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Topic: Sir Mick, and the Death of Rock 'n' Roll Return to archive Page: 1 2
06-24-02 12:47 PM
sandrew What a Drag It Is Gettin' Old

Mick Jagger, knighthood, and the death of rock 'n' roll.

By Nick Gillespie

Few things are more self-evidently embarrassing than the last 25 years of music produced by the world's greatest and most arthritic rock band, the Rolling Stones--a group whose 2002 world tour will doubtless be the first to be cosponsored by Depends and Viagra and whose audience will largely consist of dead pool bettors hoping to cash in on the precise moment that Keith Richards is officially pronounced as deceased. Indeed, who can seriously argue that the Stones, for all their past and undeniable glory, have even come close to releasing an album that matters since 1978's Some Girls? Given their output since then, one doubts that even the wine-drinking Puerto Rican girls who figured so scandalously in that LPs' best-known track, "Miss You," are still just dyin' to meet them.

Yet if something can be more cringe-inducing than years of sonic bombs such as 1980's Emotional Rescue, 1986's Dirty Work, and 1997's Bridges to Babylon, it's surely the news that Mick Jagger will be knighted by rock's newly unmasked number one groupie, Queen Elizabeth II. (To be fair, the Cavalier-like Jagger, the father of seven children by four different women and a key player in various naughty urban legends featuring candy bars and same-sex couplings, has always acted as if he were a member of the decadent court of King Charles II.) His receiving an official title from the queen is, like the recent star-studded Golden Jubilee concert in her honor, simply the latest sign that the once potent countercultural force known as "rock" has been every bit as domesticated as satanist cum sitcom-patriarch Ozzy Osbourne. Was it really only a quarter-century ago that the Sex Pistols gloriously, censoriously, questioned the very humanity of that same queen?

Call it the Death of Rock. Or, more precisely, the death of rock's pretensions to Dionysian excess and subversive power, once widely understood to be its very raison d'Ítre. It may never have been particularly true, but since rock's emergence as a self-conscious, if always ill-defined, category in the mid-1950s, fans and foes alike could agree that the form is somehow a challenge to the status quo. As Frank Sinatra memorably put it in 1957, rock "is sung, played, and written for the most part by cretinous goons. By means of its almost imbecilic reiteration it manages to be the martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth." Exactly. And therein lies its great and enduring appeal.

Rock--a loose term that designates at best an inchoate impulse or sensibility in certain popular music--provides not only a youthful outlet against adults, but a forum where musical genres and traditions mingle promiscuously and often ridiculously; it creates a psychic location in which race, class, and gender lines can be dangerously blurred and overridden with wanton, hedonistic, and adolescent delight for kids of all ages. This potential reached full flower for the first time in the '60s, the first decade in which rock fully dominated the pop landscape. Not coincidentally, the '60s ushered in an age in which rock performers were fetishized and demonized as dangerously liberatory and messianic.

Few major bands played to this perception more so than the Stones, and arguably no individual more successfully than Jagger himself (his main competitor might have been Jim Morrison, who had the good grace, like the athlete dying young, to expire at age 27, thereby saving his fans from inevitable disappointment). Incapable of getting satisfaction, Jagger was nonetheless insatiable, a demonic street-fighting man who presided with some disturbing but undeniable dark delight over the carnage at Altamont. Most interesting, because most disturbing, the twitchy, bitchy Jagger never promised any sort of political or moral uplift; rather, he promised only to debauch himself and whoever he was with, to push the limits of human excess and degradation. He was the type of drinking buddy around whom you never wanted to pass out for fear of what he might do to you. The infamous story about Mick, Marianne Faithfull, and the Mars bar may well be false, but with Jagger, it's not only believable--you almost want it to be true.

