Featured Column: The Thrill Is On Hold
I recently read a Ronnie Wood interview regarding his new album I Feel Like Playing. It is a good album, an album worthy of his time, and another example of why he sometimes needs to step out from the shadow of Keith Richards. As Richards also has an autobiographical tome Life in the shops, Wood’s album seems even more relevant. One has to ponder why Richards needs to talk. In a sense, his guitar, his music, his art should be the conversation. Alas, the occasionally abrasive Richards, like the incredibly contradictory Pete Townshend, have never been known to keep their traps shut. Ironically, it has been the self-obsessed yet unpredictable offerings of Robert Plant, which are more of a match when one considers the recent art vs. oral blathering ratio.
Which is neither here, nor there in this particularly pointed Peaches. Sometimes, one has to just go on a rant, and there is nothing like a rant about old age and one’s work. I say that because something rather interesting came up in the Wood interview, which has also been referenced in various media elsewhere and everywhere. Apparently, the Stones are looking to head into the studio in 2011, and then hit the road for yet another final tour. Although, quite frankly, the Stones have never admitted to any talks of a ‘final tour’. That has been the belief of the media and fans ever since the band hit the stadiums back in 1981, on the tails of a hit album Tattoo You, that was mainly a collection of older songs that had been culled from prior sessions and cleaned up a bit.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Richards’s post-rehab, post-1970s ennui. The Rolling Stones found their stride in the late 1980s as a really successful touring act, and the cash registers have been ringing ever since. That is not to say the band has not earned their keep; they certainly have with numerous tours since 1989 when they hit the stage supporting Steel Wheels, which may have been the band’s final stab at album-length relevance. Since then, the Stones have turned into a bona fide live phenomenon, a willful juggernaut pushing rock music as the know nothing/do nothing of existence—without beginning or end, it just is, man, while leaning heavily on songs that were originally recorded some 30, 40, and now, almost 50 years ago.
And, you know, who cares. I listen to Bach and Stravinsky pretty regularly, and, if I’m not mistaken, I haven’t seen these chaps at my local opera house in the last year or two. At this point in time, it appears like new songs have no way of growing in an atmosphere, an environment, so choked by old, ‘classic rock’ tunes. Which brings me back full circle to Mr. Ronnie Wood. The chap is in his mid-60s. Why does he still need to dye his hair black, act like he is 28, and create NEW music for 2010? I ask myself that because the concept of doing something for 40 years seems so alien to me. I have no clue what drives the man, what keeps his engine running, and, indeed, why the Thrill is still very much ON for Ronnie Wood. But, it is, and as I shift gears, and worm my way back and forth into my own attempts at fiction writing, always looking for a new angle, a new shape, a
new way to tell a story, I think of artists like Wood, who very early on found out what they were good at, and just continued to refine their craft by going out and doing it without a hint of lost passion. I do not have any easy answers on how a normal person, let alone a talented artist, maintains said passion, but I think it is up to each individual to find their own way through that tangled forest of mystery. Passion is the ultimate buzz word, the key emotional arc, and, once it’s gone, it’s a very hard thing to find again.