It’s Not Only Rock n Roll
Excerpts from The Immaculate Roll: Albums of the Rolling Stones
One of the great pleasures of long love relationships is the amassing of an unbearable weight of trivial information: the things that we know about those whom we love, things that few others have taken or would take the time to know, are testament to the faithful longevity of a true and substantive connection that has endured and renewed itself against the test of the years. It would appear that people in the generation to which I ostensibly belong seek long-term partnerships with either less desire or less success than preceding generations, such that to be able to speak of a relationship that has spanned half of my life at my own age is relatively uncommon.
Of course, the relationship I’m talking about in this case is not with a person but with an institution; with a mass of seething, weathered vinyl which if taken together could be market-valued at around $1.45 billion and retail priced at somewhere just over £1,000. I will be concise about the origin point of my fascination with the Rolling Stones, not least because it is entirely in keeping with many other people’s— suffice it to say that this Richmond R&B band’s work offered entry into a worldview that made accommodations for freedom, strangeness and eclecticism of spirit and desire that my material circumstances did not (not back then, at least).
By the time I was 18 I realised that the amount of trivial information I’d absorbed about the group and their work had reached a critical mass and was beginning to hog space in my mind that might’ve been reserved for other things — like how to cook a roti without burning it, or which letter sits between ‘e’ and ‘g’ in the alphabet (“Remember what key ‘Start Me Up’ is in!”, I told myself). I began to put that information down on paper, with a view to creating for the Stones something like what Ian McDonald had done for the Beatles in Revolution in the Head, albeit a work that sought to situate the Stones within a broader context of the times they decorated, enhanced, and occasionally influenced, as opposed to McDonald’s approach which primarily gears everything otherwise happening in the Western world, and all the actions of the group’s peers, to a Beatlesque crankshaft. McDonald’s work can be an exhilarating and edifying…