Love At First Listen

by , September 11, 2020

It was a Sunday dinner at Gramma’s, and we were at the foot of her bed, watching TV. There came from the screen an amazing sound, and the view of was of a young man, with a jiggling, electric posture, transfixing. That sound, his face, the slender musicians with their stark instruments, their powerful sound so very different than the music in my house then. I was later told that both my mother and Gramma saw me standing in intense concentration at the television and came to see what had captured me so. I was three, and I had immediately fallen in love with Mick.

At nine, I had done enough chores to earn a trip shopping, and daddy took me to a little, local record store—I could pick what I wanted; what I wanted was Mick… and so I brought home my first, brand new rock record to add to my poor collection of kiddie tunes and the two well-played, hand me down records of Vanilla Fudge and Jefferson Airplane I had acquired. But this record was different, it was Mick singing for as long as I wanted to keep starting the record over. I listened in rapture to that one Rolling Stones record for years, every day; I would come home from the brutal agonies of school and listen to Mick singing—it was a world away from my tiny room, the storms of the house, the tortures of school.

As a teen, I found a long poster of Mick—toes, torso, impassioned face—and hung it over my bed. Mick Jagger was the first face I saw every morning. I gained a sense of myself as maybe connected to someone not from that confusing, painful reality I trudged through every day, but another world—a world of adults, where I could say yes or no and mean it and have it be final. I bought other Rolling Stones records, and I wore jeans everyday and never dressed as I was supposed to, which was as a girl wanting to be seen for her girliness.

Then, I was a young adult, living on rice a roni in an apartment that had once been the back corner of a prosperous building a century before. The Stones were on tour, they were coming, I had to go. It would be the first of many Stones concerts attended, and I was unprepared then for the thousands of people, the bare blanket on the ground in a football stadium, the full sun during the opening band. None of this mattered when the Rolling Stones took the stage. I became unaware of anyone around me, of my sunburn, of anything except the music and that voice, the voice I had loved forever.

Over time, I saw the Stones play many times, and in various cities: there was hopping from foot to foot in line during in a slow drizzle on the ramp of the Superdome; there was the hand-shaking from the boomlifted Mick to nosebleeds seats at some echoing amphitheater; there was me, all by my lonesome, dancing with the booty-bumping police officer at that open air stadium in Tampa—tiny Mick the size of my pinky nail, waaaaay down there, still holding me captive with his voice, his racehorse prancing, his uncanny energy. 

Of course, over time, I listened to far more—from Lou Reed to Tomika playing Ravel, from Yoko to Kate Bush, from Smithsonian recordings to Mickey Hart’s World Beat collaborations—and I attended concerts at old vaudeville halls, in clubs, at festivals in cities I was visiting and in cities I called home then; I saw Segovia and I saw the The Butthole Surfers, I saw Marilyn Manson and Sonic Youth, symphonies and reggae, experimental music and stripped down punk…but I never forgot my first love, I shall never forget my first love: Mick and the Stones.

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