Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Still Mad


     Alice had been looking over his shoulder with some curiosity. `What a funny watch!' she remarked. `It tells the day of the month, and doesn't tell what o'clock it is!'
     `Why should it?' muttered the Hatter. `Does your watch tell you what year it is?'
     `Of course not,' Alice replied very readily: `but that's because it stays the same year for such a long time together.'
     `Which is just the case with mine,' said the Hatter.
  Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter's remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. "I don't think I understand," she said politely.

TOURING AGAIN. The Rolling Stones are back, and some people seem to be upset that their new album contains a song (or two) that are sharply and expressly critical of the Bush administration. The offending cut is called "Sweet Neocon":

The song is part of “A Bigger Bang,“ to be released September 6, which the Stones say is their first studio disc with totally new material in eight years.
An excerpt from the song was published by Newsweek magazine this week, which described the Stones’ hard-hitting lyrics as “political“.

“You call yourself a Christian, I call you a hypocrite, You call yourself a patriot, well I think you’re full of s---,“ the lyric goes.

(M)any, including influential English review New Musical Express, have ventured the opinion that the song is specifically about US President George W. Bush.

The band denies it, but ambiguously so.

Frankly, it's hard to get too upset about this. What's really annoying about rock stars involving themselves in politics is their self-righteous seriousness -- Bruce Springsteen touring to raise money for John Kerry, Linda Ronstadt lecturing her concert audiences about foreign policy, the Dixie Chicks sounding off about Bush on foreign soil. "Sweet Neocon" might have been slightly irksome had Jagger recorded it on a solo album, but when it issues from the legendary Rolling Stones, it gets processed through the wry, mocking tone that infuses all their music. It doesn't matter what they say about it; the most sententious and serious lyric in the world becomes a satire of itself when Mick's voice snarls it and Keith's guitar spanks it on stage.

That's why I'll offer a sincere warning to the left -- don't make the mistake of thinking the Stones have joined your, or any, movement. They are first, last, and always the "greatest rock and roll band in the world," and the world they have lived in for the past forty-some years bears little relation to anyone else's. Just when you think you have their attention, they'll flash you an evil grin and disappear back into rock-star wonderland.

By the same token, I'll urge any offended Christians to remember that "Sweet Neocon's" charge of hypocrisy falls from the same wagging tongue that ended the radical era with these lyrics:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was ’round when jesus christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name.

If you've forgotten this, he hasn't. While he was singing it at Altamont, people were dying in the audience. It became more than just a lyric that day, and it's impossible to know just what he means by seeming to mount a pulpit at this point in time.  It's probably impossible for him to know what he means by it.  Is he half aware that some of that old persona still clings to him and that anything he says will be taken -- by those who have half a memory or half a brain -- with a grain of salt the size of a stone? Ask him. He'll probably flash that grin again, the one that has made him the world's oldest bad boy and the only surviving (make that thriving) dinosaur of an age that is long gone and yet still viciously present under the skin of a brand new century. Maybe there's "no sort of meaning in it," and maybe there's another sort of meaning than he or we suspect.

Mick at the infamous Altamont concert -- and as seen by guitarist Ron Wood

The one thing we can all count on is this: he knows what madness is, and he knows that he knows it from personal experience. Does he ever read his own lyrics the same way twice? I know I don't. You do what you want.

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