Tag: Mick Jagger

Lucky Day

Do you ever have those moments when you hear a new song and you feel suddenly disoriented because it reminds you so much of something but you simply can’t figure out what that something is, then you realize that that something doesn’t exist, it’s just that this new song is so good it feels like something you’ve already loved forever? Doesn’t happen very often, but it’s a sure sign you’ve just heard something great. Mick Jagger’s Goddess in the Doorway gave me those feels, this track especially. Mick Jagger, of course, isn’t exactly a new artist and has decades of reference points behind him. Everything he does will inevitably in some way be referable to something he’s done in the past. When you’ve been in the pop game as long as Jagger, you could be living in a cave influenced by nothing but the sound of bats and people will still call you self-referential, or worse. Nonetheless, the feeling of ‘why hasn’t this always been there for me?’ is strong with this one.

Lonely At The Top

I love Mick Jagger, but I have to admit, 1985 was not kind to him. Though I suppose it was his own fault he looked ridiculous. I’m one of the few fans who support Jagger’s solo career, and think he put out some really good stuff. But I think that doing a solo gig at Live Aid was not the best move. It was weird and sad to see Jagger trying to do his stadium thing with Hall & Oates for backup. He just looked lonely and lost up there without his mates to bounce off of. Keith and Ronnie, meanwhile, showed up to jam with Bob Dylan, which must have been awkward. Playing backup for Dylan is a thousandfold more of an honor than being backed up by Hall & Oates. Just absolutely not even in the same ballpark in terms of status. That must have been embarrassing for Jagger, who cares about those kind of things. The Rolling Stones have not always got along or been the best of friends, but no one can deny what a great unit they are. Even when they hate one another, they have fantastic chemistry as a group of musicians who’ve perfected the art of playing together. Mick Jagger is capable of doing great things on his own or with other collaborators, and is completely within his rights to want to do so sometimes. But seeing him stripped of that great team, onstage in front of a stadium full of people…it’s just not the same magic.

Just Another Night

Does this have a whiff of midlife crisis? A bit of one, I’d say. If Mick Jagger had decided to go solo sometime in the sixties, he could easily have pulled it off. A few years fronting a popular band is a great jumping off point for a solo career, and many have done just that. The Stones could have disbanded when Brian Jones ceased to be functional, or when he died. That would have been an appropriate point of exit. As it happened, they did no such thing, and in staying determinedly together ensured some of their best work. It’s miraculous that The Rolling Stones have never broken up, because they’ve come very close many times. Whatever brotherly glue held the Glimmer Twins together didn’t begin to fray until the 80’s rolled around, and by then, it was too late for Mick Jagger, solo artist. Why did Jagger decided to make a solo album in 1985? Probably midlife crisis had something to do with it, and even more probably the fact that he and Keith weren’t getting along all that great, and also it was the 80’s and the 80’s made people do dumb things. She’s the Boss wasn’t a bad album, contrary to popular belief. It’s maybe too trendy and self-indulgent, but for a middle-aged rock frontman going solo, it’s rather good. It’s better than the mush Phil Collins was doing, or the gloop Elton John and Paul McCartney descended into, or David Bowie’s Tonight. One of the main problems Keith had with Mick was the latter hoarding all the best songs for himself. You can easily imagine if he hadn’t; She’s the Boss could have been a really great Rolling Stones album. No wonder Richards was jealous, those are some funky songs just begging for a Keef Riff. The real reason Mick Jagger’s solo career failed to take off, was simply that he had been in the Rolling Stones too long. The association was too strong to shake off. Jagger without Richards was like one lonely shoe without the other, and vice versa. If they hadn’t ingrained themselves into the public consciousness as an inseparatable duo for two decades already, they could have shaken each other off, but in 1985 it was far too late.

 