When listening to the Stones' great rival from the '60s, the Beatles, you can rest assured that things would never ultimately get out of control, that the Fab Four's relentless aesthetic judgment and good taste would prevail, that in the end, everything was gonna be alright. At their best, which is to say their most decadent and sinister, the Stones never offered their fans any such safe harbor (it's no surprise that their worst music in the '60s came when they pathetically tried to ape the Beatles). Rather, they served up sheer pleasure so intense that it became unnerving and offered no justification other than to proclaim that it's only rock 'n' roll. That's one of the reasons why, rare for a big '60s act, the Stones segued relatively easily into the decadent, androgynous '70s, releasing as many (or arguably, more) great and outrageous albums in that decade (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goat's Head Soup, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, and Some Girls) as in the one before. It's no accident that that ultimate square, Allan Bloom, singled out Jagger in The Closing of the American Mind as the sine qua non of everything that was diseased in youth culture.

But however much we used to love them, it's all over now. Or, rather, it has been over for decades for the Stones and for Jagger, who are clearly spent as a creative force and who are far too established to ever again be threats to anyone or anything, other than their own reputation. In a larger sense, the same is true for rock itself, which after more than five decades now boasts not only a joy-killing Hall of Fame but so endless gestures toward maturity and responsibility that you almost suspect rockers to be suffering from repetitive-stress injuries. Is there anything more appalling than the sight of dried-out rock stars ranging from Alice Cooper to Steven Tyler extolling the virtues of booze-free living like so many reformed drunks testifying at a 19th-century temperance revival meeting? As if fans had ever looked to rock stars for role models rather than vicarious thrills.

Jagger's generation of rockers, now figuratively and often literally fat and anxious in middle age, are especially appalling in this regard. To wit, Eric Clapton, the guitar god who made his best music while strung out on smack and lusting after his best friend's wife, has remade himself as a bespectacled professor of rockology who plays exquisitely nuanced but indescribably boring music; Sir Elton John, the refreshingly audacious queen who once romped in cemeteries for album-cover photos and scandalized straight America with his sexual confessions, writes dreary Disney tunes; David Bowie, once widely understood to be a completely alien life form, now issues bonds backed against his future royalties. And now Mick Jagger, the squire of the secret sex room at Studio 54 and the rider of giant inflatable penises in concert, will supplicate himself before an actual queen. All that's left is for Johnny Rotten to turn up as a guard at Buckingham Palace.

Surely it was more than coincidence that in the few short days between Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee Concert and the announcement about Jagger's knighthood, Dee Dee Ramone shuffled off his mortal coil. The newspaper accounts of Ramone's death all respectfully noted that the cause was a "possible accidental drug overdose." But such cautious wording was unnecessary. Indeed, given the punk pioneer's history and the abundance of drug paraphernalia near his corpse, the only real mystery is how he could afford enough heroin to kill himself.

Whatever the official coroner's report might state, let's call this what it plainly was, a rock 'n' roll suicide. Dee Dee, the author of "I Don't Want to Live This Life (Anymore)," an epic tune inspired by the sordid lives of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, must have known exactly what he was doing. The Ramones, after all, reinvigorated rock in the '70s, just as the Stones were themselves running out of gas gas gas. If anyone fit Sinatra's description of "cretinous goons" and "sideburned delinquents," it was Joey, Johnny, Tommy, and Dee Dee. With signature tunes like "Beat On the Brat," "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue," "You're Gonna Kill That Girl," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," and "I Wanna Be Sedated," the Ramones (and the punk movement they spearheaded) sketched a world filled with dumb and often explicitly anti-social fun.

It is irresistible--indeed, it is nothing less than heartening--to imagine that Dee Dee, still reeling from the secret shame of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had no doubt read accounts of the Queen's Jubilee Concert. Maybe he even heard rumors about the knighting of Sir Mick and realized that there was just no place left in the world for a guy to sing about the wanton joys of sniffing glue and being sedated. He didn't want to live this life anymore. And who in their right minds can blame him?


Nick Gillespie is Reason's editor-in-chief.
06-24-02 01:02 PM
Mr T first paragraph says it all. Maybe if these critics played instruments instead of wanting to go back to the disco years they know what the fuck their talking about.
I guess this is one of those journalists that actually glorifies the Ramones as good musicians - teach this guy words like "power chords" and watch it go right over his head. I guess this gu, on top of thinking that R&R is dead - is one of those people who thinks Radiohead & Andrew WK are gonna save rock & roll. I would pay $10 to hear Keef publicly humiliate this guy & call him a "fucking wanker"

for the record - the Ramones SUCKED
[Edited by Mr T]
06-24-02 01:39 PM
mattb This reflects the writer's own ignorance of society. I think it is Disney and the Queen who have changed more than Elton or Mick. I'd rather have Elton than Julie Andrews for Disney music and I'd rather have Mick for Knight than Noel Coward. Don't criticize what you can't understand....
[Edited by mattb]
06-24-02 02:46 PM
Sir Stonesalot The Ramones did NOT suck.

