Tor and explored the abbey dreaming of Frederick Bligh Bond, but never seen a band there. (In fact just had an idea for an offbeat rpg scenario – is it a coincidence that the excellent Michael Eavis first name is actually Athelstan? Combine the Festival’s founding with Bligh Bond’s communicators and you have a really way out plot for your players to explore? Obviously I don’t really believe the festival is run by the monks who found Arthur’s grave! :D).

I’m not even going to try and review what I did see – for the record, I guess it was an OK performance as the Stones go these days I think, good in places, excellent in others – Start Me Up was perhaps the highlight, though one of my least favourite Stones tracks, and the two encores were great performances, and none of it was to my mind poor, but then I’m neither a huge Stones fan nor a critic. It was enjoyable stuff. I’m glad I actually sought out a TV set and watched it, something really unusual for me (watching TV that is). I trotted out all the old jokes on my FB account, about Mick have “childbearing lips”, the usual tosh — and a few of my own, which I am probably not proud of today. 🙂

I watched a bit more of the Festival – was stuck on the sofa so saw  the whole Example set shown on the Beeb, and it was actually I thought possibly better than the Stones. I’m no Example fan – I knew two of his songs off the radio, have been told he is a “cock”, and was utterly disinterested, but actually after watching a lot of “meh” bands it was a breath of fresh air and I actually started to pay attention. He is undoubtedly a colossal cock – not as an insult, but in the sense of a metaphor — strutting like a rooster, a bit laddish, and generally a braggart “satisfied with his endowment” to quote the PPI mis-selling ads.  I thought he was actually one of the Festival Highlights, which given my lack of enthusiasm normally for this style of music is saying something. He will go far.

Obviously I did not see Public Enemy – I’m told by many (but especially Greg Carter) their set was excellent, so I’ll check it out. Which leads to the obvious question – if I was there would I have gone to see the Stones, or Public Enemy? I don’t know. I think the Stones, because ,,, well why?

An incredible number of people wanted to see the Stones. Yet a friend of a friend posted something really true on Facebook last night, which I hope he won’t mind me citing here

I’d like to see the country’s major rock festival headlined by a band that I’m too old to have heard of or care about.”

I’m 43 – when I was old enough to first really pay attention to music the Stones were already 20 years in to their career. Brian Jones had been dead  a very long time, and until I moved to Cheltenham and saw his grave I knew little about him beyond seeing footage of Mick releasing white butterflies at the concert in Hyde Park. The Stones had always part of the music playing on the radio, and I loved and still do the dirty fuzzy musky and violent sound of Satisfaction, but I always thought of the Stones as a 60’s band – I knew they were one f the biggest acts of the 70’s and 80’s, but in my head that was all inferior to tracks like We Love You, which is still absolutely stunning today, at least if green carnations mean anything to you: not till maybe George Michael did Oustide did anyone take “the mick” quite like this of as court case in a video…

OK, OK, I guess I liked the Stones a lot more than I realised! Still do the Stones still matter? Obviously to the fans, immensely. To the British Music Scene? Almost all the commentators I have seen mention them have also mentioned The Beatles, and I can see why, but it immediately makes me think of the Bowie penned Mott the Hoople lyrics from All the Young Dudes

And my brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his Stones
We never got it off on that revolution stuff
What a drag; too many snags

So maybe there is a clue there;

even as late as 1972 the Stones are seen as revolutionary: they were also seen as irrelevant to a new generation. They reinvented themselves, and proved they were relevant. I’m not really surprised, but they were never as overtly radically counter-cultural as the US bands like Jefferson Airplane

All your private property is
Target for your enemy
And your enemy is
We
We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very
Proud of ourselves

– Jefferson Airplane, Volunteers.

Nope, the Stones in the late 60’s always struck me as exemplifying not so much working class macho bravado or political outsiderism or even psychedelic politics, but the intrusion of those themes, those motifs, those forces, in to the Establishment, The Stones took rebellion right in to the heart of British Society, and with the busts, arrests and cases won popular support I think. As outsiders the Establishment eventually come to lionize, I think they are a classic example. Only Amy Winehouse has perhaps achieved this so completely in recent years: Kate Bush, The Cure and Nirvana in previous decades. I think the influence of the Beatles and the Stones was actually primarily not in music, oddly enough, but in Society as a whole.

And they are Iconic – even if they were absolutely awful last night, to see the Stones is like making a pilgrimage, or seeing a filthy hermit in a cave levitate – you go do it because you must. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Beatles, The Stones, (and again arguably The Sex Pistols)– rock dinosaurs maybe, but people who changed the world. Even if they were utterly crap, you need to be able to say you saw them. (I didn’t; and haven’t. I wish I was at Glastonbury watching PIL now though!)

I guess I think the Stones are bigger than the music now – and therefore perfect Glastonbury headliners. You may well disagree strongly though, and I’d be interested in your comments. Still I can make a strong case the stones are a myth, a metaphor, and the music less important to our current musical scene. Let’s start with …

or

And if you hate the Stones? Well I think Cher Lloyd in this track, that I described at the time, rather cruelly as “more Merkin than Wigga” says it all… 😉

cj x

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
This entry was posted in Reviews and Past Events, Social commentary desecrated, Uninteresting to others whitterings about my life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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