Confessions of a Future Opium Eater

opium addict wesIt’s been my experience that the more eventful a period, the longer that span seems to last. Take college, for example. The four years from my days as a freshman to those of my senior year seem like decades, the Stones’ “Brown Sugar” and David Bowie’s “Young Americans” separated, not by 48 mere months, but by twenty years or so.

Dorm rooms, dives, suitemates, hook-ups, break-ups, friends, foes, professors, TAs, incense, cafeteria trays, campus bars, road trips, acid flips, pick-up basketball, lecture halls, black beauties, kegs, bathroom graffiti, the clicking of typewriter keys . . .

College memories crowd the file cabinets of my mind in such profusion that it seems as if those experiences couldn’t have transpired in so short a span.

And the same goes for this goddamned interminable presidential campaign. The 24/7 news cycle frenetically spins stories like those jugglers of yore on the Ed Sullivan Show spinning plates — each story delivered with the gravitas of an announcement that a Kennedy has died.

Did the first Republican debate actually occur on 7 August 2016, or was it during the Peloponnesian War? Were hula-hoops all the rage back when Carson was a serious contender? Crazy college kids swallowing goldfish and cramming themselves into phone booths when Florina was the darling of the under-debates?

No, believe it or not, that was just a couple of months ago, not in the 1950’s.

For example, take the rise and fall and rise and fall of Marc Rubio: rat-a-tat-tat, he ascends above Jeb! (remember him?), racks up endorsements like young Tiger Woods collecting championship trophies, goes robotic before the New Hampshire Primary, has his campaign pronounced as dead as Houdini, then the next week struts across a stage arm-and-arm with Nikki Haley, goes after Trump with both pea shooters popping only to get mugged by the irony-mongers on Twitter for being a vulgarian, and now he’s reduced to addressing a stadium “crowd” that could fit comfortably in a high school gymnasium.

With all of this quick cutting, we lose all perspective. Each spinning plate becomes a monumental game changer. Bernie ties Hillary in Iowa. She’s in real trouble.  Now he’s obliterated her in New Hampshire. Whoa, wait a minute. Hillary wins Nevada, trounces him in South Carolina! She’s racking up delegates galore! It’s all but over. Hold on! He upsets her in Michigan!  Now she’s in real. real, trouble (until next week when she wins Florida and Illinois).

So I have decided to pack my bags and head to the nearest opium den (Laos?) and spend the next eight months in a stately pleasure dome. Maybe do some kayaking on the sacred river Alph.

Wake me up and get me into rehab when it’s over.



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 of 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.


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 sonic range of the Beatles to the Stones’ grittier R & B-based sound and vice versa.

1f8d36378a9c8c681880b2f32dc234d1And, of course, who’s better depends on the criteria by which we judge. Well, I have spent this rainy Saturday afternoon following the great English critic Matthew 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)                                            Beggars’ 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.”