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Friday, 23 July 2010

Remembering Addiction


In the brazen heat of a July day I sit on a grass-grown wayside bank. The heat has almost stilled the birds, leaving the baking air for the summing and chirping of insects. From the distance come a dim throbbing of a farmer’s mowing machine somewhere beyond the tree-covered ridge and the sweet smell of freshly cut hay, with a dusty harmonic carried by the hot, dry summer breeze. The sun casts silverly dappling shadows through the branches of a nearby birch and down on the meadow by the stream the cows flick their tails desultorily against the crowds of flies misting their hindquarters. The sky is mostly a glaring blue-white but in the distant south west there is a hint of thunderheads massing and an almost subsonic rumble of approaching thunder. My fingers play idly with a yellowed dry grass stem and my memory slips back to a similar day, more than a decade ago …


Another hot July day. In another part of Germany I sit, looking across the terrace of my apartment at a wide valley, chequered green and yellow fields, in the distance a village on a small hill. My life pointless, slipping out of control; too much pain and contradiction, too much self-pity and enthrallment to be gainsaid. Or at least that’s what I’ve told myself. The cause of much of it is in the glass on the table, always within reach. If it was afternoon that summer then it was probably a Negroni, although it could have been a simple gin and tonic. Properly made of course, except in the most extreme cases (when I was slugging straight vodka from hidden bottles under the often illusory impression that I was cleverly keeping my weakness secret) I placed some value on civilized behaviour; the amounts of gin, vermouth and Campari measured out (albeit with a very generous measure), poured over plenty of ice, garnished with a slice of orange. If I wasn’t working, the day had probably started with aspirin and cold beer for breakfast – treatment for the alcohol-induced cerebral dehydration headache (also known as “hangover”). The rest of the day divided up by Negronis. A bottle of wine to accompany dinner in the evening, afterwards perhaps chilled ouzo – if I was still conscious.

Cold beer in the morning, replenishing fluids, banishing the faint hints of possible withdrawal. The first buzz of the day, blanketing the small protesting voice of honesty trying to admonish; this isn’t good, you can’t go on this way! A wave of self-disgust giving way to jubilant, guilty rationalisation; too late now, you can write today off so you might as well enjoy it, you don’t have to face the problems today!

The problems and worries were patient. They waited. And grew. Slowly. Steadily. Occasionally causing a crisis. Money too scarce. Job threatened, finally lost. Solutions, many bad, found one way or another. Alcohol is a perfect solution, or perhaps solvent is the better term – in the end it dissolves everything. Everything else was pointless anyway. My marriage had broken down, my ex-wife disappeared abroad with my children. The future was unimaginable, but the present could be made … tolerable.

As on that warm, sunny July afternoon. The ice melts steadily into the Negroni, paler eddies swirling slowly into the red liquid. Music on the stereo; it might have been Gr√∂nemeyer, or possibly Pink Floyd; I have become comfortably numb, an unstable, fragile equilibrium has been achieved. I’m alone, but that’s all right, it makes the drinking easier. If the phone rings I just won’t answer, just as I’ve given up opening a lot of my post. Things to do, action demanded, perhaps (worst of all) concerned friends trying to make contact, activity I just don’t have the motivation or energy for. Tomorrow. Yes. Maybe. Outside the sky is mostly a glaring blue-white but in the distant south west there is a hint of thunderheads massing and an almost subsonic rumble of approaching thunder…


… The threat of a thunderstorm is becoming acute. I throw away the dry grass stem and walk back to the car. As I drive away, the first fat raindrops spatter on the windscreen.

I haven’t drunk alcohol for ten years now and it’s no longer an issue for me. I’ve come far enough that I can revisit old memories without danger and be amazed. My life is fine, rich and fulfilled in most ways. I’m living in that future which was unimaginable in that summer of 1999. Reasons enough to be thankful for.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Wall


