discovering the Rolling Stones… Philip Kiszely on Let it Bleed
Casting a bleary eye back over the last couple of weeks or so, it’s difficult to see any trace of Jesus in the modern festive process. Goes without saying really, I suppose. So where the hell’s he keeping himself these days? Prison, most probably ” it’s always been the best place to find Jesus. You’d have thought he’d have learned by now that there are more salubrious places to hang out and better company to keep. But, rather like my good self on Twitter, you take your followers where you find them, and you learn not to be too sniffy about who they are (and if @AberbeenPublicLibraries is reading this, don’t just automatically assume I mean you…)
The point is we tend make the best of things, no matter how bleak. Chasing this train of thought over a cup of coffee the other day, I let my mind drift way back to the mid-”80s and the nearest thing I’ve ever had to an epiphany. I remember it like it was yesterday: I was 15, it was 1986, and I was seeing in a particularly grim New Year in my home town of Bury, Lancashire. As I sat in our front room, with Andy Stewart relegated to mute on the television, something amazing happened.
I only went and discovered the Rolling Stones, didn’t I!
Now don’t get me wrong ”â I’m the first to admit that someone had discovered them before me. More than one person, in fact. But niggling details like that have never really diminished in my mind the magnitude of the event. And while we’re getting things straight, let me also say this: I had, of course, heard of them before, and heard their music innumerable times. I even knew that Jagger had a diamond set in a tooth, ala Buddy Guy; I could also tell you that Bill Wyman was fond of table tennis, for God’s sake. What was a revelation to me at the time, though, what really made me see them in a completely new light, was Let it Bleed. I stumbled across this LP, the Stones’ musical gateway into the 1970s, in my brother’s record collection while searching for, of all things, the Meteors’ album of the moment, Monkey’s Breath.
If the Stones transformed in front of my very ears, as it were, then something also happened to me. What can I tell you? Let it Bleed changed my life.
These days, the Stones are a national treasure. Jagger plays the English Gentleman with considerable charm and panache, and Keith is… well, Keef. Exile on Main St. has recently topped the charts, helped in no small measure by a beautifully crafted film documenting the recording of the album. There’s Keith’s well-received biography, too, not to mention its attendant Culture Show Special. On the flip side are Ronnie Wood’s daft shenanigans, of course, but let’s forget him.
Back in ”86, it was a very different story: the Rolling Stones were Messiahs on the skids, beleaguered, unfashionable, out of touch, anachronistic. (I’m tempted to get back to Jesus here, but I’ll spare you.) Nut-shelling it, they were a bit of a joke. They were ”Ëwrinkly rockers’, according to the tabloids, and that was how I perceived them. Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard ”Midnight Rambler’. The simple truth is that it was looser and sexier than anything else I’d ever heard in my life.