Saturday, April 08, 2006

Oscar Kightley: Why I love the Stones

It's not just rock critics who love the Stones from way back - Sione's Wedding and bro'Town star and writer Oscar Kightley has been Stones-obsessed since he was a youngster in the 80s. We asked him to tell us why ...

Oscar Kightley became a believer when he read a book about The Stones. Picture / Greg Bowker

The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock'n'roll band in the world and I became a firm believer in this before I'd even heard their music. As a young lad growing up in Te Atatu North, I listened to whatever my big brothers and sisters and parents played - thus I became a firm fan of reggae, ol' skool r'n'b, soul, and Samoan music.

Te Atatu being the pearl of west Auckland, it wasn't long before I added Led Zep to the mix.

The Rolling Stones joined the list after I read Phillip Norman's excellent biography from 1984, Symphony For The Devil; The Rolling Stones Story.

It is the definitive book on the Stones and covers their beginnings from their first gig at the Marquee in July 1962 to the release of their 1981 album Tattoo You.

I love how Mick Jagger and Keith Richards first met at primary.

I love how they named themselves after a song by Muddy Waters.

I love how they got into music through their love of the blues and their desire to share this music form with kids in England. They even regularly performed with their blues heroes later on.

I love how at the time when every other band was aping the good-boy images of the Beatles, these guys wore different clothes and just kept it real.

I love the story of how their first manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, tired of them performing covers and locked Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in the basement until they finished writing an original.

I love reading about tortured genius Brian Jones, who was so wasted by the end of his time with them that they had to turn him down. This was years before the Sex Pistols did that to Sid Vicious. Then they had to fire him and he died in mysterious circumstances, years before other rock stars died in mysterious circumstances.

I love reading about the controversy that swirled around them in the 60s, how the establishment attacked and blamed them for whatever young people were doing at the time.

I love how they were the first group to go on tax exile, during which they recorded Exile on Main St, one of the greatest rock records of all time.

I love how Keith Richards was rumoured to have had an affair with the wife of the then Canadian Prime Minister and how they were kicked out of the country. I even once got a skull ring exactly like Keith's.

I love the stories of how they worked hard and played even harder - except for their taciturn drummer Charlie Watts, who listened to jazz, collected antiques and who on tour never took his clothes out of his suitcase so he could pretend he was going home the next day.

The Rolling Stones were basically a group of mates from the same 'hood who came together through a love of blues music and who then managed to change the game they were in. That's a mark of greatness.

Later, rock groups liked to diss them, but these same artists were only able to enjoy aspects of the industry like huge stadium tours basically because the Rolling Stones broke new ground for them.

After I read the book I then went out and discovered their music and became a fan for life. Aftermath, Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed from the 60s; Sticky Fingers, Black and Blue, Some Girls from the 70s. Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. I loved them all and everything since then.

Lots of groups who began in the 60s stopped making new music and still tour peddling their old stuff.

The Rolling Stones continue to make new music and express themselves through the music - last year's Bigger Bang is a choice example.

The fact that they're still doing it in their 60s isn't a joke. It's testament to how great they are. They're only emulating their blues heroes, who also played on into their autumn years not because they were desperate to stay in the limelight but because they still had music to make and songs to sing.

When U2 toured here with B.B. King in the late 80s, I was a cadet reporter for the Auckland Star and remember going to the press conference and asking him if U2 were the greatest rock band in the world. He said yes - but then again he had to because Bono was sitting next to him.

I then said: "What about the Rolling Stones?" I think his answer was something like, "They were".

Whatever, BB King, U2 wouldn't exist if it hadn't been for a group of long-haired louts who dared to be themselves and wear their own clothes, thus thrusting rock'n'roll into another phase of evolution.

Elton John once said they were the perfect rock'n'roll group because they didn't give a ****. And they still don't give a ****, especially when the haters of the world say they should have stopped a long time ago.

They wouldn't be the Stones if they started listening to people. Like original Stones genius Brian Jones once said: "We piss anywhere, man." That's so rock'n'roll.

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