Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Numbers Game

Mick Jagger is obsessed. Not only with longevity (the only metric by which one can EVER say the Stones surpassed the Beatles), but with legacy as well.

He's had his wine, women and songs. Now, dealing with the sobering reality that he will, in fact, die someday, just like everyone else, he seems determined to leave behind an audit trail, a historical footprint (and not just a biological one, as evidenced by siring six children) of his and the Rolling Stones' greatness. In other words, he's building his Tower of Babel, climbing his Stairway To Heaven, erecting his Golden Calf for the idolatry of history's masses. Biggest, longest, oldest...all the superlatives now about the Stones reflect an obsession with stats and with how they'll be remembered in the record books (will Mick go so far as to put a statistician on the payroll? Can he lure baseball number-cruncher Bill James away from the Red Sox?)

How else to explain the Stones' current "Bigger Bang" world tour, which takes stadium rock to ridiculous lengths of hype and excess? Over the weekend, approximately 1.2 million fans packed on to the sands of Rio de Janeiros' Copacabana to witness a free concert that was the Brazilian leg of the Stones' world tour. (However, Saturday's crowd was not as big as that at Rod Stewart's 1994 concert, also at Copacabana beach, which drew a crowd of 3.5 million.) Everyone made a big deal out of the fact that Mick impressed the crowd with a few Portuguese phrases and the fact that he had a Brazilian son, Lucas Jagger - though no one mentioned he initially demanded DNA tests to prove that Papa was a Rolling Stone before he would embrace the Portuguese babbling progeny he conceived following his tryst with Brazilian underwear model and TV personality Luciana Gimenez Morad.(The two met at a previous Stones concert in Brazil, quickly exchanging genetic information behind a bush while attending a post-concert party. Their brief rumble-in-the-jungle certainly turned out to be a "Big Bang" for Jagger, going by the $35,000-a-month child support Morad asked for their love child, which a palimony court reduced to 10,000 per month. It also reportedly cost him his marriage to Jerry Hall, a split that also generated out some impressive settlement numbers. Hope he got his money's worth!)

Just a few weeks earlier, the Stones performed at halftime in Detroit for Super Bowl XL, where the in-attendence crowd was relatively puny compared to the televised audience in the hundred-millions across the world who watched the predictable performance of mostly 40-years-old standards. Mick introduced the 1965 hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by saying that it could have been sung at Super Bowl I (1966), smarmily commenting that, "Everything comes to he who waits." But apparently not a good command of grammar. Mick the celebrated lyricist was taken to task by no less a wordsmith than William Safire of the New York Times ("On Language" column, 2/19/06). Safire wrote that Jagger's comments were "a verbal malfunction more shocking than a previous Janet Jackson halftime." Not that football fans would notice, but contrarian grammarian Safire correctly pointed out that "Because he is the subjective case of the third-person male pronoun, it cannot be the object of the preposition to. The pronoun must be the objective of him." Anyway, Mick's flubbed reference was to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's line "All things come round to him who will but wait."

Of course, Mick's egotistical obsession with "firsts" and "historical records" is well-documented. The infamous 1969 Altamont disaster was an unnecessary free concert contrived at the last-minute to provide an ending for the Maysles brothers Mick-commissioned documentary Gimme Shelter, which Mick wanted to come out before the Woodstock concert film (it did - at a cost of four lives, including Meredith Hunter being stabbed and stomped to death by the Hell's Angels "security" staff, bad vibes for the half million people there, and the death-knell of the utopian Sixties Flower Power dream). At that show, the Mick and Keith arrogantly sipped wine and ate grilled salmon sandwiches in their trailer, making the 300,000 plus fans wait for almost two hours until it got dark - so that Mick's make-up would look better under the night lights and to provide a dramatic late-night ending to the film. (Of course, the Stones immediately were whisked away via helicopter - after thanking the Hells Angels! - while the "Stoned" masses had to deal with the traffic gridlock of getting out.)

Six months earlier, the Stones played their huge free concert in Hyde Park on July 5, 1969 (supposedly as a tribute to Brian Jones, who had died a scant two days earlier), after celebrated turnouts for free shows by Pink Floyd in 1968 (the first ever free Hyde Park concert) and earlier that year by short-lived super group Blind Faith. By all accounts it was a mediocre performance (newly recruited replacement guitarist Mick Taylor was still learning the songs!) and not that fun for the 250,000 fans crammed like sardines in the park to "see" the Stones.

None of these Stones gigs were ever about the fans. They were always about Mick's and the Stones' over-inflated egos. At Altamont, if there hadn't been such a rush to set up the stage in less than 24 hours, they could have put up barriers and an elevated platform so that the Hells Angels would not have been needed to protect the stage and inflict damage on the crowd. There could have been a better parking plan, better access to toilet facilities, and so on and so on. Why the rush? For the Stones film, of course. Ironically, it only made them look bad, very bad, especially Mick whose lame attempt at hip lingo ("Brothers and sisters, everybody just cool out...we can groove") and crowd control exposed him as weak and ineffectual in a time of crisis.

Talking about the 1969 Rolling Stones tour of America (which only came about because Brian Jones conveniently died - he was prohibited from traveling due to drug charges), in which the Stones routinely made audiences wait for hours before taking the stage at their annointed hour, promoter Bill Graham famously characterized Mick Jagger as a selfish, self-indulgent egomaniac. He did, however, concede that on stage, "that cunt was a great performer."

There's your legacy Mick! Damnation with faint praise if ever there was. And a great potential tombstone inscription.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tommy, you sure can wax poetic about what a cunt Mick is.

--Hey, aren't you Charlie Watts?

11:31 PM  
Blogger Attila the Mom said...

Well, to be honest, I went to see the Stones when I was 14 on the Tattoo You (Start Me Up!) tour ('82-'83). I swear, I thought Keith Richards was a robot in a Sharpei suit.

My husband is sure that there are teams of scientists in every country they are touring in, just waiting for him to choke on a walnut or something, so that they can autopsy him and get the secret of a life long-lived under every abuse imaginable.

Loved the perspective! Thanks!

12:04 AM  
Blogger Leon said...

The Stones ceased to be somewhere around 1981. They became Rolling Stones Inc. at that point.

Since then a few decent but forgettable songs.

How they will be remembered is a band that was once great and a peaked with exile... then they became good... then they became Rolling Stones Inc. They died around that point.

What they are and why people go to see them in concert is to see the only living band from the almost dead baby boomer generation.

They set in reality can be bolied down to one song... "Satisfaction".

It's kind of sad when marketing takes over music and musicians when you stop and think about it.

Oops. I just farted. That fart sounded better than anything the Stones have done post 1982.

3:09 AM  

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