Friday, August 21, 2009

Mick Jagger on the suburban tittle tattle lifestyle

I am a huge Rolling Stones fan. They're quite possibly my favorite rock band of all time (remember the Beatles rarely toured and cannot be measured or compared as a live act in their heyday). The Stones earliest goal was to turn the white kids and masses on to American blues music. They advanced the careers and legacies of nearly every American bluesmen that they touted and trumpeted and aped. They met their mentors and heroes along the way and ended up befriending many of them, not simply borrowing from them. They were respectful of America's impact on music in the 1960's. However, these guys were radical too. They incited riots almost everywhere they played, from London to Scotland to U.S. to Paris to Australia. Venues were completely sacked. Due to insane crowd fervor, shows were cancelled minutes after the curtain rose and the opening riff was banged out by Keith Richards. Violent pandemonium. Kids went nuts, lost their minds.

I am once again reading Old Gods Almost Dead by Stephen Davis (thanks to my man G. Brown for the 1st edition printing of this book). I'm on my 3rd reading. This book quotes writer Tom Wolfe who sums up the relationship between the Beatles and Stones: "the Beatles want to hold your hand, but the Stones want to burn your town." It was true. The Beatles were pretty boys that you wanted to take home to meet Mom. They made girls squeal and moan and yell. The Stones were Neanderthals that incited women to violence and primal screams. The Stones got arrested, harassed, hung out & felt most comfortable in So. Chicago upon their first visit to America and general had a f-you modus operandi.

I want to live long enough to see a rock band come along that is sexy, bad ass and original enough to incite riots. Nirvana changed the way the record industry worked, and they helped change the image of American popular music and fashion, and they opened doors for MANY of their peers and other great acts of the time. But, never did they incite riots and violence everywhere they played. Was "slam dancing", later "crowd surfing", later "moshing" considered riotous? Not in my book. Not even close. That upheaval was a largely male-only endeavor, and toward the end of the 90s it evolved away from a music related passion toward a meat headed frat boy excuse to be an asshole in public (see Limp Bizkit).

Anyway, the Rolling Stones were rebels. They rebelled against their past and the status quo of the early 1960s in Europe. Yet, the Stones largely came from the suburbs in England. However, part of their appeal to me was their rebellion against suburban values and tenets. Growing up in Belleville, I had a penchant to rebel against the boring and racist and mundane values of the 1980's suburbs later in my high school/college days. I'm still doing it today in the 12th ward.

From the book:

Stephen Davis: "The Stones, if they were really rebelling against anything, were protesting suburban values and outmoded bourgeois social rituals....Mick (Jagger) would soon begin attacking the underbelly of suburbia's hypocrisy in his songs."

Mick Jagger: "My great thing against suburban life was that is was, first of all petty," he later told an interviewer, "and secondly, boring, based on consumer values, at best unambitious, and full of tittle-tattle and jealousies and things like that. I was trying to look for a music that wasn't a reflection of that society."

Damn, that's pretty harsh. But I like it. Having grown up in a small town, and having no one close to me that grew up in an urban setting, I have no point of reference to gauge whether an urban experience is indeed such a stark contrast to the suburban lifestyle that Jagger references. Is an urban existance somehow socially better than a suburban one? I kind of think so. The chances of me meeting someone I will get along with politically, musically, socially, etc. is probably higher in St. Louis than it would be in Ellisville or Valley Park or Arnold or St. Charles. Will my kids grow up and think city life sucks and want to run for the country/burbs? Is it cyclical rebellion against your parents and their choices? Or, will they strive for an even more vibrant, accepting, diverse, progressive city? Can't wait to see how it pans out.

By my definition of "cool" the Stones were cool. Cities are cool. Mountains are cool. Deep woods are cool. Rivers are cool. Nature is cool. Small towns are cool. Yet, most of St. Louis' suburbs are decidedly uncool, lacking any kind of identity. I'll take a big dense city, or a big dense stand of trees vs. a sprawling, benign, placeless, generic American suburb.

