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*8.17-CHILD OF THE MOON (Rolling Stones)

Rolling Stones

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[Intro]

The wind blows
Rain into my face.
The sun glows
At the end of the highway.

        Child of the moon,
        Rub your rainy eyes.
        Oh, child of the moon,
        Give me a wide-awake crescent-shaped smile.

She shivers;
By the light she is hidden.
She flickers
Like a lamp lady vision.

        [Chorus]

[Break]

The first car
On the foggy road riding;
The last star
For my lady is pining.

        Oh, child of the moon,
        Bid the sun arise.
        Oh, child of the moon,
        Give me a misty day, pearly gray, silver, silky faced,
        Wide-awake, very great smile.


Child of the Moon was almost the last psychedelic song that the Rolling Stones released, and it was on the B side of Jumping Jack Flash, a song that indicated the group was returning to the R&B that had been the source of its inspiration before they began their psychedelic enterprise with Paint It Black in May 1966. As an adolescent living through the period, it seemed as if a decade had passed instead of merely a couple of years, and so much had changed. I had hoped for further progress, greater frontiers of sound, and was disappointed. Though I enjoyed Jumping Jack Flash, I felt it was a retreat from the intense competition that psychedelic experimentation had become. From the release of Jumping Jack Flash until the present, the Rolling Stones only returned once (to my knowledge) to the psychedelic aesthetic in a cut released on the album Sticky Fingers in April 1971, called Moonlight Mile. There were a few lingering traces of psychedelic effects in the Stones’ 1968 album Beggars’ Banquet, mostly because Brian Jones was still around (but more and more he was being pushed to the fringe of the group’s sound, and was soon to be banished, then dead). In songs like the Stones’ following single, Street Fighting Man (in which a sitar is added to the general mayhem of the coda) these psychedelic accents seemed little more than the last remaining wisps of a ghost quickly evaporating in the light of a new day. The feel of the songs on Beggars’ Banquet held far more relation to Jumping Jack Flash than to anything off their previous psychedelic album, Satanic Majesties Request.

It sounds to me as if Child of the Moon was a leftover from 1967 work that the Stones didn’t care to bring to its full potential, though they did think enough of the project to make a video for it. It’s not one of their best works. But the song does illustrate two interesting points. It was one of the last songs the Stones released that praised women; in the next few albums (and beyond) they would return to the misogyny that had distinguished the swagger of their early works. And it is one of the first Rolling Stones songs included in TLA (We Love You and The Lanternbeing the others) to use the Jagger’s exaggerated manner of elongating vowels to drone his lyrics, a stylistic quirk that he would carry with him for much of his remaining career as a singer.

The structure of Child of the Moon is simple, consisting of verse and chorus, both composed of short lines. (The breakout lengthening of the last line of the chorus, especially on its last reiteration, is the song’s only compositional innovation.) A drone and jangle of electric guitars, with Jagger shouting out something incomprehensible serves as an introduction. Brian Jones provides a fuzz bass and an odd use of the saxophone, like that discussed in Sly & the Family Stone’s We Love All, which with all the droning, provides enough oddity of sound to be immediately identifiable as psychedelic. Of course, the topic of the song, easily identified with the astrological sign of Cancer, suggests the psychedelic period as well--even though in this collection I can recall the horoscope being brought up only one other time, in the Incredible String Band’s Mad Hatter’s Song, released July 1967 (I am the Archer [i.e. Sagittarius], the lover of laughter). The poetic insight in the lyric is to compare the crescent phase of the moon with a smile, and with the lengthening of the last line of the chorus, to make it a widening smile upon being awakened by one’s lover. The song ends with a cliché finish on the guitar, similar to the way the Stones concluded Mother’s Little Helper.

This single was the first of many records Jimmy Miller produced for the Rolling Stones. After the group split with Andrew Loog Oldham, their producer from the start of their recordings, the Stones had tried to produce themselves for the album Their Satanic Majesties Request. Evidently they felt they needed a producer afterward, and Miller served them well. They held onto him through the recording of the album Goat’s Head Soup in 1973. Miller also was producer for Steve Winwood and Traffic. Oldham seemed to have served the Stones more as a manager than a producer, encouraging them to make contacts with established artists, to create a “bad boy” image, and to begin writing their own songs. In comparison, Miller was a drummer, and according to what I can find on the internet, more attentive to the music—he is credited with adding sounds of percussive interest to a number of Rolling Stones records, such as the introductory cowbell on Honky Tonk Women. But to my ears, comparing say (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction with She’s a Rainbow with Jumping Jack Flash, I don’t sense much change in the attention the Rolling Stones gave to creating a unique sound. In my estimation, the Stones could have produced themselves as well as the Beach Boys, though they might not have had Brian Wilson’s patience to put in a lot of studio time mixing tracks with the engineers.

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