I’m listening to a Wolfgang’s Vault™ Stones show from 1973. Now their records were about to start getting worse and worse, but the ’73 Stones could cut it live like a motherf***er. And the main reason is that you could actually hear what Keith Richards was doing.
Mick Taylor was a lead guitarist. Not a particularly interesting one. But what he did was give Keef room to breath, provide some spurious top end action. So what we have is Charlie Watts and the Most Elegantly Wasted Man playing flat-out rock’n'roll. Jesus they were good.
I had the misfortune to see them at Earl’s Court in 1976. I was there largely to see The Meters, relegated to playing on a postage-stamp stage with the house lights up and a pseudo-carnival going on. The Stones were dreadful, Jagger yelping with a camp desperation as messrs. Richards and Wood smeared gobbets of crap R&B guitar over anything that moved. After the last number, Charle Watts could be seen putting down his sticks like a clerk clocking off as the petals closed around the stage.
The big problem is Keef was blurred. All concision had deserted those monumental riffs that had carved the Mount Rushmore of Rock: Let It Bleed, Beggar’s Banquet, Sticky Fingers and Exile (with an honourable nod to Get Your Ya Ya’s Out). Wood and Richards essentially duplicate one another. Even if one is soloing (and Keef is a really dull lead player) they are so stuck in each other’s range that it’s just a mess.
If these old codgers really insist on flogging their grisly carcasses around the world’s stages, they could at least try the following:
1. Move Ron Wood to bass. It’s not as though the Stones need a good bass player – they didn’t have one for the first 20-odd years of their existence, and Ron did a passable job a million years ago with the Jeff Beck Group, and we don’t want to sack him do we? The poor poppet’s probably got some alimony coming up.
2. Get a lead player. Maybe make it a rotating scholarship, so you could have Johnny Marr, Visiting Professor of Keeping Out The Way Of Keefology. Or that prat from The Darkness. Whatever.
But what I really want is for them to just bloody retire.