This year the Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary. There’s a new documentary, book, and possible world tour in the works. More importantly, an album of new material is rumored. Yes, this group is my favorite band. I revere them more than The Beatles (sacrilege amongst many, I know) and Led Zeppelin (I can only take so much of Robert Plant’s screeching in one sitting).
That being said, frankly, the Rolling Stones just aren’t relevant in popular music anymore. Let’s look at some facts. They haven’t had a number one album since 1981 (the year I was a rambunctious one year old). Their music hasn’t been on Top 40 radio in years. The words “old, prehistoric, ancient” tend to follow them around. Sure, their super-tours grow larger and larger each go around. Their last one, A Bigger Bang tour, is still the second-highest grossing tour behind U2’s titanic 360 tour. But why?
To answer that, we have to look at today’s music, which frankly, sucks. Let me share a story. The other day I was riding in my girlfriend’s car. She’s only got an AM/FM radio and she is partial to current pop songs. Naturally, the radio was tuned to the Top 40 station. In the 15-20 minute ride, I swear I heard the same song back to back. When I shared my thought, my girlfriend replied that they were two completely different songs. You could have fooled me. After we finished running our errands, wouldn’t you know those same two songs hit the air again. Really? Are we that ADD as a culture that we need to listen to the same four or five songs in a 15-minute rotation over and over and over? Maybe, but I think the radio stations are just playing what the record companies want them to play: songs and albums they want to sell to teeny-boppers. You might tell me to listen to another radio station. The so-called rock station in town is too, for lack of a better word, corporate. The kind of station that would play Nickelback over and over is not my kind of station. In fact, any radio station that plays Nickelback should have it’s FCC license revoked.
Back to the Stones. From the opening chords of “Satisfaction” or “Brown Sugar”, their music begs instant recognition, even 40+ years later. Their last couple of reissues (“Exile on Main Street” & “Some Girls”) each included an album’s worth of discarded music tracks. Sure, a 67 year old Mick added some new vocals and war-battered Keith added a guitar overdub or two. It doesn’t matter. There’s still a rawness in their music and a sleaziness in their lyrics, even 50 years later. No auto-tune. No super-producer. Just great music. Their new music might not matter to the masses, but their legacy lives on through people like Jack White or bands like the Black Keys or the Black Crowes. Hell, Keith Richards guitar licks even inspired me to pick up guitar.
These septuagenarians may have been in the business for 50 years, but the world will always see them for their achievements made in their first 20. The Stones’ latest scorcher of a single “Doom and Gloom”, their first song recorded together since 2005, shows they still have what it takes half a century after their first single. Let’s hope it’s a taste of things to come.