Satisfaction? The Stones debate
They're living legends but as The Stones get ready to play Slane this weekend, Eamon Carr and Richie Taylor row over their credentials as a live act
THE Rolling Stones deserve thanks. On Saturday, I'll have Rathmines to myself. The locals will be out of town. And I'll be able to visit the off-licence is peace.
I won't be going to see the Stones on Saturday. Or Ever. How does the old song go? Once bitten, twice shy.
Rock'n'roll, bless it, is built on bogus myth. Elvis Presley was a clean-living lad. Elton John's hair is his own. And the Rolling Stones are the Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band in the World.
What a scam.
They've been trading off this dodgy trade description since before they lost bass player Bill Wyman to a child bride. It's a grotesque lie, of course.
Being into the Rolling Stones was once about discovering a defiant, rebellious and aspirational voice that carried echoes of chain-gangs and slavery.
Today it's merely a tragic craving for mega-celebrity. ERGO SUM To paraphrase French philosopher Rene Descartes, “I can afford a Stones ticket, therefore I am.”
However, there is much to admire about the band. The way Keith's constitution, in the face of decades of substance abuse, defies medical science. And the way the Stones hijacked the slickest advertising slogan in the history of the music industry.
They could create works of narcotic genius in the studio, but Stones were never a good live band. They were always shambolic, never bothered with important conventions such as a pre-gig soundcheck and required a battery of hired session-players to help carry the day.
What they were, and remain, is the world's most extravagant musical pantomime.
Keith, the wily wannabe pirate, plays a deformed gargoyle to Jagger's mincing Widow Twanky. Watch Mick closely in his skinny knobbly-kneed tights, and try convincing yourself that he's anything other than a post-modern Danny La Rue with ludicrous Mockney accent.
I applaud The Stones for keeping the show on the road. Like their role models, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, they seem intent on bopping till they drop.
I enjoyed Muddy's gigs until the day he died. And Chuck is always a buzz.
But don't ask me to go to The Stones. In sporting terms their concerts are merely lavish testimonials. Feelgood festivals for those craving a nostalgia fix.
But, with due respect to the Memory Man himself, if the Jimmy Magee All- Stars came back to play in Pairc Tailteann I'd probably give that a miss too.
There was a time when the Stones' music provided the soundtrack for a social revolution. Change was in the air. There was rioting in the streets. Now the band are pillars of monied society, just a soft-shoe shuffle away from receiving Knighthoods from the British establishment.
It's scary to consider that if John Profumo, the disgraced lecherous MP from the start of the Swinging Sixties, was still around he'd most likely be idiot-dancing in the front row with the rest of Jagger's chums.
Drummer Charlie Watts, a man of impeccable musical taste, wouldn't be caught dead at a Stones gig. He prefers the intimacy of jazz clubs to the impersonal vastness and acoustic imperfections of arena concerts. Being in the Stones pays well however. People are attracted to institutions.
In Moscow the public filed past the embalmed body of Stalin for decades. In Ireland we've seen the fuss created when religious relics are brought on tour. At least the Stones move about and make some noise.
The old bluesmen, whose music inspired the Stones, would be overjoyed to receive such public adulation and corporate approval.
But, unlike their mentors, the Stones have nothing to prove. In essence, their extravagant circus is a distasteful threecard trick. The mass rally as a form of expression and entertainment went out of fashion with the Third Reich. Rolling Stones? Nein danke.
THEY used to be introduced onstage as the Greatest Rock And Roll Band In The World — and as far as I'm concerned they still are!
Just name one other 60s act that are still on the go and are as vital, intriguing, entertaining, enigmatic — and moneyspinning — as the Rolling Stones?
All right, they probably haven't made a truly brilliant album since Some Girls back in the late 70s — but (nearly) every record they have released since then has nearly always exhibited flashes of true brilliance.
And who among their 60s competitors can claim to have been truly brilliant all the time anyhow? McCartney, Dylan and Neil Young have all released duff albums down through the years.
And the Stones' last album — 2005's A Bigger Bang — is a really rocking affair, with excellent guitar riffing, singing and songwriting as well as buckets of real attitude for guys in their 60s.
Once Keith Richards hits those open-tuned power chords, Ron Wood joins in on slide guitar, Charlie Watts smacks the snare drum and Jagger preens, pouts and prances in his pure peacock style — there's just no match for them on earth.
Sure, they are wrinkly of visage, spindly of legs and somewhat precious of their performances — but they were also the biggest-grossing act to tour America last year.
Their blues heroes such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson all rocked until they literally dropped — so why should white boys from Richmond not follow in the footsteps of their black blues heroes from America?
Listen to their extensive back catalogue and you will be astonished by the depth and breath of their music. Has any rock band ever matched such classic albums as Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street?
I don't think so! There's also still the Shane MacGowan element to their live shows, ie will Keef actually snuff it onstage some night? At a couple of recent gigs on their European tour the guitar ace was apparently so wellrefreshed that super-sober Jagger had to grab him to stop him from falling off the stage.
Finally, the last word has to go to an critic of Jagger's. When asked about the famous deeply-etched lines on his once-beautiful visage, Mick replied that they were just “laughter lines.”
The wag commented “nothing can be that funny!”
And definitely finally, Keith Richards undoubtedly has to be the coolest guy on the planet. Who else could play Johnny Depp's dad in Pirates of the Caribbean, fall out of a coconut tree and need brain surgery with six pins still in his skull (and crossbones), and snort his dead dad's ashes? Unbelievable! Start me up!