Dead Flowers

Well when you're sittin back, in your rose pink Cadillac Making bets on Kentucky Derby Day, I'll be in my basement room, with a needle and a spoon. And another girl to take my pain away -Jagger/Richards

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Lester Bangs: Man who turned rock journalism into an art form, and the man who coined the term "Punk Rock"

"Rock is basically an adolescent music, reflecting the rhythms, concerns and aspirations of a very specialized age group. It can't grow up, but when it does, it turns into something else which may be just as valid but is still very different from the original. Personally I believe that real rock n roll maybe on the way out, just like adolescence as a relatively innocent transitional period is on the way out."
- Lester Bangs(1971) reviewing The Stooges' Funhouse and signaling the demise of rock n roll

Freakin' hell. What words!!

Does Lester Bangs ring a bell? If you have seen Almost Famous, it surely will. Remember the scene when a man is on an early morning radio show, and he asks for The Stooges' Raw Power to be played. And the poor RJ says,"Stooges! Not this early Mr.Bangs."

Lester Bangs (1948 - 1982) is the most revered and influential rock journalist ever. He was associated with such institutions as Rolling Stone (the late 60s indie period), Creem and NME (most prolific during his Creem days). The man had this amazing ability to pick out bands. And the fun part was that he hailed them when the world was busy trashing them (he was probably the only critic who loved the Velvets during their lifetime). Again going back to that radio show part in Almost Famous: Bangs takes out The Morrison Hotel LP, trashes it, and says, "Gimme WhiteLight/WhiteHeat." Remember the year was 1973. And he knew rock n roll had been knocked dead by Punk. He was very skeptical about the Woodstock hangover spilling over into the 70s. That's why he said that he just loved Robert Plant when he sang," I've got the flower, I've got the power."

Talking about picking out raw bands, he simply loved bands like Iggy & the Stooges, The Velvets, Black Sabbath and Captain Beefheart. He writes in one of his essays on the Stooges: "The Stooges are back, and I'm happy, and I'm sad. Happy because they're such a great band, a distillation of beautiful fury that could tear your head off. Sad, because I'm sitting in a scumpit called the Michigan Palace waiting through three dogshit bands for them to come on. It's not just that the environment's ugly, but that I've been sitting in essentially this same place for five years now, counting a couple years layoff, waiting for them to break over the edge they always seem to be pushing toward and make it really big."

The Stooges were probably the first band to acknowledge the influence of Velvet Underground on their music. Sadly for Bangs, both these bands never quite made it big (not in their lifetime) in terms of the so called set parameters of popular music.

P.S: Read Lester Bangs' various reviews and essays on the Creem archives. And when you read them you will realise that he was a writer, not just a journalist.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Under My Thumb- Stones at their 'misogynistic' best

"The whole idea was that I was under HER, she was kicking ME around. So the whole idea is absurd, all I did was turn the tables around. So women took that to be against femininity where in reality it was trying to 'get back' against being a repressed male."
Mick Jagger (1984)

"Some 40 years ago, the Rolling Stones recorded a misogynist rant called "Under My Thumb." Today, it is one of the songs that fans most frequently request of these aging shamans of adolescent attitudinizing." - one outraged feminist, I guess

"Under my Thumb" is perhaps the most notorious of The Stones' sexist songs (and also one of the coolest). With lyrics like these there is no denying: "Its down to me the difference in the clothes she wears....Under my thumb is a squirmin' dog that just had it's day.....It's down to me the way she does what she's told....The way she talks when she's spoken to." (complete song) And this very song was played when a black man was stabbed at The Stones' Altamount concert (1969). (The stabbing was captured on video, and is there on the documentary 'Gimme Shelter')

Not only 'Under my Thumb', but songs like 'Some Girls' and 'Stray Cat Blues' have offended a lot of people. The former for its derogatory remarks about black women (Black girls just wanna get f**ked all night, I just don't have that much jam) and the latter for being an invitation by a man to two 15 year old girls to 'come upstairs'.(My o My, only from The Stones)

Whatever the issues, no other band has written so many great songs about women. Pair 'Under my Thumb' with a song like "Heart of Stone' (same era), and you get an idea how overwhelming was the presence of women in shaping up the band. "There've been so many girls I have known, I've made so many cry and so I wonder why / No matter how hard I try, I just can't make her cry."

There is no doubt that women were target of Stones dissatisfaction, but there were also women who played a vital role in the evolution of The Rolling Stones, from Marianne Faithful to the beautiful Anita Pallenberg.

The fact is that 'Under my Thumb' or 'Heart of Stone' or 'Wild Horses', all these songs beautifully describe various aspect of women. Nothing beyond that.

P.S: The photograph above is the best picture of Glimmer Twins I have come across. Every millimeter emits style. The look, the cramped stage, usage of black and white film. No wonder they are the most imitated. Check out Mr. Keef Riffhard. The slickmaster.