I wish I could show you the rest of this photo. My brother-in-law opened for the Rolling Stones last month and before the show they took a photo of Wilco with the Stones. When they sent the photo to the band they strictly forbade any online posting. (I can’t imagine why, considering there are about a trillion pictures of the Stones floating around the Internet.) Since I don’t want to get my sister in trouble (although this might anyway), I’m just posting this small section of the photograph showing Jeff with my nephews Spencer and Sammy. The fact that it is Keith Richards leaning on Spencer must send his C. Q. (cool quotient) permanently into the stratosphere. Especially since, unlike most nine year olds, Spencer actually knows and appreciates who Keith Richards is! Richards will turn 63 in a few weeks and while I used to think he looked quite ravaged, now that he’s older it works and he looks great.The best part of this photo, though, is the look of shock and wonder on six-year-old Sammy’s face as he gazes at Ron Wood. Wood is 58 but looks 28. He sports a rocker’s long shaggy haircut and is wearing a purple t-shirt, a bright red leather jacket that looks like something left over from the Stones’ 1973 tour, and tight black jeans. Despite their senior citizen status, the Rolling Stones have the bodies of 15-year-old boys. How do they do it? They sure don’t know from middle-aged spread. Ron Wood has a very mischievous look on his face and he has just jumped into a flamboyant pseudo-rockstar pose for the photo, thus producing the priceless look on Sammy’s face. On the other side of Wood stands a smiling Mick Jagger wearing a gold tuxedo jacket, his arms crossed in a bemused stance. Jagger turned 63 last July and he looks sort of like a kindly uncle here, provided you have a 63-year-old uncle with a 28-inch waist who can dance like Tina Turner. On the other side of Keith Richards is drummer Charlie Watts. He is the oldest member of the band at 64 and, while also being in fantastic shape, looks more his age than the others. He was battling throat cancer a year ago but is happily in remission. Watts is the only one with gray hair and he’s starting to look a bit like Star Trek’s George Takei.
I’m no Rolling Stones aficionado but it’s almost impossible not to be in awe of this group. They started performing in 1961 when I was two freaking years old and they are still going strong. My brother Bruce, who is five years older than me, was the most sophisticated rock fan in our house during the 1960s. I heard many of the Stones’ greatest hits wafting from his bedroom over the years and yet today I can still only name the classics like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Beast of Burden,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” and my favorite, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
I guess I was more of a Beatles man in my pre-teen years even though my first exposure to the Fab Four was via their 1965 cartoon series (who’s got the rights to those gems—I haven’t seen an episode in 40 years!). I do remember the hoopla of the Beatles’ appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” when I was 5 and the insanity of those girls screaming through their entire performances. I studied the album cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” when I was 7 and was first in line to see “Yellow Submarine” when I was 8. I remember exactly where I was at age 10 when I heard that the Beatles were splitting up and of course I will never forget the exact moment ten years later when I first learned that John Lennon had been murdered. Listening to any song by the Beatles or the Stones immediately sends me back into my early childhood. How crazy is it that the Stones played at a venue a few blocks from our house just the other day and that Paul McCartney will be performing at the same place next week? I guess no crazier than Spencer and Sam Tweedy’s bonding with Keith Richards and Ron Wood!
I wish I could offer some deep esoteric insights on the music and careers of the Rolling Stones but I just wasn’t cool enough to have followed their development in anything but a superficial way. The reality is that I remember listening to bubble gum acts like “The Herman’s Hermits” (my sister had a huge crush on Peter Noone), “The Monkees,” and even the god-awful “Archies” (“Sugar, sugar…oh honey, honey…you are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you…”) way more than I listened to the Stones. How embarrassing is that? For that matter I spent more time listening to movie soundtracks when I was young than rock music. But I longed to be a rocker like my older brother who had two bands of his own: “The Inscrutable Ambiguity” and “The Psychotic Referendum.” I don’t remember if the bands were any good but I do remember Bruce's classmates Helene Lazowski, Robin Burack, and Cheryl Geisler sitting in our basement gazing at them like true groupies.
Despite the fact that I was a total nerd, I went through several periods where I at least tried to look the part of a rocker. I was the first person at our school (and possibly the last) to wear a Nehru jacket to class following the Beatles’ trip to India in 1968. Emerald green yet. I grew my hair halfway down my back, wore ripped jeans and peace signs to school, and even went through a scary punk phase in the 70s (not the music, just the clothes, I was probably listening to the Captain and Tennille at the time).
But just as I lived vicariously through my brother’s record collection in the 60s, my faux rocker wardrobes in the 70s, my sister’s ultra-hip rock club Lounge Ax in the 80s, and my brother-in-law’s growing success in the 90s, I can now turn to my young nephews and hope some of the cool rubs off on their uncle who suddenly looks like he could be Mick Jagger’s father. Oy.
No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need.