Friday, September 29, 2023



I’ve been a defender of the Stones’ late career work, admitting right off that nothing they can do will equal their best efforts of decades passed. However, the albums of more recent years have more quality than many cynics have let on. At this point, I have to evolve from my former stance that the Rolling Stones represent far less the idea that senior citizen rock musicians can still make credible rock and roll that can reflect a world view that took many decades to form. Instead, they have become an example of an institution completely irrelevant to anything that matters musically, socially, ironically. 

As more is being revealed to an aging audience and to a younger audience curious about the sort of dereliction their parents and grandparents might have indulged in youth, word is getting out that Jagger lived more on the edge than has been let on. He is portrayed as a pansexual satyr with a budget to afford his taste. This amounts to more of the old news that any dedicated listener already knows. Just as “Angry” are merely newer versions of the same riffs they deployed for decades. 

The upcoming album, Hackney Diamonds, is due to be released on October 20th, but the fact that the first single from it, "Angry"  resembles a tribute band more than anything else makes the impending release of the full album less exciting. I'm feeling just a bit of dread anticipating these elders coming around one more time, wondering how they can again make their usual riffs and tropes interesting once more.Although it does seem that they’ve had to remember how to be the Rolling Stones. In their attempt to remain relevant 23 years into the 21st century, they look kind of pathetic.


"Eight Miles High by the Byrds, released in 1966, a brief but combustible mixture of Imagist lyrics, unusual time signatures that alternate between 5/4 and 4/4, jazz and raga overtones and guitarist Roger (née Jim) McGuinn's transcendent, Coltrane inspired solos. It's been argued that McGuinn was far out of his depth technically as he attempted the register-leaping dramatics of Coltrane's free-jazz period, but that pretty much misses the point and misses what the Byrds guitarist actually accomplished: on the twelve string Rickenbacker electric, the solo merges the open-ended flow of experimental jazz improvisation with an effective use of Ravi Shanker's raga-foundationed excursions.

It is rhythmically complex and unpredictable, and musically achieves that expansionist orientation of the most interesting rock music at the time. It may pale compared against the virtuoso furies embodied in 'Trane and Archie Shepp's work, but it is a masterpiece of rock guitar work, an experimental improvisation that set a standard for how far “out” a guitar solo could proceed beyond its blues foundation.

There were countless early experiments in mixing rock with other genres, specifically raga and jazz, and not a little hunt and peck improvisation happening during this period, the most successful efforts being the extended Bloomfield excursions on East West, Larry Coryell's invention of fusion method in the Free Spirits band, and some others, but "Eight Miles High" was a radio hit of a sort, ranking at 14 in the Billboard 100. It was banned from some stations because of the (too) obvious association with drugs, but where I was in Detroit, the tune was played much of the time on \ local AM and FM outlets. It was a surprise at the time, a song entirely unique and ahead of its time that stands as one of the artistically successful attempts at what would come to be termed fusion.


Neil Young's sci-fi junkie lament "After the Goldrush" gets a harmonized rendition in this 1974 release. The lead vocal by Irene Hume reveals a slightly husky voice that characterizes the solo and chorus arrangement, with an appealing result that makes you think of a choir of Melanies. The power of Young's song is that it makes the whole idea of being a drug addict hallucinating in a bomb crater after a presumably nuclear apocalypse seem attractive, the perfect vehicle with which to compose stark imagery and espouse by implication what a waste the entirety of human history has been.

The undercurrent of this was that the only thing the narrator wanted from this life was love and bright, shining truth, which this catastrophe rudely made impossible. There was a vein of songwriting from Lou Reed, Joni Mitchell and the Rolling Stones that intentionally or not made drug use, addiction and just flat out being fucked- up an attractive , even morally superior state to be in; I can't speak to your experience, but I detect this song as being something of a scolding from Young to the parents of the angry young kids. "See what you made them do?!!"

Poetry and song lyrics make nothing happen, remember, that is nothing besides make listeners so inclined to feel momentarily nostalgic or even a bit guilty with how things turned out after the youthful years are spent. It allows for a momentary wallow before the citizenry presses on with family , bills, jobs they can't stand, which is another way of saying that Young's lyrics, intended as a warning and a message of spiritual importance, changed nothing in ways that counter culture utopians desired. Sing it, David Byrne, same as it ever was… .

The song is what it was always fated to be, a go-to song for a Classic Rock radio programmer. Prelude's syrupy harmonies bring a theme of ecological disaster and pharmed-out despair to the Starbucks, piped on, barely audible over the chatter and grinding of outside traffic. A perfect radio hit for the time, pleasant melody, depressed lyrics, alluring vocal craft.

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