It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play …
But on July 21, 1990, another was playing the music. A quarter of a million people, including yours truly, gathered on a huge patch of waste land (today completely redeveloped) between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate, where only eight months earlier the Berlin Wall had divided the city, to see Roger Waters and various rock stars perform “The Wall.”
Pink Floyd had originally released the double concept album, The Wall, largely composed by the group’s bassist, Waters, in 1979. It was their second most successful album after Dark Side of the Moon and the single, Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2), their most successful, reaching No. 1 in the charts all over the world (something unusual for Floyd, who were always primarily an album band). It was also the last major common artistic project from the complete group (Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason). The various tensions between different group members reached such epic proportions that Waters actually succeeded in throwing Wright out of the group during the recording process, although subsequently the other three members separated themselves from Waters.
The Wall is, in many ways, a source of contention among the huge community of Pink Floyd fans – my membership of which I unashamedly admit – and rock aficionados in general. Many regard it as their greatest work, others see it, as do I, as a flawed work of genius, which fails to live up to the artistic perfection of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. The flaws derive from the personality of its primary creator, Roger Waters himself.
The album is massively ambitious, dealing with themes such as alienation, isolation, madness, the basic difficulties in relationships, particularly between men and women, the horror of war. In many instances it makes powerful musical statements about these themes and much of the music is up to Floyd’s usual high standard. The artwork for the album (and the animated scenes in videos and film) are by Gerald Scarfe and are excellent. And, in a sense, the concept does work, especially when it is visualised, as in the live show or Alan Parker’s film; there is a sort of story-line/development/plot, leading to a kind of cathartic conclusion. But this is also where my problems with The Wall begin.
The themes treated in the album are powerful and serious, expressions of many central concerns of modernity which have occupied many artists, from Beckett to Picasso, from Sartre to Ginsberg. That’s part of the difficulty, others have set a very high standard here. The Wall approaches the subject through the autobiographical workings of the themes in Water’s own life and there is a distinct flavouring of the egoistical whining of a spoilt rock-star, crying into his champagne. Following the story of the rock-star Pink, whose father died in the war, who had an overpowering, dominating mother, who was mistreated at school, whose wife is unfaithful to him, who has problems coping with fame … I’ve always found part of me reacting with; tough shit, we all have our problems, lots of people would be happy to have yours, get over it!
And then there’s the music. Some good numbers like “Mother,” “Goodbye Blue Sky,” “One of my Turns,” and, of course, the one everyone knows “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) [“We don’t need no education …”]. Two great songs, “Run like Hell,” and “Comfortably Numb” – interestingly the only ones with a compositional credit to Dave Gilmour, Floyd’s guitarist. And a couple of painful pompous monstrosities like “Vera,” and “Bring the Boys back Home,” which are excruciatingly bad. But Waters had the bit between his teeth and increasingly wasn’t listening to anyone as the recording of the album proceeded.
The live show of The Wall was the last of the legendary Pink Floyd tours (with the complete group), setting – as always – new standards for elaborate effects, concept and production excellence. After it, the band and Waters basically split up. Nearly ten years after the whole thing, in July 1989, Roger Waters commented in a radio interview (as a joke) that the only way the live show would ever be resurrected would be if the Berlin Wall fell. Four months later … it did.
And so, on what was the hottest weekend of 1990, I spent over twelve hours driving around six hundred kilometres to Berlin, along with many thousands of others. The border posts to East Germany were deserted and the jams on the former transit autobahn through the GDR were endless, exacerbated by broken-down Trabis with boiling radiators. Waters had gathered a horde of prominent musicians and actors, an orchestra and a Soviet song and dance ensemble (including a military band) and the show was bombastic. Among all the guest stars and singers, one performance remains, for me, particularly memorable; Van Morrison singing “Comfortably Numb.” For that alone, the drive to Berlin was more than worth the effort.
“All alone or in twos,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall
And when they’ve given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it’s not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger’s wall.”
(Outside the Wall, Pink Floyd/Roger Waters)

[From December this year Waters is going on world tour with The Wall once more!]

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

What are Words Worth? 2.) Language and Reality


This post is a continuation of a previous one http://francishunt.blogspot.com/2010_02_01_archive.html


In the beginning was the word …

Language and consciousness are indivisibly bound up with each other. This realisation has many consequences for the way we understand and explain things.

The first thing we should always be aware of is that our understanding, our expressing of the way things are, is an expression of the way we see and explain things. We define in our language; out of these definitions, these namings, we build ideas, concepts, meanings, theories, explanations. They are the products of our human perceptions, our particular situations, our societies, our histories. The way we see and explain the world and everything in it is our way, formed and limited by the language we use to express it.

