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Stones documentary, “Sympathy for the Devil.”


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Anyone seen the old Stones documentary, “Sympathy for the Devil?”


I'm reading Keith Richard’s autobiography, “Life” on Kindle.  It was just a few bucks, so I thought, why not. 

I'm only about 20% in but it’s not bad.  The style is a sort of fireside reminiscing – it reads like he’s sitting in a rocking chair and telling the stories of his youth and life.


But it got me to watch the Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil” documentary on Amazon Prime.  Made in 1968 and directed by Godard it’s a mess; interspersed with social commentary in the form of long goofy vignettes that make up half the film.  I just fast forwarded through those bits.  But there’s no getting around the inexplicable pulp-porn background narration.    


The rest is the Stones rehearsing ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ at the studio.  We get a fleeting glimpse into their song writing process, but not much, just a few minutes of scattered jam sessions over a couple days.  A missed opportunity – if Godard had just stuck to documenting their time in the studio, we might have learned something.   


The most interesting part was watching Brian Jones.  They all seem to get along fine but he's soon relegated to his own little sound booth where we see him wholeheartedly strumming his “rhythm guitar” part during all the rehearsals – for all the world, he looks like he’s putting in more effort than anyone else.  But it’s obvious his mic isn’t picking up anything.  And it’s just as obvious he has no idea.  It’s both sad and funny.  He doesn’t seem very stoned, or worse than anyone else, anyway.  It just looks like they’re trying to keep him happy and make him feel like he’s still a part of it.  Funny enough, on the final recording, he’s actually credited with “rhythm guitar – inaudible.”



Edited by garyh
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Yeah… I remember reading about that – and Keith Richards wondering why the “sisters” didn’t understand that the song is about the horrors of slavery!?  Ha!  Yeah, right, and Mein Kampf is about the horrors of antisemitism!


Don’t get me wrong, I hate this cancel culture nonsense, the silencing of voices and this fragile, pathetic, hypersensitive world we now live in.  Sing about anything, everything.  Put Mein Kampf to music and if it rocks, I’ll listen.  Rocking out to “Brown Sugar” doesn’t make me a racist.


But Keith Richards is an odd duck, man.  In his book he talks a lot about having been influenced by black musicians, esp. the Chicago blues.  But, reading him, one can't help but sense a sort of archaic, unwitting, systemic British racism – a product of his times.  The ultimate bad-boy and rock guitarist to the most famous rock band in history but you suspect he’d be right at home reminiscing about the good old days and shooting pheasants with some English manor lord while stewards held their $20K over-under shotguns.


I'm sure he feels he gets a pass – having fallen in love with and bedded Ronnie Spector early in his career.  And rattling on about other “black chicks” - his “pieces” - he’s been through.  Surely - it gives him street cred!  But sadly, the best thing Ronnie Spector could say about him – in her small contribution to the book – is that “Keith always said ‘thank you, Mrs. Bennett’” whenever her mother made Keith and Mick bacon and eggs in the morning.  I have a feeling she remembered things a bit differently than Keith.


Next thing you know they’ll stop playing “Satisfaction”  because it degrades women and their menstrual cycles.  Play “Brown Sugar,” play it all.  And play it unapologetically.


Btw – The “Sympathy for the Devil” documentary is worth the $5 to watch it on Amazon.  Even if you have to fast forward through the nonsense.  You do get an intimate, albeit brief, peek at Mick and Keith in their prime, crafting a rock and roll classic.

Edited by garyh
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