The Stones were once symbols of anti-establishment pop cultural terrorism in a world that asked, fearfully: ‘Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?‘. But, today they are now the grand old men of rock, the last of their kind. They are like old knights (well, at least one of them actually IS a knight!) who’s days as errant travelers, albeit ones who’ve traveled on jumbo jets, to hotel rooms, to stages, and back again, are drawing to an inevitable close, or at least a major wind-down.
For, this year, 2012, marks the 50th anniversary of that venerable institution, the Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Band In The World, since their days playing the Crawdaddy and Ealing Blues Club in 1962. Many a book, article, blog post, pub conversation has dealt with the Stones’ tenacity as Road Warriors since those heady days. But, today, Stones fan and author Geoff Moore paints it black, in a year that will be the Stones’ golden anniversary, and perhaps the beginning of a new world to come never before imagined by generations of people – a world without Stones …
Empires, countries, cities, corporations, record companies, sports leagues and some teams (Au revoir, mes Expos!) come and go. Even walls, Hadrian’s, Berlin’s and Pink Floyd’s, must rise to fall. There is a time for everything, according to Ecclesiastes, and the Byrds. We’re inured to history’s cycles, or we should be, although some of us such as Shelley’s Ozymandias were never quick studies.
South of the 49th, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is on the record as blaming the ongoing decline of America’s great institutions on Satan, “the Father of Lies.” Actually, it’s a poorly regulated banking system, stupid. More simply, it’s just time and tide. All of which brings us, quite naturally, to the Rolling Stones.
A primordial form of the English rhythm and blues combo first performed together in 1962, 50 years ago. Twenty-twelve finds the band in one of its frequent periods of stasis, not doing much of anything, just hanging around. The number of years between new releases lengthens even as the album format and rock ‘n’ roll itself continue to decline in relevance.
But they are officially still a quasi-functioning unit although perhaps in no mood to acknowledge five decades of back catalogue. Both new and ancient media are rife with rumour and speculation as to whether or not there will be some sort of anniversary tour or staged event. Okay, their hardcore fans are a bit curious, as is the editorial board of Rolling Stone magazine.
The only certainty is that the Rolling Stones silver train, the one with the blue light and the red light on behind is reaching the end of the line. Anybody born in 1959 or later and who possesses even a passing acquaintance with Western pop culture probably cannot retrieve a conscious memory of a world without the Rolling Stones in it.
Consider a sample of 50 years of human folly and endeavour: countless fads, trends and crazes; a host of wars, riots, famines and new and deadly diseases; moonwalks from Apollo 11 to Michael Jackson; Linda Lovelace’s and Bob Woodward’s Deep Throats; assassinations, conspiracies, black ops and dirty tricks; political reforms driven by the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Lib; colour TV, cable TV, MTV, and reality television; peace in the Middle East (Kidding!), fucking cell phones and ringtones.
Good times. Bad times.
Throughout flood there were always the Stones: a new album in the record shops and a new single on the transistor radio; a lyric, a video or stage prop calculated to offend; over-the-top publicity stunts and mass media advertising campaigns all stamped with one of the most recognizable logos on this dirty little planet; drug busts and meetings with world leaders or their wives; live shows that never failed to elicit a reaction of “Oh my God, it’s really them!” even on an off night.
The demise of a rock ‘n’ roll band is relative. It’s not the end of the world as we know it. Pop music’s landscape is littered with flame-outs, one hit wonders, imploded groups, bitterly estranged creative partners, and corpses. The Stones’ own history is notoriously checkered. Their longevity is as remarkable as it is confounding. But, it will seem very strange when we’re no longer able to speak about the Rolling Stones in the present tense; the world will become just a little more dreary.
Geoff Moore derives satisfaction as a writer and music fan living in the city of Calgary Alberta.