What follows are two quotes from a famous writer—someone whose rise to fame preceded rock—talking to an interviewer about the Stones (both quotes are from the same interview). Rather than tell you who this is and where it’s from, I’d rather let you, dear reader (??) take a guess. Perhaps it’s extremely obvious? (If you are familiar with the passages and want to spill the beans, that’s fine; there’s no special prize here for answering correctly.)
There’s something unsatisfying about Jagger. We must have listened to two hours of music. Jagger’s always promising so much more than he delivers. You know, finally he’s in a sinister bag—he is certainly of all, if we take the three, four, five, six major rock groups in the last ten years, he has been the one who was the most sinister. Yet he’s finally not terrifying…
Jagger himself, or his music?
His music. I don’t know anything about him. I think that the Beatles, you know, can hit eight bars in Sgt. Pepper that are more frightening, even though they’re not sinister. The Beatles had more of a sense of powers they could summon by playing the wrong note at a given moment. It’s as if they’re more terrified by music than Jagger. Jagger’s terribly spoiled. There’s all that muttering in the background: “Oh, no God, you won’t break this heart of stone.” What a threat. Beyond that constant dirge, beyond the throatiness which makes you think he’s riding on the rims, through all that electric masturbation, you know, all that sound of distant musketry, every drumbeat, there’s still a mountain of bullshit. It’s not getting in and saying, I’m going to kill you, motherfucker. It’s not saying, I’m here to call upon Satan. It pretends to. Some of his music I find, you know, marvelously promising. But it’s irritating as hell to listen to for two hours because you keep waiting for the great payoff, and it never comes.
But again there’s a kind of bullying that I’ve always distrusted in rock. Which is, it doesn’t take big balls to have a big electric guitar and a huge amplifying system and 50,000 American corporations that they’re all sneering at, working overtime to amplify them. You know, it’s a little bit like some politician that you despise saying, I represent the people. He only represents his power in his microphone and his media, his vested electronic office.
“Sympathy for the Devil,” I felt, was arch, and much too self-conscious. I couldn’t quite catch the words and that’s one of the things about Jagger that’s always suspect to me. When you play on the edge of the articulation of words it’s because you’re trying to do two things at once. I did hear him at one point wailing about the Russian Revolution—that the Devil was there at the planning of the Russian Revolution and, you know, that’s news. No good Christian ever thought of that before. That, I thought, was finally on the edge of the revolting. You don’t, you know, you don’t infuse a bunch of dumb, spaced-out, highly sexed working kids with a little historical culture while you’re singing. Come on! I decided Jagger must have picked up a magazine article about the Russian Revolution the day before he wrote the words. But, you know, there’s more profundity in “Eleanor Rigby” than there is in “Sympathy for the Devil.”