Beggars Banquet by The Rolling Stones


On June 16th 1990, England played The Netherlands in the Football World Cup. They were to go on to lose on penalties to West Germany in the semi final with Paul Gascoigne in tears. The match on June 16th, two days after my 36th birthday, was the second match in the group stages. They had drawn with The Republic of Ireland and would go on to beat Egypt. The match against The Netherlands was a 0-0 draw. Not even the introduction of Steve Bull in the 58th minute to partner Gary Linekar could force a goal. It was a disappointing and dull match and by the end of the game I was feeling very unhappy.

That’s the power and beauty of sport. It has the ability to elevate my feelings of happiness and create a temporary but magical euphoric feeling. I guess, in that way, a lifelong love of sport is an addiction because the possibility of that sense of elation is always worth the risk. Because, of course, the downside is that when your team fails to live up to expectations, the opposite feelings of disappointment, dejection and despair prevail. And that’s just the letter d.

During the afternoon of Saturday June 16th 1990, I played cricket for Tye Green. I cannot remember anything about the game but I do know it took place at The Harlow Rugby Club. Tye Green Cricket Club had been forced to move to the rugby club and we had an artifical wicket in the middle of two rugby pitches. It was not a happy few years – the conditions were poor and although it was nice to have a bar on site after the game, a few people had left the club or had retired from playing and we had an influx of players from the rugby club, none of whom fitted in easily. One of them was Paul Rogers, who was not a member of Free and was, basically, a nice guy but he could be abrasive. You would have thought he would fit in quite well as he did like an argument. He played for Tye Green that afternoon and joined us as we all sat down in the clubhouse afterwards to watch the England game which kicked off at 9:00. By the time it finished, we were all annoyed with the result and had had far too much to drink. When everybody else left, he and I ordered yet another pint and started chatting about how well Tye Green and the rugby club were working together. I have no recollection why but our discussion quickly turned into a heated argument with neither of us willing to back down. Voices were raised and we were a hair’s breadth away from a full on fist fight. Luckily, common sense prevailed. What a ridiculous sentence – there was no sense at all and it certainly wasn’t common. I think I walked off, shouted something abusive at him, got into my car and drove home. Possibly the worst and luckiest thing I’ve ever done. It was only 200 yards – I could have easily walked but I didn’t and I somehow made it home without killing anybody. I am ashamed. Next day we had another game – it was an all day game against Knebworth Park – an 11:00 a.m. start. Ron and Sue picked me up and we drove for an hour to a lovely ground in the grounds of Knebworth House. I was so hung over that I told Ron that I didn’t want to bat before lunch. Unfortunately, after an hour we were 50 for 5 and with 45 minutes to go until lunch, there was a danger that the game would be over very quickly. We didn’t normally play all day games and it was a big deal for us to get a game in such lovely surroundings. If we had been all out for 60 and they had knocked the runs off just after lunch, it would have been a humiliation. I staggered in at number 7 to partner Ron who was probably 5 not out and I can remember not really being able to focus properly but simply lunged forwards to every ball making no effort to score. We managed to last out until lunch and my senses were slowly returning. Not my common sense, that had long since gone, but my sense of where I was, who I was and how big a cricket ball was. A few bruises, some dodgy umpiring decisions and two lucky edges meant that at lunch we were 70 for 5 and I was 8 not out. Obviously, I ate a huge lunch and an hour later Ro and I resumed our innings. I think I was eventually out for about 40, Ron ended up 51 not out and some late order hitting from Lawrence meant that we scraped 160. They knocked the runs off an hour after tea and we drank the bar dry after the game before adjourning for a curry. My life as a street fighting man was over and my lesson learned. Huh!

Keith Richards has said that the riff for “Street Fighting Man” was based on the sound of a police siren. That’s three songs from this era for which the writer has claimed the same influence. John Lennon said the same about “I Am The Walrus” and “Across The Universe”. The original version of the song contained more lyrics about adult brutality and was called “Did Everybody Pay Their Dues?” The song was inspired by the demonstrations that took place in the USA and France in the Summer of ‘68, when the only comparable event in London was in Grosvenor Square. Another Beatles comparison can be made with the lyrics. In “Revolution”, John Lennon is ambiguous about whether he believes in destruction (“don’t you know you can count me out/in”). In “Street Fighting Man” was Mick Jagger pleased not to be on the front line or relieved? Or indifferent? He was at the Grosvenor Square demonstration but how did he reflect on his involvement? It’s a stunning performance by the band, one of their most exciting. Bill Wyman doesn’t play on the track but Brian Jones (sitar and tamboura), Nicky Hopkins (piano) and Dave Mason (shehnai and bass drum) do.

The other very well known song on “Beggars Banquet” is “Sympathy For The Devil” which was mainly written by Mick Jagger and initially called “Fallen Angels” and then “The Devil Is My Name”. The song was produced by Jimmy Miller and, at one point when Mick Jagger was singing an early version of the song, he was in the engineering booth and he muttered to himself “Come on Mick. Who are you singing about? Who? Who?” He repeated “Who? Who?” a few times. Luckily, Anita Pallenberg was also in the booth and after she told Mick Jagger about the impact of the refrain, the band incorporated the “hoo hoo” into the song with Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg providing the vocals. As I mentioned in my ramblings about “Screamadelica”, audiences at Primal Scream concerts often sing “whoo whoo” (“hoo hoo”? “who who”?) along with some of their songs.

Robert Christgau was a music journalist with “The Village Voice” for 37 years and he claimed that “Salt Of The Earth” was the best pop song of 1968. Keith Richards shares lead vocal duties with Mick Jagger. Although Brian Jones was a highly accomplished slide guitar player, his mental and physical descent was so far advanced at this stage that most of his playing on this album was omitted from the final mix. Keith Richards plays the astonishing slide guitar on this song and as always, Nicky Hopkins’ piano playing is phenomenal. Although the song can be interpreted as a tribute to the working classes, the Stones’ aloofness and unwillingness (or inability) to identify with the hoi polloi is shown in the lines “when I search a faceless crowd…they don’t look re In fact they look so strange“. A bit like Paul Rogers’ face on June 16th 1990.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

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