As a lifelong die hard I tend to enjoy that which the casual listener avoids. Below describes two stunning examples of songs the critics failed to praise as if they forgot that our vices are the shining light of the human condition.
A lot has been written about this song, very little is positive. Most critics found themselves taking moral stands against the bigotry portrayed, completely ignoring the brilliant composition. From the opening whistle to the interplay of Izzy’s seething electric guitar and Slash’s spanish-esque solos you barely notice the lack of heavy percussion or bass. The layer of piano that seeps in near the end of the song is a gunner first, symbolically marking the end the band’s democracy and gradual decline from the hardest band in the world. Axl wrote this song solo and it is rumoured he did so on a guitar that he barely knew how to play, an astonishing feat to say the least. I should probably tell you to ignore the “racey” lyrics but to do so would be a travesty. One in a million is a rare look inside the then 26 year old W. Axl Rose’s psyche and its numerous demons. The violence and anger exuded is woven delicately into sentimental and melody rich blues song. The stark contrast of subject in the chorus compared to that of the verses reflects the volatility and duality of his infamous mental struggles. One tells the compassionate story of watching a loved one falling deeper into drug dependency, the other a ferocious assault of angst, contradiction, and hate. At the very least one must respect the level honesty the tortured genius wrote with. Although roughly half the lines make me cringe, Axl’s roaring climax is a flood of talent and passion that can’t be ignored. Goethe once wrote that “Boldness has genius power and magic in it” and I can’t disagree.
Hey Negrita is like breakfast wine, a one way ticket to decadence. The reggae, latin, and funk influences are sewn together into a playful jam perfect for impromptu afternoon dance party on a desolate beach. Like all great Stones songs the blues are the foundation and amidst the writhing rhythms lazily complex guitar riffs weave in and out of old west era piano trills. The intention was clearly to have the piano fill in for a steel drum, but to their credit the saloon feel better suits both the song and the band. “Hey Negrita” may be my favorite vocal performance from Mick on a non-live album. He is normally so calculated it is refreshing to see him let loose in screaming scat like improvisation as if his pipes were just another instrument. The lyrics were considered controversial, though the deep redundancy of puritanical objections to passionate music began well before even the delta blues were created. Hats off to Mick for creating this lyrical gem, “See the gleam in your mouth. See the steel in your thighs”, every bachelor worth his weight in testosterone can relate. The song is clear inspiration to many that followed, most easily noted the above mentioned Guns N’ Roses. Try listening to “You’re Crazy” from the GNR Lies album and not see the direct influence. In 1976 it seemed the entire rock world was consumed by the influx of reggae, and although many made attempts to infuse rock with the jamaican melodies only the Stones and to a lesser extent Led Zeppelin (D’yer Mak’er) really pulled it off. Just try to keep your hips still while this one blares…no need to ask why they are in fact the greatest rock and rollers of all time.
My life has been anything but mundane, a constant twitching from darkness to elation and back. I perceive it as the tip of a bullwhip; rising into victory and bliss only to serve up the pain. However, I revel in both these extremes and have come to embrace the Dionysian qualities my existence exudes. There are very few consistencies from day to day, those that do remain all stem from my unbridled love of grandiose rock and roll.
To explain, I can source a couple of my eternal characteristics to the first concert I ever attended: Rolling Stones Voodoo Lounge at Soldier Field, Lenny Kravitz was the opening act. My mother took me and my friends as a consolation prize for not being allowed to transfer away from my stifling Catholic grade school, I was maybe nine years old. Getting back on point, the first of these traits is no doubt due to Mr. Kravitz. Just as I thought his set ended, Lenny emerged back on stage draped in a glimmering silver bell bottomed jumpsuit and an immaculate white v-guitar. He of course was backed by the glory of innumerable white lights enveloping him from behind and ripped into Are You Gonna Go My Way, which sent my head into a vicious uncontrollable sway. As the song came to a close he jumped off center stage, donned a white fur coat and walked directly through the mob of adoring fans to exit through back of the arena with an aura of nonchalance that can’t be taught.
The wisdom I took away from these moments was the idea that success requires only unwavering self confidence and that the perception of such is in fact reality. I will never enter a meeting unless I’m the best dressed and most prepared. If you’re not going to give them everything what is the point? Lasting triumph in modern life is due to either the realization of a truly innovative creations or the ability to understand oneself as a brandable entity and shape that brand into something indispensable and mythical. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg fit into the first category, while Ralph Lauren and Richard Branson fit into the second.
The second moment of enlightenment came during the second half of The Stones set. The slow cowbell melted into drums only to be accompanied by a lazy guitar and finally “I met a gin soaked bar-room queen in Memphis”. To my surprise the women around me in the VIP section all began to disrobe and rush the stage with a fervor only midwestern maenads could possibly conjure. I can’t confirm this to be the first moment of sweet lust in my young life, but I know it was the beginning of my insatiable and most certainly fatal addiction to the supposedly fairer sex.
Anything I consider to be a misstep, lack of judgement, or poor decision in my life can be traced back to a girl or woman’s affection or scorn. It is an ingrained infatuation and overwhelming need to be surrounded and adored by as many females as possible that draws me into the hot water. I have no type or prerequisite other than thin and passionate, in fact I’ve been told that my libido may be the least racist being on earth. I can’t say I harbor any resentment towards the enigmatic half of our species, as they mimic the Dionysian extremes of pleasure and madness that define my life. So Mick, Keith, Charlie, and Ronnie thank you for all the nights I won’t be able to tell my grandkids about…