50 years of Comparing the Beatles and Stones

Yes, it was half-a-century ago that George, John, Paul and Ringo slinked onto the stage on the Ed Sullivan Show to launch the British Invasion, a significant cultural event not so much because of the lasting impact of bands like The Dave Clark Five or the Mersey Beats or Herman’s Hermits  but because bands like the Stones and the Animals reintroduced American listeners to R & B and the blues by covering the likes of Slim Harpo, Jimmy Reed, and John Lee Hooker.

the-beatles-getty-images

Also, 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones first LP. The half-century commemoration of these cultural milestones has spurred John Covach of the Huffington Post to wonder if, “Five decades later and after proving themselves one of the most popular and durable rock bands of all time, are the Stones once again taking a backseat to the Liverpool mop-tops?” [gag]

Comparing the Beatles and Stones is a time-honored tradition among my generation, and, of course, existentially, people fall into either camp according to their predilections. Some might prefer the catchy tunes and wider range of the Beatles to the Stones’ grittier R & B based sound and vice versa.

1f8d36378a9c8c681880b2f32dc234d1And, of course, who is better depends on the criteria by which we judge, and any critic worth his salt must follow Matthew Arnold’s example and establish the principles by which he or she determines who is better.

Well, I have spent this rainy Saturday afternoon following Arnold’s dictum that the critic must embrace “disinterestedness [. . .] by keeping aloof from what is called ‘the practical view of life.'”

So I compiled a list of the Beatles’ 12 albums and the first 12 of the Stones in two columns for easy cross-referencing. I’ve included original hit songs from the albums and have omitted all covers. In fact, many of the Stones’ first hits were covers, so you could argue that this listing favors the Beatles because who over the age of ten would prefer “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to “Time Is on My Side?”  Click here for my post 5 Best Covers of All Time”

Scrolling down, we can see the difficulty in coming to any definitive judgment because some of the Beatles’ albums released in a year are better than Stone albums [e.g. Sgt Pepper’s versus Their Satanic Majesty’s Request (a slaughter)], but some Stones’ albums are better than Beatles” albums (e.g., Out of Our Heads versus Beatles for Sale.

Please Please Me (’63)                                    The Rolling Stones (’64)

“I Saw Her Standing There”                               “Tell Me”

“Love Me Do”

With the Beatles (’63)                                      12 x 5 (’64)

“It Won’t Be Long”                                             “Good Times, Bad Times”

“All My Loving”

A Hard Day’s Night (’64)                                  Rolling Stones, Now! (’65)

“A Hard Day’s Night”                                       “Heart of Stone”

“I Should Have Known Better”                         “Off the Hook”

“Tell Me Why”

“Can’t Buy Me Love”

Beatles for Sale (’64)                                       Out of Our Heads (’65)

“I’ll Follow the Sun”                                                “The Last Time”  “Play with Fire”

“Eight Days a Week”                                                “Satisfaction”  “The Spider and the Fly”

Help! (’65)                                                           December’s Children (’65)

“Help!”                                                                      “Get Off My Cloud”

“You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away”                    “I’m Free”

“Ticket to Ride”                                                        “As Tears Go By”

Rubber Soul (’65)                                                   Aftermath (’66)

“Michelle”                                                                “Paint It Black”   “Stupid Girl”

“Norwegian Wood”                                                “Under My Thumb”

Revolver (’66)                                                Between the Buttons (’66)

“Eleanor Rigby”                                                “Let’s Spend the Night Together”

“Yellow Submarine”                                          “Ruby Tuesday”

“Good Day Sunshine”

 Sgt. Pepper’s (’67)                                           Their Satanic Majesty’s Request (’67)

White Album (’68)                                            Beggar’s Banquet (’68)

Yellow Submarine (’69)                                    Let It Bleed (’69)

Abbey Road (’69)                                              Sticky Fingers (’71)

Let It Be (’69 released ’70)                                Exile on Main Street (’72)

Once you hit the late ’60s and Early ’70’s it’s really almost impossible to judge between two masterpieces like the White Album and Let It Bleed.

So let’s just call it a tie.

