A heap of Stones-related stuff has been out there this summer and fall. Here are at least three recent items of note:
Chicago's Signal Ensemble Theatre has extended the run of "Aftermath," a new play about the Rolling Stones. The show, which premiered in May and was remounted at Signal Ensemble's new Ravenswood space earlier this fall, was due to close this week but has been extended through Jan. 23.
I finally saw it this weekend: It's a curious play, worth checking out, that weaves live rock performances into the story. That story, in fact, does not focus on Mick Jagger but rather on band founder Brian Jones, who writer-director Ronan Marra attempts to recast as a delicate, misunderstood genius. Aaron Snook as Jones is appropriately fey and dreamy, a reminder that the band's brainchild wasn't as butch as the band's R&B or showy as Jagger. Everything I've ever read about Jones painted him as much more of a consistent jerk than Snook's bipolar portrait of him, and the script is designed to evoke some sympathy for the poor devil, who's probably best known for his drowning death at age 27 -- shortly after he set the template for all bands eventually sacking the guy who thinks outside the rigid rock box.
Casting the show must have been interesting. The five actors portraying the band also perform as the Stones on live instruments -- Snook plays guitar, sitar and dulcimer -- on songs like "Sympathy for the Devil," "Lady Jane" and, at issue in the play's beginning, "Paint It, Black." Nick Vidal is fun as Jagger -- a dead ringer for the young star (which is apparently how he got the part), even though he sounds too trained a singer for Jagger. The most engaging actor on the stage, surprisingly, is Andrew Yearick, who plays George Harrison, the Beatle who encourages Jones' world-music explorations.
Tickets are $20, and going really fast.
A handful of music-only tracks made the rounds last week online (and kept showing up on my Facebook wall) via YouTube. The five streams feature the individual tracks recorded by each member of the Stones for the song "Gimme Shelter." They're fascinating to hear on at least a few levels. Aspiring engineers and musicians can get a lot out of hearing how a multi-track song is recorded and constructed (you could set your clock by Charlie Watts' drumming). Fans should enjoy hearing the individual players in the sonic spotlight -- it's a great showcase for the talent of each individual performer (Mick's vocals, backed by phenomenal Merry Clayton, are spot-on). No slouching here.
Have a little fun by hitting the play buttons on each track at different times. Create your own Rolling round, or a Stones "Zaireeka"!
UPDATE: Doh! Literally moments after posting this, both versions of the YouTube tracks were snatched off the site for copyright claims. Will update again if they resurface.
(The Stones and their watchdogs are notoriously litigious. The "Aftermath" play, above, cleared all its song licenses, though!)
Rolling Stones fans always have something to read, but two books in particular this fall should be on fan shelves -- or at least on their Christmas lists. Keith Richards' memoir, Life, is a good read, chock full of colorful details (if not a lot of new information) from throughout his and the band's existence. He cheers Chicago's blues legacy throughout, and he also offers lots of handy tips, like how to win a knife fight.
Also not to be missed is The Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones, a coffee-table debate between former Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis and Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot. Everything that makes their banter listenable on WBEZ's weekly "Sound Opinions" show is captured here in several transcribed chats about the merits of Keith vs. George, "Exile on Main Street" vs. "The White Album," etc. Flippable like a coffee-table tome, but also insightful like an academic exploration. Good stuff.