Sunday, May 19, 2013

Track of the Week: The Rolling Stones, "Child of the Moon (rmk)"

What separates the good bands from the great?  I would argue that non-album B-sides are the key.  These are the ultimate throwaways, songs not worthy of inclusion on an album, and slapped on the back of a 45 so that there's at least something there.  A band that has so many good songs that the stuff it releases as its disposable refuse is better than the hits of other artists certainly qualifies as great.  Judging by that standard, it is "Child of the Moon (rmk)", not its justly famous A-side ("Jumpin' Jack Flash") that establishes the Rolling Stones' superiority.

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" may very well be the best song in the Stones' catalog, kicking off an amazing run from 1968 to 1972 that has yet to be matched by anyone else.  With its killer, no-nonsense riff and funky blues feel, the Stones were also signaling an end to their psychedelic period and all of the phased drums, day-glo outfits, twee lyrics, and harpsichords that came with it.  Traditionally, Stones fans and critics have lauded this moment, considering the Stones' foray into psychedelia to be a dire mistake that "Jumpin' Jack Flash" exorcised in a most spectacular way.

While the A-side was a major statement of purpose, the B-side was a wistful look back.  The hippy-dippy lyrics,  shimmering guitar, and trippy vocals of "Child of the Moon"embody the very psychedelia repudiated on the A-side.  It's almost as if the band thought, "let's try this out one last time, and do it right."  I have to say, the result is much more interesting and catchy than most of the stuff on their infamous psychedelic record, Their Satanic Majesties Request.  Perhaps this forgotten yet brilliant B-side was just a small way to save face, to make the change from flower power to bluesy riff rocking from a position of strength.  All I know for sure is that many of the legions of bands that imitate the Stones have been unable to match a song that is essentially a tossed-off relic from a much-maligned musical detour.

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