Well of Lost Songs
The Rolling Stones/ Child of the Moon and We Love You
by Kevin Harvey
I’ve been rethinking the Stones lately. And the more I ponder who they are, what they’ve accomplished and survived, the less I understand them. Are they merely cynical professionals playing for Big Bucks, the best possible Stones cover band, twice as good as any of the Faux Four Beatles tribute bands? (The word tribute kills me; it’s a bit like “gun enthusiast”: What we’re really talking about is fake Beatles and Gun Nuts, but so it goes.) They, the Stones, are no longer a rock group, five piece or four, but a trio of originals, Ronnie Wood, and army of musicians, singers, and special effects. The first comment made by anyone seeing them for the first time is: Mick is really in shape! He must run ten miles a fucking show! Never is the first remark related to the music. At which point, I hunker down thinking: They haven’t written a song that mattered in 40 years. And most of Mick’s moves are now with his arms, and who gives a shit how many jumping jacks he can perform while shouting? He was better when he stayed behind the mic and sang. He hates Keith; Keith hates him; Keith’s spoken-word biography trashed him; Charlie doesn’t know where he is and doesn’t own a rock and roll album by anyone anyway. Keith’s death-defying pirate shtick is an act, altered and perfected over the years, but an act. Wood has done nothing memorable since he left the Faces. They’re recording a blues album, which makes more sense than Dylan’s Sinatra covers, but proves to the world that they’ve finally admitted to the world that they have nothing left to say. And then I catch the promo for the CUBA film and, son of a bitch, they look and sound wonderful and they’re playing CUBA, for fuck sake! And I don’t think I know what I’m talking about, or if I do, it doesn’t matter. They’re still the Stones; they are still playing, and a great portion of the world actually NEEDS to see them. And I find myself forgiving them, forgiving them enough to dig out the old 45’s for another listen. And here’s where it gets good.
The Stones body of work suffered with the transition to CD. They didn’t need to be cleaned up, polished, made bright. They were better in the mud, better when the lyrics weren’t clearly audible, when each tune was, at first, an impenetrable wall of noise that we needed to sweat over to translate and understand. I played the 45’s again, listening to original releases through headphone, as concentrated as if I were repairing a four-hundred-year old painting. The hits were all there, molten, dense, unforgettable, but three B-sides grabbed me by the throat. Child of the Moon, the B-side of Jumpin’ Jack Flash, shimmering, haunted, psychedelic, superb. And forgotten. It is, if memory holds, on the second Volume of Hot Rocks, much the way Dandelion is on Through the Past Darkly, bypassing the intergalactic tsunami of WE LOVE YOU, a song the STONES should sing to end the final performance of the Yesterday’s Papers tour. But the two other tracks are nowhere to be found: Sad Day and Who’s Driving Your Plane? SAD DAY is small, almost tender in its simplicity, but irresistible. Who’s Driving Your Plane feels to me as if it were somehow inspired by Dylan’s Crawl Out Your Window. Another misunderstood masterpiece, killed by bad timing. And so two points demand to be made: Go back and find the tracks that were ignored when new: they yield the joy of discovery. And, if you can, listen to them on vinyl, through headphones, as if you were hearing alien transmissions. Because the best ones are exactly that: Broadcasts from another dimension, where the rules of TIME do not apply. And then there’s that damn show in CUBA waiting to be watched. And a Beatles documentary. And….
I've had this fantasy for years: The Stones would announce the Time Waits For No One Tour; its revamped set list opening with Yesterday's Papers, widening out to include much of Between The Buttons, Flowers, tunes like Heart of Stone, Sad Day, Who's Driving My Plane, Going Home, Gomper; Have You Seen your Mother Baby, Child of the Moon, just picking from a long forgotten catalog of wonderful, ignored stuff. Ending with the somewhat predictable; but, here's the kicker, encoring with an unexpected, shocking, heartfelt version of their single most underrated recording: a transcendent, heaven rattling, ten minute version of WE LOVE YOU, the ultimate thank you to a half century of fan devotion. Well, I said it was a fantasy, but here's what I want you to do: If you no longer have a turntable, buy one of those nifty self-contained kits- kits that eliminate the hideous lugging and assembly of the late 60's- a decent set of earphones, and the ORIGINAL plastic 45. Find a local Vinyl emporium- most good neighborhoods have at least one- say, JOE'S ALBUMS- and buy the 45 for a buck or two or three- I've never seen it with a picture sleeve, so it won't be in the ten buck range- go home, sit down, put on the phones, and crank WE LOVE YOU. Ignore the taste mongers, the Values Thugs, and lose yourself in the thundering semi-psychedelic pounding of what amounts to a Matrix, a portal of sorts. Forget the Beatles' All You Need is Love. This isn't the mere cop it was accused of being back in the day; it's a whole other beast. It's the sound playing in the center of the maze that came within the jacket of Satanic Majesty's Request, their last GREAT record. Great as in overreach and excess, two of my favorite rock impulses. Let WE LOVE YOU work its magic; picture the lads closing their career out with it; notice, at the very end of the single, inaudible 40 years ago, a chuckle. Its nearly a ghost giggle, but it's there. And then play the record again. Perhaps, if you have the 45, break the trance with Sad Day, a tune no one remembers, and then play We LOVE YOU again. After you've sat quietly for a time, rethinking all the critical rubbish you've absorbed in the last 40 years, play it again. Then, if you have the original release with the 3D cover, listen closely to Satanic, the last time the Stones took a chance. And then, properly sensitized, rubber-skulled into submission, play WE LOVE YOU one more time. Just for kicks. And then turn out the Lava lamp. You'll be a better person for it. Trust me.