The Rolling Stones topping the UK charts this week with their Goats Head Soup album kind of makes a mockery of the last forty-seven years, to me.
I can recall when the album first came out. The single Angie really irritated me, especially as it was performed on Top of the Pops with a simpering Mick Jagger sat on a stool and the rest of the band looking all drugged-out standing behind him.
That album irked me, and I can tell you why.
For a start, I was fourteen and I did not like the band because they seemed too flash and glam, like Sweet and T Rex; I had been into ska and reggae with regard the pop scene, and as a result of listening to my sister’s records was graduating from the Moody Blues and King Crimson to Deep Purple and prog. Serious stuff, not campy miming on television. A couple of boys at the youth club used to march up and down the church hall strutting their stuff with stars and glitter attached to their faces when Brown Sugar was played. They looked ridiculous. On my portable cassette player the only recorded tape I had was Genesis’ Foxtrot and Black Sabbath’s first, which were played over and over.
I remember going round to my new friend’s house and seeing the original Goats Head Soup album cover featuring Mick Jagger’s enshrouded face stood by the hi-fi in the corner of the living room. I was fourteen and going to a school which I was by then learning to despise. The two went together, somehow. The Rolling Stones album in the awful living room, and my education. Yuk!
The house was situated within the Park Estate – which I’ve written about often enough in my fiction – and was emblematic of all the horrible changes taking place around me. Not only was I attending a creepy school which required I travel from my village first by bus for four miles into town (after standing in the winter rain and morning dark) and then a half-hour trek up a long, long hill, but my beloved woods were being torn down all around me and being replaced by estates of human hutches and hovels, purpose built for the London slum-dwellers taking up jobs in the factories in our nearby town on the M40. The owner of the Rolling Stones record standing beside the stereo was typical of the low/middle management types who had moved into the village with their youngish families and now could afford to buy all the tat that came their way: cameras, stereos, TVs, three-piece suites, cars. Yep, dad was a hepcat, all right, also with a penchant for John Lennon’s Mind Games (which I similarly loathed at the time, and for the same reasons), while the mother was a dragon and the eldest sister a wonderful example of how beautiful teenage minds are driven crazy by all the unassimilated bad faith operating around them. A new shopping strip called the Parade had been built to help the newcomers spend their earnings. I can see it now, all grey concrete squares. At one end was the chippy (where they watered down the vinegar, for sure), then came some indeterminate businesses like insurance sales and shoe shops, until you reached Bunces, the newsagent’s (where my days began at six a.m. without fail after I cycled down the hill to collect my papers and placed them in a big canvas shoulder bag – and whose proprietor’s fourteen year-old daughter became my girlfriend for a time: again, see my fiction) and then In Time, where they sold all sorts of stuff for the interior decoration of the new houses: clocks, lamps, vases, framed pictures and so forth; the concrete boxes stretching along until an extended section morphed into a supermarket whose name currently eludes me.
So how does the successful re-release of a so-so rock album make a mockery of almost five decades out of six spent on earth, kind of?
It’s because of the same theme touched upon in the last blogpost, of how so much seems to be happening all the time and still nothing changes: still the same old Tories in charge, mugging the British public, still the same old tat for sale, still the same old wars, still the same old internal and external enemies, still the same old establishment, still the same old – background music?