The Rolling Stones as background music to the soundtrack of my life

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I know it’s only Rolling Stones but I like it.

The first time I heard the Rolling Stones was in 1965, age 8. “Satisfaction” came blasting out of my little transistor radio. And it was instantly memorable. The guitar riff was like nothing I had heard before. Rougher, harder, menacing, dirty, defiant. There was nothing like it. It was like the first blast of what would later turn into heavy metal and punk and grunge. Followed next by the equally raunchy hit single “Hey Hey You You Get Off of My Cloud.”

Then in 1967 they were in all the newspapers. “Mick Jagger and Keith Richards arrested for drugs.” I remember thinking how weird but cool their names sounded. Mick Jagger. Keith Richards. And there was something mysterious and outlaw about the whole “drug” thing. You knew it was some new next step to something that was going to really happen. “Drugs.”

Then it must have been around 1970, 14 years old. I was hanging out at a friend’s house, and the Rolling Stones movie “Gimme Shelter” was on TV. And I remember thinking: Things seem to be getting a little wild and maybe a little too real in the world of the Rolling Stones.

Then in 1973, senior year of high school, age 17, we had the “Goats Head Soup” 8-track cassette. And we used to play it all the time as we drove around town in my friend’s Ford Maverick. Getting drunk on Ripple Strawberry Wine and stoned on pot and listening to the haunting ballad “Angie.” And screaming out the lyrics to “STARFUCKER!! STARFUCKER!! STARFUCKER!! STA-A-AR!!” (none of us had been laid yet so that song was particularly exciting — an anthem to our virginity)

I think that Stones album “Black and Blue” in 1976, age 19, was the last Rolling Stones album where I ever listened to all the songs on it. A-side. B-side.

But down through all the years the Rolling Stones were just always there. Like background music to the soundtrack of my life.

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JUST A SHOT AWAY by Saul Austerlitz: a goddamn book review

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I don’t know if there’s anything new to say about Altamont and the Rolling Stones that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before. But I couldn’t find anything else decent to read at the library.

One interesting tidbit. Meredith Hunter — the 18 year old Berkeley high kid who ended up getting stomped by the Hell’s Angels — surely mis-played that one. His girlfriend wanted to go home before the Stones came on. She had seen more than enough violence from the Angels and wanted to call it a night. And the couple they had come with had already left. But Hunter wanted to stick it out. He went back to his car to get a gun he kept in there to “scare off the Hell’s Angels,” in his words. Now anybody that thinks one guy with a gun is going to “scare off” an army of Hell’s Angels is either nuts or suicidal.

There were multiple reasons why Altamont went wrong. Probably the biggest reason was the “Woodstock myth.” This big myth that came out of Woodstock. That in spite of the rain and the massive overload of people and the equally massive shortage of every kind of supplies, the concert still worked because of the magic of hippie peace and love and psychedelic good vibes. In fact, Woodstock could have ended up as just a big a disaster as Altamont if the two promoters — who had never even put on a concert before — hadn’t realized the potential disaster they were facing. And started writing out checks left and right for hundreds of thousands of dollars to stave off — and just barely — all the desperate problems they were facing one after another.

THAT’S what saved Woodstock. Not hippie good vibes.

And it took the two promoters decades before they were finally able to work themselves out of debt from the Woodstock debacle.

You can even hear Jagger on stage — as the Angels are slaughtering people — appealing to hippie good vibes to save the day. “Brothers and sisters if we’re all one then let’s show it.” Unfortunately the Hell’s Angels didn’t get a contact high from Mick’s rap.

For the genesis of the Altamont tragedy you have to go back about 4 years to the idiot Ken Kesey. It’s hard to know what Ken Kesey was thinking — or if “thinking” is even the operative word to describe the processes that were going on in Ken Kesey’s brain — when he invited the Hell’s Angels to take part in his his Acid Tests. But to “invite” the likes of the Hell’s Angels into your world makes about as much sense as inviting a pack of sharks to a feeding frenzy.

