“I Suffer From Asthma. The Only Drugs I Have Are For That.”June 10, 2014
What a wheeze, Brian Jones.
1967 was The Summer Of Love, although for the Rolling Stones it was anything but. By now, Brian was an extreme liability. Totally lost to drugs, puffy-eyed footage of the time shows him incapable of doing practically anything. His knack of being able to get a tune out of any exotic instrument hadn’t quite deserted him yet. Otherwise, he’d have been kicked out of his own band earlier than he eventually was. A trip to Tangier with doppelganger girlfriend Anita Pallenberg ended with Anita returning to Britain in the arms of Keith, who’d circled the troubled couple like a shark sniffing blood. Band dynamics, unsurprisingly, were irreparably damaged forever.
Amidst the chaos, the Stones found time to travel far and wide, not in the sense of a touring pop group, but as well-moneyed young tourists. Marrakesh became a favourite haunt. There, they’d met a dealer who introduced them to hashish, importing the drug back into Britain in the soles of custom-made shoes. At a party at Redlands, Keith’s very big house in the country, the Stones plus their girlfriends were subjected to a raid by police acting on a tip-off. The tabloids of the day set right into the Stones, with outlandish stories of a drug-taking, naked orgy. ‘Nude Girl At Stones’ Drugs Party‘ , ‘Why Girl Was Wearing Only Rug‘, ‘”Merry Nude” In Slipping Rug‘. Nothing much has changed, eh?
During the ensuing trial, prosecutors claimed that the only woman in the house, Marianne Faithful, was dressed in nothing but a fur rug that she let slip occasionally. They claimed that her lack of inhibition was a clear sign she was under the influence of drugs, specifically cannabis. Let’s face it, she probably was. By the end of the trial, the Stones were made examples of. Mick and Keith were subsequently sentenced to jail, Mick for 3 months for possession of amphetamines and Keith for 12, for allowing cannabis to be smoked in his home. Immediately they appealed against their sentence.
Pop fans and friends in high places voiced their opinions. Keith Moon and girlfriend Kim Kerrigan joined in the protests. William-Rees Mogg, the editor of The Times famously wrote an editorial that argued the Stones’ case, saying that if Mick and Keith were jailed they’d be seen as martyrs to a cause, and that would not help the anti-drugs movement in any way, shape or form. The Stones continued to craft out half-hearted tracks for their forthcoming Satanic Majesties Request LP, the shadow of the gaoler hanging grimly upon their shoulder. It wouldn’t be until the end of July that their appeal would be upheld.
Free men by August, Mick, Keith and the rest of the Stones gathered to create one of their most astonishing pieces of music.
Rolling Stones – We Love You
We Love You was recorded as a ‘thank you‘ to the fans who’d stood by them. Beginning with the clattering of a jail door and a nagging, repetitively hypnotic Nicky Hopkins piano line, it‘s a droning, paranoid anthem of defiance, a two-fingered salute to the establishment who’d tried and failed to squash them.
A barely functioning Brian hammers out a wonky mellotron riff that parps throughout like the wasted half-cousin of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love and the backing vocals (featuring an uncredited Lennon and McCartney ‘conducted’ by a visiting Allen Ginsberg) slur and slide into oblivion.
“They looked like little angels,” Ginsberg wrote later of the Stones and Beatles, “like Botticelli Graces singing together for the first time.”
Bill Wyman’s bassline that plays just behind the piano riff is in equal parts terrifying and extraordinary, creating a level of helpless claustrophobia that’s not been matched since. Keys jangle menacingly, gaolers’ footsteps echo throughout and the whole thing swirls down the plughole with a Made In Marrakesh fuzz guitar overload.
The band even went so far as to make a promotional video to accompany it. Aping their recent trials and tribulations, no-one at the BBC dared show it. The least poppiest of Stones singles to date (their 13th), it peaked at a disappointing number 8 in the UK.
* Bonus Track!
For a brief moment in time between ’89 and ’90, my friends and I deserted the favoured local indie disco for the far more exotic charms of the Metro in Saltcoats, a sticky-carpeted former old cinema where I’d seen Star Wars in the first week of release. The Metro was packed full of brickies, bastards and jail bait but had an anything goes policy to what was loosely termed ‘dance music’. Two years later and it’d be a hell hole, but for a brief moment in time it shone as brightly as the summer sun. The Strangler’s Peaches bassline played out behind some generic four-to-the-floor dance beat one memorable night. One other time they played this…
4 For Money – It’s A Moment In Time
Sampling a sped-up We Love You piano riff and adding a gospelly male shouter on top was hardly groundbreaking (and these days it sounds fairly rubbish) but when first heard this track was everything we wanted. A dance beat. And the Stones. And we were sure that no-one else inside the Metro knew it was a Stones’ track. The snobs that we were.