Would I have gotten to puberty without the Rolling Stones? Probably not. Without them, I'd probably still be collecting plastic horses, reading Nancy Drew mysteries, moping around in toe socks, gaping through thick glasses at Little House on the Prairie reruns, hating boys. I wasn't one of those girls who chased boys around the playground. I hated boys, their dirty-socks-and-bubble-gum smell, their mean experiments on insects. I hated them until 1978, when I turned 12 and fell in love with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. I never stopped to consider that these weren't really boys at all but jaded jet-setters the same age as my dad. In my fantasies, they looked just like they look on Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass): Mick with his bug-eyed, big-lipped glamour; Keith with his dark, raggedy bangs and sexy stoner scowl. Pull that record from my LP shelves, and laugh yourself stupid over the inner sleeve, emblazoned with my chubby, heart-dotted, prepubescent cursive. O, love!
Like other people who bother to write about pop music, I started out a geek, and a geek I remain. But I'm a different kind of geek now, a more fickle, lukewarm geek with a much bigger record collection and a somewhat bigger vocabulary. Sure, I get excited about bands, but never about one band exclusively. I still get a charge when I listen to great music, but it doesn't send me flying to the drugstore for peroxide in the vain hope that blonder hair might make me resemble Jerry Hall. If you asked me today to name my favorite band/artist, I'd dither endlessly -- how to compare Edith Piaf and Sleater-Kinney, George Jones and Rufus Wainwright? If you asked me between 1978 and 1980, I wouldn't have hesitated. Mine was an unconditional, dumb devotion that kept me from noticing that Black & Blue and Emotional Rescue weren't exactly my idols' greatest moments. To this day, when I hear the phrase "rock & roll," I think of the Stones, or, more precisely, of the way I felt when I first heard them: like the top of my head might fly right off, like my bones were coming unscrewed. Whatever it was, this idiot rapture, I felt it; I didn't analyze it. Now, as a 32-year-old married lady, I can tell you why I still love Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet, Some Girls. I can talk the obligatory rock-geek talk about Charlie's use of the high-hat and Keith's open tunings. But all the rest, the important part, is a glorious mystery.