The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – 12/6/1968

My fandom of the Rolling Stones is a latter-day thing. The reason I never got into them as a kid or teenager – besides the fact that when you’re a teen, nothing made before you were born has any value, including your parents – is that there was always some sneaking naughtiness to them. It was just barely within my consciousness, but I was just sensitive enough that it gave me pause. It still appealed to the curious side of me, but at a young age, that part wasn’t very big. I wasn’t a curious child; I didn’t want to open that drawer, watch that movie, or smoke that cigarette. With a few exceptions, I was a good little boy.

Thusly, the Stones were something I was wary of until I reached adulthood. When I was still living under my parents’ roof, I kept them at arms’ length. Ironically, the impulse that kept me away from the Stones didn’t stop me at all from getting into Aerosmith. That caused contention between me and my parents, let me tell you. One time they actually sat me down in our living room, took out the liner notes from my two Aerosmith CDs and read me every word of the lyrics out loud. Some of it was pretty embarrassing. They made a point that THAT was what I was choosing to “fill my head with.” From then on, I kept my listening choices more to myself.

It is that subtle undercurrent of something good little Christian kids don’t do that permeates much of the Stones’ material. This was in a bygone age, before profanity had become the valueless thing it is today. Back in the Stones’ day, innuendo and euphemism ruled the day rather than crassly obvious statements. There was kind of an art to what bands like the Stones and Aerosmith did; they talk about sex in a way that you could miss if you don’t pay attention. That takes more effort that just coming out and saying it.

“Parachute Woman” has that going on more than any other song on Beggars Banquet. The innuendo is dirty and funny at the same time. It’s a slow blues song with a lazy groove, and it features a bit more of an echoing, un-produced quality than other Banquet songs.

“Jigsaw Puzzle” floats by despite its 6 minute length, featuring monotonously strummed acoustic guitars and a lilting electric. It’s stylistically similar to certain Bob Dylan songs, but doesn’t have the lyrical depth or intricacy, though it sure tries. There’s a verse towards the end that talks about members of a band (a guitarist, a bass player, a drummer, etc.) that is possibly about the Rolling Stones themselves.

The vinyl flip starts off with “Street Fighting Man,” the first moment on the entire record where the Stones pull out all the stops and turn up the volume. This song can definitely be appreciated at a greater level when your volume knob is cranked to the maximum. It’s been called the band’s most political song. That march on the U.S. Embassy in London that happened when the Beatles were in Rishikesh was actually attended by Mick Jagger. He found contrast in the generally quiet, “sleepy” character of London and the huge event that was happening in the heart of it. But inspiration for “Street Fighting Man” came from not only that, but the hippie protests in America about the Vietnam War, but more strongly the near-revolution in France.

What makes this song more interesting than a straight-up protest song is that it’s really not a protest song. There’s talk of all the unrest and discord going on in the world, but not as particularly negative things. At best, Jagger is reporting on it in an observational tone like Lou Reed reports on drugs, but it very easily tips over into glorifying the violence. At times, he even seems to revel in it. I think the narrator of “Sympathy For the Devil” would approve.

Tomorrow: Statutory rape, and other fun stuff…

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