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

The Rolling Stones invented glam rock. David Bowie didn’t do it. Marc Bolan didn’t do it. The Stones did it. If you have any argument, just watch the video. It was filmed in 1968, when those other two were still curly-haired hippies going nowhere fast. Mick Jagger was the first major rock star to be provocatively androgynous, everyone else who did it was copying him. He was the first to wear makeup and feminine clothes. All together The Stones pushed the boundaries of permissible self-expression harder and faster than anyone else. They weren’t the first guys to have long hair, but theirs was the longest, mussiest and most fetching. They wore exotic, psychedelic clothes more flamboyantly than anyone else. They relished the shock and confusion they caused in polite society. Jagger was a natural boundary pusher; he just had the face and body for it. The other guys dressed wild too, but nobody could question their masculinity. With Jagger it was another story. Mick Jagger is, besides David Bowie, the most naturally androgynous person I know of, and he’s been smart to make it a big part of his persona. The idea of a gender binary is for the most part an invention of society, but nevertheless, most people do place themselves firmly on one end or the other, and are fine that way. There really aren’t that many people who manage to exude equal parts masculinity and femininity. (Not talking about personal identity here, just the way a person in perceived from the outside.) I really think that Mick Jagger deserves a lot more credit for being a figurehead of non-binary self-expression. Being in a band ¬†known for aggressively macho sounding hit songs shields him from the mainstream-alienating stigma associated with more overtly campy performers. In plain English, Jagger sings enough vaguely sexist odes to pussy that Joe Truckdriver doesn’t find him too gay. (There’s something about loud guitars that’s just associated with manly heterosexual manhood – how else do you think Freddie Mercury managed to keep his orientation a secret for so long?) Also, Jagger – an anecdotally known bisexual – never made the mistake David Bowie made. He never admitted it in public, thus escaping the virulent homophobia that hobbled Bowie’s stateside success. Still, upon closer inspection, he was all along very purposefully fucking around with the generally accepted forms of gender expression. The whole intriguing persona of Mick Jagger hinges on the combination of effeminate and masculine traits. He’s always had a feminine appearance, with his lips and pretty blue eyes, but he could’ve chosen not to play it up, and he’s done nothing but play it up. I suspect the motivation for that is primarily narcissism. You have to be an attention whore to become a rock star of that caliber, and vanity plays no small part. Excessive vanity has been well documented as a primary aspect of Jagger’s personality, so there’s no going out on a limb with that. In general, defining one’s identity in terms of appearance is an almost exclusively female trait. A woman’s worth has always been measured first and foremost in beauty, so, through no fault of their own, most women’s identities are bound to their looks. Men, on the other hand, seem to be only vaguely aware of what they look like, and define themselves by achievement, character, or interests. It’s a very vain man indeed who places his appearance as a primary measure of self-worth. So, vanity in itself is considered to be effeminate. Thus, for a man to present himself as a hyper-sexualized, openly vain object of desire is decidedly non-gender normative behavior. The desire to be desired is a female trait. The performance style of Mick Jagger is absolutely self-objectifying, in the sense that it is an invitation of desire (as well as an expression of it.) He looks like a girl, he dances like a girl, he presents himself as an object of lust, frequently in a literal strip-tease. Which is all how he gets away, in my book, with some otherwise pretty objectionable lyrical content. It’s the contrast between the stereotypical language of rock’n’roll, which speaks to male desire, and the appropriated elements of female eroticism, which invite the desires of both sexes. (The Stones have been repeat offenders in terms of sexist lyrics, but a larger number of their songs are in fact quite the opposite.) It’s also worth noting that a lot the above is done very tongue-in-cheek. The Stones are not generally associated with camp culture, but Mick Jagger is fluent in it. The various interesting combinations of masculinity and femininity, aggression and vulnerability, seriousness and camp and romance and lust would become almost mainstream (those things still aren’t quite there yet in 2013) with the advent of glam. However, glam soon deteriorated into pastiche thanks to hacks like Gary Glitter, as only two or three people actually did it well or had anything to say. We can probably dismiss the label ‘glam rock’ altogether and focus on the impact of those few people who were genuinely trying to explore the boundaries that society had placed on sexual expression. David Bowie, obviously. Marc Bolan for kicking it into gear and making it commercially viable (although he was more interested in his own vanity than any ideas about affecting society.) Freddie Mercury and Elton John, for whom the exploration of societal boundaries meant a journey out of the closet, and consequently, the stakes were much higher. A lot of other people wore glitter in the seventies (hell, even Bob Dylan wore eyeliner in the seventies) but they all fall to the wayside. Mick Jagger took to the glam movement like a fish to water – he’d been wearing glitter and eyeliner all along. I think it’s no coincidence that Jagger and Bowie spent a part of the seventies fused at the hip (and allegedly in each other’s beds.) They’re kindred spirits, and I think there’s no doubt that the omnivorous pansexual persona that Bowie scandalized the world with was explicitly based on Mick Jagger’s.

