10 reasons why I'm looking forward to the Rolling Stones at Glastonbury
1. It's only rock n roll
The sharpest man in rock n roll and also one of the wisest, John Cooper Clarke once told me that 'If you don't like the Rolling Stones then you don't like rock n roll' and you can't argue with the wisdom of our true poet laureate. The Stones define rock n roll, with all its breath taking beauty and its seamy underbelly of greed and danger- both sides are, of course, equally attractive. The Stones are like the Beatles- one of those bands that are so omnipresent that you can sometimes forget their brilliance. They make the simple look like genius and are the template for so many bands that they define the overused word influential.
2. Dirty Work…
There is something a bit special about the Stones playing Glastonbury.
Surely this is the one thing that sets the festival apart from all the others- booking the true legends to play. Glastonbury gets the sort of bands that you would never normally see and despite the fact I have actually seen the Stones many times this is a perfect place to see them. It's like two antique institutions from the sixties combining for something quite special. Two very British affairs with an international clout but also a celebration of our cultural heritage.
The Stones have a historical, if mixed track record with festivals as well- they unintentionally closed down the sixties at Altamont when the counter culture collapsed in a swirl of pool cues but they also played Hyde Park at about the same time and even with the shoddy performance that day somehow managed to capture the cusp between that fabled decade and the more linear grind out of the be-denimmed early seventies – from acid to coke in other words!
Lets face it the Stones have the songs to play a gig like this. It's less of the human riff and more of the human jukebox as they come armed with an endless run of hits that everyone can dance to- arguably the world's number one dance act in terms of the number of people actually dancing to them, the Rolling Stones- more than any other living band, can mean something to nearly everybody in a huge field and after decades of active service very few acts can do that.
4. The glimmer twins
There is something fascinating about Mick Jagger these days. For years we always looked at Keef as being the coolest Stone and for sure, he is still cool in his cackling dotage.
For years Sir Mick was like the outcast. He was the one you had to sneer at but these days he is actually looking like a cooly, gnarled cool version of himself. His onstage movement has suddenly got all funky instead of just athletic and his voice has the genuine lived in feel of a crackling blues man- albeit a five star lifestyle bluesman and not one living in a tumbledown shotgun shack, but that doesn't detract from his strutting prowess which remains undiminished by time and tabloid speculation.
It's also true that the Keef Richards autobiography has also, unintentionally, made Mick more fascinating. You read the book and start to wonder just who is this person? who is this masked man- Sire Michael de Jagger, this person that gives nothing away at the heart of the Stones? Every bitchy remark about Mick in the book somehow made him seem more interesting and the axis has partly shifted when you think about the true heart of the Rolling Stones…
5. This could be the last time?
How much more time have the Stones got? Touching 70 is not always a problem in rock n roll and why should it be? but the band are getting creaky- which is, of course, part of their charm. It must be strange for the Stones – they have been getting called 'too old' since the early seventies when they were about the age the Artic Monkeys are now!
They were the first rock n roll band to move beyond the age barrier and to continue their piratical plunder into their near dotage. The question has been asked for ever, will the Stones carry on? Will they keep rollin'? There is talk of a new album which will mean some sort of world tour but it seemed an awful lot of effort to get the show on the road these days and there was talk of lower ticket sales this time in the USA…lets hope I'm wrong here and they find some way of continuing, afterall they have come back from the brink so many times…
6. Money (Thats What I Want)
The Stones are famous for rolling in it and certainly plenty of the folding stuff has made its way into their pirate booty. But as a band and without all the baggage and the corporate Stones brand there is still a fantastic rock n roll band in there.
On the last tour they did these great mini sets on small stages and watching them play together was an education- instead of some sort of board meeting with scraggy hair they turned into the blues purists that still had the engine room thing down.
7. Their Satanic Majesties…
The older they get the more they look like a gang of renegade pirates.
The Stones have really grown into this thing as the years roll by. In 2013, fifty years after they began they look like apocalyptic pirates on some kind of ghost ship playing swashbuckling rock n roll for the booty and dancing on the bones of the dead man's chest. Keef looks like the ghost of some long lost Bluebeard type character and Mick looks like he is honed from a piece of teak and then dipped in varnish . You can almost imagine the burning candles in Keef's hair and a cutlass between his teeth as he wanders onto the stage playing out the role of the semi sober rock n roller with the guitar slashed in that slightly off beat kinda way with his mini droog Ronnie beside him and the ever faithful bloodhound Charlie nailing that metronomicdance beat that is so quintessential to the band's swing as Mick does his fantastic dance with the devil in front- you can't get any more quintessential rock n roll than that.
8. Let It Bleed…
Who else is left to play this legend slot? If only Elvis was still alive or the Beatles were still with us but they have both long gone- giving you a real measure of the longevity of the Stones who survive like expensive cockroaches in the 21st century meltdown. The Saturday slot at Glastonbury is for the solid gold legends- the kind of people that changed popular culture. There's lots of great young bands out there and their time will come but this slot is still for the game changers that came from even before my time and the Stones are right up there in the top 5.
Spare a thought for Brian Jones – the long lost genius with the perfect hair who grew up in Cheltenham not to far from Glastonbury and the visionary mind who formed the band, vamping up the blues and putting it into the helter skelter mainstream of the sixties. Brian named the band, decided what music they should play and had the vision that stained the sixties.
Like John Lennon with the Beatles, Jones' personal psychodrama drove a decade but unlike Lennon he lost control of the band and himself and died in his swimming pool in Winnie the Pooh's house which he then owned. It was a tragic ending for the young genius whose musical contributions to the band made their sixties material sound so magical.
10. Paint It Black…
I know they probably won't play it and even if the did, without Brian's magic touch it can't be the same but for this one song alone which opened Aftermath- which is still my favorite Stones album, the Stones still sit there in the premier league of bands. The brooding melancholy and dark atmosphere of the song is the perfect underside to the the LSD come down of the mid to late sixties. The song is total genius- thrilling and dark and dangerous and that sitar line from Jones is one of the great moments in rock n roll…and one of the reasons why I will always love the Stones. People will always tell you that the great Exile On Main Street is the Stones classic album- and in many ways it is but the Jones led vision of the sixties Stones has a magic that is so often overlooked and is my personal favourite.
11. I'm still pissed of Public Enemy are playing at the same time though…