That said, I think the early Stones stand the test of time better than the early Beatles, but neither in the mid-Sixties can hold a candle to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, or James Brown. As Mick Jagger himself said, “Why would you listen to us doing ‘King Bee’ when you can listen to Slim Harpo do “King Bee.”

YOU WON’T BELIEVE THE 5 THINGS DEAD CELEBRITIES MISS MOST ABOUT BEING ALIVE

 

Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Los Angeles, USA tourism destinations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant and medium, has been for over forty years interviewing dead celebrities via séances and asking them what they most miss about being alive.

Their answers will shock you!!!

5. Dodging paparazzi.

4. Refusing to sign autographs.

3. Wearing dark glasses indoors.

2. Sending back dishes in 5-star restaurants.

1. Being so terribly misunderstood.

Madame Sosostris

Madame Sosostris

 

I Annihilated This Post on Violent Language!

As I was squandering precious moments of the twilight of my existence marveling at how happy and well-fed my Facebook friends seem to be, I suffered this epiphany: the American English vernacular is steeped in violent expressions with positive connotations. That violence permeates our language shouldn’t be surprising given that mass shootings have become a monthly occurrence, as routine as severe thunder storms.  However, the fact that violent diction projects positivity seems, at least on the surface, perverse.

I have long realized how much the foes of drug use, like youth ministers, rely on the argot of the drug scene, like when they cop some Grace or score a convert or pull CS Lewis from their lit stash, but for whatever reason, the predominance of violent expression, especially when extolling a performance, had never blasted its way into my consciousness, which is strange since I overuse the word killer all the time, as in Frederick Seidel is a killer poet who obliterates his readers with his brilliant use of language.

What sparked this illumination concerning the positive connotations of violent words was a post from a friend of mine, a sweet, gentle, funny, articulate soul who wrote:

Man, Mad Men and Hannibal both really crushed their season finales.

Crushed is a great sounding word, the sibilant volition of rushed lengthened and hardened by the hard initial C-sound.   In a social media forum crushed sounds better than “really masterfully executed their season finales.” Though I suspect that if you had learned English from Rosetta Stone, you might take crushed in the above Mad Men/Hannibal context to mean that the shows mangled their finales, wrecked or ruined them, especially since episode is the direct object of crushed.

But, of course, crushed here means the opposite, that the episodes were triumphant cliff hangers, huge successes, like when you destroy your exam by acing it.

These ruminations on language reminded me of an essay by James Hillman where he mused on the harshness/violence of sexual English compared with the much gentler, more loving elocutions of the East.

Listen to the marvelous language of foreign erotica: jade stalk, palace gates, ambrosia! Compare these with cock, prick, dick, nuts, balls; with suck, jerk, blow, yank; and with gash, bush, frog, slit, clit, hole. A Chinese plum is to be deliciously enjoyed; our cherries are to be taken, popped, or broken. (The Blue Fire 179)

America, land of the free, land of the mass shooting, land of the perverse.

 

Joy Riding with Pee Wee Gaskins

Warning!  This post deals with depravity – violence, vulgar language, sadism – in a word evil. Please don’t read if you’re squeamish.

The most terrifying book I’ve ever read is the clunkily titled Final Truth: The Autobiography of Mass Murderer/Serial Killer Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins as Told to Wilton Earle.

Unless you’re a sadist, please don’t go out and buy this book. Gaskins takes perverse pleasure in graphically describing torturing, dismembering, murdering, and disposing of the bodies of acquaintances (“serious murders”) and hitchhikers (“coastal killings”). It’s awful stuff, stomach-turning. I would have quit reading it myself except that I’m almost positive I was picked up hitchhiking by Pee Wee Gaskins in the summer of 1971.

Mugshot of Donald "Pee Wee" Gaskins

Mugshot of Donald “Pee Wee” Gaskins

As the title promises, you get the story from Pee Wee’s mouth, and certainly some linguist somewhere is parsing Pee Wee’s diction and syntax for some study on the speech patterns of South Carolina crackers. In addition to butchering his victims, Pee Wee also slaughters English, yet he has a way with words and takes pleasure in creating colorful, vulgar metaphors and similes.

