Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 55
Fri, Mar 20, 2013
“Saint of Me”
The Rolling Stones
Can you name a Rolling Stones song that was on an album after 1981’s Tattoo You? Just like Scary Monsters for David Bowie, when ever The modernn Stones attempt to release a new record, critics and fans always compare it to the last “great album,” in the Stones case it’s the 1970’s legendary leftover extravaganza that was Tattoo You. But then again, I’m not your normal Stones fan. I actually can remember “Mixed Emotions” and “Slipping Away” from Steel Wheels but I have to admit the last Rolling Stones album that I enjoyed was 1997’s Bridges to Babylon.
Bridges to Babylon is best known for it’s k.d. Lang inspired, “Anybody Seen My Baby,” [Most people remember the Angelina Jolie video] my vote for last great Stones single of the 1990’s; but there’s something about “Saint of Me” and it’s sinister rhythms that always rubbed me the right way. “Saint” reminded me of an updated ode to “Sympathy for the Devil.” Jagger talked to Paul Du Noyer about the symbolism on “Saint of Me” when he said, “I like using religious themes in songs. There’s quite a few, whether they’re gospel things like the one on Exile [Just Wanna See His Face] or Sympathy For The Devil, or Saint Of Me on the last album. If it’s part of your life then it should be part of your expression. But it’s very hard to write a song about spirituality – as opposed to a car, for instance.”
If there was one modern Stones song that’s my personal theme, my anthem would be “Saint of Me.” For the longest time I’ve been so hyper-critical about myself. Any kind of personal mistake would send me down a rabbit hole of depression. “Saint of Me” taught me to embrace my imperfections. It’s an anthem for anyone like me who infamously reflected angels with dirty faces. And that’s “Saint of Me” Mick Jagger attempted to recapture the wicked glory of “Sympathy.”
Even though The Stones of the nineties were produced by Don Was, Jagger brought in the Dust Brothers whose collaboration with Beck yielded the very eclectic freaked out pop gems of Odelay. Jagger wanted the Dust Brothers to bring a modern backbeat to the classic Stones sound on Bridges to Babylon. Mick talked about the inspiration for “Saint of Me” when he explained, “I didn’t know what I was doing sometimes when I was sitting in the Dust Brothers’ studio in Silver Lake and it’s just me and I’ve got absolutely nothing to start with and I’m going, I wonder if this is really such a good idea I’m doing this. And they got this little drum machine going, which is called an 808 which everyone uses, and it’s just tinkling away in the back there, like, in this teeny way and I’m quite used to all that but… So I’m sitting there playing my keyboard and playing Saint of Me and it was very, you know, it’s quite slow. I was having fun with it, but it’s very low tech in that studio and I just didn’t know how it was gonna build up. But then, as it goes on, you know, and I took the tapes, transferred them and then went to the studio and Charlie sort of played on them. And then I’d bring them back and… it comes in piece (by) piece. It still had to really take shape but it was quite fun doing that. I mean, it was just good to do it in another way, really, and I had a lot of fun with that one.”
Did you know that “Saint of Me” ended up being a tribute to Billy Preston? Preston was a legendary keyboardist who played with Little Richard, was the fifth member of The Beatles and actually during the 1970’s was a touring member of the Stones. Although Keith Richards doesn’t play on “Saint of Me, Ron Wood and Waddy Wachtel shreaded guitar, doing The Stones sound and Richards proud with their tenacious riffs on “Saint to Me,”” remembering Preston in his book Life, Keef wrote, “Billy produced a different sound for us. If you listen to records with Billy Preston, like “Melody,” he fit perfectly. Certainly Charlie [Watts] quite enjoyed the jazz influence, and did a lot of good stuff together.” “Saint of Me” was the last Stones song Billy Preston ever played on. Jagger remembered the long time Stones touring keyboardist and friend when he eloquently said, “Billy was a fantastic and gifted musician … a superb singer in both recording sessions and onstage. He was great fun to be with … and I will miss him a lot.”
“Saint of Me” is more than just another single in the massive Stones musical canon. Trying to summon up the past sinister glories of “Sympathy for the Devil,” instead with help from the Dust Brothers, The Rolling Stones of 1997 towering tribute for their keyboardist friend. Jagger and Richards may never have made a saint out of Billy Preston, but this wicked ode still remains of the last great Stones singles of the 1990’s.