I’ve always loved the Stones but they scare me. Of course that’s part of the reason I dig ’em. Goat’s Head Soup, “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Monkey Man,”–turn on the lights! When I was in eighth grade my cousin and I were into Tatoo You. Over recess one day we both tried to figure out the boot on the inside sleeve. Is that fur? A cloven hoof? It still gives me the shivers. Mick’s take on all things carnal was a lot to handle for my white boy brain. I remember listening to Some Girls, and the song “Some Girls” in particular, with headphones hoping my mom wouldn’t walk in.
But I want to talk about guitar sounds. For as much as Keith has a reputation for just plugging in and letting it rip, I’m constantly amazed by the range of fantastic guitar sounds that he and his collaborators have come up with over the years. Brian Jones and Mick Taylor deserve much of the credit of course, but I was led to write this post based on my random encounters over the last couple of days with the intros to both “Brown Sugar” and “Happy.”
As most people who know me know, The Edge is one of my heroes. The sound of his rhythm guitar on the album version of “Pride” leaves me in awe every time I hear it (I still remember hearing it for the first time as my alarm clock went off one 11th grade morning). But the guitar sounds and iconic intros in songs like “Brown Sugar,” “Happy,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Street Fighting Man,” and “Bitch” seem so classic, it’s easy to look past how fantastically original they sound. I’m not a tekkie but any sense of the word so I’ll leave it to others to offer their dissertations on how the Stones got the sounds they did (even though I know “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is an acoustic guitar mic’d through a cassette tape recorder). The closest I get is when I get my Tele to sound like Keef on “Waiting On a Friend.”
Oh, and then there’s “Shattered.”