25. Tumbling Dice – The Rolling Stones
The point of the 42 is not to rate things and, as a rule, I fight shy of reckoning one particular record as “better” than another. It usually strikes me as a false comparison, like saying tomatoes are better than cucumbers, or red is better than green.
I will make an exception here.
“Exile On Main Street” is the greatest rock and roll album ever recorded. It is. I’m happy to discuss it but, to paraphrase the late, great Brian Clough, we’ll talk about it for twenty minutes and then agree that I’m right. Or I’ll just play you “Tumbling Dice” and four minutes later we’ll agree that I’m right.
There has been a distinct lack of swagger in my list of records so far. Plenty of late night navel gazing, plenty of bottom-of-the-glass laments to what might have been and plenty of reflective moments of sobriety. You can stack the previous 23 records in all their contemplative angst ridden glory up against this and it redresses the balance on its own.
This is swagger writ large. It’s savouring the taste of draining your glass and not staring mournfully at the bottom of it but sliding it across the bar for another. It’s sexy as hell and, for its duration, will convince you that you’re sexy as hell too. It’s suss and street smarts and it’s never going home at the end of the night alone. Burn your copy of “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway”. Buy this record, play it often, and let it arm you with its unshakeable confidence.
This is my favourite Friday night song. It’s my job interview song. It was my yes-I’m-going-to-call-her song. It is guaranteed to get me onto any dance floor irrespective of the deteriorating state of my surgery sodden knees. Moves like Jagger ? You better believe it. Doesn’t matter if you don’t ‘cos the magic of this song is that it makes you believe. Honestly I suspect that I look like a constipated, arthritic peacock when I sashay around my house to this, hips shaking, hands clapping, head nodding in a strut. I suspect that’s the reality but I don’t believe the reality. I believe the myth this song creates for me. I am a dancefloor god made flesh when this song plays. This – and follow these links, they will make your life better – is me. And this. Maybe even this.
There’s a whole lot of stuff I could write about “Exile…”. The villa in Nellcote. Tax exile. Marianne Faithful. Gram Parsons. Recording all night in the basement and sleeping all day: the sunshine bores the daylights outta me indeed. It’s a great story – go read about it, Robert Greenfield’s “Exile: A Season In Hell With The Rolling Stones” is as good a place to start as any. But a detailed and sober analysis of this record – of this song in particular – just isn’t in keeping with the spirit of what it does for me. There’s no thinking. It’s all feel. (Now we’re paraphrasing Bruce Lee).
This song works in the gut, in the feet, especially in the hips, and the only thing it asks your head to do is nod appreciably. It’s the exact opposite of everything Marillion are about from the last post. Try having sex to a Marillion record. Those time signatures are all wrong. Try having sex to “Tumbling Dice”. Notice the difference ? Now try “Ventilator Blues”. Oh my god. Charlie Watts sliding in just behind the beat. That’s the best sex you’ve ever had in your life.
You can’t blame the Stones for everything that happened after this record. For Aerosmith. For hair metal. For Dogs D’Amour. I don’t even really blame them for becoming the corporate brand that they are now – would be interesting to know what Keith would have said to you if you’d told him in 1972 that he’d wind up playing a caricature of himself in a kids film about pirates because one of the other pirates was modeled on him. I imagine he would have – as in my all time favourite Keith clip on the internet – chopped the mother down.
You can’t blame them because once they were the best band on the planet. I’ve long since frozen them in time and the Stones exist for me as their ’69-’74 incarnation. The one that makes me move and makes me feel more alive.