I see that tonight one of my local Public Television stations will be airing Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones, the documentary about their 1972 United States tour made by Rollin Binzer. I shall probably set up my VTR to record this and not just because it is a relief from those unbearable retrospections of Lawrence Welk. In 1972 I was pretty much entirely ignorant of the blues tradition that grew out of the Mississippi Delta. Indeed, I had given that music almost no thought at all until Columbia released the complete recordings of Robert Johnson on CD in the early Nineties; and even then it took some time for me to apprehend (with a fair amount of assistance from Robert Palmer in Robert Mugge’s Deep Blues documentary) just how much serious listening those recordings deserved. Only after I had cultivated my own appreciation of Delta sounds and practices could I recognize how they had been appropriated by British rock during the wild Sixties.
I never went to a Stones concert. I was never much for those mass gatherings. I appreciated that they were pushing the envelope, but I suppose it would be fair to say that I had not grasped the extent of the envelope they were pushing. Now that my listening is better informed, I feel better prepared to consider what they were doing some forty years ago. Having spent so much of my recent time so fully immersed in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach, I am probably due for a change of perspective!