My sweetie is not a big Stones fan, yet there are plenty of covers of Rolling Stones songs that she really likes. I think that at this point we agree that a great cover must be based on a solid foundation.
No other band has gone downhill for forty damn years and still had a down to go. The Stones, at their peak, were so insanely great that for the next few decades of giving a shit or not, they went on making money.
But there are others ready to recast the Stones’ songs with modern sensibilities and lyric urgency. (Note: I said ‘modern’ but I’m pretty sure I don’t know what that means.) These new bands just try to carry a bit of Mick’s swagger.
I’m pretty sure that almost every Stones song has been redone better, or, at least, closer to my taste. But those songs would not have happened without Mick. And we can argue about which performance is better, but Paint it Black tears my guts out, and maybe the covers do it better (not maybe, they do) but in the end it’s the magic of the way the sounds play against my nervous system. I see the red door, and I want to paint it black. The covers wouldn’t be there without the original.
I’d be curious to see what 1960’s Mick would do if he toddled onto the stage for the first time here in 2013. Honestly I don’t think it would work out that well, if we noticed him at all. Mick Jagger would be just another one of the herd of dissolute and profligate rockers. The thing is, while the Stones may not have invented that identity, they certainly perfected it. Mostly by accident, but you can’t hold that against them.
And those early Stones tunes are still with us, getting more play and more respect (covers = respect) than anything the band has produced in the last thirty years. To me that’s an indicator that those songs were from the gut; they have an emotional resonance that later generations of performers have understood and exploited.
Except maybe “Ruby Tuesday”. One of my favorite Stones tunes of all time; released at about the moment they started going downhill for the next few decades. I love that song, but their performance of it is, well, clumsy. Ham-fisted. Doesn’t matter, I still love it. But… where are the covers? Where is the Seattle lesbian band to take that song and throw it through the speakers so hard your nose bleeds? Where’s the ska band enraptured with the way the lyrics sound? Where’s the coffee shop singer asking, “who can hang a name on you?” Where’s the alt-band banging out their big bwangy guitar chords lamenting how she changes with every new day? Where is the rendition that eclipses the original? It seems like the easiest thing in the world, recasting such a soulful song.
I’m sure the covers are out there, and I hereby resolve to go find a few. But as far as mainstream goes, all we get is a chain of fake ’60’s diners.