This basic insight, both difficult and banal, is confirmed by both a major trend in philosophy and modern theoretical physics. In philosophy, the tendency can be traced back as far as Kant, at the end of the eighteenth century, and can be (simplifying a complex area greatly) called phenomenology. At its simplest, the phenomenological approach notes that everything we experience, think and talk about happens at the meeting point between our human observing consciousness and whatever-it-is that is “out there [i],” often called the “thing-in-itself.” This meeting-point is called “phenomenon.” In over two hundred years, philosophers have debated endlessly over what one can say about the “thing-in-itself,” or, indeed, whether we can say anything about it at all. On this last point, as I think has already become clear, I belong to those who are extremely sceptical.

This viewpoint is supported by one of the major trends in 20th Century theoretical physics, quantum theory. A basic conclusion which comes from various formulations of the “uncertainty principle” at the core of quantum theory [ii] is that, in any scientific experiment carried out, the very fact of observation has an influence on the result of the experiment. This is generally accepted by theoretical physicists today and has major consequences for the theoretical foundations of science, based as they are on ideas like neutral objectivity and the repeatability of experiments.

So, what does all this have to do with language? If the ideas of the philosophers and physicists are correct, then any statements we make about everything are products of our observing human consciousness and this consciousness is intimately, indivisibly entwined with the language we use to express and describe anything, the language we use to communicate our thoughts, to meaningfully interact with each other. Seen this way, in a very real sense it can be said that in naming things we create them. This seems completely crazy or, to use a term used by those who think seriously about such things, counterintuitive. To put it even more simply, it seems to contradict everything we experience, to contradict “common sense.” But when we think about some things a bit more, it becomes clearer. Many of the concepts according to which we organise our lives and societies would have been incomprehensible to people three hundred years ago, at least in the sense in which we use and understand them; democracy, equality, freedom … economics. Maybe one of the best examples is an idea we understand as basic for the functioning of a decent society – that of human rights. Ideas coalescing, developing, interacting with people and groups and their actions, being named.

There are other implications, too. The great Austrian philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, spent a lot of time thinking about language and the way it works. One of his insights was that we use language according to rules in much the same way as games are organised by rules. And often, the same words can have different meanings because they are used in different games. As long as all the “players” are following the same rules then there’s no problem. But frequently, people use the same words and assume that others understand them, whereas, in fact, the others are “playing according to different rules.” A Chinese delegate to the United Nations may understand the phrase “common good” very differently to a delegate from the USA, simply because the histories of both cultures and the conceptual frameworks within which they work are different.

So, our consciousness orders and structures the mass of ‘things’ we perceive, naming and cataloguing things, putting impressions and events, everything we perceive really, into our own subjective categories, organising according to our experiences, our preconceptions, our priorities and beliefs. It’s a continual, complex process with countless streams of thoughts and ideas being born, developing, dying away, memories and actually occurring experiences, feelings and emotions influencing, forming and reforming each other, feedback loops – positive and negative – happening all over the place. In his (even for non-philosophers quite readable) book “Consciousness Explained,” the philosopher Daniel C. Dennett argues that consciousness itself is nothing other than this extremely complex process. But even if you don’t want to go as far as Dennett does, the network underlying and carrying all of this is language, made of words.

In the beginning was the word … John the Divine (and the many other Greek thinkers playing with the concept of Logos) was on to something very deep here – even if my use of the phrase here has little to do with the conventional Christian interpretation of it. And we spin the words and turn them, play with them and combine them – into phrases, statements, ideas and concepts, feelings and poems and diatribes and promises, handbooks and bibles and lists; fundamental building blocks of our ordering of our perceptions, our lives, our world.

