- 06 Sep 23
Still The Greatest? Now, that is the six hundred thousand million dollar question...
Coincidentally enough, it was on this date – September 6 – in 2005 that The Rolling Stones released their last album of new studio material, A Bigger Bang. Pretty good it is too, from rockin’ opener ‘Rough Justice’ to Keith Richards’ lovely ‘This Place Is Empty’. Naturally, you have to skip past the odd clanger like ‘Sweet Neo Con’ and ‘Rain Fall Down’ but it wouldn’t be a Stones album without them.
Despite the gap, The Stones have kept their collective finger in with the odd bit and piece. They added previously unreleased tracks like the absolutely marvellous ‘Plundered My Soul’ to a reissue of their Mount Olympus Exile On Main St. in 2010 and repeated that trick for subsequent rejigs of Sticky Fingers, Some Girls, Tattoo You, and Goats Head Soup. The band also filled out their latest Greatest Hits package, GRRR!, with the enjoyable zombies-in-the-swamp action of ‘Doom And Gloom’ and the Stones-by-the-numbers-but-they’re-good-numbers ‘One More Shot’ in 2012.
During lockdown they treated us to the appropriately titled ‘Living In A Ghost Town’ single which lead one quite possibly isolated and inebriated hack to comment, “The twilight of the gods is a ways off yet,” and he, apparently, stands over what he almost illegibly scribbled.
There was also, in 2016, their slightly over-produced but still pretty great blues covers album Blue & Lonesome which had the same amadán, on a night out in Hamburg, speculating that “they're plugging into their past to get the power back on.”
Since then, they and we lost Charlie Watts, the man who was at the very least thirty-three percent responsible for their unique sound, the sound that every single band since then has tried – and failed – to cop a feel of. They rolled on with an American tour and now, finally, we have the announcement of the imminent Hackney Diamonds album – due October 20 - and the first single from it, ‘Angry’.
I watched the press conference earlier today – from my kitchen, unfortunately - where Mick, Keith, and Ronnie all looked remarkably good - and I’ll likely be back to discuss the album in full – twelve tracks, Charlie’s on two, Bill’s on one, Stevie Wonder's in there, ‘Angry’, ‘Get Close’, ‘Depending On You’, ‘Bite My Head Off’, ‘Whole Wide World’, ‘Dreamy Skies’, 'Mess Up', ‘Live By The Sword’, ‘Driving Me Too Hard’, ‘Tell Me Straight’, ‘Sweet Sound Of Heaven’ (featuring Lady Gaga), ‘Rolling Stone Blues’ – when we get it, but first…
The video, starring Sydney Sweeney completely ignoring the rules of the road, cleverly features billboards on a Strip, Sunset or otherwise, computer doo-dahed to show the Stones at various points in their career singing and playing along. "1..2..3" A drum groove gives way to a stereotypical Keith riff of the type he's been peddling since he first tuned his guitar to G somewhere around 1968, loose as a pair of old sweat pants and, at the same time, tight as a bend on a mountain road. Jagger yelps in with "Don't get angry for me" - although you'd already know it was them from the first note - sounding a lot - a lot - younger than his eighty years and we're off.
There's a change for "We haven't made love and I want to know why" because this old dog has little or no interest in new tricks and then a useful bridge around "I hear a melody, ringing in my brain" – which invites in some late night saloon backing vocals. And then we return to the clang and boom of the riff. Eventually, we get a drop out to drums, bass and a bit of piano before a guitar solo filthier than a barroom floor prompts the lads in the back to chant "An-Gry" and Jagger to ad lib towards the end, imploring the missus "not to spit in my face" and claiming that he "was taking the piss" as Keith and Ronnie, with a "Come on" from the man out the front, weave it all home around him.
Ok, the inventors of the wheel won't be making any urgent calls to the patent office and no one is going to be setting fire to their torn and frayed copy of Exile but it rocks, it rolls, it's The Rolling Stones. Andrew Watt pulls it all together and gives it the requisite sheen; the groove is located early and stuck with; the band are in the pocket like a well-struck snooker ball; Jagger sounds more Jaggery than anyone else ever has – and the world is now a better place than it was an hour ago.
As a taster for the album, it's pretty tasty. Amazingly, given the march of time and all the rest of it, they still at least have a fair idea of the general location of 'it'.