In fact, the Ramones did a hell of a lot towards saving Rock & Roll. I don'y know how old you are, or if you remember when punk hit. The state of the music industry was in even WORSE shape than it's in today.

When The Ramones burst onto the stage of CBGB's most people had no idea what to make of them. They played Chuck Berry songs, except at hyper warp speed, and with hilariously wry lyrics. And they were all ugly. Back then, much as it is today, if you weren't a "pretty" artist, you weren't gonna get a sniff from the record companies. But the Ramones changed all that. They brought Rock & Roll back to the ordinary guy. The Ramones made it ok for ordinary, or even ugly, folks to pick up a guitar, learn 3 chords, and go get a band together.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion Mr T. But the Ramones are one of the very few bands that I consider to be consumate Rock & Roll bands. They embodied EVERYTHING a Roack & Roll band should be. And they were DAMN good at what they did.
06-24-02 03:33 PM
Mr T Stonesalot,

I know the Ramones lived the rock & roll lifestyle to the end - that doesnt really impress me. They would've even told you they didn't have a fuckin clue how to play their instruments - let alone be able to tell you what a verse was. Sure, they SAVED rock & roll by bringing it back to the people - but they are just as responsible for all the Blink 182 power chord rock we have today. Congrats to the Ramones for wearing the leather jackets - all they needed on top of that was to play a scale, and they could have been all set
06-24-02 04:27 PM
Saint Sway anyone that writes such unnoriginal, unfunny and uninteresting garbage about depends and viagra jokes and the always overused bit about Keiths inevitable death should be embarrassed to call themselves a writer

the only thing worse is to somehow try to glorify the untimely death of Dee Dee Ramone

I hate fucking rock journalists
06-24-02 04:30 PM
sandrew He's actually more of political journalist (you decide which is worse). Reason is a libertarian intellectual magazine, I think. Hence the lofty, somewhat pretentious style.
06-24-02 04:31 PM
L&A Rock journalists, and the Death of Rock 'n' Roll...
06-24-02 04:33 PM
Gazza The idiot that wrote this might have made had some credibility (only a tiny piece,mind you because the rest of the piece is the usual tired old shite)if he was aware that it was actually the government who granted the knighthood to Jagger - not the Queen....

"Never let the facts get in the way...." etc etc
06-24-02 04:52 PM
Sir Stonesalot Well, Mr. T, I'd rather be over run by Blink 182 that NSync.

Blink 182 heard the music, but missed the attitude. So they pose.

But there are TONS of bands out there that din't miss the attitude...and for that, I'm thankful.

Are you really trying to tell me that stuff like "I Wanna Be Sedated", "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker", "Blitzkreig Bop", and "Rock & Roll High School" suck? That is such a completely foriegn idea to me, that I can't even comprehend it.
06-24-02 04:59 PM
Mother baby Geeez I hope that guy feels better after he got all that off his chest.
06-24-02 05:34 PM
Mr T Stonesalot,
I hate punk. It doesn't impress me. As a guitarist, I'd be bored if I had to play songs like that everyday. The attitude & the image are non of my concern. To me, somebody with the attitude, but lacks the talent is even more of a poser. Hell, I thought that was most people's arguement against Chris Robinson! Never liked a single punk song and don't think I ever will. Most punk musicians really half ass their playing and just get along on the fact that they wear the clothes & sport the attitude - so to me, their 'ugliness' & 'rawness' doesn't impress me cuz they didn't work as hard as a lot of others to get where they got.

But since I don't think either of us are gonna budge on this topic - let's just say different strokes for different folks.
06-24-02 05:51 PM
Nasty Habits Chewin' out a rhythm on my bubble gum
sun is out
and I want some
It's not hard not hard to reach
You can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach

Up on the roof
Out in the street
Down in the playground on the hot concrete
Bus . . .
ride
is to slow
the blast out the disco on the radio!

