Monday, January 24, 2011

Beth’s Music Moment: The Glimmer Twins and the Rise of Rock and Roll

Glimmer TwinsIn my previous entry, I mentioned that I was reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life. I am still enjoying it immensely (thanks, Darren!), and I’m on the part where The Rolling Stones have just formed, and are starting to get some local gigs.

Keith writes about running into Mick Jagger (who he knew as a schoolkid) at a train station and finding out that Mick was heavily into the kind of music that Keith liked, the blues. Keith said that whoever had the records was the one you wanted to hang out with, and Mick had ‘em. He had sources in Chicago where he was able to get records that no one else in the area could get, and the two of them spent endless hours playing the records, over and over and over, as they tried to get the sound, tried to figure out the chord changes, tried to learn the lyrics. It’s fascinating.

What struck me about much of this was Keith’s reverence for the blues and the musicians who play them. He mentions Chicago often, showing how much influence Chicago blues had on rock and roll. Keith, one of the biggest rock stars in the world, writes of these artists with the air of an awestruck teenager. (Which I find charming, and it reminds me of the time Cousin Shane and I got to see the Stones on the Steel Wheels tour. It is the one and only concert I’ve been to where I screamed like a teenager when the band took the stage. True story. I thought I was cooler than that, but I was moved.) I find it incredibly cool to read of what was essentially the birth of rock and roll, at least as we know it today. I’m not saying that the Stones invented rock and roll, not at all. It was a nascent movement at that time, and many musicians were trying to figure out their own sound. Keith writes of blues purists who felt that anything other than a black man playing an acoustic guitar with no accompaniment was most definitely NOT the blues. Even Chicago blues artists were booed when some dared to break out an electric guitar!

Glimmer Twins2Perhaps there are some who find solace or superiority in being such purists, but they’re kind of missing the point. The Stones and others of the time were emulating the artists they loved and admired. The key thing in the context of which I am writing is that they built on that sound and formed their own. They weren’t ripping off the artists by stealing their music and releasing their versions of it, although they did release a few older songs as singles. (People do remakes all the time, and some are good and some are not.) They loved the roots of the songs, learned the rhythms and the key changes, and then got creative and wrote their own. Are their subsequent songs simply rehashing the old songs, stealing the sounds for their own? Yes and no. Their songs contain elements of those blues roots, include many of the same key changes, but there is no denying that they made their own sound and made their own songs. (For those of you that don’t know, the Glimmer Twins are Mick and Keith’s nickname as a songwriting pair, and also the name of their production company. Check out that link to see the list of incredible songs that they’ve written together. Blows my mind.)

Every music genre builds upon those that have come before it. After all, there are only a certain number of notes. But how do people put their own spin on it (so to speak)? How do they place their personal fingerprint on the music? What do they create on their own, after being influenced by these talented and amazing musicians? How are they inspired?

In the case of the Stones, they were motivated and inspired to create some of the most amazing rock and roll we’ve ever heard. Some will argue that the Stones are no longer making great music or relevant to the current music scene. I say, “So what?” I still love listening to stuff they released over four decades ago. Just as they loved listening to stuff that these blues musicians had released years before, and listening to those who were still making similar music. Just because something is old doesn’t make it irrelevant. The Stones are true geezers now, but they still rock like mofos.

An interesting point there, too. We’ve seen the popularity of rock and roll rise in our lifetimes. This is a fairly new phenomenon in the scheme of things. Bluesmen and other musicians make music into their ‘80s and beyond. When was the decision made that rock musicians have to quit at a certain age? The antics and the stage shows might take on a different, calmer tone (haha), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still great musicians playing some great music. The guitar riff in "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" was recently listed as the best/most memorable riff in rock and roll. That's not too shabby, even if it was written some forty years ago.

All I know is that if I put on the Stones, there are still songs that make me dance, make me move, make me feel all rebellious and junk. Isn’t that what rock and roll is all about?

Beth's music moment6


  1. In the end, that is all that does count. I have always thought that the connection a listener has with the music is always more valueable than the musics connection to its so -called purity. If that wasn't the case then much of today pop drivel would not be on the air and all music composition would have ceased after Mozart!

  2. "Just because something is old doesn’t make it irrelevant." My Thought For The Day as I dance off into my morning to "Jumping Jack Flash."

  3. I like the Glee version of "Start Me Up" -- please don't judge! ;)

  4. Nothing beats the rolling stones in their heyday. I saw them more recently, however, and just kept wondering how Mick Jagger was able to still jump around at his age. Metamucil overdose ...?

  5. It's on my list to read when I get a chance after these courses I'm taking. Glad to read your thoughts about it. Can't wait to read it! I've always loved rock music!


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?