Saturday, June 11, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 11: A Song From Your Favorite Band

Well, no surprises today for the 30 Day Song Challenge. My favorite band of all time is the Rolling Stones. I picked their song "Beast of Burden" on Day 1 of this Challenge, when the rule was to post your favorite song. So, my song choice for today is, I suppose, another favorite song from the Stones. There are just SO MANY good ones to choose from that I tried today to avoid the obvious choices. So, no "You Can't Always Get What You Want" or "Honky Tonk Women" or "Brown Sugar" or "Under My Thumb." each of which are great examples of what makes the Stones so great. Instead, I'm going with one of the lesser-known hits. And also one, by the way, that explains why I chose that disgusting photo to your left.

Despite being a Stones fan for a long while, I wasn't actually familiar with the song I'm choosing today until a few years ago. My good friend and colleague, Prof. Grady (also a Stones fan), introduced me to it. Weirdly enough, I didn't listen to the Exile on Main Street album that much for many years, though after being turned on to it by Prof. Grady, I participated in a contest sponsored by No Depression magazine pitting the Beatles' White Album against the Stones' Exile on Main Street album. (You can read my entry here: "Why Exile on Main Street Gets My Rocks Off".) Since then, this song has been put on regular rotation at guitar nights among me and my friends. It's easy to play, it's got a great chorus, and it's a genuine sing-along song.

Here it is, the Rolling Stones' "Sweet Virginia" from their classic 1972 album Exile on Main Street:

Okay, first a funny story about this: For some reason, I cannot help but confuse this song with the Allman Brothers' "Sweet Melissa." That's not because the songs are anything alike, obviously, it's only because the titles are alike. So, for years my friend Prof. Grady has told me that his favorite Stones song is "Sweet Virginia" and I keep thinking of "Sweet Melissa," which is kind of embarrassing since I'm fairly positive that Prof. Grady is NOT an Allman Brothers fan. It's also embarrassing because I actually learned "Sweet Melissa" on the guitar as a result of this mistake.

Anyway, back to "Sweet Virginia." I'm always surprised that this song is not on the Beggars Banquet album, what with all its drawling honky-tonk. (Btw, Beggars Banquet is not only MY favorite Stones album but also, according to rumor anyway, one of the STONES' favorite Stones albums.) Upon listening to "Sweet Virginia" again, I think I might put it in my top 2 or 3 "campfire" songs. Assuming, of course, that you understand the Camping Triumvirate to be: fire, guitars, and alcohol. It's just a rollicking good time to sing-along to, and a lot of that is because of the flat-out unabashedly rock-n-roll lyrical content. Like this:

Thank you for your wine, California
Thank you for your sweet and bitter fruit
Yes I've got the desert in my toenail
And I hid the speed inside my shoe

But this is not any old rocker's braggadocio. I mean, "Sweet Virginia" is straightforward 16-bar country blues, so the story here (as in all country and blues) can't be a loner's story. Mick does what Mick does best on this song: he brags and he begs simultaneously. The begging part is aimed at "sweet Virginia," whomever that is, a honey child who Mick wants to come on, come on down. (She's got it in her.) And she must be some very special kind of "sweet" if she inspired a song by the Stones meant to encourage her to scrape that sh*t right off her shoes.

What a great line that is: Got to scrape that sh*t right off your shoes. It's such a perfect metaphor for the never-ending challenge of leaving the remnants of old missteps and mistakes and misdirections behind. Don't track the past in here, Mick says. You got to scrape it off.

Yes. Yes we do, Mick.

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