Friday, November 16, 2012

Serious Contenders: Rolling Stones, "Ruby Tuesday"

With the release of the Rolling Stones' 3 disc (or more) retrospective, it occurred to me just how many different things the Rolling Stones did. The standard narrative was that whatever the Beatles did, the Stones had to try too, and did worse: The Beatles used strings on "Yesterday" so the Stones used them here. The difference is that the Beatles were that versatile, that whenever they would try something, they would become it wholly. It can be hard to pin down the exact nature of the Beatles after 1965 because of all the different stuff they threw themselves into. The Rolling Stones, by contrast, never weren't "The Rolling Stones." When they used baroque arrangements, they were still fronted by Mick Jagger's lumbering, dirty white blues vocals. The balladry was not a change or an adaptation or a new identity, it was a reference: the tough guy breaking down, reality crashing into the fantasy backdrop created by the musical arrangement. And because of that, the Stones' ballad work has a different effect than the Beatles'.

The Beatles were method actors, immersing themselves in their current role. The Rolling Stones were character actors, there to be themselves in whatever situation required it.

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