THE ROLLING STONES have finished out 1978, the annus mirabilis of Some Girls and the amazing bootleg Out On Bail, with an interesting snatch of new material: "Everything is Turning to Gold," the B side to the "Shattered" single, and a new single from lead guitarist Keith Richards. Generally good, but good or bad, still the Stones, and so far better than the welter of nugatory bilge they waste vinyl on nowadays.
The Stones have always been more of an album-oriented band--the classic Exile on Main Street, probably their finest, produced only one top twenty hit ("Tumbling Dice") from eighteen songs. And although "Honky Tonk Women" remains the prototype for a rock'n'roll 45, singles for the Stones have always been throwaways.
Now, with a wealth of new stuff that couldn't fit on Some Girls languishing on tape somewhere, facing an unfamiliar time urgency (Billy Wyman is 42 and Keith Moon is dead) and a new solo ambition on Richards' part, the Stones have turned to the single as a way to introduce fresh music without the agony of launching an album piggyback on Some Girls. More can probably be expected in the new year.
"Everything is Turning to Gold" offers the same delights as Some Girls: the sinuous harmonica of the previously anonymous Sugar Blue, a rejuvenated Mick Jagger, and an astounding Charlie Watts, the once and future King of the Skins. Characterized by the savage disco backbeat that marked the Some Girls dancing cuts and a tongue-in-cheek Motown chorus, the song also echoes the Goat's Head Soup album, particularly "Dancing with Mr. D." The theme, however, is unmistakably Some Girls--Bianca in particular:
Who cares if your love's gone cold
My love's in someone else's home.
Better left off the album, but a good B side, a good tune.
Richards' single draws on two sources: Chuck Berry and Jimmy Cliff. The A side, "Run, Rudolph, Run," an old Johnny Marks-Marvin Brodie song once recorded by Berry, sounds exactly like "Roll Over Beethoven." Richards taught Harrison the lead to that one, and he's had fifteen years to brush it up. The result, predictably, is wonderful. Richards used to reject solo offers, saying the music would just come out like the Stones minus Mick. Maybe so, but who cares? Based on this cut and a handful of earlier efforts, we can only view Richards' recently publicized willingness to form his own band with eager anticipation.
Jimmy Cliff's "The Harder They Come," done by Richards on the B side, suffers from a lack of sincerity. As Jagger told Chet Flippo, "It's the attitude." Precisely; that goes for reggae as well as rock. God knows Richards has smoked enough ganja to earn his dreadlocks. But reggae is an indigenous form. Richards grew up in Kent, not Kingston, and his reggae, though technically admirable, is obviously affected. Add to this the suspicion that Richards, who tends to self-pity, is trying to identify his fiasco in Canada with the dilemma of Cliff and other reggae artists:
Well the oppressors are trying to keep me down
Trying to drive me underground.
Oh, come on, Keef.
"WHEN I'M 33, I quit," Jagger said in 1972. "I don't want to be a rock'n'roll singer all my life. I couldn't bear to end up like Elvis Presley and sing in Las Vegas with all those housewives and old ladies coming in with their handbags." Jagger is 35 now--but these last tracks are like the last highly resinated hits my friends tell me they enjoy just before their dope is played. Set your turntable on 45 and do 'em up.
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