Thursday, June 11, 2015

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

First, let's just get something straight right away: The Rolling Stones is the greatest band of all time.  Full stop.

Several years ago, my favorite music magazine No Depression ran a contest they called "Exile on Main Street vs. The White Album Smackdown" and invited readers to write in and explain why one album was better than the other.  I submitted my entry, "Why 'Exile on Main Street' Gets My Rocks Off" and basically provided a slam-dunk argument for why The Stones are and will always be a better band than The Beatles (since I don't think "Exile" or "The White Album" are the best of either band's work).  If you want to know all the details of why I love, love, LOVE The Rolling Stones, go read that piece now.  Go ahead, I'll wait.

My favorite song from The Stones, and one of my favorite songs of all time, is "Beast of Burden." Here it is:

That lazy, dirty, gritty guitar lick with which Keith Richards begins "Beast of Burden" is probably one of the most recognizable in all of pop music. And Charlie Watts stays just enough behind the beat to give the whole thing a kind of loping, not-in-too-much-of-a-hurry, cool sound that I like to call the "hangover groove." Then, of course, there's Mick... whose back is broad, who has walked for miles, whose feet are hurting, who you can put out on the street (with no shoes on his feet) and who can still shrug off all your sickness. But he'll NEVER be your beast of burden...

Or will he? It's such a uniquely, powerfully broken sentiment that drives this song, even in spite of its garden-variety mundaneness. You've all had someone who treated you like a beast of burden, who weighed you down and rode you hard, who put you out and wore you down... AND YET who you still find yourself going back to, in spite of all your pain and exhaustion and sickness, for just a little more love and tenderness. Everything about Mick's plea in "Beast of Burden" involves irresolvable emotional conflict. He's putting his foot down AND he's asking for more. He's documenting his strengths AND he's displaying his vulnerabilities. He's bragging AND he's begging. One one level, all he wants is to get it on again... no, correction, to "make love" again. But on another level, he can't help himself but to ask softly, even sweetly, all of the "why?" questions to which he both does and doesn't want answers. A'int I hard enough? A'int I rough enough? Ain't I rich enough? In love enough?

C'mon baby, please, please, pleeeeaaaassse.

Another reason I really love this song is because I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't also love this song. It's one of those tunes that makes everyone smile, gets everyone moving and grooving, and to which almost everyone knows enough of the words to sing along. What's more, in a non-scientific survey, I've noticed that most people can and do dance to this song. I mean, even people who have no sense of rhythm at all and can't even find the beat to "Devil With the Blue Dress On" somehow still manage to get themselves coordinated enough to move along to "Beast of Burden." It's all about community, man.

There's a whole world of country, rhythm & blues, jazz, folk and pop songs that basically boil down to the message: "Don't treat me like a dog. Love me (or make love to me) instead." This song is one of the best of those. And, for what it's worth, if more people heeded that advice, we would all be a lot better off.

Click here to return to the 30 Day Song Challenge 2015 home.

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