The final rip-off
I love the Rolling Stones. But man alive I am mad at them right now. Do they care? No. I don’t expect them to, why would they. I’m just one fan. But I do have to wonder how many others out there are feeling the way I’m feeling.
I’m not mad at the Stones for their latest records, or a political stance or fashion choice. I’m not wild about Keef’s cameo in the Pirates of the Caribbean film but am thrilled that he has let his hair go grey again. No, I am angry at the Stones for the travesty that they whipped out in the form of the reissues (plural) of their classic, overly lauded double LP Exile on Main Street.
I love Exile, it was the first Stones CD I owned. I still have the Virgin records ‘mini-LP’ package from 1994, one of the big deals in the Stones releasing their new LP on the label. The Stones’ work from Sticky Fingers through Tattoo You were reissued in this fashion and it was in the form that I bought the disc. Still have it, too. I can remember driving the roads listening, listening, listening.
The reissue was released on 18 May of this year, and my rant is, perhaps, a little late. My beef is with the reissue itself. Never mind that every rock writer (cough cough) born after 1972 FINALLY got to write their own review of the music, never mind that there was a Late Night Television Week dedicated to the reissue, never mind that all of a sudden we were supposed to act like we forgot that the Stones were great, what really pissed me off was how they did it.The released SIX VERSIONS OF THE RECORD. SIX! There is the single disc reissue, the classic LP on a single disc. There is the double disc reissue, containing the single disc PLUS a second disc of “extra” songs from the recording of the original LP. (these claims are bullshit and will be dealt with in a further column). Then there is a single disc version of the second disc of the double disc set (which had I known about I would have bought in lieu of the double). There is a set on a double LP, mimicking the original release. And then there is the granddaddy of them all, the “Super Deluxe Edition” which contains the double LP, the double CD, a DVD compiling footage from a DVD to be released at a later date as well as two well bootlegged films (Ladies & Gentlemen The Rolling Stones and the forever infamous and horribly boring Cocksucker Blues), and a 50 page book in a slip case. What. The. Fuck. I cannot fully judge the DVD Stones in Exile as I have only seen the documentary and not the extra footage, but that is a rip to the fans that have any clue about the period the Stones were recording in. (The film is galling in the talking heads used at the beginning and end of the film: Benicio Del Toro? Wil.I.Am? Caleb Folowill? Ok, at least Caleb made me happy because he reminded me of how a bird shit in his mouth at a concert)
Why am I so mad? The Stones have ripped us off before, and will rip us off again. Sucking in the 70s? Rewind? The cavalcade of live LPs? They were ripping people off in the 60s with the differing US/UK releases and compliations. This reissue bugs me on a fundamental level because it seems so gaudy, so superfluous, so needless. Times are rough for a lot of people. Maybe you want that double set but can’t afford it, sure the single disc is nice and sounds great but you really wanted that fancier set. I don’t mind feeling that rock stars are rock stars and tread in different waters than myself, but I don’t like the feeling of the haves and the have-nots. Thirty years ago LPs were less expensive than cassette tapes. Now LPs are pegged as being 140/180/200 grams and are treated as an ultimate fetish object for the wealthy and the truly deranged die-hard. The Stones know this and yet this is what they presented to the people.
I love the Rolling Stones, the music that they created will continue to fill my head until the day I die. I know not to expect much from their business practices, but goddamn am I mad at them.