You CAN always get what you want - watching The Rolling Stones live 50 years after Hyde Park
PUBLISHED: 17:55 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:55 05 July 2019
Record shop owner Andrew Worsdale, who runs Holt Vinyl Vault, waited more than 40 years to finally catch the legendary Rolling Stones live - and wasn't disappointed when he finally did
It's only rock 'n' roll, they said. Incredibly, 50 summers have passed since the death of the irreplaceable Brian Jones, the Hyde Park wake-cum-concert and the disaster that was Altamont. Would anyone sporting a goatee beard or counter-cultural kaftan back in '69 have been able to conceive that The Stones would still be rolling, half a century later?
It would have been hard enough to dream up a US President like Donald Trump; still less to imagine that one of the band's era-defining songs would be appropriated by said Donald to soundtrack his rallies, much to the band's chagrin. It's true, then: you can't always get what you want, but Donald, he gets what he needs, to "work the base". And plumb the depths.
Personally speaking, it's a full 40 years since my first and, until last summer, closest encounter with the band, when axemen Keef Richards and Ron Wood, in their offshoot, desperadoes-for-hire guise as The New Barbarians, performed a languid afternoon set at Knebworth, where I and 150,000 others awaited what would prove to be the last UK stand of Led Zeppelin.
A much better moment than anything an under-rehearsed Zep would conjure up later in the day comes when these benignest of Barbarians perform Keef's Before They Make Me Run, taken from The Stones' Some Girls album, released the year before.
Now, older and wiser musos will tell me that The Stones' last great album is Exile On Main Street - and it does include my all-time fave Stones track Happy, also sung by Keef - but from a personal viewpoint, my fave Stones album will always be Some Girls, which is playing right now as I type this. You never forget your first love; and this was the first Stones album I properly engaged with, upon its release.
It's an album of amazing vitality and variety, infused with a hint of garage punk (When The Whip Comes Down, Shattered, Respectable), along with faux country (Faraway Eyes), a fabulous Motown cover (The Temptations' Imagination) and a truly brilliant take on disco in the shape of album opener and crowning glory, Miss You.
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Since 1978 the truly great songs (Waiting On A Friend, Start Me Up, Mixed Emotions, Slipping Away) have slowed to a trickle, but of course what the band has really been about, ever since that Hyde Park freebie, is monetising that astonishing early catalogue, recorded in the band's first six years, that still forms the backbone of its live set.
As a record dealer, you could say I've benefited from that monetisation, to the extent that I owe the band plenty for their part in keeping the wolf from the door these past 15 years. When the boys were booked for that recycled Olympic Stadium at the bottom of the M11 in May of last year, just a day before our wedding anniversary, it therefore felt like a destiny calling. After all, you can't always get what you want, especially if you leave it too long.
Mrs Vault and I thus headed down to east London and rocked up in a packed bar just across from the stadium, where we drank expensive beer and watched the T-shirted fanbase assemble from every part of the globe. It would normally feel gauche beyond belief to listen to wall-to-wall hits by the very band you've come to see in the hours before the show, but this felt so lazily right. And when that astonishing Jumpin' Jack Flash riff echoed out of the jukebox, I had to pinch myself at the prospect of hearing the song performed live, by three of the surviving stalwarts who first recorded it, within a few hours.
What could dampen the mood? Well, Liam Gallagher as ever did his shouty, statuesque best, just like we saw at Glasto last weekend, glowering away motionless in front of his stage props: two signs, one brandishing the legend 'MCFC' (his way of explaining why he wouldn't play the support slot on "enemy soil" at Old Trafford, apparently), the other bearing the (presumably explanatory?) words 'Rock & Roll'. Yep, it's only rock 'n' roll, but Liam himself doesn't seem to like it much, to judge from his surly performance.
Liam is actually 30 years younger than Mick Jagger, but when ol' snake hips finally rolls onto the biggest stage you've ever seen, you'd swear it was the other way around. Nobody has perfected the art of transmitting music through his bodily moves better than Mick, and to witness this performer, in his mid-seventies, covering every inch of those massive catwalks, gyrating manically for a full two hours, is an amazing spectacle.
Also amazing are those massive screens projecting every Mick move, along with the gurns of human riff Keef, raffish 'new boy' (class of '73) and polymath Ron Wood ("the Hogarth of Hounslow", Mick calls him) and the heroic, ageless heartbeat that is sticksman Charlie. Now you understand why the band would not allow the BBC to film their set at Glastonbury in 2013, insisting that it was done by their own crew. The staging brilliantly succeeds in transforming those distant dots into giants, and you understand that on this night at least, you really are getting what want, and what you paid handsomely for. This is entertainment on a truly epic scale.
You get all those glorious early hits, including personal '60s fave Paint It, Black (such a weird comma!), a visit from Jumpin' Jack, plus - glory be - a turbo-charged Miss You, featuring some truly brilliant bass popping from another 'newboy', Bill Wyman-replacement Darryl Way. There's even a Barbarians reunion of sorts, as Mick leaves the stage to those unruly ragamuffins on guitar. Time stands still, but is soon Slipping Away, Before They Make (the headmaster) Run back for the final sprint, which climaxes with Satisfaction.
So endeth one of the greatest nights of my life. It's only rock 'n' roll, yeah. But these guys, they're lifers. Long may they roll…