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Keep in mind, back in The Sixties, a certain faction of the hippie counterculture had a rather romanticized view of the Hell’s Angels. They looked at the Angels as outlaws (as opposed to criminals), righteous rebels and free spirits who were rebelling against the uptight mainstream American culture. Sort of Jack Kerouacs on motorcycles. . . . And an ivory tower intellectual like Kesey (which is what he was at that point) had even more of a delusional view of the Hell’s Angels, and of “the streets” in general. And Ken Kesey — as one of the great vain/glorious proselytizers of LSD — also wanted to use the Hell’s Angels as an example of the great spiritually transformative powers of LSD. Why, LSD could even transform those cro-magnon cavemen like the Hell’s Angels into mystic shamans. . . . Well . . Not quite..
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From Kesey, the Hell’s Angels were able to inveigle their way into the Grateful Dead’s scene. And the Dead were too much passive go-with-the-flow hippies to stand up to the Hell’s Angels (as well as being scared of them). . . And from there it was a short step to Altamont. . . People criticize the Rolling Stones for the long wait before they finally took the stage — which added greatly to the ugly mood at the time. And many chalked this up to the Stones ego, wanting to wait for nightfall to make for a really groovy backdrop to their “Gimme Shelter” movie. In fact, the long break between bands was because the Grateful Dead — who were slotted to play during that period — chickened out and refused to play. The only band to do so. . . Crosby, Still, Nash and Young (who were performing as a personal favor to Jerry Garcia who asked them to play at the festival) had the balls to take the stage. Even though Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane had previously been knocked out be a Hell’s Angel, and the bands on stage were just as vulnerable to violence as the people in the crowd. . . Let’s just say it wasn’t the Grateful Dead’s finest hour, even as they were as much responsible for the Hell’s Angles being at Altamont as anybody. The Grateful Dead were the ones who recommended the Angels work security to the Stones in the first place, after all..
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Overall the book is a pretty good read with some new tidbits of information on a well-worn story. Like, George Lucas — who later went on to do Star Wars — was part of the film crew at Altamont. And Chip Monck — the guy who built the 3-foot tall stage on a day’s notice and also was one of the stars at Woodstock — was the last victim of the violence at Altamont. The day after the show when they’re packing up Monck tried to prevent the Hell’s Angels from stealing the Rolling Stones’s rug that they used to cover the stage and got whacked in the face with a pool cue, losing most of his front teeth. And in a hilarious aside, the San Francisco Examiner gave a glowing front-page review of the show the next day. “300,000 SAY IT WITH MUSIC,” blared the headlines, and they likened the peaceful good vibes that allegedly abounded at the show to a Woodstock West. Ha ha. There’s some first-rate reporting for you!

The book goes into more detail about the life of Meredith Hunter than most of the other accounts. His mother was black and suffered from serious mental problems. His father was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian who left when Hunter was 1, never to return. Hunter was mostly raised by his older sister. Hunter got locked up in juvenile hall for the first time when he was 11 and spent much of his teen years in and out of juvie — mostly for burglary and petty crimes. He was high on methamphetamines at Altamount and his autopsy revealed fresh track marks on his arms — which might explain his overly confident manner towards the Hell’s Angels.

In another twist it turned out Marty Balin was actually long-time friends with the Hell’s Angel — Animal — who knocked him out. But after Altamont the Jefferson Airplane severed all ties with the Angels. Jerry Garcia however continued to be friends with the Angels and kept on hiring them to work security at his shows.

The book seems pretty well researched, aside from one glaring error. The author claims it was Jorma Kaukonen who angrily confronted the Angels from the stage after Marty Balin got knocked out. When it was famously the other Airplane guitarist, Paul Kantner, in one of the more dramatic scenes in the GIMME SHELTER movie.

The book also confirms a long-standing rumor that the Angels put out a contract on Mick Jagger’s life (long denied by Sonny Barger: “If the Angels had wanted Jagger dead he wouldn’t be walking on the earth right now.”). The author claims there were two bungled assassination attempts on Jagger’s life. And that Jagger ultimately paid the Angels $50,000 to get them off his back (which covered the legal fees of the Angel who stabbed Hunter — he ended up acquitted by the way.

