Lex on Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones)

Although I knew about the Rolling Stones from my uncle Will (who blasted “Miss You” on his car stereo system during the latter half of ’78) and the film Apocalypse Now (17-year-old Laurence Fishburn dances on a gun boat to “Satisfaction”), it was Casey Kasem who truly flipped the switch for me around 1980.

Kasem showcased the top musical acts of all time on a special edition of his “America’s Top Ten” television show.  At number two sat the Stones.  He presented a clip of the Stones, circa ’64, live in concert belting out a version of the Chuck Berry classic “Around and Around.”  There, I saw a youthful Mick Jagger holding court.  He belted out the lyrics to the song in a zombie-like state, staring down the screaming girls in attendance.  When the musical break in the song came around, it happened.

Jagger started jumping around like a mad man, dancing around and clapping his hands, while the band kept the rollicking rhythm of the song in check.  I was glued to the television, and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.  Young Jagger was what I wanted to be – even at this early point in his career, he was a star.

For me, he was the first “real” authentic English rock and roll star.

I had to see him up close.  With a little luck, some lying, and a $13 ticket, I conned my way into seeing the Stones up close and personal when their ’81 concert tour brought them to L.A. to play at the Coliseum.  I sat through the Clash, Santana, and Prince (who had bottles hurled at him during his performance).  The Stones were fashionably late, played for 2 hours, and took off via helicopter during the fireworks display at the end of the show.  Not wanting to go home afterwards, I hopped the fence of my old elementary school and slept on the outside lunch tables until it was “safe” to go back home.  I had a new band, and I was in musical nirvana.

Besides the more recent “Emotional Rescue” and “Start Me Up,” I spent the rest of that year buying as many singles as Record Retreat held in their bin of classic 45 RPM records.  “Paint It Black,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Street Fighting Man,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Happy,” “Get Off My Cloud,” and “Jumping Jack Flash” all seemed fresh and new to me, even though the songs were written and recorded shortly before my birth.  I moved on to the albums, one by one.

It was inspiring, collecting the albums one by one.  The band’s early output was mostly covers of music written and made famous by black rock and blues legends.  By the time ’66 rolled around, they were a great pop band on the same level as the Beatles (check out Aftermath and Between The Buttons for proof).  By the time they hit their classic period (’68 – ’72), they were a rock band in every sense of the word.

Proof that they just might be “the greatest rock band in the world” hit me in the ear with their classic album Let It Bleed.  If you want to hear what sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll was all about, you have to hear this particular album.  It sounded more dangerous than a band of gangster hoodlums coming at you brandishing stilettos and guns.  You’ve probably heard the most well-known tunes off the album (“You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Gimme Shelter,” and “Midnight Rambler”).  But if you explore further, you get such rock gems as “Live With Me,” and “Monkey Man.”  You even get to take a little trip up the country with great tunes such as “You Got The Silver,” and “Country Honk,” a country-fried version of their classic single “Honky Tonk Woman.”

The momentum kept up with Sticky Fingers (“Brown Sugar,” “Bitch,” and “Can You Hear Me Knocking”) and Exile On Main Street (“Tumbling Dice,” “Rocks Off,” and “Happy”).  They’d reach another peak in ’78 with Some Girls (when I first became aware of how good they were), and yet another peak with Tattoo You, which turned me into a Stones fanatic (“Start Me Up,” and “Little T & A”).

I got to see a lot of Stones footage, thanks to the advent of home video systems.  Jagger’s voice and mannerisms would always be a source of inspiration when I was a teen musician and songwriter.  In interviews, he would always compare himself to a “stripper, just dancing around and taking off bits of clothing.”  It was always much more than that to me.  He expressed raw intensity and emotion in his vocals and his dancing.  He and his band introduced me to the music of my own culture.

Mick Jagger and company made “rock and roll” dangerous.  They made it glamorous.  They made it druggy.  They made the dream of performing every night to screaming fans the dream of millions of young kids, including me.  Jagger is the consummate front man.  His performances pulled you in, and made you think, I want to do that.  His lyrics were the voice of every kid in the street who needed to express himself through wild gyrations, keen and sharp lyrics, and memorable riffs.

For visual reference on this great rock frontman, check out the films Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones (1974), The Rolling Stones: 25 x 5 (1989), and the great documentary of the infamous free concert at Altamont called Gimme Shelter (1970).

On July 26, Jagger celebrates another birthday.  I just want to say that I love the man, and his work.  You can look at all facets of contemporary rock and pop music, and there is NO ONE who comes close to being his equal.  At 40, I look with a jaundiced eye at what Jagger has accomplished and wonder, “Who could do better that that now?”  Thanks, Mick.  Thanks for a thousand dreams and inspirational moments.  Thanks for making me take charge of my teenage life, and contemplate growing up, and growing older.  You are truly a “one off,” and I just love you.

And just for the record, Rolling Stone magazine often sites “Satisfaction” as the number one single of all time – I disagree and go with “Get Off My Cloud.”

(Lex Neon is also known as Alex Oliver, the quirky and often eccentric musical genius of “sunshine pop / rock” band Poppermost.  Check out their music and Lex’s rock rantings at http://www.poppermost.com/).

Note: Original release date of the ‘currently listening’ album below is November 28, 1969.

Currently listening:
Let It Bleed
By The Rolling Stones
Release date: 2002-08-27
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~ by Poppermost on July 28, 2009.

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