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  • Writer's pictureTony Harris


Updated: Sep 18, 2020

What a week it's been for Stones fans.

Firstly, they were one of the undoubted star perfomers at the online Global Citizen jamboree where they still managed to make headlines. Mercifully not the kind they had in their errant past for disturbing the peace with drug busts, gun possession or relieving themselves against a garage wall (that was Bill). Instead, because nobody could work out why Charlie, normally the least controversial band member (at least in the media's eyes) should be playing a packing case and armchair from the comfort of what looks like Bromley Record Library.

Coincidentally, Bob Dylan released a song also this month, called enigmatically and therefore somewhat characteristically, "I Contain Multitudes" which refers to "them British bad boys, the Rolling Stones..." but normally, it's the more high profile buccaneers of the group who are under the media spotlight for their various shenanigans of wine, women and song, but this week Charlie has undergone more scrutiny than he has ever had before.

Was he using the Aerodrum technology?

Or was it Freedrum?

Can you see any sensors?

Why the packing case?

The truth is, I imagine, is that he had laid down a backing track for the rest of the band to play along with and decided to mime for a bit of sport. As a band, it's not unknown for them to muck about on camera - Brian used to play "Popeye The Sailorman" on the keyboard whenever they played "Satisfaction" just to annoy Keith.

Charlie has always struck me as the one with the biggest sense of humour - after all he described his job on their 25th anniversary as "five years of drumming and twenty of hanging around". And here he is nested away on his Devon farm estate, somehow just containing his smirk behind an otherwise statesmanly demeanour.

Trust me - he knows exactly what he's doing.

Still, the performance of "You Can't Always Get What You Want" really showed what coming up to 60 years playing together can do - appearing spontaneous and organised at the same time. Particularly noteworthy is Mick's vocal which absolutely soars. During my many trips to their touring exhibition - "Exhibitionism" - there is a really interesting section on their recording techniques where producer, Don Was, talks about Mick's ability to project his voice almost beyond the speakers such is its latent power. Some of their songs have not weathered time as well as others but "You Can't Always Get What You Want" really does improve with age - theirs and ours.

And as if that wasn't enough, they then feel further inspired to go and release their first new song in eight years, called "Living In A Ghost Town". They didn't just knock this out but had coincidentally been working on this song over a year ago and felt the current global crisis might be as good an excuse to finish it up and release it for a world glued to YouTube.

A quick tweak of the lyrics - which explains why Mick's reading off his iPad - and they were good to go.

It's very much in that slinky funk-blues style which I have always liked that you can hear particularly in the mid-late 70s period like "Hot Stuff" and "Fingerprint File" or more recently on "Rain Fall Down" from "A Bigger Bang". It has that kind of lazy groove that comes across as casually tight. The new record is also peppered with other signature Stones moments - the little reggae breakdown (which is very Keef), Mick's spoken interlude a la "Emotional Rescue" and a powerful bluesy harmonica breakouts to remind you where their hearts have always been planted.

Mick has always found time to write about his own wider world view - look at his observations on consumerism in "Satisfaction" and the revolutionary protests in "Street Fighting Man" in the sixties. He seems to have become even more socially conscious recently with his sharp anti-Bush Attack in "Sweet Neo Con", the austerity inspired "Doom & Gloom" from 2012 and even his own recent solo single "England Lose". This occasion seems to be simply fortuitous timing, though, but the release indicates that he feels the band still have something worthwhile to say.

To be honest, the Rolling Stones could play paper and comb and I would love it. However, even if you subscribe to the Reynolds GIrls view ("no heavy metal, Rolling Stones, we don't want them back... I'd rather jack") you cannot help but admire a band that are still prepared to step up to the plate.

You're looking at a group of gentlemen whose age would have them all classified as 'at risk' in this current crisis and so we really should treasure them all the more.

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Apr 25, 2020

Too right, Tone. While I like much of their work and admire it all, I am not a Stones nut. Rather unfashionably, leaving aside their seminal early work, my favourite album of theirs is Voodoo Lounge. Not a bad track on it, Don Was produced and - my dear Watson - Charlie actually playing packing cases on the odd track. Really.

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