This has all kinds of implications about the way we see, react to and mould the worlds in which we find ourselves. One interesting train of thought, for example, is the examination of the major ways that views of the world and what is called “reality” change when cultures make the change from a general oral basis to the written world [iii]. But that’s a topic for another day. I’ll finish this post with the image of a group of early humans, gathered around a fire providing warmth and protection, and the smiles of anticipation when one of the elders signifies assent to the request, “Tell us a story!” …


[i] In the history of philosophy this basic insight, and the questions arising from it, go back further than Kant. A famous philosophical riddle which poses the problem was stated by the Irish thinker, Bishop George Berkeley at the beginning of the 18th Century; “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” [Berkeley stated the question slightly differently, but that’s not important.] Hundreds of years earlier, a Zen story/riddle (koan) states it somewhat differently, but – in my opinion – very beautifully: "Two monks were arguing about the temple flag waving in the wind. One said, "The flag moves." The other said, "The wind moves." They argued back and forth but could not agree. Hui-neng said, "Gentlemen! It is not the wind that moves; it is not the flag that moves; it is your mind that moves." The two monks were struck with awe."

- The Mumonkan Case 29, translation by Robert Aitken

[ii] Elaborated most famously by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schr√∂dinger in 1935 in his thought-experiment involving a cat in a box which seems to be unavoidably alive and dead at the same time until the box is opened, on the basis of which he put forward the (for subsequent developments in quantum theory) very important concept of “entanglement.”

[iii] Those interested in reading more about this subject could look at the works of Walter J. Ong and Erik A. Havelock. (Thanks to Lara for fascinating conversations and reading tips about this J)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Ethics and Morality


So … I found myself sitting in a traffic jam the other day and thinking about the difference between morality and ethics (I tend to incline to things like this but it’s not really dangerous and certainly not catching!). It’s a subject I’ve discussed in on-line discussion groups a couple of times in the past few of years, although I admit to being somewhat bemused by it at the beginning. Back in the Dark Ages (as my children might comment) 30 years ago, when I was studying philosophy, this never struck me as a subject which demanded much discussion. Ethics was basically just another word for moral philosophy. The difference between morality and ethics, in so far as it existed, was simply that ethics was more practical – applied morality, if you will. And, as I have never been particularly enamoured of the idea of purely theoretical morality (morality always having to do with humans and their practical positions, decisions and actions), a deeper discussion about this subject has always seemed to me to be rather superfluous.

But that was then and this is now and the world has moved on. In the years that have passed, many areas in the world seem to have realised that the complexity of the issues they have to deal with leads to situations where values come into conflict, where hard decisions present no easy options. And so, a new profession has come into being – that of the ethicist. In the medical area they have become a fixture, obviously, in a branch where life and death decisions must be taken daily, where many individual rights seem to be in conflict and where, nonetheless, some action has to be taken, usually quickly. But also in the area of business, where large corporations and their managers make decisions with wide-reaching consequences, ethicists are being increasingly employed.

It would be nice to think that all this has to do with an increasing consciousness of the importance of morality in life generally. Unfortunately, this is not true. The reasons are less high-minded and more complex. Much of it has to do with the ideology which has dominated the globe since the collapse of the Soviet system of so-called Marxist communism twenty or so years ago; free-market capitalism. This system likes to claim that it is based on competition and the general realisation was growing that such a system can only work well if there are agreed rules which all can follow. Now a basic rule-book is already in place in most societies in the form of civil and criminal laws, but this area is basically under the sovereign control of states and market capitalist theorists are generally not enamoured of extending state control into every conceivable area and level of business practice. So, instead, there has been a growth in generally agreed regulations (with overall state control only in areas where it has seemed unavoidable), although states have been involved in areas regarding the transnational agreements necessary to facilitate the spread of globalisation, e.g. dismantling of tariffs and subsidies.

In many ways, an even more pervasive development has been the spread of quality control and management, perceived as it is as a competitive advantage. A central part of this development has been the formal definition of goals and aims of enterprises and businesses. Such definitions have major PR and marketing advantages so they have to sound good. The primary goals of any enterprise working under competitive market capitalism – to make as much profit as possible, obtain an ever bigger market share and, as a result, beat your competitors – don’t look good in a company brochure or on their web site. So instead, you’ll see phrases like,

As a business that invests in more than 80 countries worldwide, BP has an impact on many local communities and economies.

We strive to make that impact a positive one by running our operations responsibly and by investing in the community in ways that benefit both local populations and BP.

The key test for any community investment is that it should create a meaningful and sustainable impact – one that is relevant to local needs, aligned with BP’s business and undertaken in partnership with local organisations…”

(http://www.bp.com/sectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9032734&contentId=7060011 I’ve taken this from the BP web-site because of topical relevance, but you’ll read much the same on the site of almost every large corporation).

