The Rolling Stones: “Shattered”
The fact that I have left the Rolling Stones unfeatured here for so long is a little surprising on the one hand, but then again, considering their ubiquitousness, not really. I guess I just haven’t felt the need, prior to this — but now, it’s been long enough that it’s starting to feel like this omission means something. It doesn’t — I think the Stones are one of rock’s greatest bands. There was a time when I was really young — as in “under-10” young — that I hated them because I envisioned them as being something like the Beatles’ arch-nemeses, and loving the Beatles so much, that just wouldn’t do. But eventually I came to realize that both bands could occupy their own territory and not have to be enemies just because they were rivals, and of course the Beatles certainly are secure enough in their greatness that I didn’t need to feel protective. Plus, as my knowledge of the Rolling Stones’ music expanded, I had to admit just how damned good they were.
It’s remarkable how many songs by the Stones are classics — they clearly have few rivals in the depth of their catalog. So selecting one song to feature here today (not that there won’t be others) presented something of a challenge. Do I go with one of their great, yet lesser-played album tracks — say, something from Beggars Banquet — or one of the heavily played classic-rock staples? Ultimately, I’ve gone more the latter route and chosen the song that was their first great “new” song to come along around the time that I was opening up to the possibility of actually liking them: “Shattered,” from 1978’s Some Girls. Some Girls also happens to be one of the last truly great Stones albums, depending on how you feel about Tattoo You (personally, I include it in the “great” category, with a few reservations). It’s interesting how much of an impact this album has had on later artists, from the BoDeans naming their debut album Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (after the lyrics of “Shattered”), to Juliana Hatfield naming a band Some Girls, to the Lyres spoofing the album cover on their Some Lyres compilation album. Some Girls is without doubt an iconic album — in parts a response to both disco and punk — and while it may not be quite up to the standards of some of their earlier milestones, that’s a tall order for any album and still leaves a lot of room for greatness.
“Shattered” has such a great groove and such an odd, syrupy guitar sound — I would have loved to have been witness to how it all came together. It doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does. The guitar solo is played by Ron Wood and is one of my favorite solos on a Stones song. And then of course we have Mick Jagger’s very funny vocal performance — he plays a great character, maybe one of the best monologues in a rock song (although to be honest I’m not really thinking too hard to come up with other contenders). To me, “Shattered” is the turning point for Jagger, where he goes from being “Mick Jagger, great rock vocalist” to “Mick Jagger, self-parody” — which isn’t to say he’s the latter on this song, but after this album his singing seemed to be more geared toward being what people expected him to sound like rather than being what the song called for. Or maybe it’s just that after this, things began to be a lot less interesting in Stones-land, for a number of other reasons. And with “Shattered” to live up to, “less interesting” would definitely have been the path of least resistance.