Saturday, February 15, 2014

DB's Song of the Day (day 46):"MOONLIGHT MILE" (1971) The Rolling Stones

Tonight there is to be a full moon. Not that you will see it in Connecticut because it’s snowing again.  But last night the moon was almost full, and gave the “luster of midday to objects below”—especially to huge piles of snow all along the sidewalks.

So today’s song is another “wintry” song from the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world, The Rolling Stones. According to wikipedia, this song, like “Winter,” which I featured last month, owes much to Mick Taylor even though in both cases the song is credited to Jagger/Richards.  In other words, Taylor was working with Jagger on both songs without much input from Richards, or not enough to preclude a credit to Taylor. Like, in Led Zep, when Jones or Bonham contribute, they get credit. It’s not always just Page/Plant. But it is always Jagger/Richards. Oh well, no wonders Taylor left. But I mention all that simply to indicate that, yes, “Winter” and “Moonlight Mile” are similar, and that both are favorite Stones tracks of mine.
Mick Taylor and Keith Richards

This song begins with “When the wind blows / And the rain feels cold / With a head fulla snow.” It’s a joke. Wind, rain, and snow . . . except he doesn’t mean that kind of snow. And that’s why when Jagger draws out “with a head fulla snow,” the second time, it does indeed sound wasted. And this song is all about that: being wasted, and wasting time, and wasting away while away from one’s love. “I am just livin’ to be lyin’ by your side / But I’m just about a moonlight mile on down the road.”

There are many lines in the song that stand out to me, which makes it one of Jagger’s best reflective lyrics. When Mick wants to be soulful, he can be. “I am sleeping under strange, strange skies” is not so great as a line, but just hear how he delivers it. Those skies are really strange. Everything around this guy is strange: “in the window there’s a face you know / Don’t the nights pass slow.”  That used to floor us when we were sitting around, staying up all night for no other reason that that the stuff we were doing wouldn’t let us sleep. And, no, never used coke, kids.

Still, I think I kinda know where Mick’s coming from.  And I love the grandeur that Taylor or Richards or whoever, and Paul Buckmaster’s string arrangement, and Charlie Watts’ big gestures on the drums (cymbals especially) give to this song. It’s only half a minute over five minutes, but the song feels as grand as any major epic song. Partly because of the way it begins muted and then, after that great crescendo, with Mick vamping with real feeling then hitting “Yeah, I’m comin’ home” (though the words aren’t really so distinguishable), it goes back to those light, little inflections of the guitar and Mick does that flutter flutter fly on “mi-hi-hi-hi-le.”  The coda is one of those chiming guitar moments of the Stones that we pay them the big bucks for, swirling with strings like snow on the breeze.

It’s a song about the madness of life on the road as only a touring band can know it, but that “si-lunss on my rAAYYd-i-o” really has so much more power, as does “my dreams is fadin’ down that rail-way liiine,” than the words written on a page could, and suggest so much more.  The groove of this song is the flip of “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’” on the album’s other side (the album is Sticky Fingers, of course). That one is the up and partying, looking for trouble view of things; this one is the sad and lonely, coming down and moody view of things.  Giving us both and meaning both was one of the virtues of The Rolling Stones who let us know how great it was to party but never let us forget about coming down.

No comments: