The Rolling Stones are arguably the biggest rock’n’roll band in the world so to secure a performance from them is amazing. The Stones, who first formed in 1961, August 31, and played their first ever gig outside England in 1963 at the Royal Lido Ballroom in Prestatyn. And although the four remaining members – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood – are now all around 60, they say they are still enjoying performing live.
‘We do enjoy ourselves doing it. Everyone has been saying how can they enjoy themselves, they should be bored to death doing this,’ Jagger said, in an interview from Dallas, Texas. ‘If we were bored to death, we would not be doing it.’
By early 1967, with no small contribution from the news media, the San Francisco area was being celebrated as the center of the new lifestyle. “Flower-power”, that intoxicating antithesis to all that was conventional, attracted would-be hippies from all over, and also had a sweet smell of dollars to a record industry not averse to striking an anti-Establishment stance.
There was a price to pay on both sides. Never before had record companies granted their performers such latitude; never had they laid their own principles open to mockery. Yet for the performer there was no escaping the fact that, try as the companies might to seem streetwise and create the illusion of shining revolutionary ideals, to sing up with a record company was fundamentally to join the “system”.
It was nevertheless intriguing that the major companies went as far as they did. The counter culture was essentially a movement of and for the middle-class male. Its ideas of liberation, especially when crudely understood as “from work, for sex”, struck resonant chords across a broad spectrum of American male society, whose members sought to take advantage of the freedoms being won by the countre-culture.
In the process of cofounding (with a host of other Jamaican musicians) and popularizing reggae, Marley became more than just the Third World’s first musical superstar—a feat that was of course noteworthy in and of itself. In the second half of the 1970s he became widely recognized as one of the region’s preeminent and most highly regarded spokesperson. firiting on Marley as a postcolonial figure, with a particular focus on Africa and a hint of hyperbole, Eusi Kwayama puts this aspect of the reggae star’s status in perspective: “Bob Marley’s music has done more to popularise the real issues in the African liberation movement than several decades of backbreaking work by Pan-Africanists and international revolutionaries.” It is appropriate that in a career filled with stirring shows, from his native Kingston to New York to London, the signal performance of Marley’s life should have occurred in the Third World.
The middle-class nature of the movement is also evident in the development of two closely related ideas and practices: rock music as art, and rock criticism. As musicians’ solos grew more ambitious, and their Iyrics more involved, it became obvious that there was a role for the interpreter, outside the existing trade and fan magazines.
Rock criticism grew out of the “underground pressing most clearly the ideals of the youth movement. As practised in the newly founded journals such as Rolling Stone and Creem, it operated at least partly on a circular argument: rock’s growing seriousness made criticism necessary, and criticism’s existence proved rock’s seriousness. The step from “serious” to “art”was a small one, especially when aided by the wellknown parallel between the esthetics of modern bohemianism and those of the 19th-century Romantics, whose revolutionary achievements in art, politics and life criticism had been enshrined sky-high.
Jimi Hendrix, who came to Britain in 1966 at the behest of Animal Chas Chandler and formed a trio, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, fusing blues, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, and the pyschedelic lyrics, drugs, and instrumental effects with which many British groups, among them Pink Floyd and the Beatles, had been experimenting. Hendrix also jammed with Cream and was an important influence on Clapton.
The academic study of popular music, while often bedeviled by the contradictions implied in much sixties’ rock criticism, owes it many debts. Not least is that of having articulated the links between culture and politics. On the public level, this connection was made most clearly by the responses of the counter-culture to the Vietnam War (and especially to police intimidation of demonstrators) and to the continuing racial unrest. Short lived though these responses were, they pointed to a breakdown of the barrier that had traditionally separated politics from life. “The personal had become political”, and this was a profound achievement for the counter-culture of the 1960s.
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