(Photo by Michael Cooper)

*On a side note; in my admittedly unscientific research, I’ve found that *mainstream* Stones fans strongly favor the staunchly heterosexual Keith Richards as their favorite, while fans who are queer or otherwise anti-binary prefer Mick Jagger. Plainly, Jagger does make Joe Truckdriver uncomfortable, but the collective masculinity of the other Stones is just enough to make up for it.

Joy

Ever dream of a Mick Jagger/Bono mashup? It exists! This is it, right here, two of the biggest rock star names in the multiverse singing together at last! Honestly, I never felt that a Mick Jagger/Bono mashup was what the world needed, but they provided it anyway. And they sound pretty good together. When Mick Jagger puts out a call for friends to visit him in the studio, no one is too big or too busy to reply. I’d guess that the main purpose of Mick Jagger solo records is the opportunity to indulge himself in ways the Rolling Stones don’t allow, such as herding in the biggest flock of celebrity guest stars he can gather. Some people don’t approve of that and think it’s just cheap gimmickry (looking at you, Richards) but I think it’s fun for everybody. The Rolling Stones don’t do guest stars, especially not ones whose fame is disproportionate to their musicianship (looking at you, Kravitz.) But there’s isn’t anything wrong with indulging in a few guest stars. At the very least it provides novelty and you can always hope for unexepectedly awesome surprises. This is above mere novelty, though not quite at the top level of opposites-attract brilliance that the best odd-couple duets can bring. Frankly, I think poor Bono is overmatched. I appreciate U2 as much as the next person who once bought a copy of Joshua Tree, and I’d have to be a dick not to respect Bono’s humanitarian work, but let’s face it, he is nowhere near Mick Jagger’s level of, well, anything. Yes, Bono is a huge star, one of the biggest rock stars, gajillions of albums sold, partying with Nelson Mandela, arena tours, Grammys, what have you. But Mick Jagger is, at this point, a living legend in a quite literal sense. The ongoing adventures of the Rolling Stones have become the mythology of our time. Are all the tall tales true? Does it matter? They’re true because telling them makes them true. The grasp that Mick Jagger has on the human imagination puts him on a level of cultural importance very very few people can match. Nor did he achieve that level simply by virtue of flamboyantly bad behavior; being a bad boy rock star isn’t enough without the artistic output, and not many can match the output of the Rolling Stones either. Jagger has become a high master of every aspect of rock stardom, but it started with the music, and he mastered the art of the blues years ago, and lest we forget, he can pretty much do anything better than anyone else. So, in short, what you’re hearing is the sound of Bono being made to look small and insignificant.¬†

(Photo: +18)

I’ve Been Lonely For So Long

I’ve been defending Mick Jagger’s solo records for a long time now, so you must be used to it. Some of them are really good! The only one I don’t like is Primitive Cool. That one sucked. Wandering Spirit is definitely the best one. Mick made some savvy choices of obscure classics to cover. I honestly think his version of I’ve Been Lonely For So Long kicks Frederick Knight’s to the curb. I know in most cases the original is usually better, and anyone with any smarts should aim to be different enough for two (or more) versions to each stand on its own. Well, these two are surely different, but I find the original kind of silly. Maybe I don’t know enough about soul music, but I find the contrast between Knight’s falsetto lead and the deep bass backup singers a bit corny. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man. You could dig it for all you’re worth, that’s fine. But you can’t argue that Mick Jagger sang the hell out of that song. You gotta at least give him points for sheer enthusiasm. We know how much he loves his soul records, and there’s no doubt he had a blast recording this.

I Don’t Mind

What a pretty song, Superheavy. A quiet moment, perfect for a cool autumn day. Because when else is better for being wistful and romantic? Now, ‘wistful and romantic’ is far from my default setting, but neither do I have a heart of stone. Beautiful singing really gets me. If maybe Mick Jagger isn’t the first person who springs to mind when you think of pretty singing, plainly you don’t know Mick. He is one of the most versatile singers I know of, and when he’s being pretty, he’s very very pretty (and his singing is too). Let’s give a hand to Joss Stone, too. I never paid much attention to her before, but if Mick Jagger has picked her for a collaborator, she must be something, right? And she’s held her own. She sounds lovely. Maybe one day I’ll listen to one of her records. Damian Marley’s third verse doesn’t quite fit the mood, but he does offer a bit of humor, and shakes it up a little. All in all, a wonderful song, and again, I can’t recommend Superheavy enough times.

Oh and I guess it’s Skanksgiving, so happy that.