"We had great confidence in what we did compared to other people. We'd say, 'Well, we're better than them. They're rubbish, and they're doing well.'"
So sayeth Mick Jagger, in a Parade interview a few Sundays ago on the occasion of the release of the Martin Scorcese documentary Shine A Light. (Haven't seen it yet.) The question was: Can you explain the astonishing longevity of the Rolling Stones?
There are so many reasons why I've always loved the Stones. And one of them is their pervasive audacity. All of us have a side that just wants to tell everyone to go to hell, and that's what the Stones have been about from the beginning. They were probably the original punks.
The hypnotic Miss You is the quintessential example of this. When other groups were being marginalized as dinosaurs by the emerging disco and punk phenomena, the Stones just went nuts and created one of the best songs of their entire repertoire to that point. It sailed to the top of the charts the week of August 5, 1978 - an achievement of mammoth proportions when you consider that #2-5 were Three Times A Lady by the Commodores, Grease by Frankie Valli, Last Dance by Donna Summer, and Shadow Dancing by Andy Gibb. Take that, disco duck!
In Miss You, the Stones and the studio musicians involved in this recording session together produced one of the most alluring songs of the entire 70s. Not one rhythmic second drags. From start to finish, it's addictive, and you can't wait to see what happens next. Human metronome Charlie Watts has never been better - his four on the floor drum line alone makes the song one for the books. At the top of his game, Bill Wyman shores up the rhythm section with his bass playing. Mick indulges his inner sassy lunatic to perfection.
I saw the Stones live for their Tattoo You tour in 1981. Even back then, the critics were asking how these guys could keep going, suggesting to do so was undignified. What they don't seem to understand is that the Stones have never been about dignity. They've got music in their souls, and it's gonna come out one way or the other. And that may be one of their biggest strengths.