However this year when I was introducing my wife to rock music and relistening to alot of my favourite records. I notice that I enjoyed The Rolling Stones significantly less than I used to.
I still think they are great band but I have a hard time putting them to the same level as The Beatles, Genesis, The Beach Boys
The change in taste was related to me spending a year listening to classical music exclusively and now subsequently returning to pop music is that nowadays I have stronger bias towards melody writing (there may be a long explanation for that change in taste but in short, pop music doesn't compete with classical music in most criteria of composition, however one thing pop/music can do is add to a list of great memorable melodies in music. A great symphonic prog work is no where near as cohesive or reach the same standard or emotional range as a beethoven symphony, however a pop artist can write a melody that is 60% as memorable as Mozart/Tchaikovsky theme taken in isolation).
When I think about what makes The Rolling Stones a great band, I think of great performance, unique swagger energetic voice from Jagger, great guitar tones from Richards, rock and roll energy, arrangement and production. However when it comes to pure songwriting the Stones are a step below when the best of the best.
When I think of a standard of a great melody. The best example would be Mozart's Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. It's a work that is nowhere near Mozart's greatest work but it is a text book case on how to write memorable flowing melodies. Every single melodic line in the entire exposition is different with almost nil repetition and yet each individual line is catchy and memorable and the melodies flow from one line to the next and is part of a greater whole (as they are motivically related and transformed). Think of a great melody like having multiple lines within a stanza. Each lines are different to each other but there is a clear directional flow from beginning, middle and end and the lines belonged to each other.
What makes great pop melody writing and mediocre one is that mediocre pop writer would take one line of melody writing and repeat it. Of course this can still make a good song if it is a really catchy line that is repeated and there are other musical elements that compensate for it. However when you have a song where there is a melodic flow, I would consider that song to be of a higher level.
Every band (Even five star bands) are guilty of getting a single melodic line and repeating it but all the five star artist have significant amount of songs with flowing melodies. Exmaple would be the chorus of "Should have known better", If I fell", Some Mother's SOn by THe Kinks, Good vibration by The Beach Boys
When I think of THe Rolling Stones, even their very greatest songs are melodically simple and reliant on repeating (admittingly great) single line. My two all time favourite Rolling stones song is Gimme Shelter and You can't always get what you want.
Gimme Shelter just repeating similar melodic line in the verse and the chorus is really only a slight variation of the verse. What makes the song powerful is the arrangement, having the female singer coming in and belting out her lines even if it's identical melody to what Jagger is belting out.
Similar You Can't Always Get What You Want is repeating the same melodic line. what makes the song powerful is the arrangement, the descending,ascending piano line, the epiphany with the full band joining in and the carthasis at the end by having the choir joining in.
I guess the counter-argument is that it doesn't matter how exactly the song inspire you to feel a sense of awe as long as it does this. So if Gimme Shelter and You Can't Always Get what you want gives me a sense of awe due to performance and arrangement it should be considered equal to a song that inspire a sense of awe due to melody writing. These songs still inspire that but I can't help but feel that after I stop listening to the song and start thinking about it that I feel that I'm being tricked into liking a song more than I should by fancy dressage rather than substance. George often rates music with the brain/heart dichotomy and THe Stones the brain doesn't give a thumbs up to the same degree as the heart.
When I think of about flowing melodic lines by The Stones, Ruby Tuesday is probably the best example but I don't think they did this very often.
It reminds me of Prof Robert Greenberg being asked whether he thinks The Beatles would still be remembered in 100 years. He mentioned that he thinks the Beatles would be because there is enough musical substance in the songs for it to be remembered and that the songs can be performed by many different performers and sound good and then he contrast it with The ROlling Stones that the songs are highly dependent on the individual performers of Jagger, Richards etc rather than the musical substances and hence are tied to their time and place and circumstances.
Anyway I probably downgrade Let It Bleed to Hex F,
Have Exile and Sticky Fingers downgrade to Hex E and Beggars Banquet to Hex D. Now under your system that would still be a weak 5 star artist but in my own personal system that would be a 4 star (you don't get a 5 star without a Hex 10 in my book).
« Back to index