"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Music Tuesday: Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones

The big news from the new Rolling Stones tour is that they have included the song “Emotional Rescue” into their set list.  You may wonder why that is such big news, especially since the song reached number three on the US charts when it came out as a single back in 1980.  It’s certainly not every song that breaks the top ten.  The album, also called “Emotional Rescue” broke to number one.  Not bad for an album where the band doesn’t follow it up with a tour.  I remember that summer it came out.  I loved the song the moment I heard it. 

The reason it’s news is because in the thirty-three years since the song was written the Stones have never played it live.  Well why not if the song was fairly successful?  Well there was no immediate tour.  It would have been natural to play your top song off the current album.  But if I remember correctly Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had one of their famous spats, and according to Wikipedia Jagger just refused:

“The recording of the album was reportedly plagued by turmoil, with Jagger and Richards' relationship reaching a new low. Richards, though still using heroin according to former keyboardist of The Small Faces, Ian McLagan, wanted to tour in summer or autumn of 1980 to promote the new album, which Jagger declined.”

So why didn’t they play the song on subsequent tours?  Well first off, the song did and still does divide a lot of Stones fans who at the time felt that the band had turned disco.  It’s got a dance beat, and in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was this rivalry between traditional rock and dance music.  A real rocker had to remain pure. But more important than that Keith Richards has always detested the song.  Yes, he was more the pure rocker and Jagger has always experimented with dance music.  But I have to say that “Emotional Rescue” is a very quirky song (more on that further down), and I can see how Keith (and others) just don’t get it.  Keith once famously punned on the title, calling it “Emotional Doo-Doo.”  Yes, he’s got writing credit for the song, but that’s because Jagger/Richards is a contractual (not sure if that’s the correct term) song writing team, and anything either writes for the Stones is a shared credit, whether one contributed or not.  But if you check out the studio credits, he’s got no part in playing on the song, no guitar or bass or even backing vocal, except for a quick mention of a backing vocal at “song’s close.”  That was probably something desperately needed to polish off the song at album mixing, since he’s always intimately involved with the final production.  He has not ever wanted to have anything to do with it, and I'm sure he's squashed any suggestion of playing it live.

I can understand why some don’t like the song.  It doesn’t have a big sound, either in dynamics or range (except for the vocal).  It’s minimalist.  It’s really hard to categorize.  It’s got a disco beat but no big disco drum sound, and guitar phrasing sounds more like reggae.  Even the drums seem to alternate between a disco beat and a reggae rhythm.  The melody is driven by the bass, as is the musical “hook.”  Listen to the song.



The most apparent musical interest is Jagger’s vocals.  He starts with a falsetto, part way moves to his natural voice, and concludes with a echo inflated, lowered register, which gives his tone a peculiar pomposity.  I love the way the drums shift rhythms and the sax imbues the chorus section with so much suggestion.  Jagger has said the song is about "a girl who's in some sort of manhood problems", not that she was going crazy but she's "just a little bit screwed up and he wants to be the one to help her out.”  Perhaps that’s part of it, but really the person who is mentally off is the male narrator persona as he fluctuates between “you could be mine,” “you should be mine,” and “you will be mine.”  He’s the emotionally disturbed one, going from fantasy ("knight in shining armour") to breaking down into tears “like a child.”  The irony is that the person who is here to bring the girl emotional rescue is the one in most need of emotional rescue.  That sax just drives home the disturbed inner nature, and the changing vocal register fragments the verse sections, further suggesting a fragmented, disturbed mind.  All the elements of this song work masterfully together.  I love it!
The lyrics are just so supple and dexterous. It’s not easy writing a song around a four syllabic word, “emotional,” and who would think the word “Pekinese” could fit into a rhythmic phrase. I just love this verse, “I come to you, so silent in the night /So stealthy, so animal quiet /I'll be your savior, steadfast and true /I'll come to your emotional rescue.” This song is Jagger the lyricist at his best.

Here are the song’s lyrics, taken from Keno’s Rolling Stones Website.
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)
Is there nothing I can say
Nothing I can do
To change your mind
I'm so in love with you
You're too deep in
You can't get out
You're just a poor girl in a rich man's house
Yeah, baby, I'm crying over you
Don't you know promises were never made to keep?
Just like the night, dissolve in sleep
I'll be your savior, steadfast and true
I'll come to your emotional rescue
I'll come to your emotional rescue
Yeah, the other night, crying
Crying baby, yeah I'm crying
Yeah I'm like a child baby
I'm like a child baby
Child yeah, I'm like a child, like a child
Like a child
You think you're one of a special breed
You think that you're his pet Pekinese
I'll be your savior, steadfast and true
I'll come to your emotional rescue
I'll come to your emotional rescue
I was dreaming last night
Last night I was dreaming
How you'd be mine, but I was crying
Like a child, yeah, I was crying
Crying like a child
You will be mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, all mine
You could be mine, could be mine
Be mine, all mine
I come to you, so silent in the night
So stealthy, so animal quiet
I'll be your savior, steadfast and true
I'll come to your emotional rescue
I'll come to your emotional rescue
Yeah, you should be mine, mine, whew
Yes, you could be mine
Tonight and every night
I will be your knight in shining armour
Coming to your emotional rescue
You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine
You will be mine, you will be mine, all mine
I will be your knight in shining armour
Riding across the desert with a fine Arab charger

So here’s a bootleg video of the live song from a couple of days ago someone uploaded to Youtube.  There are several versions, but I think the sound quality is best on this one, though you can find other videos who had a better angle.




They better produce a live album out of this tour because I want a live version in my collection.  Fantastic!

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