This is a letter I sent to Baltimore Examiner editor Gary Gately about the Stones IMAX Movie, "Shine-a-Light."
I've been waiting until I saw Shine-a-Light to send you a note. Rafael told me you were a Stones fan and I read your review while in New Orleans a few weeks ago.
Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile in succession represent for me some of the greatest rock-and-roll music ever created: Sympathy, Stray Cat Blues, Factory Girl, Street Fighting Man, Parachute Woman, Love in Vain, Monkey Man, Rambler, Shelter, Sway, Sister Morphine, Wild Horses, Loving Cup, Rip This Joint, Ventilator Blues...I remember sitting in front of my parent's Fischer stereo with the cloth speakers reading liner notes and lyrics. The Stones--and mostly the song Love in Vain--helped me through their divorce.
I enjoyed the movie as much as any Stones fan would.
I'll admit I was dreading the live performance of "Faraway Eyes" and was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the interplay between Mick and Keith with Richards singing "worth a dime" and Mick, "worth a damn."
"As Tears Go By" was also a highlight for its irony given Jagger's advancing years--it also evokes Lewis Carroll for me. He seemed like he was angrily biting the words--but what a beautiful song--Keith playing the twelve string. No need for Jagger's apology up front--this is a song they sang while wearing Dylanesque turtlenecks. I like making the connections with Dickens and Carroll in their songs.
For me, "Champagne and Reefer" stole the show. The stoic majesty of Buddy Guy reigned over the song. He stood at the still point of the blues universe, with "the boys" flouncing madly around him as he completed a musical journey from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to London to a stage at the Beacon Theater in New York. And then Keith gives him his guitar.
Throughout, the cameras were too close and the venue was perhaps too small for such an endeavor. It was like HD Zoom. There was never much perspective. Did we need to see what resembled a dessicated Lifesaver in Keith's hair? I like attending Stones concerts in person, where the vantage point is varied. The First Mariner show a couple years back in Baltimore was illuminating as I had seats in front of the small stage. I'm not sure a film can adequately capture their combined intensity--no matter how close to the action.
I also kept thinking about the movie "Gimme Shelter" and the youthful harlotry of Jagger--so utterly unbelievable and fantastic. Unfortunately during this new movie, and I know this is blasphemy, the image of Jagger as Carol Channing came to mind. The Stones have gathered crags, not necessarily moss, and that's okay. The spectacle in all it's glory was what was missing like Keith at the Hampton Coliseum in 1981, guzzling a fifth of Jack Daniels, and unable to get to the microphone for the verses of "Little T&A" --just the chorus.
My all-time favorite Stones song is "Hand of Fate," on Black-and-Blue, and I almost asked Mick to play it when he walked past me in London a few years back. He was on the phone.
Hope to catch a coffee with you sometime.