PIZZA? I WANT SOME!
06-24-02 06:30 PM
Sir Stonesalot Well, Mr. T, I agree....we disagree.

IMO, you have no fucking clue as to what you are talking about where punk is concerned. Didn't pay any dues? Oh lordy. If you think playing punk songs are boring, ask any of the guitar players on this board, who HAVE played in that style if they think it's a bore. Far from it. It's exhilerating. And talk about paying dues...Jesus man, every punk band that ever got signed went thru years of total SHIT before making any kind of dent. Radio and Record Company Execs thought these guys were WAY to dangerous to deal with because they would not conform.

But I'm not gonna convince you because you don't WANT to be convinced. I'm not saying you have to like it, but you certainly have to respect it.
06-24-02 06:42 PM
Mr T well, I couldn't care less what these bands had to go thru to get signed - their personal life is to none of my interest. And I won't disagree that I don't know a lot about punk - I hate it & don't wanna know more. I know way more people who have paid their dues - as in, ya know -playing their instruments for hours each day and got really good(incredible) - and no record signings for them, but to true musicians, that doesn't really matter.

And big deal for all the guitarists who can play punk. So can I, actually. And I don't wanna be convinced cuz I've already checked out that stuff - even tried getting into the Ramones, etc - and just went SCREW THIS! I'm sure its exhilerating to play live - hell, who could play in front of that type of crowd and not get their adrenaline running. I don't give a shit about that. All those power chords - they might as well play Blink 182 and it would make no difference to me at all. I'll give these people all the respect they want as people if they were determined to go from record company to record company - and spend a decade rehearsing in a garage - but I'm not handing out a fucking award for personality. Musicians that don't know a damn thing about song construction(and the Ramones didn't, they will even admit) aren't musicians in my book.
06-24-02 06:57 PM
Nasty Habits WHOA! That's nuts! The Ramones don't know a thing about song construction?! As opposed to who? Chuck Berry? Bo Diddley? Mick 'n' Keith? Dave Jo and Johnny T? Iggy? The Ramones' songs are perfect little gems of pure songship played in an admittedly skewed interpretation of early 60s radio hits. Blitzkrieg Bop, Teenage Lobotomy, Rockaway Beach, I Don't Care, Today Your Love (Tomorrow the World) - those things are freakin little perfect pop/power/punk poems played pristinely primitive! Please, please tell me a band or an artist who started since 1975 with more of a sense of humor, more knowledge about what rock and roll is about and how seriously to take it, with a better catalog of genuine rock and roll classics than the Ramones. Please tell me a band that has come out since the Ramones who was worth a damn who wasn't somehow influenced by what the Ramones did. Please feed me examples of the kind of music you're talking about because I am in the dark here with a big question mark hanging over my head. They may not have spent hours and hours with their instruments learning how to play like Manitas Del Plata or something but this is rock and roll music we're talking about here! If you study it too much it dies! We're not students, we're the Ramones!


Nasty Ramone

06-24-02 06:59 PM
Sir Stonesalot Hate.

Very nice.

Whatever dude.
06-24-02 07:30 PM
Mr T nasty, the Ramones have said several times that they didn't know what the fuck they were doing & didn't know the difference between a verse & a chorus - I was only stating a fact, can you disagree with that?
06-24-02 07:59 PM
Honky Tonker Nick Gillespie (whoever the hell he is!) is a fucking idiot. I hope Sam Goody screws him on his tickets. Long live Keef.
06-24-02 10:22 PM
Sir Stonesalot Mr. T, if they didn't know what the fuck they were doing, or what a verse and chorus were.....how did they have a 25 year career, and why do their songs contain the traditional verse/chorus/verse/chorus format?

The sky is green, and the seas are made of cheese whiz.

I said it, but do you believe it?

Rockers say lots of shit. If the Ramones didn't know what the fuck they were doing, it was because they were completely fucked up on chemicals. When they plugged in, they knew EXACTLY what they were doing.

