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May 20, 2006

The Stones in the '70s

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

This footage of the Rolling Stones performing "Dead Flowers" has me reaching for the eyeliner! Well, not really. Even at my rock-lovin', adolescent silliest I never dared to use makeup. I did have some guy friends who loved the glam-rock era all too well, though. Ah, the 1970s ...

Mick does everything short of eating the camera in this video for the 1978 song "Faraway Eyes":

That mouth of Mick's is really ... a phenomenon, isn' t it? It looks like so very much to manage. When it moves, the event must register on the Richter scale. No one can say that Mick Jagger hasn't figured out how to turn something most of us would consider a deficit into a positive ...

Watching these clips, I'm mostly struck by the sneering, the sarcasm, and the brattiness. I still like the songs a lot, and I'm enjoying feeling transported back to the handful of years when I was a fan of the Rolling Stones. But what on earth was all that '60s-era sneering about? Part of it is sexy bad-boy preening, of course. But maybe Shouting Thomas was onto something too in some words he wrote about the Jefferson Airplane: "self-importance ... megalomania ... spoiled brat lunacy ... an embarassment of the great Spoiled Child rebellion of the 60s ..." That's nothing if not eloquent, and god knows I can see evidence of what ST was writing about in these clips.

Trivia-time: Wikipedia indicates that Mick Taylor, the angelic-looking (and maybe over-virtuosic?) boy-wonder guitar soloist on "Dead Flowers," quit the band in 1974 at least partly out of horror at their decadence, then spent the late '70s and the 1980s as an addict himself. "I'll be in my basement room/ With a needle and a spoon" indeed.

Long ago, I wrote a short posting in praise of Jimmy Miller, the brilliant producer who pulled some of the Stones' best records -- or at least most of my faves -- out of them: the stretch that includes "Sticky Fingers," "Let It Bleed," and "Exile on Main Street." I wondered out loud about what had become of Jimmy Miller. Visitor John Penny sent me an informative email and gave me permission to use it:

Hi Michael,

I came upon your blog about Jimmy Miller as I was searching the web about him. I met Jimmy in the early nineties through some cohorts of mine. Poor Jimmy was strung out on heroin and had liver disease.

He was in the Boston area trying to find bands to produce. Jimmy was a drummer. That's him playing the cowbell on the Stone's Honky Tonk Women.

The Jimmy I knew was a real gentlemen, very charismatic. He had great stories about rock stars from Mick to Jim Morrison. He told me he lost everything through junk and bad music deals.

A few years later the liver disease took its toll. Jimmy died of the disease in Arizona. He was only in his early 50's.

Jimmy has a beautiful and talented daughter


This good and interesting book about some notable pop record producers devotes about a dozen pages to Jimmy Miller. I learned from it that Miller produced two early, roughed-up-and-raw Traffic albums that I like a lot (this one and this one); that his first single for the Stones was "Jumpin' Jack Flash"; that their first album together was "Beggar's Banquet"; that Miller was known for being exuberant and experimental; that he was brought in to rescue a little something from the chaos that was "Blind Faith" (he did what he could in four days) ... It sounds like Miller began his own drug addiction during the South of France sessions that led to "Exile on Main Street." He didn't work often after that. "We wore him out," said Keith Richards. Jimmy Miller died in 1994.

I still sometimes enjoy hearing a Stones song or two. But I'm sure glad I never worked with Jagger and Richards, or hung out with them.

Many thanks to John Penny.



posted by Michael at May 20, 2006


I don't agree with you... the really matter if you enjoy their songs or not...all other things are forgivable...

Posted by: April on May 20, 2006 3:06 PM

Maybe I'd do better to say that I'm glad I never took to heroin ... ? It's a good question to mull over, no: the price we (or at least some people) pay for our art?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 20, 2006 4:06 PM

I want to go on record as never asking an artist to do drugs in order to create art for me. That's okay, fellas, I can do without. Really.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on May 20, 2006 7:19 PM

The Rolling Stones were the subject of probably the best biography of a rock band every written: The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanly Booth.

I highly recommend it, even if you aren't particularly interested in the Rolling Stones. It has one of the best opening graphs I have ever read.

"It is late. All the little snakes are asleep. The world is black outside the car windows, just the dusty clay road in the headlights."

Also very interesting is the decency of Charlie Watts and Mick's and Keith's relative lack of interest in groupies.

Posted by: Jerry on May 21, 2006 9:19 AM

Reportedly, Mr. Jimmy was showing Charlie Watts the drum sound he was looking for in "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and Charlie suggested that well, why don't you play it yourself?

And so he did.

Posted by: CGHill on May 21, 2006 10:47 AM

Jerry -- Thanks for the rec. I've read some short pieces by Stanley Booth, and they were smokin', so it's great to hear he can keep it up at book length too. I bet the Stones make for great material..

CGHill -- That's a wonderful story. Really, I mean, why not let the guy who's trying to show everyone else how to do it do it himself? Why get in his way? It seems a very Zen Charlie attitude too, doesn't it?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 21, 2006 3:04 PM

Watching the clip I suddenly realized that Mick looks an awful lot like Barney Fife.

Posted by: RobM on May 21, 2006 5:02 PM

I love the Rolling Stones. The verb is chosen with care. I did not like rock music as a child. Then one day I "got it". Someone had a cassette of Hot Rocks going, as I recall. I fell in love with the Stones then and I have never gotten over it. This would have been about 1976-77. Then, in 1979, I found the Ramones ... . But the Stones were first.

Posted by: Lexington Green on May 22, 2006 5:16 PM

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