Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 56
Sat, Mar 21, 2013
The Rolling Stones
Today’s song is the answer to the trivia question, which was the last Rolling Stones song to be a top ten hit? Steel Wheels’ “Mixed Emotions.” I remember 1989, it was the year I graduated from high school. One of the highlights of my graduation year was when The Stones got back together. With Paul McCartney touring for Flowers in the Dirt, and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards reuniting The Stones, there was slight hope for a living Beatles reunion.
While the world would have to wait till 1995 for The Beatles Anthology, Mick And Keef buried their personal feud to reintroduce a new generation to The Glimmer Twins glory of The Rolling Stones. Richards talked about the tension leading up to the writing sessions for Steel Wheels when said, “I think we cut that in Montserrat, an island that no longer exists. That smoldering heap of volcanic eruptions. And we were the last guys to cut there. That was the last record anybody cut there. It’s what happens when you work with The Stones. They got a hurricane and then it erupted. It was a pretty island once. With “Mixed Emotions” I think I had the music and I went to Mick and said, bring your bit to it. Because it’s a two-way street a lot of the time. I mean there was a time when Mick and I used to write face-to-face all the time. But we were on the road then. Now we can bring ideas to each other and sometimes it’s strange – we hadn’t seen each other for maybe 5 or 6 months and we get together and funny enough, we’d each have written a piece of music that actually fits together even though we haven’t been in communication with each other.”
Jagger himself is fan of Steel Wheels biggest song when he said, “A good song this, but it’s very hard to do onstage. You go from the really hard verse to the very melodic chorus, which I like, but you always feel like you’re not going to pull it off, like it’s speeding up.” When asked about the significance of “Mixed Emotions” Richards responded, “People always accuse me of intending some sort of pun here, you know “Mick’s demotion”, but it isn’t true. I wrote this very early on in the session with Mick in Barbados.” Thinking about the meaning of Jagger’s lyrics, later, Keef told Rolling Stone Magazine this, “I thought about (the lyrics’ meaning) afterwards. I was coming back from a session, my old lady, Patti, had just arrived, and I drove over to see her. And I told her how strange it felt, because it suddenly occurred to me that there was infinite room there for subliminal subjection. I realized what we’d laid down there had all the ingredients of an interesting autobiography.”
One of Mick’s lyrics, “♫ So button your lip, baby/ button your coat/ let’s go out dancing/ let’s rock ‘n’ roll, ♫” actually mirrored Richards’ description of what lengths he went through, to convince Jagger to resurrect The Stones with Steel Wheels, when he explained, “I did have to take Mick to a few discos – which are not my favorite places in the world – because Mick likes to go out and dance at night. So I did that. That was my sacrifice. I humored him. And that’s when I knew we could work together.”
Although Mick Jagger quickly forgave Keith Richards, drummer Charlie Watts was less forgiving of Keef asking another drummer, Steve Jordan to play and produce his solo album Talk is Cheap. Richards talk about the agony Watts put him through cutting basic tracks fifteen hours at a time while recording Steel Wheels when he told Rolling Stone, “I‘d get up the next morning and I’d feel like I’d just done fifteen rounds with Mike Tyson. Get out of bed and my knees would buckle. I’d be lying there on the floor, and Mick would go, ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘It’s Charlie, man, I know it.’ Charlie was not going to let me off the hook. I think he was a little pissed, too, that I’d gone off and played with Steve Jordan. Like he was telling me, ‘I’ll show you how it’s done.””
Having been in the middle of The Glimmer Twins squabbling during 1986’s Dirty Work sessions, Watts and bassist wanted to know Jagger and Richards were serious to record an album like the Stones did during their hey days of the 1970’s. Richards’ response was documented in his biography Life, “Some bigwig figure in the music business, invited by Mick, came to Montserrat to discuss some contract to do touring. He obviously fancied himself for his producing abilities, because we’re standing in the studio area, playing back “Mixed Emotions,” which was going to be the first single. And Keith is standing there with his guitar on and Mick’s there and we’re listening to it. The song finishes, and the guy says, ‘Keith, great song, man, but I tell you, I think if you arranged it a little bit different it would be so much better. So Keith went to his doctor’s bag and pulled out a knife and threw it, and it landed right between the bloke’s legs, boinggg. It was really like William Tell, it was great. Keith says, listen sonny, I was writing songs before you were a glint in your father’s dick. Don’t you tell me how to write songs. And he walked out. It was fantastic. I’ll never forget it.” I bet that music exec learned his lesson. Mick and Keith must have been doing something right while recording Steel Wheels in Montserrat, because “Mixed Emotions” is still the last Stones to be worthy of being a top ten hit.
The Rolling Stones will never forget 1989. A new generation of Stones fans embraced Steel Wheels and made “Mixed Emotions” a hit single. Although, The Beatles and The Who were my preferred choice of 1960’s British Invasion bands, in ’89 The Stones were kings. If it wasn’t for The Glimmer Twins reuniting in Montserrat to write “Mixed Emotions” The Rolling Stones might still have been another disbanded band stuck in the laurels of their rock and roll past.