Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Core Stone

Stu....maybe not a core Stone (see yesterday's post), but most definitely a very important and influential person in the forming of this new band, The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards, once again:

I don't think the Stones would have actually coagulated without Ian Stewart pulling it together. He was the one that rented the first rehearsal rooms, told people to get there at a certain time; otherwise it was so nebulous. We didn't know shit from Shinola. It was his vision, the band, and basically he picked who was going to be in it. Far more than anybody actually realizes, he was the spark and the energy and the organization that actually kept it together in its early days, because there wasn't much money, but there was this idealistic hope that "we can bring the blues to England". "We have been chosen!". All that dopey sort of stuff.

And Stu had such incredible enthusiasm in that way. He'd stepped out - made a split with the people he'd played with. He took a leap in the dark there, really. It was against the grain. It alienated him from his cozy little club scene. Without Stu we'd have been lost. He'd been around the club scene a lot longer - we were just new kids on the block.

One of his first strategies was to wage guerilla war against the trad jazzers. That was a big, bitter cultural shift. The traditional jazz bands, aka Dixieland bands, semi-beatniks, were doing very, very well. "Midnight in Moscow", Kenny Ball, Acker Bilk, the whole goddam lot of them. They flooded the market. Very good players, Chris Barber and all of those cats.

They ran the scene. But they couldn't understand that things were moving and that they should incorporate something else into their music. How could we dislodge the Dixieland mafia? There seemed to be no chinks in their armor. It was Stu's idea that we played the interval at the Marquee and other venues, while Acker was having a beer. No money in it, but the interval was the thin end of the wedge. Stu figured out that strategy. He would just turn up and say, no money, but interval at the Marquee, or the Manor House.

Suddenly the interval became more interesting than the main event. You put the interval band on, and they're playing Jimmy Reed. Fifteen minutes. And it was really only a matter of months before that traditional-jazz monopoly faded away. There was bitter hatred of us. "I don't like your music. Why don't you play in ballrooms?". "You go! We're staying!". But we had no idea that the ground was shifting at the time. We weren't that arrogant. We were just happy to get a gig.

Source: Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Here's just a little bit more on the trad jazz war topic. Listen to Ian Stewart and Brian Jones:

    Stu: At the start, nobody in England played our kind of music. But nobody. Mick and Keith and Brian were about the only people in the country that knew the music and were trying to play it. Everybody else were jazz musicians trying to play the blues, that hadn't really heard them. And having seen the Stones once at the Marquee, the people who were running the scene in those days were 100% against us, and it was one bloody fight to get anywhere. They thought R&B was a jazz thing and there should be three saxophones. They said, what? Two guitars and a bass guitar? That's rock and roll - we don't want to know about it, we'll try and put it down.

    Brian: We knew all along, you see. The blues was real. We only had to persuade people to listen to the music, and they couldn't help but be turned on to all those great old blues cats. I'd been through the jazz scene, and I knew that it had to die because it was so full of crap and phony musicians who could hardly play their instruments. And Keith knew a bit about the ordinary pop scene, so he knew what a lot of rubbish that was.