Bad Boys

The news today is that the Rolling Stones are being difficult with the BBC about how much of their performance at Glastonbury this year can be shown on tv. The Stones media machine says they are “out of their comfort zone” at the festival; their reluctance to commit to extensive tv coverage is supposed to be connected to this – to their uncertainty about whether they will or won’t be a hit with the Glastonbury crowd.

But we all know that’s not true. I love the Stones – well, I love who they were, and who Keith and Ronnie are, at least as public figures – but for as long as I can remember, they have controlled and made large amounts of money out of every aspect of the band’s music, merchandise, live shows and related product. When I saw them in Glasgow in 2007 we weren’t even allowed to take photographs because they’d hired somebody to do that for us, and sell them to us afterwards if we had any money left over from the one hundred pound ticket.

Like some bands, a lot of hip hop artists and several actors who come to mind, the Stones trade on the traces of a rebellious image (though what they’re rebelling against no one can actually remember), while being remarkably good corporate capitalists. They just go to work in football stadiums instead of offices, wearing tight pants and skull rings instead of dull suits and short waxy hair.

Jim Morrison, who didn’t get the chance to grow old (unless he really is living in Africa drinking hot dust afternoons away with the shade of Arthur Rimbaud), had more insight into the essential falsehood of the media-made bad boy than anybody. That was why he pretended to show his cock in Miami and told his startled audience, “You’re all a bunch of fucking slaves.” He knew that they had come for sex, not freedom; if they wanted freedom, they would not have made a performer a hairy substitute for all the leaders that they had already – as Joan Baez said (roughly), “Mommy and Daddy and school teacher and priest and president.”

Morrison seemed to want to force a riot to make the crowd confront their own self-deception. Or reject him. Before he caught the plane for Paris, he’d grown tired of his false position as the leader of a phoney revolution. Just like Dylan did when he quit protest music, put on sharp suits and started writing his wild amphetamine poetry.

Do the Stones today know there is no revolution? They’re a movie of rebellion for those who want to dream; smart, and usually moneyed, people who wouldn’t want to change, but like totems of change that they can toy with sometimes when they’re feeling stressed. It gets their heads out of the gym or office, liberates a manager after several meetings, playing “Jumping Jack Flash” on her ipod, loud. And there’s nothing wrong with that, not if it’s honest fiction. But every now and then I find I long for more. 


Bryn Fortey said…
Right on,Bruce.