Why The Rolling Stones Matter To Guys’ Guys
Image courtesy of thenjunderground.com
Guys’ Guys need good music and for the past fifty years, the Stones have spun a wicked soundtrack. Like them or not, you have to admit the Stones have withstood time. Despite the arrival of disco, rap, hip hop, electronica, house, world, and competitors as talented as Nirvana, Guns and Roses, and Led Zeppelin, only the Stones have kept it together and rolled for five decades. And while in six short years the Beatles songs lifted us to ethereal heights that will never be matched, the Stones grounded us in the real world. No yellow submarines or Bungalow Bills here. The Stones wrote classic rock songs about the challenges we face every day, and that’s why they matter – especially to Guys’ Guys. In this rapidly changing world and a music industry that breeds acts as disposable as a soiled pair of Depends, the Stones have time and gravitas on their side. But can they still roll or are their steel wheels too creaky? Their golden anniversary tour has been pushed back a bit because “they are not ready” and with no new music for the past seven years, this seems strange. But, the last standing vestiges of the classic rock era get a well-deserved pass. As quick as you can say “Start Me Up”, Mick will once again move like Jagger. Okay, you have probably figured out that I really like the Rolling Stones. The main reason is that in a strange way, their music helped me develop from angry young man to my hopefully mellower current persona. Here are a few songs that were guideposts for my evolution as a Guy’s Guy.
1- Brown Sugar – Every few months, my mom would drive to the retail district of Hackensack, NJ to shop. There was a record store near the Fox movie theater that carried the latest records. I was in school so I’d write her a list. I’d give mom the money and she’d buy me one or two albums. On one particular trip she returned wielding copies of, The Monkees, “Headquarters” and the Stones epic “Sticky Fingers” albums. Needless to say she frowned when she handed over the Stones album with Andy Warhol’s black and white photo of a guy’s bulging package and the silver zipper on the cover. Hilarious. The moment I heard the song’s opening riff of Brown Sugar that sounded like the gears of a high-octane V-8 engine kicking in, everything changed. I was alive. Since my family lived only minutes from my school, I listened to that song and album every day for the next year when I’d stop home at lunchtime and have a sandwich and a dish of Jell-O with my Mom. I applaud her for never complaining as she was subjected to songs like “Bitch” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” as we ate. It was a great time in my life-bonding with mom while listening to the Stones. Although I was now bursting with testosterone, I realized that my mom was also my friend. Cool.
2- Shattered – “Some Girls” was all about New York City. It was raw and insidious in its charm. The final song, “Shattered” featured lyrics like, “Love and hope and sex and dreams and still surviving on the street” and “Rats on the West Side, bed bugs uptown”. It painted the Manhattan of that time with a brazenly accurate brush. I was still living in Jersey in those days, but I’d drive across the bridge to visit my friends in the city. We partied like wild boys until five in the morning and crash wherever. I remember walking up after an all-nighter on the closet floor of a woman’s apartment with my body entwined with one of her girlfriends. Those were fun, innocent times and compared to today’s hard-edged nightlife. I found my drug and it was New York City.
3- Start Me Up – Probably one of the most overplayed radio songs of all time, but infectious just the same. Who could shy away from Keith’s opening riff and Mick’s declaration that the girl he sang about could make a dead man come? That’s some woman. I heard the song for the first time while partying in the back of a car cruising up Wilshire in LA while with a buddy from college and his friends. It was the eighties now and things were changing. I was too. At the time, it was all about heading west and discovering America.
4- Anybody Seen My Baby? – The underrated “Bridges to Babylon” album featured a single with Mick sing-speaking his lament about a great girl that had disappeared into thin air. At the time, like my character Max Hallyday, the protagonist in my novel, THE GUYS’ GUY’S GUIDE TO LOVE, I had just left a job I really loved for the promise of money and power. I got some of that, but I also got a wake up call about what really matters in life and it really stuck in my brain. I learned that you could never go back.
5- A Bigger Bang – When the Stones last release came out a few years ago, everything in my life had been blown up in some way. I was completely on my own. It was a very free feeling so I decided that I’d take a risk and write a kick-ass novel that would make people feel good. The CD sounded like the Stones were playing in my living room and the songs were relatively light versus their former harder edge. The digital download provided a great soundtrack for my long runs in Central Park and at the shore and the more circumspect songs helped me work out the novel’s plot twists and turns as I loped along. The music was transformative and the collection of songs provided an ongoing narrative and tone for my protagonist, Max Hallyday.
For most of us music plays a part in modern life. The Rolling Stones have grown up with me and for that I will always be grateful. While they pull themselves together for their final tour, I’m working on my next book and waiting on my lifelong musical friends.
So which songs have inspired you? Maybe it’s time to listen to them again.