Steve Wilson. On music.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Rolling Stones - Doom and Gloom ... Old Devils Not Yet Dead

Modern media. So fast, so shallow. I feel dirty just participating in it. Okay, not really. But for a music business veteran like myself, the hyper-accelerated rate at which new information about music, and the music itself is processed is brain rattling.

How must the Rolling Stones feel? They were young men in their Twenties emerging from the London blues scene to become teen idols in 1962-64. They cut their teeth on the blues and rhythm ‘n’ blues masters whose records moseyed their way across the Atlantic, shaking thing up over weeks, months and years, not nanoseconds. But things probably felt like they were moving fast for them. And they were, for the time. The machinery of promotion and distribution was in a horse and buggy world compared to today’s drop, drag and download environment.

Nonetheless, in American bohemian enclaves and in London, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester a fire was starting. A new single made its way into shops. Kids talked it up, word of mouth stimulated sales. If a band was lucky enough to crack into radio airplay it happened market by market, especially in the U.S.; of course news could travel fast once the phones lit up and some station had a hit with a song. But it was still a snail’s pace compared to now, when you post a song on YouTube on Friday morning and it has 1,771,135 on Sunday morning, as the Stones’ new song “Gloom and Doom” did. And nobody experiencing this music spent a dime! Yes, that is the head of my sound spinning. Of course “Gloom and Doom” is still a few clicks away from “Gangnam Style’s” 460,258,483 views (yes, it’s gone up since this draft was written). Eat your heart out, John Dowland.

 “Doom and Gloom” is the first of two songs the old devils have tracked to call attention to their umpteenth ‘hits’ collection Grrr. They can’t be arsed to actually record an honest to God album, I guess. After all, it’s only been six years, or whatever, since A Bigger Bang. Okay, snide tone retired.

When I hear a new song from icons like the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan I try to hold two ideas in the mind at the same time. First, it’s impossible to place anything new outside the context of the artist’s recorded history. Second, you have to try. And accordingly I try to imagine what I would think of this music if it were made by some strange, new band (who of course sound a lot like the Rolling Stones, reinforcing the first proposition). Ah, hell. I think that were there a Rolling Stones informed vision of rock ‘n’ roll music without there having been a Rolling Stones, I would say ‘these guys rock.’ But it is sort of like Hazel Motes’ “church of truth without Christ.”

Even not talking about them, you’re talking about them.