It’s as if Huck Finn’s pappy’s telling you the story of his life.

on his second wife: [. . .] every time I was around that girl my balls and pecker felt like a nest full of hornets was buzzing around and stinging and trying to shoot out.

on sex with a contortionist: she loved to fuck while twisted up into all kinds of other pretzel shapes.

on his first successful escape: I knew my chances of escaping was skinny as a coon-dick toothpick

You get the picture.

Perhaps the book’s only redeeming quality is that it might offer psychologists some insight into what drives a human being to murder time and again, person after person. Certainly despite Pee Wee’s semi-positive summation of his childhood — “My childhood weren’t all that bad all the time. I certainly weren’t in no way what you could ever call abused” — other descriptions belie that assessment:

Next thing I knew, they [Pee Wee and Marsh’s stepfathers] was dragging Marsh and me to the barn. They stripped Marsh first — roped his ankles together and threw rope over a joist and strung him-up upside down, then his mama commenced to paddling him with a pine slat. Soon his ass was bleeding, and then she told his step daddy to whup him with his belt [. . .] Then it was my turn to be strung up naked. I felt the pine board splitting my butt; then my step-daddy stropped me with his belt like I hadn’t never been stropped before.

And here’s Pee Wee’s explanation to the periodic mental condition that drove him to murder :

But no matter how things went, good or bad, I always felt something bothersome was astirring inside me. It was like I had this ball of plumber’s lead rolling around in my guts. Most time it lay quiet, just weighting me down. Other times, it growed bigger and hotter, like it was going to explode. Every once in a while I dreamed (I still do) that it blowed me apart and there was all these millions of little pieces and parts of me running around and flying around trying to find each other and put me back together.

Pee Wee leading law enforcement to bodies Pee Wee with children Pee Wee - the face of evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 * * *

I don’t remember how we — my brother David and I — ended up in the middle of the back seat on that beat-up old Buick. Did one of the boys get out and let us in? Did we crawl over the boy? We were seventeen and fourteen, and the boy maybe seven, but he had a cigarette in his mouth and a beer in his hand.

“Where y’all going?” The driver asked.

“Folly Beach,” I said.

“We’ll take you there then.”

He was a very short man chauffeuring a carload of Cub Scout-aged juvenile delinquents. There were four of them, all younger than David and I, all smoking, all drinking cans of Old Milwaukee.

For forty something minutes en route from Summerville, we had been stuck hitching on the side of St Andrews Boulevard across the street from a typewriter repair shop . It was David’s first time hitchhiking. Sure, the car looked sketchy, but we were desperate.

Once we were settled in the back seat, the seven-year-old next to me got out the empty casing of a Bic pen, loaded it with a spitball, and shot the driver in the back of the neck. He whirled around and stubbed the glowing orange tip of his cigarette into the boy’s arm, which immediately brought forth a yowl, tears, and a cacophony of spiteful laughter from the rest of the crew.

It was weird enough to witness a seven-year-old with a beer and cigarette in hand crying, but as I slouched down in my seat, I noticed that the driver had three spitballs lodged in the creases of the back of his neck.

The boys asked the driver to tell them about the [racial epithet] he had killed last week, but he wasn’t forthcoming. Then they asked him how many men he had killed in total. I assumed they were merely trying to frighten us. Throughout the twenty-minute trip, the boys liberally jettisoned trash, including empty beer cans from the moving car. I was hoping — how I was hoping — that a police car might pull us over but no such luck.  Needless to say, their language was filthy.

But true to his word, the driver took us all the way to Folly. In those days, before the Holiday Inn obstructed the view, you could see the ocean itself as you crossed the bridges, and what a welcome sight it was. I told the driver to please let us out in front of the police station, that my daddy was chief of police, and he did, and then two of the boys tossed empty beer cans at us, and the car pulled away in a cloud of smoke.

Happily, we ran into some friends from Summerville at the Washout so didn’t have to hitch home; however, I can’t say that I learned my lesson and continued to hitch until I purchased my first car at age 25, thanks to Ralph Birdsong, my soon-to-be father in law. [You can read about a subsequent and in many ways scarier hitchhike encounter here].

