Monday, 10 October 2011

The Light Bulb Goes On

I watched the Scorsese Stones video a while back - not for the first time - and finally got it.

The Rolling Stones are not (were not?) the world's greatest rock and roll band, they are (were?) the world's greatest jam band.  While other performers strive for Las Vegas type precision - and predictability - they just get up there and play.

While other artists let their minds go numb with the same set list every performance, the Stones change theirs every night. 

And they don't stop there.  They keep changing the songs, finding new ways to keep things fresh and interesting for them - which of course keeps it interesting for us.  When the concert started, it took me a few seconds to realize I was listening to Jumping Jack Flash.  Even though it still retained one of the most recognizable hooks in the history of rock, it sounded completely different.

Sure, they've got a lot of tricks, gimmicks and effects to put on a competitive show - but the real magic emanates from the indisputable fact that these guys love what they're doing.

I've always been a fan, but I always found the sound a bit chaotic, haphazard, even sloppy.  At various times, I'd convinced myself drugs, poor musicianship and bad taste were to blame.

But there is no blame.  It's deliberate.  They just like jamming.  They get off on the ever-present danger of "where am I?" and "what chord is that?"

Keith was bang on when he said of himself and Ronnie Wood, "we're both lousy, but together we're better than ten others."  The years of jamming allow them to effortlessly and seemlessly work themselves back and forth as they trade who is playing lead and who is playing rhythm - sometimes within the same bar.  They give no thought and show no fear as they both wander off into a solo, lose themselves momentarily, then snap back to a driving beat.

Chaotic?  You bet.  Unpredictable?  Yep.  Haphazard?  By definition.

And magical.

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