By Beppe Colli
Aug. 18, 2017
On June 25th, 1967 the "experimental" TV broadcast Our
World, which for the first time linked 25 nations live via satellite, for an
(estimated) audience of more than 400 million people, went on the air, in
glorious black & white.
Given the great variety of languages spoken
by those who were expected to watch the program, U.K.'s BBC asked the Beatles -
at the time, the most popular artist/group on Earth - to perform something
whose message could be easily understood by all.
John Lennon submitted the new song All You
Need Is Love, which the Beatles performed (for the most part) live on that date
and which (with just a few overdubs) became the group's next single (released
on July, 7th), and, in a short while, the unofficial worldwide hymn of that
year's "flower power".
On August 18th, 1967 the Rolling Stones released their brand new
single, We Love You. Here one has to quote John Lennon, when he said
"Whatever the Beatles did, the Rolling Stones did too, six months
One could say that, in this case, the
Stones were only partially culpable, since in the year 1967 - and during that
season: the "Summer of Love" - "flower" and
"love" were quite common words.
But nobody had any doubts about what the
message was. When introducing the Stones' new single in their quite influential
and trendy radio program Bandiera Gialla, Italian radio personalities Renzo
Arbore and Gianni Boncompagni told their studio audience (I clearly remember
Gianni Boncompagni's voice speaking): "Guys, the Rolling Stones love
you!", the audience going "yeah!".
But the single sounded like a very strange "love message",
starting from the very beginning: heavy footsteps on a hard floor, heavy
cell-doors clanging, and being shut - a scene one clearly remembered from many
movies - and then, a claustrophobic-sounding piano riff, a circular phrase
which sounded as if in search of a way out. Some electric bass
"slides" only added more mystery to the mood. Then, a chorus of impossible
falsettos - at the time it was a well-kept secret, but while recording the song
the Stones got (more than) "a little help from their friends" John
Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was at that point that the song really took off,
the vocals suggesting a dream-like scenery over a strange orchestral
background, with loud drums keeping time.
A vocal figure singing impossibly high
notes, which to me sounds as being closely related to the one coming after the
last line of the bridge in A Day In The Life - "(...) and somebody
spoke and I went into a dream" - takes us back to a nightmare - those
clanging doors again, that piano riff - we try to escape, with the resolution
in the bridge getting very strong support from the drums' dynamite hits:
"We don't care if you hound we/And lock the doors around we" (...)
"You will never win we/Your uniforms don't fit we", which ends
stressing words that appear as innocuous, "Of course, we do".
And so, We Love You appears as a unique
specimen in the rock canon, combining the Beatles' melodic meticulousness and
the Stones' sonic braggadocio.
It was "peace & love" time in London, but also a time
of celebrities being arrested. This is the starting point of a
"confrontation at close distance" between the "popular
press" - here are three words that best qualify their attitude when
describing those artists'/musicians' mores: "prurient, voyeuristic,
gross" - and the "new people".
So it was with great surprise that, on June
1st, a Leader by the Times editor, William Reese-Mogg, asked whether the
proposed sentence for the charges facing Mick Jagger - possessing four tablets
of amphetamines legally purchased in Italy - revealed an "ad
personam" hidden motive.
The Leader appeared under the title WHO
BREAKS A BUTTERFLY ON A WHEEL. Here is the closing paragraph:
"There are cases in which a single
figure becomes the focus for public concern about some aspect of public
morality." (...) "If we are going to make any case a symbol of the
conflict between the sound traditional values of Britain and the new hedonism,
then we must be sure that the sound traditional values include those of
tolerance and equity. It should be the particular quality of British justice to
ensure that MR. JAGGER is treated exactly the same as anyone else, no better
and no worse. There must remain a suspicion in this case that MR. JAGGER
received a more severe sentence than would have been thought proper for any
purely anonymous young man."
The Stones shot a promotional video, which
in part re-enacted the famous Oscar Wilde trial of 1895. But the producers of
Top of the Pops refused to air the video, as "not suitable" for their
The opening piano riff was performed - and, I think, composed on the
spot - by Nicky Hopkins, who had already contributed to recordings by such
groups as the Kinks and the Who, and who in a short while would became an
important addition to famous albums by the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane,
and the Who (and let's not forget his electric piano - a Wurlitzer? - solo on
the Beatles' Revolution).
We Love You - alongside the album the
Stones would release at the end of that year, which will be immediately mocked
for its "Beatles-related" cover, coming six months after Sgt. Pepper
- is the high point of the musical contribution of Brian Jones, the group's
former "blues guitarist" turned into a not-very-disciplined, but
highly effective, multi-instrumentalist. His "Arabic"-sounding
mellotron - showing the fruits of his trips to Morocco at a time this stuff had
yet to turn into a cliché - coupled with those drums represent mayhem after
words had ceased sounding.
Readers will have to decide for themselves
if the last chord sounds like a guffaw.
(Talking about "a song's last
chord": What about the one that ends Traffic's song The Low Spark Of High-Heeled
© Beppe Colli 2017
CloudsandClocks.net | Aug. 18, 2017