On the run in 1972-74

Once again, it started with something that turned up on a random iTunes playlist. This time it was the Rolling Stones’ “T**d on the Run” (as the famously modest iTunes listings put it, for fear the printing of turd would damage the minds and morals of the young), from the Exile on Main Street album, released in 1972 and re-released earlier this year. In the intervening years, I’d forgotten about the song; more about it in a moment. But I was immediately struck by its nastiness, and by the possibility that it was a slam on “Band on the Run”, the big hit by (pre-Sir) Paul McCartney and Wings, from the album of the same name. And then there’s Pink Floyd’s “On the Run”, from Dark Side of the Moon, at about the same time.

But the dates don’t seem to work out: Exile released in 1972, Dark Side in 1973, Band on the Run in 1974. Ok, maybe McCartney was performing “Band on the Run” back in 1971, when Exile was being put together; it would be good to have some first-hand accounts from the period, though. Still, the Jagger/Richards song sounds like a gratuitously nasty bird-flipping dump on the McCartney/McCartney song (and its generally sweet, though ominous, tone and its “poetic” imagery and language, what with the rain exploding with a mighty crash, the jailer man and Sailor Sam searching every one, the bell ringing in the village square for the rabbits on the run). And there’s that turd / band thing.

On the other hand, the Stones song and the Wings song seem to have nothing to do with one another thematically, musically, or (beyond the “X on the Run” in the title) linguistically. Here are the lyrics, in chronological order, beginning with the Exile track (to bring out the structure of the lyrics, I’ve introduced stanza divisions, and marked off lines 3, 7, and 11):

Turd on the Run

Grabbed hold of your coat tail but it come off in my hand,
I reached for your lapel but it weren’t sewn on so grand
– Begged, promised anything if only you would stay,
Well, I lost a lot of love over you

Fell down to my knees and I hung onto your pants,
But you just kept on runnin’ while they ripped off in my hands
– Di’mond rings, vaseline, you give me disease,
Well, I lost a lot of lover over you

I boogied in the ballroom, I boogied in the dark;
Tie you hands, tie you feet, throw you to the sharks
– Make you sweat, make you scream, make you wish you’d never been,
I lost a lot of love over you

(Note the use of an assortment of non-standard American English features — country, Southern, black, whatever. And the queer subtext (is it even a subtext?), with the poem addressed to a piece-of-shit male lover — someone wearing pants and a coat with coat tails and lapels, and there’s vaseline involved.)

(Also, since I can’t help pointing this stuff out, there are all those half-rhymes: after the full rhyme hand/grand come the half-rhymes pants/hands and dark/sharks; and then after no internal word-matching in line 3, there’s an internal assonance in line 7, vaselíne/diséase, and a very close internal half-rhyme in line 11, scream/been (Jagger has a British [i:] in been). And then lines 1, 5, and 9 divide into half-lines related to one another, as do lines 2, 6, and 10.)

Next, the Dark Side track, about which there’s not much to say, since the whole thing is instrumental, except for, in the middle, a woman, just barely audible under the music, announcing flights in an airport (“… have your passports ready … Rome …”).

Finally, “Band on the Run”, which I’ve abbreviated by removing most of the repetitions of “band on the run” (which has, alas, real ear-worm potential):

Band on the Run
(P. McCartney/L. McCartney)

Stuck inside these four walls
Sent inside forever
Never seeing no one nice again like you
Mama you, mama you

If I ever get out of here
Thought of giving it all away
To a registered charity
All I need is a pint a day
If I ever get out of here
If we ever get out of here

Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash
As we fell into the sun
And the first one said to the second one there
I hope, you’re having fun

Band on the run …
And the jailer man and Sailor Sam
Were searching every one
For the band on the run …

Well, the undertaker drew a heavy sigh
Seeing no one else had come
And a bell was ringing in the village square
For the rabbits on the run …

And the jailer man and Sailor Sam
Were searching every one
For the band on the run …

Well, the night was falling as the desert world
Began to settle down
In the town they’re searching for you every where
But we never will be found, oh no …

And the county judge who held a grudge
Will search for evermore
For the band on the run …

(Note: neither Jagger nor McCartney consciously thought through poetic forms — they “just wrote what sounded right” — but there’s a lot of structure in what they wrote. However, Jagger’s lyrics are generally more complex, more tightly structured, than McCartney’s. (Where is John Lennon when you need him?) Meanwhile, everyone uses half-rhymes: man/Sam and come/run above. The matching of /m/ with /n/ is by far the most common match in “feature” half-rhyme, so McCartney’s half-rhymes are actually pretty routine.)

Possibly what’s going on in these three track titles is nothing more than the preoccupation of rock musicians with life on the road — “on the run”.

Bonus track, on Jagger’s nose-thumbing faggot-flirting stance at the time, spectacularly manifested in a song he gave to Decca in 1970 just to piss the company off: “Cocksucker Blues” (sometimes modestly referred to as “Schoolboy Blues”, but there’s no way getting around the theme of the song and its explicit lyrics; iTunes, of course, lists the title as “C********r Blues”). Decca, unsurprisingly, shelved it.

Jagger then used the title as a name for the Stones’ 1972 tour on behalf on Exile on Main Street, though apparently the tour was sometimes referred to as “CS Blues” for public consumption (or, of course, as “the Exile on Main Street tour”). A documentary film was made of the tour, but never officially released. I haven’t seen Cocksucker Blues, though I hear that it’s mostly an extended depiction of Rock Band Behaving Appallingly Badly, with some fab music thrown in. A later documentary, the stunning but distressing Gimme Shelter, about the disastrous Altamont concert, covers some of the same offstage territory as Cocksucker Blues, but not at such length.

The lyrics to “Cocksucker Blues” are available many places on the web, and there is now an available recording of the song (which you can get through either Amazon or iTunes), on the 2007 album Remakes and Outfakes by the tribute band The Rolling Clones, who manage to sound eerily like Mick and the Stones. Subtle it’s not:

Cocksucker Blues

Well, I’m a lonesome schoolboy
And I just came into town
Yeah, I’m a lonesome schoolboy
And I just came into town
Well, I heard so much about London
I decided to check it out

Well, I wait in Leicester Square
With a come-hither look in my eye
Yeah, I’m leaning on Nelsons Column
But all I do is talk to the lions

Oh where can I get my cock sucked?
Where can I get my ass fucked?
I may have no money,
But I know where to put it every time

Well, I asked a young policeman
If he’d only lock me up for the night
Well, I’ve had pigs in the farmyard,
Some of them, some of them, they’re alright
Well, he fucked me with his truncheon
And his helmet was way too tight

Oh where can I get my cock sucked?
Where can I get my ass fucked?
I ain’t got no money,
But I know where to put it every time

I’m a lonesome schoolboy in your town
I’m a lonesome schoolboy

Not nearly so carefully crafted as many of Jagger’s songs, mostly appreciated for its potential shock value.

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