Saturday, June 09, 2018

Songs of '78: "Far Awar Eyes" and "Just My Imagination"

I said the Rolling Stones' Some Girls was the big one, as far as my memories of 1978 are concerned, and I wasn't kidding. "Miss You" was just the beginning; there was song after song after song on this album that made it onto the radio and into my head, and has stayed there, on and off, for 40 years. The album itself was released in the U.S. four decades ago today, and I don't know when I first listened to the whole thing all the way through. I know it was one of the first tape cassettes I ever bought (not the very first, by any means, but it definite among that first wave of youthful purchases), and I'm amazed the tape lasted as long as it has, considering how often I've listened to it. There are at least a couple of other singles off Some Girls that I'll have to highlight in the coming months, as they were eventually released by the studio, but today, let me mention a couple of other notable songs on the album which I heard plenty of, even if they never made it onto the charts.

"Far Away Eyes" was the B-side of "Miss You," and I have occasionally wondered what might have become of the song if the Stones had arranged to release it secretly, under a different name, to country-western stations in the U.S. I mean, the lyrics are obviously a parody of a certain kind of California-style redneck and/or African-American pentecostal sensibility, and the music (with Ronnie Wood plucking away at a steel-pedal guitar and Mick Jagger hamming it up on the piano) is just stereotypical of that lazy country style to the max. And yet...there's not really an inauthentic moment in it. The Stones are totally owning this parody of low-brow, hillbilly, radio-station Christianity, enough to make you realize they really dig this kind of music. And that makes me kind of dig it too.



As for the Stones' jangly, R&B version of "Just My Imagination," let this simply stand as yet another example of how ill-informed and limited by pop music sensibilities were during my formative years, even as I drank from the fire hose of pop and rock radio: when I first heard it, and for years afterwards, I didn't know "Just My Imagination" was a cover. (Didn't I wonder who "Whitfield/Strong" were on the album credits? Nope.) It was a Stones tune as far as I was concerned, and I loved it. Thus, inevitably, while I was at BYU, and The Temptations came and did a tremendous show (I think during my sophomore year), and a couple of friends of mine--who happened to start a great a cappella group which later went on to some significant local fame--finagled a chance to talk with some of the members after the show, and I tagged along, I congratulated them on their superb Rolling Stones cover. Um...yeah. Ah well. The music endures.



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