I’ve always been interested in the exposure effect, a psychological term that posits how our tastes and preferences are guided by mere exposure. In the beginning of the summer, I tested this effect by subjecting myself to a weekly sit-in listen to the Oricon’s Top Twenty Singles in their entirety, regardless of how many times a single stayed on the charts and how many times I was subjected to the same damn Sakurakou Keionbu songs (“Cagayake! GIRLS” was actually OK). I was diligent for about two months before being plagued by sheer boredom and lack of interest. While I discovered one or two artists that I furthered some research into, the majority of the charts were deeply invested in formula: the acoustic strumming of some up-and-comers, mushy pop by the resident big names, a few enka tunes, and the sugary sweet big band of idols and anime opening themes. Apparently, ’twas not the season for parallel interest in consumers’ buying habits. In addition, my experiment lagged any significant results: I rated songs on a scale from 1 to 5 and without looking at the previous ratings, continually rated them each week. Aside from a few songs that vacillated between two numbers or that I enjoyed a lot, most ratings were consistently in the 2.5 range. Songs: you cannot repeat-listen yourself into loving them. You can however, repeat-listen yourself into dislike or becoming indifferent.
Albums by the Rolling Stones are similar. I feel like if I were going to rate them, I would give them 5 out of 10 across the board. They have a few great songs, a lot of good songs, and a whole lot of over played songs; I like them, I just don’t love them. I’m a huge fan of classic rock so the sheer sound and arrangement of the music appeals to me, but I can’t find myself getting excited over any of it. I’d like to think each and every album has a time and a place in my life somewhere and this just may not be the time for the Rolling Stones, even with a slew of remasters to their name. After all, if the Beatles were going to remaster their entire back catalogue the Rolling Stones would have to get in on it, too, and earlier, releasing most of their albums throughout the summer while the Beatles waited to dump their entire discography in September. The difference is that everybody hyped the Beatles remasters for months, while nobody really cared about the Rolling Stones. Why? Because the Rolling Stones never went away.
Like the sudden death of any superstar in their prime, the Beatles dissolved while talent was still on high, leaving a legacy of worship and nostalgia behind. Think of all those awesome Beatles albums we would have had if they had never broken up! The Beatles cashed in during infallibility, leaving poor records and backlash a mere glimmer of mystery. That’s not to say they don’t deserve the fame and recognition: they’re the freaking Beatles. But unlike most bands, almost every single one of their albums carry the distinction of greatness and we’ll almost never hear a critic proclaim the superiority of their early, middle, or late periods aside from personal preference: across the board, they pretty much always get 10 out of 10. But for the Rolling Stones, the 60s was just the beginning. The first eleven albums are an oral record of their introduction to the world of fame and a sentimental footnote to their work in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 00s… These rock n’ roll relics just don’t expire. They were plagued by tabloid scandal, attacks of unoriginality, and accused of falling lifeless. Paul McCartney may have died in 1966 but apparently the Stones died in 1980 when they released Emotional Rescue – says Ariel Swartley: “the Stones have actually died and this word-per feet, classic-sounding, spiritless record is a message from the grave.” AllMusic was a touch kinder, skewing the playground rock versus disco spat by calling the dance-inspired tracks “sexy disco-rock” (sexy in front of anything makes it OK, try it: sexy terrorists! sexy homophobia!), although this particular album is entirely omitted from their Classic Rock Required Listening Guide.
Even so, all of their albums are worth a listen, if only to acquaint yourself with albums you would be ridiculed for never hearing. The 13 remasters of their most recent work is a good a time as any (Exile will arrive later in the year, just in time for shopping season!), though you’ll probably recognize a lot of the songs in the same way everybody knows that “Harden My Heart” song but nobody knows the band that wrote it. If you listen to it long enough you’ll probably get it. You’ll probably even like it: the Rolling Stones had perfected their formula early enough to warrant ample imitation on most of these discs, and with enough exposure you might even learn to love it. Maybe.
The Stones, essentially, made the same album over and over for decades. And they have remastered each of them numerous times. Hence the gigantic yawn from the masses. How much better could they sound now from the last time they were “brought up-to-date?” The Beatles now sound so much better than the 80s CDs. Aside from the group’s greatness, hearing them souding so much better is the reason for the “big deal.” No mystery.
I agree, although I will admit that I do hear and appreciate the difference in the new Stones remasters. Even so, you’re right, the Beatles are more “important” for the sheer novelty of it; if their music was amazing before, it’s epic now.