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11 March 2013

Emulation: III.2

The Key of the Past

On the evening before an historic conclave with a living pope, I was dining in a simple trattoria in Lucca, where they were playing the Rolling Stones’ greatest hits—in chronological order. It seemed, in the earliest tunes, that the band depended quite literally on American music—the Blues, to be sure, but also Buddy Holly (part of the poignancy of American Pie) and other pop music genres of the early sixties. So they were derivative; so, too, were The Beatles. When the selection made it to Lady Jane I couldn’t help but think that their derivations were essential to who they were, and what changed—and what they mastered—was from which period they derived. It was true in America in the mid-sixties that folk music led back to American folk traditions, Appalachian and otherwise. But it is less remarked on that in Europe, and England, folk music was really medieval music. Jethro Tull was formed just a year after Lady Jane, and their minstrel manner was coincident with the early flourishing of the modern Early Music movement. Lady Jane (the B-side to Mother’s Little Helper) was a typical Stones’ processing of what was going on around them. And it had its influences as well; as the Wikipedia page for the song says,
Neil Young's 1975 song "Borrowed Tune" from the album Tonight's the Night uses the melody of Lady Jane. A fact that Young admits to in the song:
I'm singin' this borrowed tune
I took from the Rolling Stones,
Alone in this empty room
Too wasted to write my own.

Wasted energy? Being derivative never is.

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