Island Motel, Island Resort

Which performers have the largest number of songs on my Desert Island list? Two have four apiece. One was no surprise when I began analyzing the list, and one was.

I have never considered myself a major Rolling Stones fan, and I never listened to their catalog much beyond the radio hits until relatively recent times; nevertheless, the four songs on the list have been there for a while. While I might add a few if I were assembling the list today (particularly “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” but also “Let It Bleed” and “Dead Flowers”), I wouldn’t scrap any that are already on board.

“Brown Sugar”: Four minutes of concentrated nasty. Possibly the greatest 45 ever made by anybody.

“Tumbling Dice”: The sound of a party breaking out. If Exile on Main Street is the apex of the Stones’ career, and “Tumbling Dice”  is the apex of Exile on Main Street, well, you do the math.

“Fool to Cry”: The sad, reflective electric piano that opens this record absolutely kills me every time. The sound befits the Black and Blue album, which despite its controversial marketing (see a couple of examples here), was actually a pretty somber affair. At the time of its release, the Stones were in their mid 30s, bickering, and worn. Which is why they would put a song on the album like . . .

“Memory Motel“: On that night 32 years ago when I reluctantly graduated from high school, this is the song I cued up for the drive home. It’s about the never-ending road that takes us further and further from the people and places we love the most—a road all of us travel at one time or another.

Despite high-falutin’ rock critic dislike of the Eagles that now stretches into a second millennium, I’m probably not the only person who would pack away a few of their tunes for the long, lonely haul.

“Lyin’ Eyes”: Despite the sad tale of loveless marriage and adultery in the lyric, “Lyin’ Eyes” is the ultimate feel-good radio record. One night from the stage I heard Glenn Frey say that he could never get tired of playing the song, and I can’t imagine getting tired of hearing it.

“New Kid in Town”: It’s said that your life’s theme song is the Number-One single on your 18th birthday. Since I don’t want “Love Is Thicker Than Water” by Andy Gibb, I’ll take this, which topped the Hot 100 on my 17th birthday. No matter how popular you are, the song goes, you can be replaced, and you probably will be, eventually. The lesson wasn’t lost on the 17-year-old me, and it hasn’t been lost ever since.

“The Last Resort”: A song about Manifest Destiny and what comes afterward: “Call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.” Even if we were to succeed in remaking the world so that it reflects our conception of perfection—liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between—the odds that we’ll be satisfied with it are somewhere between slim and none.

“The Sad Café”: What I said here still goes.

The only Eagles song I might add to the list is “Ol’ 55,” the Tom Waits number from On the Border. (If forced to choose a single Eagles album for the journey, that might be the one.) Here’s a live performance of “Ol’ 55” from Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1974. Leaving aside the personal or musical failings of later years that can color our perceptions of them now, the Eagles were capable of creating music of stunning beauty. Stuff like this is the reason why they’ll be by my side for as long as it takes me to get wherever it is I’m going.

Recommended Reading: Kinky Paprika finds the link between The Great Gatsby and “Emotional Rescue” by the Rolling Stones. It’s one of the best things I’ve read anywhere in a long time.

9 responses

  1. nice work. brown sugar may be THE greatest rock and roll song ever. the eagles still record beautiful lovely songs. the five part harmony on “lyin eyes’ still makes my hair stand up. but they have become money grubbing bastards. don felder is an acquaintance of mine. nuff said.

  2. One Stones tune I want is “When The Whip Comes Down.” For the Eagles, I would add “Disco Strangler.”

  3. From the Rolling Stones, I want “Gimme Shelter,” “Bitch,” “Slave,” “Little T & A,” and “Under My Thumb” in addition to “Brown Sugar. From the Eagles, I’ll take “One of These Nights.” Victim of Love,” “King of Hollywood” plus the aforementioned “Disco Stangler.”

  4. I’ve been known to fall for Eagles bashing. A lot of it is not their fault, just the overplay of certain songs (how many times do we really need to hear “Hotel California”? Got it now, every note, and can play it back in my head verbatim if I ever want to hear it.)

    But “New Kid in Town” does speak some deeper truth, especially to the music business.

    BTW, I’ve never been a Stones lover either, but I certainly have great respect. What about their soft side -Ruby Tuesday, or Wild Horses? I still sing that one at gigs.

  5. Thanks for the kind words.
    My Stones love goes to “Honky Tonk Women.”
    And the No. 1 song on my eighteenth birthday: “Rush, Rush,” by Paula Abdul. Yeesh.

  6. Lyin’ Eyes……I still remember the first time I heard it. Damn. Great tune.

  7. Oy God, that’d make mine “Hey Won’t You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song”. Noooooooooooooooo. I’ll take “Best of My Love”. I don’t mind the Eagles at all.

    My Rolling Stones tracks are “Wild Horses”, “Ruby Tuesday” (I like Melanie’s version just as much), “As Tears Go By”, “Gimme Shelter” and “Tumbling Dice”. I played “Gimme Shelter” a lot in ’03 when Bush sent troops into Iraq. Remember that?, it was only for a couple of weeks.

  8. No. 1 on my 18th birthday? “Go Away, LIttle Girl” by Donnie Osmond! I’d rather go with my 20th birthday, the day I began my third year of college but my first (far) away from home: “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye.

  9. Oh hell’s bells. No. 1 on my 18th birthday? “Stuck with You” by Huey Lewis and the News. I’d rather go with what was no. 1 when I was born: “Hey Jude.”

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