May 13, 2015

Boomer Anthems: "Sympathy for the Devil"

Sympathy for the Devil in all its variations represents the Boomers acme and epitaph.

I last saw the Stones perform this at Altamont, where it was accompanied by pool cue bludgeoning and a lethal stabbing. I sort of last my taste for it after that concert, but I check in on variations from the Stones' endless tours from time to time.

More and more the penultimate line,

"Just as every cop is a criminal /
And all the sinners saints"

seems to be prophetic of this Baltimore spring.

This particular performance is from 2006.

Lately it occurs to me that the most frightening thought is that the Rolling Stones might just outlive all of the rest of us.

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul to waste

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
(Woo woo, woo woo)

I shouted out,
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
(Who who, who who)

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
(Woo woo, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
(Who who)
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
(Who who, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
(Woo woo, who who)

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
(Who who, who who)

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
(Woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
(Woo woo, woo woo)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
(Who who)
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
(Woo woo, woo woo)

Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
(Woo woo)

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah

What's my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name
Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah
Woo woo
Woo woo

Posted by gerardvanderleun at May 13, 2015 3:11 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I don't like a lot of Rolling Stones work but this is one of my favorite songs. The lyrics just stick with me, and seem so insightful and deep compared to so much being put out at the time (compare to Lennon's stuff around then, for example).

Posted by: Christopher Taylor at May 13, 2015 11:26 AM

"'Sympathy for the Devil' in all its variations represents the Boomers acme and epitaph."

I cannot disagree with any point of your assessment.

As a Boomer (cohort of '53) this song has always frightened me.

What frightens me the most is that it is indeed an anthem, a rallying cry, a laughing, mocking rejection of the culture that raised us.

And yes: The Devil laughs not in the fireballs over Hiroshima or Nagasaki, but in the flames of the Baltimore CVS, by which light his children danced.

Posted by: DJMoore at May 13, 2015 1:26 PM

Two things:
1) Some of us took it as a warning, others as an anthem.

2) Is it me, or is Keith Richards beginning to look a lot like Leonard Nemoy?

Posted by: leelu at May 13, 2015 2:59 PM

"Nimoy" dammit!!

Posted by: leelu at May 13, 2015 3:39 PM

Smacks of Screwtape Letters, yes?
Boomer of 48,

Posted by: pbird at May 13, 2015 5:32 PM

Look at the difference...

Posted by: foodog at May 13, 2015 7:48 PM

All them Rolling Stones look like the Egyptian embalmers got ahold of 'em.

I watched the videos of the bikers beating on that guy with Mick mincing around "c'mon people. people, cool it" as if he could part the Red Sea; and Sympathy in the background.
This was a symbolic turning point for the Hippies and Summer of Love, all that gooey crap. Reality didn't creep in, it landed with a THUD like a dead possum tossed on the kitchen table.

Aw, whatsa matter man, that a bummer, uh?

Posted by: chasmatic at May 13, 2015 8:58 PM

What I like about the Stones is the exact thing people criticize them for,,,,

continuing to be consumable past their expiration date.

They make no pretense at being anything other than themselves.

No plastic surgery, none of this I am a lesbian trapped in a mans body bullshit. They are unapologetic about who and what they are. I love it.

Long Live the Stones...

Bill Henry

Posted by: Bill Henry at May 14, 2015 7:30 AM

A lot of folks look at the Stones or any other band that was hot back in the day and they feel uncomfortable.

"Jeez, lookit how old they are!" brings up the suggestion that, yes, we are old too.

The quality of the music we heard back then was enhanced by drugs, social groups and media hype.
While the music hasn't changed, we have. My taste in music has shifted as I get through the decades.
No, I haven't become a Perry Como fan but I tend towards less, um, energetic tunes.
And I pay attention to music of yore, mostly jazz, that has held place from way before Herman's Hermits and will still be in place long after the folks that actually listened to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs are in nursing homes watching Wheel of Fortune.

Just as with literature and art, the good stuff has no expiration date and the crummy stuff fades away like the flavor of the month. Er, last month.
There was (is) a big fan base of Deadheads, worshipping Gerry Garcia and his cohorts but as the musicians themselves die the energy dwindles.
When Mick Jagger finally lays down to die we'll see how long the magical mystery continues.

Wild Horses and Sister Morphine get my vote.

Posted by: chasmatic at May 14, 2015 8:35 AM

I have always considered this song as a rightful condemnation of Satan rather than an affirmative anthem. The devil is demanding respect and bragging about himself and all his accomplishments. Yet, it is the very things that he is bragging about that should make us turn away: Communism and Nazism of the 20th century (100MM deaths?), 100 Years War between England and France of Middle Ages, death of Kennedys, etc. Human suffering and deaths caused by the actions of sinful men and women. The lines referenced, “"Just as every cop is a criminal / And all the sinners saints", are Screwtape comments as previously noted. Police are a societal good. Satan views them as bad. Sinning is not our inherent calling but the path that pleases Satan. Probably without the Rolling Stones realizing it, God is using Jaggers/Richards to convey truth. Another favorite with strong theological underpinnings is “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. “You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” What is that but “God Provides”? God doesn’t cause bad things to happen, but He always brings good out of it; even the works of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Posted by: Hank at May 14, 2015 2:34 PM

Hank, it's refreshing to read such an optimistic and hopeful comment. A lot of us don't realize that it is God's world; we're just living in it.

Psalm 100 King James Version (KJV)
1 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
5 For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.


Posted by: chasmatic at May 14, 2015 4:36 PM

I always took 'Sympathy for the Devil' as a warning of how the dark one is there 24X7, right in front of you, hawking his wares for all to partake, and at the same time noting clearly who he is. 'Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess my name.' not.

You can't always get what you want was a bit of
balm that got me past being dumped unceremoniously.
I would have done anything for her, and finally did, I walked away.

Posted by: tomw at May 15, 2015 8:47 AM

Goat's Head Soup, Satanic Majesties, Dancing with Mr. D? I was a huge fan for years, and really a dedicated advocate of debauchery and sin for most of my life. That devil stuff? I'd just laugh it all off. "You guys are nuts!" I'd say, with a dismissive wave. Nowadays, with the dope-pusher-in-Chief on the throne and things just a-spiraling out of control, my thoughts turn to the Pied Piper and then to my beautiful Grandchildren and Godchildren and I wonder...speaking of which, I recently saw a video clip of Jimmy Page. My how clear and supple his skin looked for a man his age.

Posted by: Will at May 15, 2015 9:36 AM