Last week the family and I were in the car for a short trip out for dinner. I switched on the local Classic Rock station and “Waiting on a Friend” came on the radio.
“This song isn’t up to your high standards, is it?” my wife asked with a mocking glance from the passenger’s seat.
“Actually, I like this song,” I said, leaving out the fact that for a good 15 years I did not allow myself to like it. “It’s ‘Start Me Up’ that is the last straw for me and the Stones.”
With each passing year I really do like “Waiting on a Friend.” I like the video even better. I value friendship above just about everything else. It’s really nice how patient Mick is waiting for Keef to show up and take a walk. In contrast, the guy sitting at the cafe window at the 1:33 mark looks so sad, doesn’t he? He clearly doesn’t have a great old friend like Keef who’s running just a few minutes late. I’ll stop now before I tear up at the site of Mick and Keef eventually meeting up with Ronnie at the bar, where they swig beer; sashay to the music; lean into each other; and practice multiple means of self-stimulation by running hands through messy hair, playing with a scarf, and taking deep drags off a cigarette.
With each passing year I like “Start Me Up” less. I didn’t like it the day I first heard it, when it was released. I don’t like it even one bit today. It’s the musical equivalent of Mick’s stupid football pants. It’s a real ass-kisser of a song by a band that made its bones kicking ass. It’s Mick run wild with his penchant for 17-year-old Brazilian models. It’s musical Viagra, before there even was such a pill. It’s Keef doing that stupid knee bend while pulling off one of his patented “no-hands” 5-string guitar moves. It’s the sound of all the wrong people suddenly getting excited over a band that meant a lot to me.
I didn’t tell my wife any of this stuff that was running through my sick brain, but I did tell her this: “Did I ever tell you about the time sophomore year when I turned down second-row seats for that Stones tour in Chicago?”
“Huh?” My wife has good taste and is a snob in her own right. She knows that Stones were beginning to head downhill at that time, but she doesn’t read deep meanings into “Under My Thumb” and the groove of “Beast of Burden.” She can enjoy “Start Me Up” for what it probably is: a fun dance song.
“Yeah, a guy in our frat’s dad was some kind of union head,” I explained. “He got us an entire row of seats, the second row, front and center. I was offered a ticket for $20. I was already certain the band sucked. I turned it down.”
“You need to turn yourself into Rock Town Hall for one of those Rock Crimes,” my wife exclaimed. “You’re sick! If you don’t turn yourself in I’m going to log on and out you. Turn yourself in and see if they find you guilty!”
So here I am, Too Cool for School, circa 1982. Was I justified in turning down that second-row ticket—maybe even visionary—or am I guilty of having been Too Cool for School?