So, I more or less thought about the incident as time spent in a Flannery O’Connor story until Judy purchased for me as a whim Pee Wee’s autobiography from the dollar bin at a Mount Pleasant book store and I read that Pee Wee used to take his nephews and their friends down to the beach occasionally but would “never do no murders on them trips” because you couldn’t trust kids not to blab.

I can’t say for absolutely sure it was Pee Wee, but I do know this: there was evil in that car. You could sense it; it was palpable.

Mining Insomnia for Gold

[. . . ]But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life.
Gerard Manley Hopkins

Back in the day, when the late great Tommy Evatt suffered even the most trivial of disappointments, he would ironically assume a woebegone expression and sigh aloud, “I’m no stranger to heartache.”

Well, brother or sister, allow me the indulgence to channel Tommy, to assume that same sad-sack expression, and announce that “I’m no stranger to insomnia.”

Not only am I no stranger, I’ve been sleeping with Insomnia – check that – lying with her almost nightly for the past 28 years. The times I have awakened in the fell clutch of dark outnumber the kisses politicians of both parties have bestowed upon the ass of the Reverend Billy Graham, the number of recorded malapropisms uttered by former President George W Bush, the combined number of times the Atlanta Braves and South Carolina Gamecocks have broken my heart.

In other words, even Pieter Bruegel the Elder couldn’t cram the personified nights of my insomnia onto one of his grotesque canvases.

BRUEGHEL, Pieter the Younger3

 

Virtually every weekday morning between 2:54 and 3:57, a circuit breaker trips in the fuse box of my mind, and – zap – I’m wide awake and know immediately there’s no use trying to reenter the dream that has abandoned me, that counting sheep would be the adult equivalent of a letter to Santa, and that I have at least an hour (sometimes two) of wakefulness to endure.

Now, if I were a Northern European, I might very well go all existentialist and project my disability onto the cosmos, but, goddamn it, I’m an American, and Americans are optimists, can-doers, money makers, so, of course, I’ve transformed the water-boarding my mind suffers in the wee hours into something positive. I have alchemized the belladonna of my brain chemistry into an elixir that can cure any disease short of – well, insomnia.

However, even though I haven’t yet found a way to free myself from insomnia’s web-like entanglements, I have developed techniques to transform the excruciatingly slow crawl of minutes into a space where you can do some heavy duty psychic lifting and develop plans for self-improvement.

In other words, I’ve written a self-help book for insomniacs, and because you who are reading this cri de coeur have not abandoned me up to now, I’m going to provide you this sneak preview absolutely free of charge.

mining insomnia bookcover

Click here for Dealing with Yankees for Dummies.

This self-help bible begins with a personality test to pinpoint the chapters that are going to be most immediately beneficial to you. You know the tests I’m talking about, those fill-in the bubble surveys high school seniors take to determine if they’re better suited for engaging in armed combat or opening an antiques shop.

Here’s an example from the book:

Which one of the following activities is most likely to provide you with the most satisfaction?

1. Taking a long walk with that special someone on a pristine South Sea beach beneath a full moon.

2.Flying in your private Lear jet to address an auditorium teeming with adoring followers.

3. Enjoying a couple of lines of uncut Columbian cocaine.

4. Reorganizing your hopelessly disorganized friend’s lifestyle habits.

5. Reading and correcting reams of inexact writing from entitled adolescents prone to magical thinking.

Just for fun, let’s see if you can match those choices with the chapters most likely to benefit the chooser.

A. Starting up a Televangelism Empire

B. Careers in Pharmaceuticals

C. Overcoming Abusive Diaper Training

D. You, Too, Can Write Romance Novels

E. What If You Had Majored in Business Instead
Answers: 1. D 2. A 3. B 4. C 5. E

Each chapter provides a series of progressive mental exercises that are at once simultaneously mind-numbing but provide a foundation for steps up a staircase that leads to success.

For example, the first step in each of the chapters is “Writing Your Own Obituary.”