Now much of this can be (rightly) taken to be just blah-blah, empty corporation-speak, but the logic of the quality management systems (QM) which have been installed mean that at least some lip-service has to be paid to the noble sentiments expressed by the companies involved. And this entails that conflicts may arise between such generally expressed goals and normal daily dirty practice. In a carefully managed way, such conflicts can be resolved with a blaze of positive publicity by those new paragons of corporate responsibility – the ethicists.

The financial services area has developed this to an art-form. Doesn’t this sound wonderful?

Our clients' interests always come first.

Our experience shows that if we serve our clients well, our own success will follow.

Our assets are our people, capital and reputation.

If any of these is ever diminished, the last is the most difficult to restore. We are dedicated to complying fully with the letter and spirit of the laws, rules and ethical principles that govern us. Our continued success depends upon unswerving adherence to this standard.

Our goal is to provide superior returns to our shareholders.

Profitability is critical to achieving superior returns, building our capital, and attracting and keeping our best people. Significant employee stock ownership aligns the interests of our employees and our shareholders.

(http://www2.goldmansachs.com/our-firm/our-people/business-principles.html)

This is from Goldman Sachs’ website. A little reading between the lines gives an alternative wording; “Those who come to us with their capital do so because they want the biggest possible return on their investment. We’ll do this for them by putting the brightest people possible to work on this without breaking the rules.” This seems innocuous, until we look at where it led to in the recent financial crisis. Many financial services companies have justified their risky, irresponsible practices with the ethical imperative to earn as much as possible for their investors and shareholders. “Our clients’ interests always come first,” and for a firm like Goldman Sachs their clients’ interests can be very simply defined in one word; profit. “Profitability is critical to achieving superior returns, building our capital [etc.]…”

This is ethics at its best … and morality at its worst. In the end, someone working for a financial services company can’t take the consequences of his/her investment decisions which may involve putting people out of work, supporting inhuman working conditions and starvation wages, ignoring environmental side-effects into account, if such issues result in reducing profits. He/she must ignore the long-terms effects of investments because the market doesn’t take long-term profitability into account; you have to invest in what is the best prospect today and if the prospects for returns on a particular investment decline tomorrow, then you take your capital (and the profit gained by it) out of that particular area and put it into tomorrow’s best prospect. To act any differently would be to break your first principle, to serve your clients’ interest; to protect and grow his/her capital. Unethical conduct, in other words.

In such circumstances, deeper questions of morality fall by the wayside. But morality has become a difficult issue, for many reasons. Many of the old consensuses have broken down, thankfully in many cases. Overarching ideologies such as taking up the white man’s burden to spread the advantages of superior western civilization throughout the whole world are no longer accepted. Religions and churches have become discredited. Frequently they have only themselves to blame, with the gap between preaching and practice making them seem completely hypocritical and with their strong tendency to limit morality (one of the most noble human inventions) to sexual behaviour, at least in the public perception.

But there may be an even deeper problem. Our modern societies are based on ideas which have their origins in the Enlightenment, ideas like tolerance, freedom of speech, opinion and religion, pluralism. But these very ideas would seem to imply that many areas of morality, about which there is frequently no general consensus, should be consigned to the private arena. Even more importantly, particularly given the history of human societies since the English Glorious Revolution of the late 17th Century and the American and French Revolutions nearly a hundred years later, religions of various stripe have laid claim to particular authority in the area of morality and the separation of church and state is one of the core Enlightenment values. Religion should be seen as a matter of private freedom and (in many cases, protesting, screaming and kicking all the way) the religions have been driven from their former positions of determining everything in society into the private area, taking morality with them in the process.

As someone who firmly believes in these Enlightenment values, I think this is a pity and I would dispute the rights claimed by religions to have a special authority with respect to morality. I would argue that it is perfectly legitimate for a secular society to define large areas of morality for itself and to continually develop this morality within the basic categories which it claims for itself; dialogue, consensus, tolerance and mutual respect. This is a morality which is not static and changeless, but dynamic and evolving for the evolving open society from which it comes and in which it is practiced.