After the show Keith Richards was the most furious at Rock Scully, the Grateful Dead’s manager. Scully had visited the Stones in London as an emissary of the Dead. And in between smoking joints and snorts of Nembutal with Richards, Scully had recommended the Angels for security. “If Rock Scully don’t know any more about things like that, man, to think the Angels are — what did he say? Honor and dignity?” Richards fumed. “Yeah man he’s just a childish romantic. The Hell’s Angels are homicidal maniacs and should all be in jail!!”

 

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16 ALBUMS THAT WERE SIGNIFICANT TO ME

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1.) Its impossible for me to even think about my “favorite” albums. So off the top of my head I came up with 16 albums that were significant to me at different points in my life.

This one by the Union Gap was significant because it was the FIRST album I ever bought. 1968, age 12. I was always a sucker for a cornball unrequited love song. Even at age 12. And the Woman Woman single delivered. The rest of the album was just filler, cheesy cover songs. Though one song had a bit of an edge to it — You Better Sit Down Kids, originally by Sonny & Cher — which is about a parent trying to explain to the kids that Mom and Dad were about to get divorced.

The second album I bought was I’m Getting Closer to My Home by Grand Funk Railroad (everybody sing). Followed by the White Album by them Beatles. And then Led Zeppelin 3.

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.Eat_a_Peach_(James_Flournoy_Holmes_album_-_cover_art).jpg2.) This one — Eat a Peach by the Allman Brothers — was significant to me because it was playing over and over at the first “pot party” I ever went to, age 16. Smoking pot from this big water pipe. And it was exciting and dangerous because I was taking that first outlaw step into the “world of drugs.” And i specifically remember grooving on the great guitar lick on One Way Out.

Later that summer (1973) me and my stoner buddies would go to see the Allman Brothers (and the Band and the Grateful Dead) at the Watkins Glenn rock festival. It was even bigger than Woodstock (at least in attendance). And we would go down in history as the Watkins Glenn Generation, man!!

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.220px-Trilogy_(Emerson,_Lake_&_Palmer_album_-_cover_art).jpg3.) This is another one I really got into when I was a 16 year old pothead. Trilogy by Emerson, Lake and Palmer. I used to get way stoned, man, and have all sorts of profound revelations listening to this one.

This album was the first time I made the connection: “Oh I get it. These guys are artists and they’re expressing their souls with concepts and shit.” Before that i just considered it rock’n’roll. It was like Art For Tots. Prog Rock as it was called back in the day. But we all just called it Stoner Rock.

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4.) This one, Red Rose Speedway, is probably not one of McCartney’s better albums (Paul himself said “I can’t stand it!”). And there’s an unfinished, half-ass quality to a lot of the songs. But there’s one song — Little Lamb Dragonfly — that got me where I lived. I was 17 and really falling in love for the first time. And wouldn’t you know it?? It done didn’t work out. So I played that heartbreak song about a thousand times in a row to try and assuage my sad-sack teenage heart.

I wanted this album so bad I actually tried to shoplift it from the local mall. And got busted. Talk about embarrassing. What a way to start a life of crime. Trying to shoplift a sappy Paul McCartney album. Sheesh.

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.5.) This was another favorite my senior year of high school (Class of 74 for those of you keeping score at home). Goat’s Head Soup. Probably not the Rolling Stones’ best album. But we used to like to get really stoned and drunk and drive around the streets of suburban New Jersey in my friend’s Ford Maverick and listen to the 8-track cassette of this album and scream out the lyrics “STAR FUCKER STAR FUCKER STAR FUCKER STAR FUCKER STAAAAAAR!!!” at the top of our teenage lungs. Rock’n’roll ya pukes. Plus. The tender ballad Angie.

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.Rundgren_wizard.png6.) This one — A Wizard A True Star — was one of my favorites when I turned into a budding 17 year old acidhead. It was like a psychedelic concept album. And when you listened to it on acid it had all sorts of cosmic ramifications. It was 1974 and it was like my own personal Sgt Pepper album 7 years too late. International Feel. Cosmic, man. I’m seeing tracers!

