Notes From the Trail of Tears Commute /
The Rolling Stones
by Kevin Harvey
The 74 mile Trail of Tears Commute runs from the grey-shaded Parisian complexities of Worcester's Cultural District to the obvious Republican simplicities of Henniker, New Hampshire. Studded with countless Romney for President signs and road-blocking logging trucks, it can be a mind-numbing horror. On the other hand, immersed in say the SMILE box set, one can actually pass through Milford with bothering to count the semi-hidden speed traps. I was nearly through "scenic" Mont Vernon- where no one needs a seatbelt because you can't go over 30- when, sunken in a deep brood, I realized that the Rolling Stones no longer existed. Indeed, they hadn't exited since 1972. And that's a long time ago for a group of guys to get away with a rock and roll scam.
It's not as if Mick and Keith haven't been popping up of late, and that may be what lies at the root of the problem. If Keith's entertaining but overrated autobiography did anything, it proved once and for all why Mick doesn't hang around with him: he's a bore. And a phony. Now I know that this runs counter to the Keith's salt of the gutter, one of the bombed out of his skull guys image, but, let's admit it: if you weren't either getting paid to wait for Keith to get out of bed and plug in or working on your own rock and roll myth or just hoping to kiss famous ass, would anyone over eighteen think hanging around with this muttering slob was worth hanging around with- to say nothing of the always eminent bust. Keith is fun- from afar- but would you wait all day for, say, Jack Elam or any of the Carradines to stumble into the daylight? Even Bill Wyman, who stuck around just to get laid, had to finally pack it in.
Nope, Keith was impossible and his autobiography, read by many a soul who'd never bought a Stones' record, proved it. It was, finally, a completely calculated act of revenge . Why else ridicule Mick's penis in print, and call in Marianne to back him up? Mick's like a brother to me, that's why I'm telling you that he has a little dick and huge balls. And I'm: mumble, mumble, smoke, smoke, cough, cough, mumble, chuckle, a hard working, stand-up rock n' roll pirate who actually lives in CT where I don't wear fish lures in my hair unless I'm being interviewed. So poor Mick, slapped publicly in the love department, runs off to make the worst recording of his career, one so poor that it questioned not only his taste but his sanity, one so unplayable that it was hardly even reviewed, let alone panned- and call it- are you ready- Superheavy, a name a band of five year olds might have come up with. So what happens? The record sinks and Norman Mailer's literary foundation give's its first award to Keith for a book he didn't write and Bill Clinton, President Groupie himself, presents it.
All of which leaves me talking to myself in the car. But wait! Exile on Main Street gets the royal reissue and the out-takes are wonderful! Even the Exile dvd documentary is worth buying and re/watching. Let's Spend the Night Together reappears and one watches it in stolen sections. Mick looks silly and the arenas force everyone to substitute color for intimacy: Mick does jumping jacks; Bill dresses like Jamie lee Curtis in that aerobics movie she made with Travolta and there you go. Martin Scorcese makes a beautiful rococo film about an augmented covers band that may or may not be terrific: it's hard to tell. The set is pure magic; the sound and editing first rate and yet it feels like too little, too late. It's possible that we're all falling for last gasp magic. It played well on screen and holds up at home but Keith's playing is a hint too basic and he seems to be acting... But somewhere in the midst of all this, the Stones decide to release Ladies and gentlemen: The Rolling Stones - a movie that didn't quite impress when it played in theaters- not if you were lucky enough to have caught them pre-Altamont or even earlier with Brian Jones- but is now nothing less than a revelation. They are at home in their bodies, identities and roles- no masks or pre-conceived gestures. And Taylor, the other Mick, the younger Mick, the melodic Mick, is riding on top of the band with something that one has to call beauty. It's there, right on the screen, the greatest live band in the history of Rock n' Roll, edited without so much as a shot of the audience. And then it passes: For whatever reasons- and I'm sure we can all make a list- Mick Taylor quits, taking the beauty and ease with him. Ron Wood, he of the Italian cop widow haircut, steps in; they tour with a giant rubber penis, Mick does the bump with Billy Preston; no one likes Black and Blue very much; although Bill Wyman will, decades later, steal Melody for live use. The overrated Some Girls will catch on- where the underrated Goat's Head Soap and It's only Rock n' Roll couldn't...Rereleased and packaged today as a beloved classic, which of course it isn't...And with it the Some Girls dvd, an unreleased show recorded in Texas that is surprisingly powerful and well played- and yet...and yet, I'm talking to myself on the Trail of Tears because the the band on stage, calculated to the smallest wardrobe detail and faux-faggot groping, isn't the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones, that original group of musicians who wrote and played as a unit, scornful in their collective identity is no longer. They are pros and they have even learned how to get to the stage on time, but they are as corporate in their mindset as group of modern Republicans. In fact, like modern Republicans, they hate each other. Oh, Ronnie still likes everyone and Charlie has no idea where he is, but the two guys who matter most hate each other's guts. We're brothers, says Keith by way of apology, but he is the biggest fake in the band. Think he's a pirate on weekends in CT? I don't.
Don't get me wrong: I don't think there's anything wrong with old guys continuing to play for people who missed them when they mattered, but go back to the early films for a moment. MIck barely moved away from the mic stand: he did the Mashed Potatoes, rolled his eyes, threatened to toss his sport jacket- his sport jacket, for Allah's sake- into the crowd and he killed us. Today, we hear only: Boy, that Mick sure stayed skinny! And he must run 50 miles a show! I just love the way he does jumping jacks and Keith said he was happy to be anywhere... again. It's still a great joke! Did any of the accountants in the audience hear the last few discs, I wonder. And, below the radar, unnoticed and hardly reviewed, someone named Ben Waters releases Boogie 4 Stu, a tribute to Ian Stewart. Mick sings a version of Dylan's Watching the River Flow with different lyrics....and Keith is there, playing in another country, and Charlie is on nearly track...and Bill, cranky, weird old Bill, shows up to overdub some bass and don't they all sound pretty good.....but that's another commute entirely.