There is NO doubt about it, what YOU consider rock & roll, and what I consider rock & roll are two completely different animals. My animal has big fangs, bad breath, and an enormous cock & balls. And it can beat the everlivin' fuck out of your animal.
06-24-02 10:31 PM
Mr T Sir - they said so themselves. And you don't have to know what it is to do it. Did Robbie Kreiger know what a cycle of fifths was when he did that for the Doors??? NO - he said he found that out several years later. I can't really give too much credit as a musician to people that know that little about that type of thing.

and yes, I've heard the Ramones make that statement several times, so contradict them
06-24-02 10:55 PM
Sir Stonesalot So you believe everything you read, or everything that people say? I don't doubt for a second that they said it...but I damn sure know that they didn't mean it. The proof is in the pudding dude. Perhaps they didn't know what the proper terms were, but they damn sure knew how to write the things. If they didn't know, it wouldn't be in the songs.

I'd be willing to bet the ranch they said that shit because that's the kind of shit the interviewer wanted to hear.

And for you to claim that those guys aren't any kind of musicians is just.....fuckin' retarded.

They ain't Steve Vai, or Neil Peart, or....or Freddie fuckin' Mercury! And THANK FUCKING GOD for THAT!

They are WAY better.
06-24-02 11:14 PM
BILL PERKS FUCK ALL THIS NONSENSE.IT'S ABOUT THE FANS.I WAITED 8 FUCKIN YEARS TO SEE THE STONES IN 89 AND I APPRECIATE THE OPPURTUNITY TO SEE THEM 3 TIMES THIS TOUR.THE PRESS ARE JUST A BUNCH OF JEALOUS WANKERS WHO WISH THEIR LIFE COULD BE HALF AS EXCITING AS THE STONES.IN CASE NO ONE HAS NOTICED, SLAGGING PEOPLE OFF IS THE ONLY WAY FOR A COLUMNIST TO BE NOTICED.I'LL BET 50 QUID THAT BASTARD WILL BE THANKING HIS MAKER HE GETS TO SEE THEM FOR FREE WHEN THEY COME TO TOWN.AFTER THAT TIRADE I MUST SAY FREDDIE MERCURY IS A MISUNDERSTOOD POOF GENIUS,AND THE RAMONES CERTAINLY DID SUCK.
06-24-02 11:22 PM
Sir Stonesalot Oh good lord.

Well, one thing we can all agree on....Freddie Mercury certainly sucked.

Go ahead refute THAT.
06-24-02 11:29 PM
BILL PERKS GOOD ONE,MY CHUM,HE DEFINITELY DID TOO MUCH OF THAT!
06-24-02 11:31 PM
beer Keith is the original punk rocker. I think Mick said that. Punk is a very broad term. To some it means green hair and safety pins through their cheek. I think it just is all about stripped down, no bullshit rock and roll. Some songs on Beggars Banquet were recorded through a cassette recorder, that's fucking punk. People have told stories about Keith playing acoustic guitar til his fingers were bleeding, that's punk.
06-24-02 11:41 PM
BILL PERKS THE TERM PUNK IS THE MOST OVERRATED PIECE OF JOURNALISTIC CRAP.WHEN JUDGING MUSIC I ASK MYSELF ONE QUESTION.DOES IT SWING?WHILE THE SEX PISTOLS SUCKED MORE THAN FREDDIE MERCURY AT AN ELTON JOHN PARTY,HIS SOLO EFFORT CASSETTE SWUNG LIKE FREDDIE AT A GAY BATHHOUSE
06-24-02 11:41 PM
Sir Stonesalot I love beer.
06-25-02 09:07 AM
stonedinaustralia mr t what do you like??

i'm right with ss on this one (again.. its becoming a bit predictable) and as Nasty H points out they were songwriters par excellance (the ramones that is)...

and nice avatar beer...its a definitive shot





[Edited by stonedinaustralia]
06-25-02 11:33 AM
Mr T Eh, fuck it. I'm just trying to produce facts(you disagree that the Ramones seriously admitted to not being able to play their guitars?? - SHIT, that's what they were all about - fucking ask them) and your seem to be shutting them down, so this is going nowhere
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