A Comfortable Couch

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

'Like a Rolling Stone' Named No. 1 Song

Yahoo! News - 'Like a Rolling Stone' Named No. 1 Song

The number 2 song? The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". The list was compiled by Rolling Stone magazine. I'm betting "Papa was a Rolling Stone" is also high on the list.

I'm only 31, so I wasn't around in the 60's when all this was going on, but what the hell is the deal with all the "Rolling Stone" stuff and why does it pop up in such big ways? Coincidence? Is it also a drug reference? Were there lots of boulders crushing people?


Anonymous said...

I'm older, but I've often wondered about the origin of the phrase, or more specifically how it became so relevant to pop music. So, I looked it up :-)

According to Bartleby "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss"... It goes back to at least 42 BCE. See http://www.bartleby.com/100/pages/page14.html#115.note48 and follow the link for "Publius Syrus".

For the relevance to pop music, see http://www.reasontorock.com/tracks/like_a_rolling_stone.html

"To understand the power of this phrase, we have to go back to a blues song originally written and recorded by Muddy Waters in 1950. It is a simple, haunting recording: just Muddy's voice, his electric guitar, and the bass of Ernest “Big” Crawford. Musically, there is little in common with Dylan's song. There is power and dignity in Muddy's voice, and in the raw, stinging, beauty of his electric guitar phrases. But the story he tells, like that of many blues songs, is one of failure, of lives barely realized, lives where opportunities are so few that their losses never even rise to the level of tragedy. Muddy says he wishes he could be a catfish swimming in the deep blue sea. He visits a woman who is cheating on her husband. He remembers his mother predicting that he would be a rolling stone. Then he talks about going back down the road, saying his time isn't long.

That's it. His voice and guitar trail off at the end of each verse, repeating each final line three times, with falling inflection and volume, reinforcing the failure and aimlessness implicit in the words, the sense that we will never know how this life ends, that he will simply fade out, leaving only this song as testament to his life.

A Rolling Stone — What did this phrase, this song and, in a larger sense, the blues itself mean to a generation of mostly white kids singing and listening to rock music in the sixties and seventies?

Consider their situation: on the one hand, kids of this generation had the predominant white culture to consider — affluent, successful, powerful. On the other hand, they had the blues, along with those who sang it, and those who were being sung about — poor, disenfranchised, powerless.

Yet, miraculously, many white kids growing up in the sixties discovered there was another dimension to this cultural contrast. For despite having everything going for them, many members of the predominant white culture were essentially clueless, much like the woman that Dylan sings about. They drank too much, they laughed too loud, they noticed too little the prices paid for their fun by those around them, they realized far too little of what was really going on, even as their leaders swept them into tragic and ultimately meaningless conflict in Viet Nam.

And yet despite having almost nothing going for them, black Americans created the blues, a new and powerful art form — they created authentic, original and meaningful artistic expression, and obtained the dignity, understanding and vision that goes along with all of this.

So this phrase, “a rolling stone,” that meant a lack of material possessions, a lack of home, a lack of belonging for the blacks who sang it, became a sort of badge of honor for the rock generation. For those who adopted it — Bob Dylan, Brian Jones and Jann Wenner — saw, and made us see, that these material ties also enslaved us, restricted our perspective, blurred our vision, dulled our senses, and blinded us to our own creative potential."


2:51 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

Have you never heard the albums "Beggars Banquet", or "Exile on Main St."?

There's you answer.

You've only heard the crap on the radio.

8:20 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

Anonymous retraction!

Oh…... You wanted to know the origins of the phrase.
I thought you were questioning the validity of Mick, Keith and the Boys in relation to the course of world events.


Stupid Beer!!!!

8:32 PMlink  
Anonymous said...

No problem.

2:40 AMlink  

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