For this week’s column, I had to make a difficult choice between two high-profile subjects: David Petraeus, a retired four-star general and former director of the CIA, and the Rolling Stones, a template for rock ‘n’ roll longevity.
Because Petraeus is currently involved in a scandal of the highest order, and the primetime media will rehash it to the extent that you won’t know where the lies end and the truth begins, I opted for the Stones.
The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," for the first time Feb. 9, 1964.
Eight months later, Oct. 25, 1964, the Rolling Stones appeared for the first time on the iconic show, watched nearly every Sunday evening by practically every American family fortunate enough to own a TV set.
Though many bands would follow and add to the cadre – the Dave Clark Five, the Animals, the Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits, etc. – it was, in my opinion, their appearances that officially launched the British Invasion, which not only affected popular music, but trend and culture, as well.
Further, it was The Beatles' contrast with the Stones that piqued the interest of many – Ali versus Frazier, you might say.
Whereas The Beatles routinely dressed in matching dark suits, white shirts and dark ties, the Stones were a kaleidoscope of fashion. For example, lead vocalist Mick Jagger would be wailing into the microphone, wild-eyed, wearing a polka-dotted tie and a paisley shirt, with Brian Jones in the background playing a sitar, wearing a Nehru jacket.
Accordingly, their music contrasted as well.
During those early years, The Beatles wrote and played pleasing, word-catching melodies, while the Stones had a tendency to be more hedonistically raw, grinding out suggestive, bluesy tunes. A good example is the hit “She Loves You” as compared to the Stones’ hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
I do remember when I first started listening to the Stones around 1965. It was their blues tunes I enjoyed the most. One of my favorites was their recording of “Little Red Rooster.”
However, a few years later, I felt a bit on the naïve side because I learned that a majority of the blues tunes the Stones played and recorded hadn’t been written by any its members. Instead, they’d been written by black American artists, such as Willie Dixon, Howling Wolf, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters.
In fact, legend has it that the Stones named their band after a Muddy Waters-penned song, titled “Rollin’ Stone.”
Looking back on it, the Stones played a major role in turning me on to the "black man’s" blues.
I won’t go so far as to say I would not ever have listened to the genre if it hadn’t been for the Stones, but I will say they helped expedite my association with, and appreciation of, the same.
"Crossfire Hurricane," a documentary on the Stones, was scheduled to premiere Tuesday on the HBO Channel. I’m confident, though, it will rerun for quite some time to give all those interested an opportunity to enjoy it.
As far as I’m concerned, the Stones are the “Jumping Jack Flashes” of rock ‘n’ roll. While many successful artists are retired by age 50, Mick and the boys continue to perform live and jump around on stage decades after they first formed the band.
As long as they have some gas, the cameras will continue to flash.