Sunday, August 10, 2008

Stones Vs. Springsteen

Here's the Stones during their Golden Age:


Here's Bruce:

Anybody that knows the first thing about rock ensemble playing knows which is the dynamic, explosive, kinetic performance and which is the bunch of largely inept poseurs phoning it in onstage.

So maybe you haven't tried rock ensemble playing yourself or trained your ear to hear it in others: Anybody who nonetheless has their instinct for rhythm intact ought to be able to perceive that one of those things has real groove while the other is lame-ass limeys wanking. And they should be able to tell which is which.

If you don't know enough to know the difference -- it's not important to me to persuade you. That's your problem, and, if you want to write lengthy posts exposing your problem to others, that's OK with me too. We'll just to have to disagree.

Mick Taylor had a nice tone and feel, but his playing was always a dull collection of blues licks strung together in no coherent order; Bruce's solo here is actually a far more carefully structured composition than anything Taylor ever played. It uses simple elements, but it builds to a climax; it's musical in a way that not much the Stones ever did really was.

To subject the lyrics of Prove it All Night to detailed textual analysis is to commit a category error. They do the work that is required of them.

Lyrics of songs like Spirit in the Night, For You, even the River, nonetheless survive the test of close textual examination better than any Rolling Stones song, and better than almost any rock songwriter other than Dylan.

"But that medal you wore on your chest always got in the way
like a little girl with a trophy so soft to buy her way
We were both hitchhikers but you had your ear tuned to the roar
of some metal-tempered engine on an alien, distant shore
So you, left to find a better reason than the one we were living for
and it's not that nursery mouth I came back for
It's not the way you're stretched out on the floor
cause I've broken all your windows and I've rammed through all your doors
And who am I to ask you to lick my sores?
And you should know that's true...
I came for you, for you, I came for you, but you did not need my urgency
I came for you, for you, I came for you, but your life was one long emergency
and your cloud line urges me, and my electric surges free:

Now, you can take that apart and find various solecisms embedded within it. But when placed within the context of that song, and with his delivery, that thing sings. It has poetry, and it stands up to Dylan's stuff, which was itself full of solecism and can also easily be pulled apart and ridiculed.

Bruce's songs tell complex stories; they bristle with verbal ingenuity; they bring to life characters struggling with the pain and limitation of life. They are full of an almost crushing generosity of feeling and empathy.

By contrast, Brown Sugar:

"Drums beating, cold english blood runs hot,
Lady of the house wondrin where its gonna stop.
House boy knows that hes doin alright.
You should a heard him just around midnight.
Ah brown sugar how come you taste so good
(a-ha) brown sugar, just like a black girl should

Stray Cat Blues:

I can see that youre fifteen years old
No I dont want your i.d.
You look so rest-less and youre so far from home
But its no hanging matter
Its no capital crime

Oh yeah, youre a strange stray cat
Oh yeah, dontcha scratch like that
Oh yeah, youre a strange stray cat
Bet your mama dont know you scream like that
I bet your mother dont know you can spit like that.

Under My Thumb:

Under my thumb
Her eyes are just kept to herself
Under my thumb, well i
I can still look at someone else

Its down to me, oh thats what I said
The way she talks when shes spoken to
Down to me, the change has come,
Shes under my thumb
Say, its alright.

I like all these songs, of course, in part because they are so dirty and wicked and so rankly fraudulent, and it can be fun to play along with the disgusting misogyny that is so central a current in the Stones' pose. But it's transparently childish posturing.

Anyway, the videos speak for themselves. If anyone watches both and picks the Stones as the more compelling performers -- let's just say that I don't understand that person, and don't care to try.


Anonymous said...

"For You", new Bruce Springsteen book. I received the book, and well... I was really blown away by the whole thing. If any book can capture what it's like to be at a Springsteen show, this is it. The images are as good as concert photos get.

Todd's Girl said...

They've been called about a thousand times The Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band in the World: