Today I extend a lusty black-and-blue birthday greeting – and a bouquet of the finest dead flowers – to Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, the man who, for the past 50 years, has embodied the true spirit of rock-n-roll rebellion like no other artist. I love lots of rockers for lots of reasons, but Keith will always be my bad-boy fantasy object. “Oh, that old junkie!” you say? “How can you idolize a heroin-loving, speedball shooting hedonist who’s snorted everything from the finest cocaine to his dead dad’s ashes?” Well, if that’s all you know about the man we fans call Keef, then you don’t know diddly about the guy who can out-diddle Bo and just about everyone else when it comes to jamming out distinctive guitar licks. Here’s my tribute to the seemingly indestructible Mr. Richards.
Early in my courtship with my future husband, a secular Jew, I asked, “What’s all this stuff about ‘Jews for Jesus’? Are there really Jews who worship Christ?” To which he answered, “Of course not. ‘Jews for Jesus’ is just a bunch of meshuggah Christians trying to convert Jews to Christianity.” This evangelical sect claims to promote awareness of the Jewish heritage of the Christian faith. Their mission is “to make the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to Jewish people worldwide.” Hmmm. An unavoidable issue. Sounds like a load of dreck, to me. But, what then do we make of Jews for Baby Jesus? You know – those members of the Tribe of Judah who have written or recorded some of the world’s most beloved songs celebrating the season of Christ’s birth. Take Bob Dylan, for example….
When The Rolling Stones released the album “Their Satanic Majesties Request” in December 1967, they probably never imagined their oft-busted lead singer would one day hobnob with majesties of a very different sort. Ah, but rock-n-roll is an ever-evolving beast of beauty. And so it went that 35 years later – on December 12, 2003 – Mick Jagger was knighted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales for “services to music,” despite the fact that Queen Elizabeth II never cared for the singing, swinging sexpot and his liaisons with her libertine sister Princess Margaret.
Okay, Rudolph, you’ve gone down in history with that song of yours. And for what? Selling out! So you were born with a shiny red schnoz and had the misfortune of living in a frozen polar ice cap with no access to a plastic surgeon or electrician. And all those big-antlered reindeer jocks and their patent-leather-hoofed cheerleader girlfriends called you names and shunned you because of it. I know, I know…it hurts to be the last one picked for the volleyball team. Bullying sucks. But, Rudolph, you copped out and allowed those conformist reindeer snobs to welcome you into their clique only after you bailed Santa’s ass out of trouble. Man, you should have had more self-respect than that!
Each year on the anniversary of John Lennon’s death, his son Julian thanks his Facebook followers for their heartfelt condolences, and asks them to buck up, remember the good times, and not wallow in sadness. Right on, Jules. Even though I shed a tear each and every December 8th – the date of John’s murder in 1980 – this year I’d like to present an upbeat memorial to the man whose music changed my life. How about a little story about his influence on the city of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, where the Lennon Wall – Lennonova Zeď – stands as a symbol of freedom.
“Cold fanged anger.” That’s one of many disturbing lyrics from the Rolling Stones’ classic “Midnight Rambler.” It’s a song about a black-caped killer — a knife-sharpening hit-and-run raper who’ll smash your windows, put his fist through your door, and stick his knife right down your throat. That character sprang from the mind of Mick Jagger. And on December 6, 1969, the monster turned on its maker, turning a day of free music into a night of chaos and killing. This is the story of the murder at Altamont.
“Had me a real good time.” That’s the title of a song by the Faces, and it totally sums up my feelings every time I rock and roll to the music of that premier British bar band. Their keyboard player Ian McLagan died suddenly of a stroke yesterday at age 69. I know I refer to a lot of performers as “my favorite” this or that, but you can be certain of this: “Mac” was my favorite band keyboardist. I was thrilled to meet the charismatic musician in June 2013 after his intimate gig at The Tin Angel in Philadelphia (I even got a kiss – Ooh la la!).
It all started because Queen frontman Freddie Mercury had to go to the dentist, and his band was forced to cancel a scheduled TV appearance at the last minute. That bit of serendipity gave the U.K. public its first taste of the menace known as the Sex Pistols. On December 1, 1976, the punk rock band was summoned to the studios of Thames Television’s “Today” program, an early evening live talk show hosted by Bill Grundy. The program’s producers offered its substitute guests the customary assortment of alcoholic treats as they waited in the green room prior to air time. Big mistake. The drunk punks unleashed a torrent of expletives – infuriating scores of TV viewers. The 3-minute interview from hell ended Grundy’s career and catapulted the band to international notoriety overnight.
Picture this: Good-girl Betty meets motorcycle bad-boy Jimmy at a candy store, where he’s obviously buying candy cigarettes. He turns around and smiles at her. You get the picture? (Who knew that candy stores were such popular pick-up joints in 1964?) But is she really going out with him? Yep, the next thing you know, she takes Jimmy’s ring, wraps her legs ’round those velvet rims, and straps her hands ‘cross his engines (no, wait; that’s another song about an outcast luring a chick to his Harley). Anyway, Daddy tells her to ditch the biker. Alas, the sad, misunderstood Jimmy drives off into the sunset to crash and burn. Oh, the drama, the poignancy, the sound effects! How we all longed for a Jimmy who would self-destruct for us! Yes, folks, I’m talking about the Shangri-Las’ doomed-love classic “Leader of the Pack,” which hit the #1 spot on the Billboard charts 50 years ago today.
Today, as I give thanks for all the people, events and opportunities that have enriched my life, I would also like to acknowledge my gratitude for the cosmic forces that came together in the 20th century to create the music that saved my soul: rock and roll. I am thankful…