The Beatles are often cited as the godfathers of modern rock and roll.
No argument there. But it was The Rolling Stones who proved rock could age gracefully.
When the Fab Four splintered at the dawn of the 1970s, their friendly rivals in the Stones were just getting started. Now, forty-five years on (and over a half-century since their formation), they’re still going—with at least three core members—selling out stadiums across America on their Zip Code Tour.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have seen (and done) it all since the early ‘60s, veering from white-boy blues to psychedelic songs with brooding guitarist Brian Jones. There were shake-ups, drug busts, and the debacle at Altamont—but for every bump in the road there was a timeless classic like “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday,” and “Start Me Up.” Not to mention their thousands of memorable concerts.
They indulged a little glam and borrowed from disco (“Shattered,” “Miss You”) and embraced high-polished ‘80s rock (“Undercover of the Night,” “Harlem Shuffle”), evolving with the times while simultaneously influencing a younger generation of rockers—and another, so pervasively purging (or at least suppressing) the booze and drugs from their systems that Richards has become the model for musical survival and stamina rather than poster boy for self-destruction.
Is rock and roll a young man’s game? We’re sure Jagger and company would beg to differ. While creativity may favor musicians in their teens and twenties, bands like the Stones, Rush, Moody Blues, Chicago, and Yes have demonstrated over the course of five decades that able-bodied rockers will keep plugging in as long as ticket-buyers are shelling out.
And in many cases (certainly for those aforementioned groups) rock’s elder statesman are still very good at what they do. Perform the same songs night after night year after year, and they become second nature. Play tighter, or perhaps with more feel, but better—and paying crowds won’t care whether your hair is grey or thinning, or that you’ve put on some weight since the last hit record. They have, too, after all.
So bravo, Stones. And kudos, Keith, for effectively telling the “the man” he have your guitar only when he pries it from your cold, dead hands.
That said, it’s nice to look back, particularly when there’s so much time (and a trove of tunage) to look back on. And there’s certainly no shortage of material in the Stones’ archives.
Now available on Eagle Rock, From the Vault: The Marquee—Live in 1971, turns the clock all back to the eve of Sticky Fingers’ release and the Stones relocation to France as tax exiles. Available in several formats (CD + DVD, vinyl, etc.), The Marquee captures Mick and the boys at a transformative crux: They’d proven themselves capable of musical metamorphosis with Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, and—with a kiss-off to the U.K.—were recovering rapidly from the emotional blow of Jones’ untimely death.
Returning to the legendary London nightclub (where they’d played some seven years prior) for an intimate, shot-for-television one-off gig, the Stones are in high gear on Oxford Street as they tear through eight cuts (half old, half brand new) whose potent mix of R&B, funk, and balls-out rock more or less exemplifies what they’re all about.
Clad in purple pants and a gold glitter half-jacket, Jagger audits his nasty habits on “Live With Me” as a razor-stubbled Richards tickles his translucent Dan Armstrong guitar. New tracks “Dead Flowers” and “I Got the Blues” find baby-faced newcomer Mick Taylor assuming the brunt of the guitar work on a Gibson SG as long-haired Charlie Watts keeps time behind his kit and bassist Bill Wyman looks bored as ever (but nonetheless nailing his subtly sophisticated grooves).
Is Richards inebriated? Maybe. Probably. But who cares? Mick takes a belt of booze between takes himself between takes, too, reveling in a run through Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock” and Let It Bleed mainstay “Midnight Rambler,” whereon he prances unwinds his microphone cord around its stand to take a couple wicked harmonica solos. Watts breaks down the beat to a whisper, allowing Jagger some scat space—then builds back up as Taylor explores pentatonic scales.
Keith removes the capo from his see-through guitar for 1965 single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Wyman keeps thumping as Jagger flutters, and Watts is seen employing the traditional grip of a seasoned jazz man on his snare and cymbals. Richards puffs a cig on urgent new “Bitch” and lascivious, soon-to-be classic “Brown Sugar,” already looking like an unruly older brother to Taylor’s cherub rocker.
Band cofounder / keyboardist Ian Stewart shines, his piano adding a bit of honkytonk to “I Got the Blues.” Jim Price and (recently deceased) Bobby Keys lend Stax appeal with soulful trumpet and sax on “Live With Me” and “Satisfaction.” Indeed, Keys features as prominently here as either of the two guitarists, his horn-playing charging the songs with just the right amount of color and muscle.
The video quality is impeccable, given that the source reels are older even than we are: No graininess or pixilation issues here. Clocking in at about an hour, it’s a crystal-clear dose of Stones that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
That said, we were left scratching our heads over the acoustic guitar that never gets taken from its stand behind Richards: Nothing is omitted on the DVD and CD, so it’s not as if Keith did an unplugged “Wild Horses” that didn’t make the final cut.
Bonus features include alternate Marquee versions of “Blues” and “Bitch,” plus a TV studio performance of “Brown Sugar” from a contemporaneous episode of Top of The Pops (with Jagger flitting about in a pink satin suit and rainbow ball cap). The on-board CD contains all versions of every song, as expertly mixed (for stereo and 5.1 surround sound) by Bob Clearmountain, and makes a fine addition to the lapping-tongue library of any self-respective Stones audiophile.
Live at The Marquee is the latest in an ongoing series of Rolling Stones: Live From the Vault titles being issued by Eagle Rock (previous entries include Hampton Coliseum 1981 and L.A. Forum 1975). Other popular Stones-related discs include Ladies and Gentlemen…The Rolling Stones (Texas 1972), Some Girls: Live in Texas (1978), That Sweet Summer Sun (Hyde Park 2013), and the acclaimed Brett Morgan-directed documentary Crossfire Hurricane.
The Rolling Stones From the Vault: The Marquee—Live in 1971 available now at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/p8b9onq