Friday, April 9, 2010

Forget WHO Are You ... WHY Are You ...?

This morning's rainy run: 6.29 miles at a 9:05 pace.
In early 1967, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones were arrested on drug charges at the former's home, Redlands. This is perhaps one of the most infamous drug busts of all times, for a variety of reasons, the most prurient of which is that 21-year-old Marianne Faithful, who was Jagger's girlfriend at the time and was present in the house at the time of the arrest, was, when the police arrived, alleged to be wearing nothing but a fur rug while Jagger indulged his sweet tooth by eating a Mars bar from ... well, for the sake of April and Gentility, let's just say "from a female orifice not typically used as a candy-holder" (unless you're into that kind of thing). The "Mars Bar Incident" was, of course, entirely false. This lie could have been worse; they could have said it was a Three Musketeers bar which might have made the whole incident technically a weird ménage à cinq.

Not so "Faithful" now, are we Marianne?

The bust was led by one Sgt. Norman Pilcher, who gained fame in the mid- and late-1960s by targeting rock stars for drug arrests; he was not, it should come as no surprise, above planting the drugs at the "crime scenes" when no drugs were found; deliberately falsifying crimes scenes to take down leaders of the counter-culture was a not atypical tactic in the 1960s and 1970s. (It was Pilcher's arrest of John Lennon in 1968 that ultimately resulted in Lennon's years-long green card woes in the US in the 1970s and led to the Nixon administration's decision to spy on Lennon for years. In the government files on Lennon, FBI agents would typically put scare quotes around the words "rock concert", evidently believing these "rock concerts" were actually something other than rock concerts, though it is not clear exactly what they thought them to be.) Pilcher was ultimately sent to jail for four years after being convicted of "conspiracy to pervert the course of justice". Some have claimed that the "semolina pilchard, climbing up the Eiffel Tower" in John's "I Am the Walrus" was a dig at Sgt. Pilcher — Take THAT, Nobby Norman! — but this is unlikely because Lennon was not arrested by Pilcher until October 1968 and "IAtW" was recorded in late 1967.

The sentences meted out to Jagger and Richard for their arrest were so egregiously harsh — Jagger got three months and Richards got a full year — that even the Times of London was outraged and published their famous "Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?" editorial denouncing the sentences.

Also outraged by these sentences: One Peter Townshend, guitarist and main songwriter for The Who. So outraged, in fact, that he threatened to stop recording Who songs and release nothing but Rolling Stones covers until Jagger and Richards were released. This was a very magnanimous gesture of solidarity on the part of Pete, but it was also a sad day indeed for Rock 'n' Roll because The Who were a great Rock 'n' Roll band (better than the Stones, in my opinion), but they were a very different band form the Stones. And the two Who covers of Stones songs are absolutely dismal. Just painfully bad. Don't take my word for it; listen for yourself:

Am I right or am I right? The flip side on the 45 of this Crime Against Music is "The Last Time", and it is equally bad. Pete loved the Rolling Stones and absolutely thought they were the Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band in the World, but the Who were far better at being the Who than they were at being ersatz-Rolling Stones. And thank god for that.

Mercifully, Jagger and Richards were released from jail before the Who had a chance to release another 45 of Rolling Stones covers. I would not be surprised if Mick and Keith were released for no other reason than to prevent that, although I have no hard evidence to back up this conjecture.

One good thing came out of Mick and Keith's brief time in jail — Mick's "2000 Light Years From Home", his description of the loneliness he felt while in jail, and one of the mere two decent songs on the Stones' monumentally craptacular Their Satanic Majesties Request album. (The other: "She's a Rainbow".) Just as Pete needed to learn The Who weren't the Stones, the Stones had to learn the hard way that they were not the Beatles.

Not by a long shot.
Update: Corrections to yesterday's post, in which I referred to Ian MacDonald's Revolution in the Head and claimed he accused John of "sabotaging" Paul's song "The Long and Winding Road" because of one badly-played bass note. I was making that claim based on my memory of what MacDonald wrote; today, here at the library, I have book-in-hand, and what MacDonald actually claims is that John's bass-playing on "TL&WR" is deficient throughout and that that "amounts to sabotage" — still a weird claim. He also says — direct quote — that "One can hear McCartney grin at his partner's incompetence at 1:59". I myself cannot hear all these horrible bass notes but MacDonald's hearing is so acute that he not only hears Paul grin one minute and fifty-nine seconds into the song, he can also hear, evidently, what Paul is grinning at.

Also, when MacDonald discusses "Helter Skelter", he does not, as I implied, get his chronology wrong vis-à-vis which came first, the power trio Cream or the song "Helter Skelter". He does indeed, however, use his discussion of "HS" as a platform to launch into a pretty harsh anti-metal and -power trio diatribe. Which I still find odd.


  1. Fist! (I've taken to dropping my 'r' s.)

  2. Didja hear Malcolm McLaren died? I think it was that Taiwanese kid with the bowl haircut that did it.

  3. No, I don't watch "The Office." Can't tolerate Carrell. So I didn't know the connection to the Grass Roots. That moves the show's coolness factor up to -7 from -8.

    The "That's a lot of dirt" didn't refer to the dirt on ME, though I suppose it's an understandable mistake.