Friday, December 12, 2008

Life According to the Rolling Stones

by Lisa Curry

In 1979 when I was 16 years old, I had a boyfriend who turned me on to the Rolling Stones. His little green Datsun had a kick-ass stereo system, on which we listened to his Some Girls cassette – and the next year when it was released, my Emotional Rescue cassette.

By 1981 when I went to college, that boyfriend was a distant memory, but I still loved the Stones. So did the girl who lived in the dorm room across the hall from mine. Beth and I forged a lifelong friendship while blasting the Tattoo You album on her stereo turntable, singing “Little T&A” along with Keith Richards into curling-iron microphones while dancing on a coffee table borrowed from the lounge at the end of our dorm floor.

I’ve seen the Rolling Stones in concert twice, at Georgia Tech’s stadium in Atlanta in 1989 on the Steel Wheels tour and in PNC Park in Pittsburgh in 2005 on the Bigger Bang tour. Both times I paid what I considered an exorbitant sum for tickets – $75 in 1989 and $200 in 2005 – but in hindsight, I never regretted having paid that much. After the births of my children, those two concerts rank highest on the list of most happily memorable occasions of my life.

A few years ago, when I worked at a municipal TV station, my boss – not a Stones fan – was choosing background music for the local high school football team’s annual highlights video. I told him to put some Stones on there for me. He said there wasn’t any Stones song that had a beat, tempo and lyrics that were suitable for football.

I said, “Jim, there’s a Rolling Stones song appropriate for any occasion. Let me think about it for a little while, and I’ll come up with one for you.”

So I thought about it, and sure enough, I hit upon, “You Got Me Rockin’,” off the Voodoo Lounge album, which has just the right driving beat and even the perfect lyrics for a come-back-from-behind football moment.

That same year at my husband’s company Christmas party, the DJ was playing what I considered a dreadful variety of music, so I asked him to play some Stones. He said he would, but he didn’t. When I asked, an hour later, what had happened to my Stones, he said people were dancing, and you couldn’t dance to the Rolling Stones.

I said, with all the semi-intoxicated dignity I could muster, “Young man, there is a Rolling Stones song appropriate for any occasion. Let me see what CDs you have, and I’ll find one for you.”

The only Stones CD he had was Steel Wheels, but I looked at the play list, and sure enough, there was the perfect song for dancing, “Mixed Emotions.” He rolled his eyes but played it, and even more people danced to it than had danced to his dreadful pop tunes.

I’m convinced there really is a Rolling Stones song appropriate for every occasion. I use them all the time in child rearing.

There’s the obvious favorite for the whiney child who wants everything he sees. I’ve been known to belt out in my best Mick Jagger impersonation in the toy department at Target, “You can’t always get what you wa-a-a-a-nt…”

For the child who can’t make a decision, there’s a perfect line from “Mixed Emotions”: “Get off the fence now. It’s creasing your butt.” I’ve also been known to use that one on myself on occasion.

For rousting the children out of bed for school in the morning, I like a stanza from “Hold on to Your Hat” from Steel Wheels.

“Get out of that bed, get out of the sack, don’t you give me no lip, don’t you give me no crap.”

When my firstborn, Griffin, was about four, he wanted to go to church, so I took him to St. Catherine’s on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. On the way home, he asked me who St. Peter and St. Paul were. St. Peter was easy to explain, because I always liked him. St. Paul, on the other hand, always struck me as a rather prickly saint. But I had a moment of inspiration and said, “Here, let the Stones explain it.” I slipped the Bridges to Babylon disc in the CD player and advanced to “You’ll Never Make a Saint of Me.”

“St. Paul the persecutor was a cruel and sinful man. Jesus hit him with a blinding light, and then his life began.”

Griffin yammered about St. Paul the “serpecutor” to anyone who would listen for the next two weeks, and to this day, he still says goodnight to St. Paul as part of his nightly bedtime prayers.

Religious education according to the Rolling Stones – you gotta love it.

I’ll admit that there have been times when I couldn’t think of an appropriate Rolling Stones song for an occasion. But you can always improvise. When Griffin was born, I became aware quickly just how many lullabies I didn’t know. You can only sing “Rockabye Baby” so many times before you think you’re going to lose your mind. So I cast about for songs I did know the words to. The one that came to mind was that old college favorite, “Little T&A.” Neither the beat nor the lyrics were appropriate. But a week-old infant is like a dog in that it’s not what you say but how you say it that matters. The same goes for singing.

Yes, I admit it – I crooned, “She’s my little rock and roll, my tits and ass with soul baby,” to my week-old son in my best lullaby voice.

He’s eleven now and doesn’t seem any worse off for the experience. And I really think Keith Richards would have enjoyed it.

Life according to the Rolling Stones has gone pretty well for me for the past thirty years. The Stones are as old as my dad, but they still rock, and if I have the opportunity, I’m sure I’ll pay an outrageous sum again to see them perform live in concert one more time.

I’ll leave you with a link to one of my many favorites of their songs.

So tell me, what’s the music that’s defined your life?


Joyce said...

Well, since I was a teen in the 70s, just about anything from that era--good or bad--makes me smile. I LOVE listening to the 70s at 7 on a local station every evening.

A night doesn't go by without my son Josh saying, "What the hell are you listening to?" in a tone that only 20 year olds can get away with.

It's the only time you'll hear "Me And You And a Dog Named Boo" back to back with one of Lisa's favorites from the Rolling Stones. Or something by the Partridge Family followed by Donna Summer belting out "Bad Girls."

Toot-toot, hey, beep-beep.

Annette said...

I think Joyce and I have the same soundtrack.

One of my earliest memories is of my cousin/pseudo-sister Patty, who is eleven years older than I, teaching me to dance to Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown and Satisfaction when I was maybe five years old.

And I must add the Beatles and the Bee Gees to my play list of life.

Joyce said...

I never cared much for the Beatles, but I love the Bee Gees.

Is anyone else trying to win tickets to the Fleetwood Mac concert? We're broke after seeing The Eagles last month. Now, that was a GREAT concert.

Gina said...

My band of choice is the Doors -- Jim Morrison's lyrics resonate with me emotionally, especially combined with Ray Manzarek's other-worldly organ and Robby Krieger's virtuoso guitar.

I've never been much of a Stones fan, but I do think the best use of contemporary music in a movie is the scene in the Big Chill when someone plays You Can't Always Get What You Want on the organ at a funeral.

lisa curry said...

Gina, your mention of the use of that Stones song in The Big Chill reminded me of a great use of a Stones song in television. Every episode of The Sopranos ended with a song, and my favorite was when Tony was thinking about his best friend, who was ratting him out to the FBI and whom he iced as a result, and they played "Thru and Thru," sung by Keith Richards on the Voodoo Lounge CD. It was the perfect song, not because of the lyrics, but more because of the rather haunting mood and melody. Sends chills down my spine every time I think about it!