The next time you awaken in the middle of the night and realize that sleep, like the proverbial father who goes out for a pack of cigarettes, isn’t coming back, rather than flailing around fruitlessly cataloguing the mundane tasks that must be completed tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, compose in your head your own obituary. This positive exercise not only helps put those mundane tasks in perspective, but it also offers hints as to how you ended so fucked-up that now, even though you possess the godlike power to conjure on a whim whatever movie you want to watch at any moment, you’re so maladjusted that you can’t sleep six hours in a row.

Of course, I provide, an outline for an obituary:

Name

[euphemism for dying]*

cause of death [optional]

spouse if any

date of death

parents

short bio

  • DOB
  • education
  • career and/or marriage
  • accomplishments

survivors

preferred memorials

and also a model:

After a cowardly skirmish with cancer, Wesley “Rusty” Moore, husband of Judy Birdsong, entered the godless realm of oblivion on Thursday April 1 2023.

A son of the late Wesley E Moore, Jr. and Sue Blanton Moore, Wesley/Rusty was born 25 December 1950 in Summerville, where he attended public schools.  Upon earning his BA from the University of South Carolina, unable to find gainful employment, he immediately entered graduate school where he met his future wife Judy Birdsong at a bar where they both worked.  It was, as “Rusley” liked saying, “a marriage made in Milwaukee.”

After the wedding, the Moores relocated to Charleston, South Carolina.  Although a graduate school dropout with a checkered transcript, “Rusley” was able to secure employment at Porter-Gaud School, thanks in part to his hobby of hypnotism.  At Porter-Gaud he spent 30 years reading and correcting reams of inexact writing from entitled adolescents prone to magical thinking.

Wesley never met a stranger he wasn’t leery of and always had something cynical to share with the few friends he cultivated during his life.

Surviving in addition to his wife of Folly Beach are two sons, Harrison Moore of Washington, DC, and Ned Moore of the Khovsgol Province of Inner Mongolia.

In Lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Communist Party, 44 Ginsberg Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209.

Each specific chapter offers exercises that could possibly lull curable insomniacs to sleep but also provides incurables with a chance to turn a typical time of anguish into something positive. For example, an early mind numbing exercise for aspiring romance novelists involves cataloging chronologically people they’ve kissed. One later visualization exercise guides the initiate to imagining cinematically the first kiss of her catalogue blooming into the 52nd shade of gray.

The general idea is to transform wasted hours into time well spent.

Let me seal the deal. This very blog post is the fruit of last night’s insomnia, and, presto, already, I’m climbing that stairway to stardom.

Photo on 10-31-13 at 2.40 PM

Chico Feo, TS Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Lost Souls, & I-and-I

For whatever perverse reason, I prefer dives to tony bars and restaurants. The same goes for neighborhoods. You couldn’t pay me to live on Kiawah or Daniel Island. The manicured bicycle paths, the antiseptic standards of what is allowed architecturally, the non-diversity of income and outlook, and the bland, vowel-less intonations of their residents and tourists would produce in me fogbanks of despair.

Nor would I want to live in an upstate mill village where all the small clapboard houses have the same floor plan and everyone twangs vocally the verbal equivalent of out-of-tune banjo strings.

No, what I like is diversity, the mixed neighborhoods of the Upper Peninsula and the non-gated barrier islands. So I’m very happy here on Folly where a million dollar house might stand next to quaint cottage or a ramshackle two-story paint-peeling survivor of Hurricane Hugo, happy to live in a community where trick-or-treating is forbidden because the poorly lighted streets have no sidewalks and vehicular traffic can be, well, unsteady.

Like the various options in housing on Folly, the island also offers a variety of drinking and eating establishments, and since the closing of the Brew Pub on Center Street, my favorite hangout is Chico Feo, an outdoor Caribbean “restaurant” whose limited menu consists of curried goat, Dominican beans, or shark or pork tacos. In the unlikely case you’re an old-time Charlestonian, think Captain Harry’s without walls or a roof. Like Captain Harry’s, beers are sold out of coolers and the seats are not very comfortable.

Click the arrow in the frame above for a panoramic pan of Chico Feo

Counting the left turn onto Second Street, Chico Feo lies a mere six blocks from my house, so I ride my bike there, weaving my way through the clogged cars of day trippers to enjoy a brew or two beneath the overarching trees – and maybe, just, maybe, to knock off six or so essays.