For our contemporary societies this morality, and the ethical codes for application which we would derive from it, would base itself on values such as tolerance, respect, freedom, solidarity and, perhaps most importantly, responsibility; responsibility for each other, for the planet on which we live, for the future we want for our children and grandchildren. Given facts such as globalisation, the myriad ways in which we have all become interdependent on each other and the stress that a population of almost seven billion (and still increasing) places on our material, social, political and energy networks and environment, it is, I believe, vital that we rediscover our need for plausible, practical public morality, based on more than a rudimentary respect for life and a highly developed sense of the sanctity of property. If we don’t, I see us running a high risk of making our planet into a very sorry place for most people to live in the next hundred years.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Rolling Stones


Okay, I have a serious post half ready but I’ve just come off working nights and have two whole days (!) free before going back for more and frankly, the more nights I work the more I have the feeling that my brain is turning to mush so I’ll finish that some other time. Something lighter instead, something completely different…

I was born ten years too late to really get the music of the sixties when it was actually happening but when I really started to take pop and rock seriously in the seventies the shadow cast by the most creative decade in popular music was still long indeed. The first group I really lost my heart to was the Beatles and today, nearly forty years later, this has not appreciably changed; I still believe that the Fab Four were sublime geniuses, leaving all the contemporary competition far behind in their wake. Including, of course, their great rivals, the Rolling Stones. And, of course, as a teenager, I immediately indentified with this rivalry – even if it was artificially pushed by the media and Mick, Keith & Co., were, in fact, good friends of the Liverpool lads.

But as I’ve got older, I’ve learned to appreciate the works of Jagger and Richards more and more, even if my feelings about them still remain – in some areas – a bit ambiguous. First of all, I find their continued existence and their live touring a bit embarrassing. Jagger’s camp prancing has gone beyond being a parody of the original into the realm of pure comedy theatre. This kind of behaviour is just not worthy for a man in his mid-sixties, a man whose granddaughter was in my daughter’s class at school in Ibiza for chrissakes (and my daughter is now a grown woman)! I saw him on TV twice last week at the World Cup, first hobnobbing with his pal, Bill Clinton, at the game where the USA lost narrowly to Ghana and again the following day witnessing England being humiliated by Germany. Not a good week for Mick.

And then of course there’s Keith Richards. What can one say about Keith? A man who has turned Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray story around, with his face showing the traces of every binge with booze and other various mind-altering substances he has ever come into contact with. The guy’s liver deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records (and, come to think of it, Ronnie Woods’ liver is in this category too, but Ronnie can at least play the guitar). Keith, on the other hand, has been described as the best bad guitarist in the world. A rock guitarist whose favourite guitar setting is an open G tuning with only five strings on the instrument (the bass E being removed for, er, convenience)! Still, Keith does have a deep love of classic rhythm n’ blues and, within his self-admitted limitations, what he does he does well.

But I didn’t really set out here to slam the Stones – frankly, that’s too easy and a bit cheap for they are, in their own way, musical legends with a long series of great songs, many of which were profoundly innovative and have well stood the test of time. From “Satisfaction” to “Sympathy for the Devil,” from “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” to “Paint it Black”, these are songs which get immediately get into your blood, make you want to turn the music up loud, get up and dance. And though they are synonymous with fast and dirty rock ‘n roll, they have also produced some very good slower numbers and ballads, such as “Ruby Tuesday” and “As Tears Go By.”

Above all, the Stones are fun! One of my most cherished musical memories concerns a time where I was part of a hobby band which, for complicated reasons I won’t go into here, had a constantly changing membership. At one stage, one of the guitarists was a Dutch Stones fanatic, who (I kid you not) in real life was a french horn player with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. Dave insisted that we add some Stones numbers to our set and so I had the privilege of singing “Satisfaction” and “Honky Tonk Woman” at an unforgettable live gig. Musically, I swear, it doesn’t get much better than that!

So, while they will never replace the Beatles in that very special corner of my heart, I cheerfully admit to having learned to love the Stones. I even find myself being struck by the wry wisdom often to be found in their lyrics. “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes you might find you get what you need.” Deep, that! (Although, in my opinion, they should really quit the live touring; they’re too old for it, certainly don’t need the money and the prices they charge for tickets are simply outrageous!)

Here’s Mick, Keith, Ron, Bill and Charlie doing a marvellous country and western pastiche. As Mick sings, thank you, Jesus!

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