Thursday, November 20, 2008

Music for our times...

The image of the Big Three CEOs flying their own private jets to D.C. (strange how the idea of jetpooling never crossed their minds) to beg for federal money somehow makes me think of an influential album released 40 years ago.

I'm speaking of Beggars Banquet by the Stones. If there's any beggars attending any banquets, it would be CEOs who know how to beg for cash like the best of the bums.

So with the image of fat cats sitting on leather seats in the privacy of their own jets in mind, let's take a look at how beggars fared at the banquet 40 years ago...

The first thing you realize as you listen to the songs on the album is that Beggars Banquet is unbelievably timely, in spite of its age. It opens with a bang: Sympathy for the Devil, a song about Lucifer, the Devil, a song loaded with a history of violence and rage. It was a song played during their Altamount concert, where a man was stabbed after he had pulled out a gun (though not necessarily played at the precise moment of the murder.)

With lyrics that cover the blitzkrieg, the assassination of the Kennedys, the murder of the Romanovs and the doubt of Jesus, it offers a timeless glimpse into the greed, hatred and misery that has been around for a long long year.

And I think these days, the nature of the game still has most of us puzzled.

Sympathy for the Devil segues immediately into No Expectations - with lyrics many can relate to today: Once I was a rich man and now I am so poor.

Later, we hear Mick singing songs about a tramp sittin' on my doorstep and strange stray cats and about how the famine swept the land - providing stark images of isolation and darkness.

The album also includes the Stones' rousing anthem to political upheaval Street Fighting Man and ends with an ode to The Salt of the Earth.

The ten songs on Beggars Banquet offer a stripped down honesty in the lyrics and some of the best rock 'n roll music ever laid down on tape, fusing blues and rock in a way that seems as fresh today as it was back when it was played for the first time.

1968, the year this album was released, was the year we lost Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy; it was the year the city of Chicago waged war on the protesters who came to the Democratic Convention; it was the year Nixon became our president.

It is remarkable that something released 40 years ago at the height of the violence of the 60s is so relevant today.

Great art is timeless. So let's hoist a few and celebrate the auditory banquet offered by the Stones so many years ago.

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Lets drink to the salt of the earth

1 comment:

Cindy Fey said...

I have to say I prefer Exile on Main Street, but Salt of the Earth is one great song.