Rolling again

By PETER HERBST  |  November 14, 2006

People magazine had another angle, from which most of the press had been viewing the Stones since Jagger’s marriage to Bianca Perez Morena de Macias in May of 1971: the jet-set angle. For the shutterbugs of People, one of the greatest and most profoundly influential of modern popular singers and his wife were little more than decadent, cheating clothes horses. Bianca’s travels with a variety of escorts were bitchily detailed, making her rather even-tempered understanding of Mick’s freedom on the road appear as defensiveness. Make no mistake about it: this is the way People treats its own (the sneering click of the camera is a peculiarly modern sound of love). Ever since Altamont the more raffish rich and their courtiers had been pursuing the Stones like mice after a hunk of cheese. And smelly cheese at that. White radicals had become too scary (and then too few), the Black Panthers had been decimated, and Truman Capote had already milked the venom of two psychopaths when they were safely ensconced in the big house for In Cold Blood. By 1972 the Stones, homeless, oft-busted, kinky and awesomely powerful, were the only appropriate love object left. It seemed dreadful that Capote and Princess Lee Radziwell were going to hang out (officially, of course) with the Stones on that ’72 tour. It has been written that one early morning Keith Richards pounded on Capote’s door, demanding that the diminutive talk-show guest join a raucous party that was going on, to find out what rock ‘n’ roll was really all about. Soon after Capote and the Princess bid the tour an uneasy adieu. I like to think this story was the complete truth.

But it wasn’t just the jet set ties that were contributing to my own alienation from the Stones. Ever since Altamont, the group had seemed to take itself overly seriously. Self-justification hung heavy in the air; Gimme Shelter caught t he horror of Altamont but, thus preserved, that horror served mainly as a testament to the Stones’ power. The 1972 tour, on the other hand, was all business – it seemed intended to show that the band could play America without creating riots, and that it did. But without a potential for danger, without a nose-thumbing pose to their music, the Stones are, almost merely a competent rock group; the 1972 Boston concert, which admittedly saw the band fagged out from their brouhaha in Providence, was uncharacteristically measured and predictable – and unexciting. Goats Head Soup, released in 1973, was similarly emasculated, and the band seemed tired, incapable of searing us. “Heartbreaker” should have been, and could have been, the equal of the tough yet blithe “Connection” (from Between The Buttons) but its lyrics were a curious (for the Stones) and unconvincing brand of political rhetoric. The Stones, like the Marx Brothers, are a universal kick in the pants, and one should never be able simply to brand them liberal. The group had become less zany over the years (think back to the tenor of Aftermath and Between The Buttons), but Goats Head Soup didn’t even have a zipper on its jacket.

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