“hey baby… wanna see my guitar pick?”

Beggars Banquet starts with a narrative from Satan, sort of an invocation of the devil. Then there’s a song about “fighting in the streets,” just the type of violent chaos that would tickle Lucifer pink. A little later, we get what I think is one of the places you can see the influence of Satan most clearly, or at least is one of the human enterprises that most makes him quiver with delight.

“Stray Cat Blues” is a deliciously sleazy song, crawling with decadence and sexual debauchery. It’s about a rock musician who has sex with an admittedly underage groupie, and considers it “no hanging matter” and “no capital crime.” It’s spoken in the second person from the rock star to the girl. Now, it’s not a story of the two having sex, and then the rock star finding out after the fact that the girl lied about her age, the rocker regretful that he’s landed in jail. The fact that the girl is only 15 is out in the open. It ups the sleaze to about five times its normal amount.

Mick Jagger, while no doubt having had a very similar experience (probably multiple times), was writing this song as a reaction to all the puritanical parents who were sure that the Rolling Stones were a bad influence on their impressionable teenage daughters. He was going, “yeah, well how ‘bout this?”

He might also have been making a comment on the true nature of those teenage girls, which was very different that the picture their parents had of them (“I bet your mama don’t know you can scream like that!”). According to the theory, teenager’s hormones are spewing all over the place in a confused, chaotic mess; all it takes is the tiniest catalyst to make a girl completely ditch all her morals (if she even had any). Enter Mick. She goes to a show, she meets him, and stuff just happens. According to the narrator, whose fault is it really?

Here’s my position. If you want to have sex with someone, that’s human. If you’re not in a very committed relationship with them (i.e. married), that’s unwise. If you’re both underage, that’s normal, but still unwise. If she’s underage and you’re not, that’s Creepy McCreeperson! If you actually have sex with that underage girl, then congratulations; you’re a child molester. And if you don’t already, you should know that it’s punishable by law.

“Stray Cat Blues” is nothing more (and doesn’t pretend to be anything more) than an example of a child molester molesting a child. It’s a down-and-dirty blues song about a down-and-dirty subject, one blues music has explored before. The lyric “it’s no hanging matter” proves that he really is a pedophile in the diagnosable, “something is psychologically wrong” way. Not only does he regularly do something that any rational person would consider morally wrong, but he doesn’t see the wrong in it.

Alternatively, he may be saying the “it’s no capital crime” thing to the girl herself. It fits right in with the all-too-common cliché of talking circles ‘round the girl ‘til she’s too confused to resist. “C’mon, baby, I know you want to” and “you love me, don’t you?” become “she was begging for it” and “she got what she deserved” after the fact. It’s all there in “Stray Cat Blues.”

For the live performance on Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!, Mick makes it even more provocative by changing the groupie’s age to 13. The tune rocks hard and has a better groove than most of the Stones material over 4 decades, but you sometimes feel like you need a shower after listening to it.

Tomorrow the conclusion of Beggars Banquet.

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