I’m obsessively watching Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones. As a teenager, I obsessively listened to Get Yer Ya Yas Out, so I appear not to have come very far. In my thirties and even forties I felt a certain smugness that I was at least keeping up with the times musically, but kids and career have killed that particular delusion. I still love The Stones, but only the image frozen at around 1975…
The Rolling Stones obsession is being fed by the signboard at the Ferntree Gully Hotel, which I drive past on the way to work. Prominent at present is someone called Mick Taylor, who I assumed was someone with the same name as the guy who played lead guitar with the Stones when they were really, really good. A google search led me to Mick’s website, and yes it is the one and the same. Suddenly I feel very, very old.
I have a memory of The Stones from the late seventies, watching Countdown. Most of us who remember Countdown experience a vague anxiety of parental approbrium – ie it was on before the weekend news, and back then we didn’t have tellies in our rooms, so we had to watch with our parents. My old man, who was genuinely old and foreign and as right-wing as it gets, sat through all sorts of arty/teenage/gay/wierd stuff, but only arked up twice. Once was to express the view that this Bob Dylan person seemed very serious, the other was that these two blokes were bloody idiots – yes Mick and Keith (can’t remember the song). This confirmed my feeling that even though The Stones were getting on a bit they were still cool.
Of course, since then they have been seriously ‘Stadiumised’ and calcified, but I think we feel comfortable watching them grow old. We can accept that Mick Jagger has a portrait aging in a frightening manner somewhere in one of his many high-class attics, and that Keef is Johnny Depp’s pirate father who falls out of the occasional palm tree. And Charlie – I once read that their manager got them to chart their sexual activity for a month (not sure why) and it ranged from around 40 ‘conquests’ (Brian Jones) down to 1, being Charlie who was totally comfortable with who he was and to whom he was married.
But Mick Taylor…
He was the really pretty, brilliant one who replaced the really pretty brilliant one who died (Brian Jones – who left the band and died days after Mick was recruited). Supposedly Keef always resented Mick’s brilliance, but when I was growing up my guitar nerd friends worshipped Keef as the ultimate rhythm player. I agree with this assessment:
For what is worth, Mick Taylor is a rock god. His beautiful, fluid
playing for both The Stones and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers is hugely
influential and- for me- his lead and Keith Richards’ rhythm was the
greatest guitar pairing in the history of rock.
But apparently while Mick (Jagger), Keith, Charlie and that kid Ronnie (they seem to have airbrushed Bill out) age the way rock and rollers should (ie like rich versions of those old black guys the Stones ‘referenced’ (and to be fair, championed)), Mick (Taylor) is now old, fat and poor. This is perhaps less a reflection on him than us (alright ‘me’). Those of us who have been in the arts for several decades should not be surprised by poverty, aging and corpulence.
I may need to go to the FTG Hotel for proof of this, but I suspect that we need to look beyond the youthful beauty to see what a good player Mick really is. But what’she going to play? Who the hell is he beyond that golden pairing with Keef and some great songwriting with the other Mick?