Sunday, March 10, 2013

Beth’s Music Moment: Sympathy for the Devil

Beth's music moment6[4]

I’ve been very busy lately with getting our Route 66 photo book done, and I’m finally on the last steps: proofreading and uploading. I’ve missed writing here on this little blog o’ mine!

I’ve also been paying close attention to what is going on with the Rolling Stones. I’ve heard from those who keep their ears to the ground that after their five 50th anniversary shows, they would be doing a U.S. and European tour, and sure enough, it was reported by Rolling Stone a couple of days ago that they will be doing 18 shows in the U.S., and Glastonbury in the U.K. Ken and I will be going, no matter where we have to go!

So I’ve been on a bit of a Stones kick lately, listening to the remastered “Some Girls” and their latest greatest hits compilation, “GRRR!” One of the songs on the latter is my favorite Rolling Stones song, and it is, in fact, my favorite song of all time! (Feel free to insert echo there.) I could have sworn that I’ve written about this song before, but I couldn’t find it, so forgive me if I am repeating myself.

“Sympathy for the Devil” is THE perfect song, in my opinion. It begins with just percussion, a beat that makes you start to move a little bit. Then we get to the lyrics, sung in Mick’s tasty baritone:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and fate

I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moments of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the Czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a General's rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
What's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched the glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the Gods they made

I shouted out
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
Well after all
It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails just call me Lucifer
I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me, have some courtesy
Have some sympathy and some taste
Use all your well learned politics
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mmm yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, mmm yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, get down
Woo hoo, ah yeah, get on down, oh yeah

Tell me, baby, what's my name?
Tell me, honey, baby guess my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name?
I'll tell ya one time you're to blame

I remember that in my youth, this song was condemned as being “satanic” and “glorifying the devil.” I guess it’s an easy mistake to make, considering the title. But if you spend any time listening to the song and paying attention to the lyrics, you’ll find that it is not sympathetic whatsoever. It is, in fact, a condemnation of our own actions. “I shouted out who killed the Kennedys, when after all, it was you and me.” The song builds slowly, with the instruments gradually joining in, and then the background vocals kick in. It is one of the most insidious, subtle songs I’ve ever heard, and it is perfection. A few minutes in, if you’re not dancing, you’re dead.

The cleverness of the lyrics, mentioning Jesus Christ and Pilate, the Bolshevik revolution, the evil of the Third Reich, the assassination of JFK and RFK. The mention of the kings and queens and the “gods they’ve made.” The ultimate indictment of us all: “Every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints. I’ll tell ya one time, you’re to blame.” Man, how perfect is that? And how true?

I do not subscribe to the belief that Satan is the one causing evil on our planet. That is purely our own doing, and this song articulates that perfectly: we invented Satan to explain our own flaws and our own capacity for hatred and evil. WE are what is evil in this world, and there is no sympathy for us, as long as we allow the evil to continue.

“Sympathy for the Devil” is everything that is right and true in rock and roll. It’s not just a great’s the basic truth of the world distilled into less than ten minutes. It is my favorite song.

1 comment:

  1. Before retiring, I was in radio for almost 35 years. In all that time I never read all the lyrics to this song. They do really speak to our condition.

    Watching Mick strut down the ramp was worth the price of admission.


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