THE ROLLING STONES, DECEMBER'S CHILDREN (AND EVERYBODY'S), 1965
Will's pick #4. It has taken him a while to wrap his brain around the concept of this song. He keeps wanting it to be "Get Off My Clown." That has led to several versions of the following conversation.
Will: It's not 'Get Off My Clown'?
Me: Nope. 'Get Off My Cloud.'
Will: But that makes no sense.
Me: How does 'Get Off My Clown' make sense?
Will: Because someone might be attacking your clowns.
Me: You have clowns?
Me: Do you run a circus or something?
Will: (Pause) Maybe you just have some clowns.
Will: (Pause) How do you get on a cloud?
Me: Well, it's a metaphor. He's feeling good, like he's up on a cloud, and he doesn't want anyone to make him feel bad and bring him down off of it.
Will: It feels good to be on a cloud?
Me: Well, like I said, it's a metaphor for feeling good.
Will: (Pause) Wouldn't you fall through the cloud?
Me: Again, he's not actually ON a cloud. He's imagining that being on one would feel good, like he's feeling.
Will: Because a cloud is not solid, Dad.
Me: You're right. Very good.
Will: You can't be ON one.
Me: Nope. He's imagining it. Like you were imagining your army of clowns being jumped on.
Will: Oh. (Long pause, then mumbled to himself) I wanna get on a could.
This song comes from my favorite of the Stones' early 60s albums, and easily their sloppiest. Some of the tracks on this record are so poorly played and recorded that I can't believe they were released. Check out the original version of "I'm Free" on here sometime-- Charlie Watts makes a drumming error so egregious and stop-a-truck terrible that you'll think your mp3 skipped. It didn't. And the whole album is like that-- it feels like it was recorded in exactly the time it takes to hear it. That said, the songs are so good that it hardly matters. The Stones made three full-length records in 1965, and all of them have great tracks, but December's Children has half a dozen classics, including this irrepressible song. Pick a thing to lock into-- Mick's hilarious, "maybe I have lyrics, maybe I don't" vocal; Watts' snare roll; Brian Jones' little single note guitar figure; Richards' Frankenstein-subtle rhythm part; Wyman's bubbling and unconventional bass line. It's all appealing.
Then start listening for the mistakes-- the moment near the end when half the band heads to another verse and half heads to a chorus, and they don't really figure it out for a while. The moment when the guitar players think that everyone is going to do triplets, and they don't, and they're left hanging. The moment in the second chorus when everyone gets excited and speeds up, realizes that they sped up, and slow way down. You get the idea. There's a bunch of them in here, and there's something so charming and exciting about those mistakes now, since no band ever puts out anything spontaneous anymore. All records are now perfect in the Pro-Tools age, and you lose these great moments of being in the room with the band figuring out the song with them. And the Stones don't really improve with each take, anyway-- they elevate sloppy to high art.
Now can someone tell me where I can get some freelance clowns?