Saturday, February 25, 2017

Video of the Day: Rolling Stones, ‘Waiting on a Friend’

Tattoo You was the last Rolling Stones LP to impress me, and perhaps no song on it so much as "Waiting on a Friend." Mick Jagger’s seeming goodbye to his randy days (“Making love and breaking hearts, it is a game for youth”) proved ephemeral, but not the subtle musicianship of this tune: Nicky Hopkins’ beautiful running piano, Keith Richards’ restrained strumming guitar, 
"saxophone colossus "Sonny Rollins closing out in plaintive fashion--and, because it had been originally recorded for the Goats Head Soup sessions back in 1973, an uncredited Mick Taylor on guitar as well.

It wasn’t till near the end of the Eighties that I watched MTV, so I missed this marvelous video when it premiered in 1981. The cable station, just starting out, was delighted to have a group of the Stones’ caliber offering them a video. 

Other directors before and after would pull out every pyrotechnic stop in the coming music video era, but Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s visual style matches the Stones’ aural one in its simplicity. It’s not just a song about friendship, but “friendships in the band,” Jagger would say later. Sure enough, it tracks the Glimmer Twins, with Jagger hanging out on a stoop on New York's St. Mark's Place as a smiling Richards wends his way through the street scene, before the two head over to a bar, where they are joined by the rest of the band.

“Waiting on a Friend” captures a moment of uneasy peace in the group’s dynamics. Richards was battling heroin addiction at the time. When he emerged two years later, for the Undercover album, the tensions between him and Jagger—asserting control to keep the band going in the interim—burst into the open. The songwriting partnership between the two has not been the same since.

But “Waiting on a Friend” allows us to revel in them at their peak. “A smile relieves a heart that grieves, remember what I said.” We do, Mick.

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