Yesterday, however, I left my stack of essays at home [‘”Argue that Conrad’s Heart of Darkness can be read as the debunking of stereotypes found in Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The White Man’s Burden”‘] and carried with me instead Hugh Kenner’s 1964 book TS Eliot: The Invisible Poet, my journal, and a trusty pen.

Chico Feo attracts locals – a homeless man named Greg, surfers in their late twenties and beyond, musicians, C of C alums/dropouts who never left (damn them), and Folly residents like me – and, yes, many of us are indeed “ugly boys” in keeping with the English translation of the bar’s Spanish name.

After the bartender Charlie provided me with my Bell’s IPA, I found an empty table with a view of Second Street where I could watch locomotive skateboarders with backpacks glide past the mural of Bert the Pirate that graces his iconic market, or I could cast my critical eyes on the never ending parade of pedestrians headed either to or from the beach.

images-2

Yesterday, inside the friendly confines – and Chico Feo is incredibly friendly – the bar was occupied with an eclectic group of imbibers: a limping, bearded 50-something sporting a straw cowboy hat, a slender long haired surfer dude, and a group of already-over-the-hill 20-somethings with expanding hips and incipient beer bellies.

On the large picnic table a tableaux of young, middle class hedonists bowed down looking at their cell phones in the attitude of prayer. The temperature was perfect, and the onshore breeze provided a bit of respite from the gnats.

So I opened Kenner’s book and began a chapter devoted to the philosopher Francis Herbert Bradley’s influence on Eliot’s thought and came upon this passage:

My external sensations are no less private to myself than are my thoughts and feelings. In either case my experience falls within my own circle, a circle closed on the outside, and, with all its elements alike, every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it [. . .] In brief, regarded as an existence which appears in a soul, the whole world for each is peculiar and private to that soul.

I looked up from that passage and caught sight of one of the most grotesque human beings I’ve ever encountered.

Where to begin?

The words “obese” and “corpulent” don’t begin to do justice to this shambling Rabelaisian, Falstaffian 400-pound 25-year-old. All he wore was a pair of board shorts that clung precariously an inch or two below the broad expanse of the Brobdingnagian belly that sagged and quivered with every painful, bare-footed step he took on sun-blistered feet and legs. I’ll forego a description of his breasts – let it suffice to say they drooped the way you might imagine Mae West’s drooping in her Myra Breckinridge era. I could see from where I was sitting that he was stoned or tripping or worse.

I returned to Kenner ‘s take on TS when I heard, “Hey, man, how’s it going?”

My deafness has gotten so bad that I didn’t even notice that the giant had pulled up at my table.

I looked up, and there he was sitting, his blue eyes as vacant as a Detroit warehouse, glazed, abnormal.

He commenced a monologue of his surreal misadventures of the previous 24 hours, which I’ll summarize as briefly as possible.

Someone had offered him an LSD-laced drink because they wanted to kill him because he had come here from Kentucky to make and sell art, i.e., sun hats made out of palmetto fronds. They had drugged him, and he had passed out on the beach. He was supposed right now to be with some “sweet honey” from Summerville [I’m ashamed to admit I tried to imagine what contortions must take place to achieve heterosexual intercourse with this man], but now he’s lost her forever, and he remembers the night before gaining consciousness in a restroom downtown washing his hands and screaming, “The water is scalding my hands!”

I patiently listened as I sipped my beer, nodded my head sympathetically, muttered an occasional, “wow-that-sucks.” Finally, when the beer was done, I bid him good-bye and wished him better luck.

Alienation – the great theme of 20th century literature – “every sphere is opaque to the others which surround it” – or as Marlow puts it in Heart of Darkness, “No it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation in any given epoch of one’s existence – that which makes the truth, its meaning – its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream – alone.”

Or as Eliot himself puts it in “The Waste Land” :

I have heard the key

Turn in the door once and turn once only

We think of the key, each in his prison

Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison . .

The image that stays with me is that of those friends around the picnic table together but apart, prayerfully bowing their heads as they stared into their cell phones – an image of our times.

 

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