This song pretty much sums it up. Rock and roll is just music. But I like it. Because it’s my life. It helps me breathe. It helps me get out of bed every day. It helps me cope. It helps me wallow. It makes me feel happy and sad and good and bad.
“It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” is one of rock’s greatest anthems. It’s fun to sing. Even though some of the lyrics are pretty violent, it fully illustrates the reason we love rock and roll.
If I could stick a knife in my heart
Suicide right on the stage
Would it be enough for your teenage lust
Would it help to ease the pain? Ease your brain?
This piece of Rolling Stones brilliance was released in 1974 when glam rock was all the rage. I’ve always seen these lyrics as a sort of dig at the theatrics used by Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Kiss, and all the others who placed as much if not more emphasis on creating huge onstage productions and bizarre personalities than they did on their music. And that’s not to say that these acts were not musically gifted, because they were supremely talented. But the Stones were a good old fashioned rock and roll band, though they did eventually start bringing more props and costumes to their own stage shows. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just find these lyrics interesting because they seem to be speaking to the Bowie kids who craved as much drama as they could get from their fearless leader.
But isn’t that what rock and roll is all about? We look to artists to answer questions and understand us. But the music still has to evolve, it has to offer something different from what we go through every day. Even if you are listening to something with lyrics about what you’re going through right now, you still need that sense of being transported somewhere. Most of us aren’t rock stars. Most of us cannot make a living because we love rock and roll. So a song like this can make us feel connected to other fans as well as to Mick and the boys, because we understand that they are fans, too. And we love to sing like Mick. And we know that we’ll never be as fucking cool as Mick, but, goddammit, for a few minutes while we listen to this song, we are Mick Motherfucking Jagger.
I love rock and roll, and I always will. It was my first favorite music, the first thing I remember from my childhood. I didn’t know anything about its history, its cultural significance, the way it changed the world. But I knew how I felt when I listened to it. And I knew that all I wanted to do was listen to it, memorize all the words, and feel it deeply. I wanted to be a rock star. How could anyone hear it and not feel the same?