7 Random Thoughts on Mick Jagger Hosting SNL

02Jun12

I watched most of the show and I had a bunch of thoughts. Then I wrote down those thoughts here. Then I posted them, and now you are presumably reading them. Here we go:

1.) Trying Really Hard. I’ve often toyed with the idea of going through the Stones catalog to determine if there’s an exact point where Jagger went from dancing to posing to preening. I suppose it happened around the time where they started playing enormous stadiums, and he just had to fill the space. But that attitude of “I GOTTA DO THIS BIG, MAN!” has always been inside of him, even all the way back at the Altamont Concert.

SIDE NOTE: There’s a moment in “Gimme Shelter” where they’re playing “Sympathy for the Devil” and things are already going badly in the crowd, and you see Mick get distracted by something, slowing his movement. Then he suddenly digs in and recommits hard to his shtick. And I’ve always thought his inner monologue was, “I gotta do this hard so I can save this night. Look up here and stop fighting out there!” The desperation is mesmerizing.

ANYWAY… For the sketch performances, the trying really hard mostly helped. I think it’s the live setting, but on SNL, performers who can go big and really hammer something thrive. This explains Kristin Wiig’s level of stardom on that show. I’ve never been a great fan of her stuff, but I could never say she didn’t try. She tried every time. Hard.

2.) The Songs. I was mostly curious about these, and they were by and large OK. Again, I felt I could see the “Do this Big, man” vibe coming through, with the choice to have Arcade Fire and Foo Fighters as the backing bands, and then to do that acapella intro to “The Last Time” (’cause if anything fits that nasty rockin’ blues kiss-off song, it’s a chorus of beautiful voices). You could almost see a weird connection between that intro and the one on the “Let It Bleed” cut of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” It was nice, but unnecessary.

I think. Maybe I’m overanalyzing. I liked it as it happened, but maybe for the same reason I liked when Mick as Kevin — the reluctant karaoke singer — sang a slow, acapella version of “Satisfaction.” That reason being nostalgia.

ANWAY AGAIN… the songs. Between the actual performance slots and the sketches, there were eight Stones songs in use: “The Last Time,” “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Only Rock n’ Roll” got proper performances, “She’s Like A Rainbow” and “Ruby Tuesday” were part of the Wiig sign-off, while “Satisfaction,” “Start Me Up” and “Sympathy For the Devil” were all part of that karaoke scene.

Not that this is a bad thing, or even a crazy thing, given the performer, but it just felt worth noting.

3.) Star “Star-ing.” Look, Jagger’s a huge star. One of the biggest. So I suppose it makes sense that he’s not going to often be paired with, say, Jay Pharaoh or some of the less-established performers. He’s going to want to be with the big guns, and that meant Wiig. And again, MAYBE I’M READING TOO MUCH INTO THIS, but I feel like that was all his doing, because he is a bit of a star-banger. It’s like a way to align himself with other people the world sees as great. I doubt it was his call to do the big “G’bye Wiig” thing at the end without spotlighting Andy Samberg or Jason Sudeikus… but it felt like it.

4.) Beatle Following. Earlier this season, for no apparent reason other than just to do it, Paul McCartney was the musical guest, where he performed exclusively old hits. Since Mick has essentially lived his entire life following in the Beatles footsteps, I have imagined that he saw the McCartney performance, saw how well it was received and thought, “I’ve been playing my old hits for years!” He calls up Lorne Michaels and the date gets set. This isn’t the fist time Jagger has followed in the McCartney SNL shadow. Back in the 90’s, McCartney was the musical guest for Alec Baldwin and he (McCartney) did a walk-on role as the butler during the sketch “The Mimic.” He had only 2 or 3 lines, got laughs just for appearing and that was it. (I wanna say) the next week, Jagger was the musical guest, and he did a walk-on part, too.  As a butler. It was less great.

5.) Embarrassing Politics. Jagger introduced his new song “Tea Party” saying what he loved about the blues was that it let people speak their minds about what was happening in the world. Then he sang the song with Jeff Beck, and it was the tired old non-zinger zingers of most political work the Stones have done in the last 20 years. It’s not as lame as “Sweet Neo-Con,” but I sense the same cloying grasps to grab left-wing celebrities at work here, too. He said something about Mitt Romney cutting your hair… Let’s just say it was no “Jigsaw Puzzle.”

Why would this embarrass me, since I’m probably as politically liberal as Jagger? I don’t like lectures. I like art. Either come out and say it directly, or make broad statements that give your song subtext.

But, come to think of it, the song was on par with most of the subtle political work done on SNL, so bravo.

6.) The Right “Only Rock n’ Roll.” I read what songs they played before watching the performances, and the one I wondered about was this one. I’ve always liked the album cut, but for some reason the band has since played it differently live, so I was curious which way would come out here. When the Foo Fighters awkwardly/instantly transitioned from “19th Nervous Breakdown” into “Only Rock n’ Roll,” I had my answer. They were going to play it the way it is on the album, aka “the right way.” Gone was the straight-forward-“let’s-just-do-this-already”-ness of the last 20 years and the sleaze returned. I can only guess the reason the Stones don’t play it the “right” way is because they don’t have Mick Taylor. And/or they have Ron Wood, and he just plays differently. Which he does, through no fault of his own. But it’s still weird that Grohl and company can play it “the right way” and guys like Ron Wood and Keith freakin’ Richards can’t pull it together.

And if you wanna know the “best” version of this song, it’s the official video, SEEN HERE. I love the bubbles. I think the nonsense aspect of this video mixed with being a near-actual performance makes it a cool bit of anarchy and rock.

7.) Best Moments. I’d say they were all Jagger’s voices. My favorite sketch was the karaoke scene (and my favorite bit was when Bobby Moynehan fell asleep while singing “Sympathy For the Devil” after singing the lyrics “sympathy for the Devil”). The game show was funny, and “The Californians” had words I recognized. The MSNBC thing and the monologue were trying at best. So guarded.

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One Response to “7 Random Thoughts on Mick Jagger Hosting SNL”

  1. Ronnie Wood, a longtime acquaintance of the band, began to get closer to the Rolling Stones during these sessions after he invited Mick Taylor to play on his debut album, I’ve Got My Own Album to Do. Taylor spent some time recording and hanging out at Wood’s house The Wick. By chance, Richards was asked one night by Wood’s wife at the time, Krissy, to join them at the guitarist’s home. While there, Richards recorded some tracks with Wood and quickly developed a close friendship, with Richards going as far as moving into Wood’s guest room. Jagger soon entered the mix and it was here that the album’s lead single and title track, “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)”, was first recorded. Wood worked closely on the track with Jagger, who subsequently took the song and title for their album. The released version of this song features Wood on twelve-string acoustic guitar.


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