The Stones haven't released a great album since Tattoo You, which was 33 years ago. But they have a knack for still tapping into greatness a few times per album, like a once-great pitcher towards the end of his career that can still summon up an 11K/3-hit shutout once or twice a season. The best example of this, in my mind, is this track, from the 1997 album Bridges to Babylon.
Back in '09, Mark Harris wrote a great piece for Entertainment Weekly about the real power of "movie stars." He was specifically writing about Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and he argued that when Pitt shows up towards the end of the film as a teenager, the reason that moment carries so much emotional resonance is because the audience remembers what Pitt looked like in A River Runs Through It, and that history that we carry with us of remembering a star throughout their career really comes into play in moments like this. I think the same idea applies here.
Had any other band written and recorded this song in '97, it still might have been good (it is catchy, after all), but it wouldn't have had the same resonance as it does coming from Mick and Keith, who were 35 years into their recording career at the time. Hearing Mick and Keith, rock's all-time greatest married couple and most never-say-die rebels, defiantly declare that we'll never make a saint of them, really does carry a history of emotion with it that few artists are ever around long enough to take advantage of. They've been a part of the establishment for decades now, but they still retain their aura of coolness and swagger just enough to pull off a song this good.
The ultimate irony, though, is that even if Mick and Keith haven't been made saints (yet), Mick did become a Knight in the British Empire just five years later. Sigh.
This was originally written and posted on Facebook on May 25, 2014
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