I agree with Mick, it's good to rebel against the burbs.


  1. I wrote a long eloquent response but it was lost because of those stupid word verifications.

    Summarized version:

    The Stones liked sex and drugs and enjoyed these to excess. This is the crux of their rebellion. They likely all have country mansions(suburbs). I'd rather bring Charlie Watts to meet the parents rather that John Lennon who's acerbic wit could cut a parent in half. That statement by Mick is just a privileged youth disregarding the irony of his statement. Rock and roll (i.e. selling records) is consumerism plain and simple. Without consumerism the Stones would not be rich millionares.

    What determines your identity is more about what is between the ears, in the soul and the content of character than where you live.

    I lived in the city many years and with the author (4 months in Soulard) and I loved it, still do. I've never run from it just moved. I work with city kids every day at work (in the suburb of Brentwood).

    Aesthics is mostly enjoyed by the middle and upper classes. Thus, you can take the boy out of the suburbs but you can't take the middle class out of the boy.

  2. "What determines your identity is more about what is between the ears, in the soul and the content of character than where you live."

    I agree that one's identity is not merely limited to where they live but I think the bigger question is what affect these area's (suburbs/city) have in shaping that identity.

    Growing up in South County I can tell you that diversity and culture are limited to fast food chains, cruisin' Lindbergh, and prostitots at Ronnie's 20.

    Living in the city, I can find new, interesting, diverse, and local activities to do varying from art, to music, to theater, etc. all within a relatively small area.

    Growing up in an suburbs where access to such culture is diminished due to proximity results in most people simply not seeking it out and if they are, why are suburbs not a center for diversity and active culture?

    Its probably just as indicative of their values to look at the architecture of their homes. Identical, conforming, and plain.

  3. I generally agree with your statements concerning South County cgb777. However, the parents must insure that their children are exposed to these exciting things that St. Louis has to offer. Many of the things in the St. Louis area are in the county like Laumeier Sculpture Park, Grants Trail and Whitehaven, Powder Valley Conservation Area, Castlewood State Park, Museum of Transportation, World Bird Sanctuary, Magic House etc...

    There are thousands of children and teens in the city of St. Louis who have not been immersed in any of the exciting culture that the city has to offer.

    I also agree that much of suburban housing is bland and repetitive and although I love the gingerbread houses in south St. Louis they are built exactly alike except for minor touches. They were just built in a time when brick was cheap and brick always makes a house look great.

    I think it's terrible that parents don't expose their children to all of the cultural amenities of the greater St. Louis area. How many St. Louisians city or non city have been over to Cahokia Mounds? Ask a city kid and see if he or she even knows what Cahokia Mounds is - I've done it - they don't.

    There is no doubt that the city is much more exciting and vibrant than the county but you always had access to the city your parents just didn't encourage you to seek them out. After all, it only takes 10 minutes to get to Ted Drewe's from Ronnie's Plaza.

    It takes 30 minutes to get to the Skyview Drive -In in Belleville the only Drive-In in the St. Louis area since Ronnie's Drive in closed in 1983. I just mention this in case any one from St. Louis cares to venture across the river to Illinois which I am pretty sure based on my interactions most have not unless they want to go to a strip club.

  4. ^Dan "However, the parents must insure that their children are exposed to these exciting things that St. Louis has to offer."

    Couldn't agree more. I want nothing more than STL to be visited by and enjoyed by all residents in the metropolitan region and beyond. I just hope the suburbanites don't expect to have a parking lot next to every attraction. That they can feel comfortable walking a block or two to the attraction, or better yet quit voting Metro funding down and take the Metrolink or bus. I hope suburbanites and tourists as well walk away from their city experience and say "wow, that was fun and vibrant, a totally different lifestyle than the burbs". Or better yet, "wouldn't it be fun to live near *enter attraction* so we could walk there." We need those people adding density and vibrancy and tax dollars!