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.220px-MahavishnuOrchestraBirdsOfFirealbumcover.jpg7.) This was the last album I really got into my senior year in high school. Birds of Fire by John McGlaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I was starting to get arty and develop my spiritual seeker / spiritual cripple side. And this album filled the bill.

Its the only “jazz” album I ever really got into. But to me it was more like a heavy metal album if the heavy metal musicians happened to be really really brilliant musicians. Intense, man!

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.The-Moody-Blues-This-Is-The-Moody-Blues-MB-12-LP-Vinyl-Record-281317360598.jpg8.) In 1974 I spent my freshmen year going to this little college outside Cleveland. One weekend I hitch-hiked to Ohio State to visit a high school buddy of mine who was going to school there. On the ride home I got picked up by this old (he was in his late 20s) hippie acidhead from the ’60s generation.

By this point I had become fascinated with all things LSD. And was convinced it was the key to spiritual enlightenment, if I could only figure out how to use it. And this guy seemed to know the secret. As we passed a pipe full of pot back and forth, and I got more and more buzzed, he told me about his experiences as a ’60s acid dealer. He, too, thought that LSD was a powerful spiritual tool. “But the problem was I would get high but I would always come down. I wanted to BE high, not get high.”

And then he got busted for dealing acid and did serious time in the joint. “But then I discovered this guy Ram Dass. He had been Leary’s partner in the LSD research at Harvard. And then later found an Indian Guru who showed him the way. So I started meditating like 10 hours a day in my cell. By the time they released me from prison I almost didn’t want to leave. I was high as a kite.” And I was getting a major contact high just from listening to him.

As he dropped me off near my dorm he recommended I check out Ram Dass’s book Be Here Now. “And check out the music of the Moody Blues. They sing about real love.”

Well sir, the next day I did buy Be Here Now. And this double-album of the Moody Blue’s greatest hits, This is the Moody Blues. And spent many many nights listening to it in search of the lost chord.

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Honky Tonk Woman

 

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Crumb tells a hilarious “Honky Tonk Woman” story. It’s the summer of ’69. And Crumb — the great hippie countercultural hero — has fled the debacle that the Haight Ashbury has turned into at that point. And he’s living at some half-assed hippie commune in rural California. Trying to “get back to Nature.” That bit.

And the release of a new Rolling Stones single was considered a major event at that point. 1969. These 60s rock stars were considered great visionaries at that point. They were the leaders of the cultural revolution. And every new Beatles or Stones single was a matter of great import.

And these hippies had just scored a copy of the just released “Honky Tonk Woman” single. So they brought it to the hippie commune where Crumb was living. And everyone in the commune gathered around. And they played it over and over — at least 20 times in a row. Much to Crumb’s chagrin. Earnestly discussing the profound meanings of the song, trying to decipher the exact meanings of this cutting-edge communique from the great cultural visionaries that were the Rolling Stones.

So Crumb has to sit there and listen to these stupid, naive, 20 year old hippies — at this half-assed hippie commune that he was living at in 1969 — that would collapse shortly after. Going on and on about this incredibly important new Rolling Stones single. “Honky Tonk Woman ”

But Crumb would get the last laugh. Mick Jagger would later ask Crumb to draw a cover for the next Rolling Stones album.
Something really hip. Like what he drew for the Janis Joplin album cover.

Crumb turned the Stones down flat. Crumb HATED the Rolling Stones.

After being forced to listen to “Honky Tonk Woman” 20 times in a row in a half-assed hippie commune in 1969? Can you blame him??17203146_1841502202533981_5003140595067119367_n.jpg

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“Dead Flowers” by Ace Backwords

 
 
 
 
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Ace Backwords jams out a quick version of “Come Together” on his cheap-ass 60 dollar cellphone.
 
 
 
   
 
 
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Ace Backwords hacks out a quick version of a Stones song on his cheap-ass cellphone.