Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rolling Stones – "Before They Make Me Run" (1978)

Booze and pills and powders
You can choose your medicine
Well, it’s another goodbye to another good friend

Almost all of the obituaries for Anita Pallenberg – who died on June 13 – described her as the Rolling Stones’ muse.

Pallenberg certainly influenced the Stones’ music.  She appears to have been the inspiration for “You Got the Silver,” “Dead Flowers,” “Beast of Burden,” “Gimme Shelter,” and perhaps other Stones songs.  (I’ll have more to say about Pallenberg and “Gimme Shelter” below.)

Anita Pallenberg
And some say the Stones remixed the Beggars Banquet album because she didn’t like the way it sounded, and they took her opinion on such matters seriously.  (She sang backup vocals on the most memorable song on that album, “Sympathy for the Devil.”)

Even more significant than her influence on the music of the Stones was her influence on the image the Stones presented to the world – they way they looked and the way they lived.

If Pallenberg had never met the Rolling Stones – she talked her way backstage at a Stones concert in Munich 1965, offering to share her marijuana and hash with the band – Jagger, Richards, et al., would undoubtedly have turned out very differently.

From Rolling Stone:

[S]he was a rock & roll legend in herself, a style icon, a crucial part of the Stones' mystique.  She taught Keith her sinister glare, taught Mick Jagger her wiggle, taught Brian Jones how to wear floppy hats. . . . She was the flower of evil in the Stones' orbit, the baddest of bad girls – her grin declared she knew more about sin than any of these English schoolboys had ever imagined.

Pallenberg with Brian Jones
Pallenberg was a globetrotting model while still a teenager.  She had rubbed elbows with Fellini and Warhol and many of the icons of the “Swinging London” culture before meeting the Stones, who quickly adopted her boho-chic look.

From the Guardian:

You can see the effect of her fashion background on their appearance by comparing the cover of 1965’s Out of Our Heads with the photos Gered Mankowitz took in late 1966 for the cover of Between the Buttons.  In the former, they’re dressed in standard tough R&B band uniform – jeans, suede jackets, striped shirts – but in the latter they’re louche and dandified, a riot of extravagant tailoring, purple and orange trousers and mirrored shades.  A month later, publicizing the album at a photocall in Green Park, Jones and Richards in particular literally seem to be dressing like Pallenberg: floppy hats, fur coats, jewelery.  “I started to become a fashion icon,” Richards later noted, “for wearing my old lady’s clothes.”

Anita’s relationship with Brian Jones ended after it turned violent.  He reportedly broke his hand while beating her, but Pallenberg gave as good as she got: “Every time they had a fight,” Keith Richards later wrote, “Brian would come out bandaged and bruised.”

Pallenberg with Keith Richards
Pallenberg then hooked up with Richards.  They were together for 12 tempestuous, drug-filled years, and had three children together.   (Their third child, a son, died in his crib when he was just ten weeks old.) 

Shortly after she and Richards became a couple, Pallenberg was hired to star with Mick Jagger in the movie Performance.  (She also appeared in two other iconic movies of that era, Barbarella and Candy.)  

Richards became convinced that Pallenberg and Jagger had an affair while Performance was being made.  While they were being filmed dallying together in a bathtub, Richards was writing the Rolling Stones’ greatest song: “Gimme Shelter.”   (In Richards’s autobiography, he called the movie’s director “a pimp,” described Performance as “third-rate porn,” and said that Jagger had a “tiny todger.”  He wasn’t too bitter, is he?)

Pallenberg in the bathtub with Mick Jagger
Anita and Keith went their separate ways shortly after the 1979 death of Scott Cantrell, her 17-year-old lover, from a gunshot to the head.  At the time of Cantrell’s demise, he and the 37-year-old Pallenberg had been canoodling at the Pallenberg-Richards manse in Westchester County, NY, while Richards was in Paris recording with the other Stones.

Cantrell’s death was officially ruled to have been suicide, but the rumor was that Cantrell and Pallenberg had been playing Russian roulette.  (Pallenberg later said “I didn’t feel anything” when Cantrell died: “That's one of the wonders of drugs and drink.”)

The other Stones weren’t sorry to see Keith kick Anita to the curb.  In their view, his 1977 arrest for heroin possession in Canada – which could have landed Richards in prison for years – was her fault.

(You can click here to read the detailed account of the Toronto bust that Chet Flippo wrote for Rolling Stone.)

After she and Richards broke up, Pallenberg earned a degree in textile and fashion design from a prestigious London art school.  A newspaper described her designs as a “triumph of style over substance abuse.”

Pallenberg in 2014
She eventually kicked her heroin addiction but ended up with hepatitis C.  Her son Marlon told the press that complications from that disease caused her death.   
*     *     *     *     *

Some Girls, the Stones’ 16th American studio album, was released in 1978.  Mick Jagger did most of the heavy lifting on the album because Keith Richards was up to his neck in legal problems after his Toronto heroin bust.

But “Before They Make Me Run” was the creation of Keith Richards, who sang lead on the song.

The “it’s another goodbye to another good friend” line quoted above may be a reference to the overdose death of Richards’s close friend Gram Parsons in 1973.  Or it may be Keith saying good-bye to heroin.  (After his arrest, Richards went through rehab and overcame his addiction.  as a result, Canadian authorities did not seek serious prison time for his offense.)

Here’s “Before They Make Me Run”:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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