The other night I was watching ‘Crossfire Hurricane‘, a newly released documentary about The Rolling Stones. While the main storyline of the documentary was the story of the bands meteoric rise to fame & success in the 60s and subsequent higher status in the 1970s, I noticed, as I watched, that the underlying story brought to light, just exactly how much the Rolling Stones were the poster boys for outright Rock n’ Roll rebellion during the heydays of 1960s and 70s counter culture.
For example, in ‘Crossfire Hurricane‘ and in the ‘Charlie Is My Darling‘ documentary, footage from their 1965 tours of Ireland, UK and Europe show the band’s music being a direct nitro-fuel line for the pent up frustration and rebellion by the multitude of young men inside and outside of their concerts. In one extended clip of a gig in Ireland, the band is accosted in a rather heavy handed & bewildering way by a never-ending strea of young male teenagers jumping on the stage, hugging, grabbing, kissing and hitting the Stones’ members, who clearly have no idea of what to do or how to defend themselves. (Security personnel positioned before the front row at live shows was not the norm yet). Eventually, the 20-or-so Police officers standing off stage eventually came to their rescue (keep in mind the cops HATED the Stones and any of the new crop of long haired rockers and would sit back and watch the band suffer before actually ‘helping’), but the cops were immediately pelted with cans, bottles, garbage and just about anything else the remaining kids in the audience could get their hands on. Outside, those who could not get into the concert wreaked havoc on the cops outside, with Police dogs and horses employed to control the situation. This scenario was normal for most all of the Rolling Stones’ shows throughout 1964-1969.
So, for those of you who think the Rolling Stones are and have always been the media labeled dinosaurs making tepid rock music, please think again. The Rolling Stones WERE the original British Rock n’ Roll Rebels. Much of their 1960s material, such as ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, ‘Mothers’ Little Helper’, ‘Paint It Black’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Midnight Rambler’, ‘Gimme Shelter’, ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, Street Fighting Man’, came to become bona fide counter culture and rebellious anthems for millions. Lyrically these and other songs, dealt with issues that were relevant then and constantly remain so, even now in the 21st Century. Issues like Mass Consumerism/Invasive Marketing, Drug Dependency (Legal & Illegal), Class Elitism, Political & Religious Questionability, Violent Crime, Society’s Fears and Society’s Doubts helped plant the seeds of rebellion in their audiences’ minds. Quite effectively too, I might add.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went about writing hundreds of songs, all the while persecuted by the authorities (so were John Lennon, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Eric Clapton and many other UK Rock musicians between 1966-1975). Starting in 1970, the band then moved to the South of France to avoid UK taxes and domestic trouble. This period of 1970-1972 ultimately brought about a new level of Rock Rebel in the Stones, with LPs such as ‘Sticky Fingers’, ‘Exile On Main St.’, ‘Goats Head Soup’.
Mick Jagger went through the 1970s and 80s as the Playboy Rock Rebel – marrying, dating and sleeping with just about anyone with a pulse, while at the same time electrifying audience with his on stage antics which included a 20 foot inflatable phallic during performances of ‘Star Star’ and over-sized inflatable dolls for ‘Honky Tonk Woman’.
Keith Richards, throughout the 1970s, was the consummate guitar slinger rebel. He did everything the mainstream press and society did not want to do or see (but they sure printed & talked enough about him). He did hard drugs, drank hard liquor, carried a gun, broke laws and, he wrote GREAT guitar riffs and songs that documented his attitude & pursuits as an outlaw of society.
Yeah, they may be much older now (Mick Jagger turned 70 recently) and their music may not be as relevant today, but oddly enough, mainstream press almost still expects them to do or say something outrageous. And, for all of those rebels who followed in their footsteps & paths, from Iggy Pop to Scott Weiland to Tommy Lee to Madonna to Rhianna to Justin Beiber, there is not just a rebel within, but a little bit of those ‘Forgotten Rebels’, The Rolling Stones, as well.