Sample Week: “Waiting On A Friend” by The Rolling StonesPosted: July 19, 2012
Maybe the reason that this rather unassuming ballad that closes out Tattoo You has won such a special place in the group’s pantheon is that reaffirms a bond between the group members that, quite frankly, can be hard to discern sometimes. It always seems that they go their separate ways in between albums and mega-tours, only to regain their chemistry the next time around with seemingly little effort. When you take into account how vastly different their personalities, at least the ones they show to the public, seem to be, it’s hard to imagine these guys watching a ball game together.
Of course, that dynamic isn’t unusual among rock bands, and oftentimes relationships within groups are much more volatile than what the Stones seem to possess among the principals. “Waiting On A Friend” allows all of us Stones’ fans to indulge in the notion, however fantastic that it might be, that their musical bond is born of personal kinships that no one can tear asunder.
Even that notion has to make room for some irony, since it is Mick Taylor, who always seemed like more of a mercenary than a group member, playing the leisurely guitar lick through the song. Taylor is present because the song was begun in 1972 and shelved, only to be revived for Tattoo You. Other guest players stake out their territory as well, as Nicky Hopkins’ genial piano fills in all the gaps in Jagger’s narrative, while Sonny Rollins’ saxophone, recorded nine years after the track was originated, carries the song into sublime infinity.
We can also believe in the message of the song because of Mick’s absolutely heartfelt performance. So great is he here that the lines “Making love and breaking hearts/It is a game for you” sound thoroughly convincing coming from one of the most legendary lotharios in the history of the world. When he and Keith Richards come together to sing, “I’m not waiting on a lady/I’m just waiting on a friend,” it’s perhaps the sweetest moment in Stones’ history.
So, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, I prefer to believe in the Stones as this song portrays them. The true story belongs to the biographies and the tabloids, but “Waiting On A Friend” provides a beauty even deeper than the truth.
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