  5. ^cpg777 Your background story sounds similar to mine. I have been exposed to more living in St. Louis than I think I would have been had I chosen to stay in Belleville or the STL county burbs. It's just different, and that difference is one I hope we can use to our benefit to attract others in the region to come and be part of.

  6. I couldn't agree more that the suburbanites need to accept the extension of the MetroLink. I look forward to the day when the confluence greenway is complete and I can ride my bike from Grant's Trail to the Chain of Rocks bridge or just ride it into the city to go to one of my favorite burger and beer joints Garavaglia's or The Hilltopper.

    Went to the Stl. game last night and from driveway to our free parking space on Broadway it took me 17 minutes and I was going the speed limit. The point here is that this is a small city and we need to unify instead of continuing the division between county and city that has beleaguered our region since 1876 when the city and county split.

  7. ^Dan do you really think a city/county merger will happen? There are 91 municipalities in STL county, each with their own politicians, city halls, etc. How are they going to agree on anything, let alone agree to merge with the city? There are still huge swaths of the county that don't even whant to encorporate. I like the idea too, but until then, it's every man/city for himself. It's us versus them and that sucks. But that's how it is and that why I choose to try to elevate STL as THE city in the region, not the red headed step child that the majority of county people can dismiss as the place where scary gangstas, poor people, bad schools, crime and filthiness exist.

  8. No, I don't see a merger of the city and the county. If you recall historically it was the city that declared this is the line where the city will stop for a couple of different reasons.

    Again, however, you make sweeping generalizations:

    "...majority of county people can dismiss as the place where scary gangstas, poor people, bad schools, crime and filthiness exist."

    Don't forget that St. Louis city has historically been one of the MOST segregated cities in the country. There are plenty of city people with racist attitudes. I will also remind you that the northern counties are inhabited by plenty of African Americans that left the city because of "scary gangstas".

    I obviously do not think the city is rife with crime but we all know that St. Louis has a gang problem and is in the top 5 or higher in per capita murder rate.

    Lastly, I just want to remind us ex Bellevillians that Belleville is not a suburb. It's history dates back to the early 19th century as a self sufficient town not a satellite of St. Louis.

    I'll be riding the MetroLink to the Missouri-Illinois football game this Saturday. Go Illini!

  9. ^Dan, you just helped prove my point:

    Again, however, you make sweeping generalizations:

    I said: "...majority of county people can dismiss as the place where scary gangstas, poor people, bad schools, crime and filthiness exist."

    You said: "I will also remind you that the northern counties are inhabited by plenty of African Americans that left the city because of "scary gangstas"."

    Exactly. This is not a race issue it is a cut and run issue. Are you part of the problem or the solution?

    You said: "I just want to remind us ex Bellevillians that Belleville is not a suburb. It's history dates back to the early 19th century as a self sufficient town not a satellite of St. Louis."

    I agree, you'll see a post on this in the near future comparing Belleville to St. Louis county small/medium sized towns.

  10. In the end there is no problem merely provincial thinking on the part of both county and city people.

    I was just at a friend's loft on Washington Avenue before and after the MO-IL game. We both agreed that its wrong for county people to say "there's no way you can live downtown." It is equally wrong to knock someone because they don't.

    I don't think Auggie Busch is part of the problem because his house is in the county as I don't think Monsanto is part of the problem because they are located in the county.

    This is like people from Belleville making fun of the guys from Millstadt because they're country. In the end the county v. city talk sounds "small town" to me.

  11. ^Dan, you may think I'm being provincial. That may be partly true. But we live in a provincial region. City people have an inferiority complex. Over and over and over we hear from county people how they couldn't stay here and send their kids to school in the city. Most never even research or try the SLPS before they move to the county. Those that do stay here and do send their kids to SLPS are then somehow the crazy ones that didn't move to the county and are risking their kids future in the scary SLPS. Sorry, put this is my opinion after hearing this countless times from friends, family and work mates.