It’s fucking cold, and no mistaking. Which is reason enough for today’s song, dating from 1973 and The Rolling Stones LP Goat's Head Soup. For me, in retrospect, The Rolling Stones owned the Seventies, but at the time I was somewhat less enamored. I didn’t buy this album when it came out, which is a way of saying that the mystique of The Stones, which had sustained me through 1971 and 1972—the era of Hot Rocks, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street (still their best era)—was on the wane. It really wasn’t til they “came back” with Some Girls in 1978 that I bought up some of the later LPs with Mick Taylor on lead, specifically this LP and It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (1974).
All of which is a way of saying that I didn’t hear this song until l978, which was a pretty real winter too, come to think of it. Record snowfall, that kind of thing. The song is one of those “white Soul” type tracks The Stones would come up with from time to time. On “Winter,” Mick comes closer to sounding like Van the Man than he had before or has since. Fitting too, since Van was one of my key discoveries around that time, following the release of Wavelength in 1978. Which is, I guess, a way of saying that the kind of soulful, heart-felt vocal found on “Winter” was likely to make inroads with me, at that time.
Ah, yeah, this song is one of my “loving lover” songs, what with those lines of wanting “to wrap my coat around ya, woman.” You don’t have to be a macho sexist type to get all melty and squishy inside at the prospect of a woman being cold or unhappy . . . or do you? Mick is certainly the sexist type, no fooling, and it’s a fun vocal because Mick is hamming it up so much, but it still sounds to me like his heart’s in the right place, at least for as long as it takes him to sing the song. Mick and The Boys proved what they could do with an introspective ballad with “Wild Horses” on Sticky Fingers (1971), about which more some other time. “Winter” is no “Wild Horses,” lyrically, but it sort of combines the melancholy of that song with some of the grandeur—courtesy of Mr. Watts—of that same LP’s “Moonlight Mile”—and those two Fingers tracks happen to be two of my favorite Stones songs of all time, so, y’know, I’m putting “Winter” in good company.
“It’s sure been a hard, hard winter / And my feet been draggin’ ’cross the ground.” Amen to that. I chose this song because a winter storm came in hard yesterday afternoon and by the time I left campus visibility was pretty shitty and the cold, wet stuff was coming right into my face, head down, cap on, trudging to the bottom of Prospect St. Normally I would walk home but there was no way to do that, last night. Bested by the elements I was. Had to grab a shuttle bus.
And that bit about the light of love burning bright? Something about being on a bus with all those others seeking shelter from the storm while the dutiful driver makes the stops kinda gives you a warm glow, doesn’t it? Much as I’d probably be cursing humanity and all its works if I were having to drive myself, on the bus I felt a cozy regard for my fellow humans. Awwww. And then to get home and the ratatouille is singing in the copper, er, bubbling in the pot and the red wine is ready to go, and all that. Well, suffice to say, Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap settled in to watch videos and drink wine and munch on treats, and the outdoors be damned.
“And I hope it’s gonna be a long hot summer . . . .” My feelings on that score are changeable, and even in the midst of a biting wind I don’t really pine for the heat. Still, I think that line is true to the way many people feel on a cold day: “and the fields has all been brown and fallow / And the springtime take a long way around.” The lyrics also include some odd lines, such as “burning my bell, book, and candle,” which references the rite of excommunication from the Catholic Church, and “the Restoration plays have all gone ’round,” which refers to the restoration of theater in England after plays were banned by the Puritans for 18 years. Clearly, or not so clearly, winter has put Mick in mind of Puritan bans and Catholic ousting. Winter is like a cold day in hell? Winter is to summer like a Puritans’ heart is to the light of love? Anyway…
“Well, well, well, sometimes I think about you baby, oh well, ah, sometimes I cry about you, lord, well well well well well well well well, yeah ‘n’ I wrap my coat around ya, woman . . . Oh, I know what I’m talkin’ about.” That’s the part that always reminds me of Van and his many ad-libs, but it’s also the part that makes me believe in the light of love, even here in the midst of winter.
|Watts, Taylor, Jagger, Richards, Wyman|
And then Mick Taylor does some talking on the guitar. The Stones were at their best when he was there, gotta say.
On this day three years ago, my mother passed away, and that’s about as cold as winter ever needs to get, friends. “Sometimes I wanna burn a candle for ya . . . ”