Do The Rolling Stones Finally Get It?

On November 3rd, not quite but approximately the 40th anniversary of the Rolling Stones’ epic three-night Thanksgiving Weekend stint at Madison Square Garden in New York, the former “greatest rock’n’roll band in the world” is releasing a big box set commemorating the occasion.  What’s notable is that, for the first time, the Stones are digging into the vault and releasing live material we haven’t heard before.*

Yes, they pad the box set with a CD of Ike and Tina Turner and BB King’s performances as warm-up acts — where’s Terry Reid? — but the big news is this box set has the Stones performing “Under My Thumb” and “I’m Free,” as well as “You Gotta Move” and “Prodigal Son.”  Seems like a mighty big effort, and a big expense, just to get one’s paws on those four songs, but it’s the precedent that matters.  Other than on the great bootleg Liver Than You’ll Ever Be, and in snippets from Gimme Shelter, we haven’t heard these songs from this tour (‘less you were there.)

My theory on why the Stones have never dipped into their back live catalogue — most especially the soundtrack to the 1972 tour’s concert film Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones — is because decades after the Stones have had anything memorable to say, and years after they were anywhere close to being “the greatest” anything other than maybe moneymakers, they don’t want people to compare their current performances to the old ones.  Let’s face it, the moment Mick Taylor walked out the door and Ron Wood stumbled in, it was over as far as the Stones’ greatness on stage was concerned.  So they suppress the back catalogue of live shows.

They are the opposite of Bob Dylan, in every way.  Dylan is as vital in this decade as as he was in the 1960s, and in my opinion, more vital than he was in the ’70s and ’80s.  He keeps giving us these gifts in The Bootleg Series of shows and sessions we never thought would see the light of day.  He operates with vitality in the present tense and astonishes us with these remnants.  The Stones are parsimonious with their back catalogue and are just going through the motions as a “band” today. (It’s Mick, Keith, and Charlie, affixed to Ron Wood, who I still wish could be traded back to The Faces for a plectrum and a drum kit to be named later.)

So breaking into the vault for the four songs from 1969, when the Stones shook the rust off and officially ended the ’60s playing Chuck Berry as well as the greatest rock songs of all time — “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Street Fighting Man,” and a list too long to mention here– to audiences that couldn’t believe their good fortune, is a real occasion.

It’s a good move.   Please, sir, may I have more?

* Yeah, I know they put out a “rarities” album a year or two back, which did include the version of “Let It Rock” they played in the early ’70s, but we already had that from the Spanish version of Sticky Fingers as the substitute for the banned “Sister Morphine.”  All the other live songs came from the time following Moment It All Went Downhill — Ron Wood’s arrival.

One Response to “Do The Rolling Stones Finally Get It?”

  1. I would trade Ron Wood and the wig he wears for a single broken drumstick. I would have gotten the better end of the deal.

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