They’re survivors, I suppose. I’m referring to the Rolling Stones and the 50 years they have successfully managed to remain in the music industry, making numerous singles and millions of albums, always craving a live audience as the band tempts fans to shell out as much as $300-$600 for a ticket to…where? Paradise? A temporary escape route? Oblivion? Or the last chance to listen to these old gods perform on stage or in an arena only to emphasize what other fans, young and aged, have known all along: Sir Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts are truly the ‘World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.’
What? You disagree?
Actually, many people today believe that the group should have called it quits 20 years ago.
However, what they might be forgetting is that the Rolling Stones mesmerized the world with their rhythm and blues, country-folk, jazz, ethnic and experimental sound.
Their music—loud, sometimes insulting, but also poetically sad—was brand new and a reason for kids to let loose, scream, dance and sing along.
Of course, The Beatles were making their mark in the world, too. But once they split, the Stones took over and the music belonged to them and their congregation.
The Stones are all older now. That is not a secret. Jagger will turn 71 this coming Saturday. And if you want to know more about secrets, truths and lies, pick up a copy of Robert Greenfield’s “Ain’t It Time We Said Goodbye: The Rolling Stones on the Road to Exile.”
Greenfield, author of “STP: A Journey Through America With the Rolling Stones,” “Timothy Leary: A Biography,” “The Spiritual Supermarket” and other titles, is an observer and a participant in this excellent new read as he travels with the Stones on their farewell tour of their homeland to go into tax exile in the South of France. The year was 1971 and nothing would ever quite be the same.
I think highly of Greenfield. He is one out of hundreds of Stones’ biographers who captures the moods and climates of the group.
The book dismally opens when the group prepares to get on a train in a ghostly station where wind scattered the trash. No screaming fans were present.
The Stones are used to crowd-pleasers. The station is practically empty, and if you listen carefully, you can hear the mournful words to the song, “Love in Vain.”
Greenfield describes all the drug-use (and abuse), careless attitudes and seemingly constant arguing among who other than Jagger and Richards, Jagger and crew and vice-versa, plus the wild behavior of Bobby Keys, who was and still is a fantastic sax player. Often Keys would get out of control, which the Stones grew tired of, yet Jagger and Richards kept him on due to his sax skills.
In fact, Greenfield is believable when he reveals a certain behavior of Jagger’s, which, at that time, was very rude. It seemed like his rude behavior built up into an urgency to get his own way.
Once he complained about a waitress, saying, “Look at that bitch! She needs to lose weight.” Of course, there are escapades between Jagger and Bianca, his wife at the time. He seems to always be in need of more confidence, at least that is one impression that entered my mind. And why-oh-why would he dedicate a song to “all the whores” in the audience? Was this necessary?What level of the garage parking lot was he on? People have to remember g Jagger was a young 20-something then.
If you ask me, I’d stick with Greenfield. But, if readers want juicy stuff, they should go to Christopher Andersen’s “Mick,” where he is viewed as a sex addict or pervert, and nothing more. That’s a shame. With Greenfield, you can get more positive feedback on Jagger’s intelligence and character other than sexcapades galore.
If you think Jagger is a mystery, wait until you read about some of Richards’ habits: last one to show up at rehearsals or concerts, Greenfield flagging Keith down so he can get a full, three-day interview and the power Richards’s holds over his groupies ,who wait and watch his moves, then once satisfied, contentedly follow this philosophical Pied Piper.
Greenfield kept me captivated, and perhaps others will appreciate his writings. When reading this book, you’ll feel as if you are standing where he stands. You’ll observe how Jagger and Richards get the last word from the mighty king’s throne. All of Greenfield’s work is amazing, especially how he had to hurry and disappear into a bathroom so he could record or write down everything that went on during the tour, sans tape recorder.
As for the Stone who made the most sense in Greenfield’s book, it was Charlie Watts. Without him, there’s no telling what road the group would risk traveling today.
Carol A. Wright is a former Manhattan resident who currently works as a freelance writer.