The Rolling Stones: Continental Drift (1989)

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The Rolling Stones: Continental Drift (1989)

For reasons which were never clear or explained, in 1989 the Rolling Stones included this interesting piece of rock exotica on their Steel Wheels album, which was otherwise business as usual in the riffery stakes (the most memorable track which appeared in subsequent concerts was Mixed Emotions).

The album wasn't too bad at all actually (a considerable improvement over its predecessor Dirty Work) and was the last that bassist Bill Wyman would be on. He quit three years later -- which just shows you how long between albums they were taking.

Still, there had been internal divisions, and they were embarking on those record-breaking stadium tours so . . .

But Continental Drift was an interesting oddity and you had to wonder the motivation behind it: Jagger has never seemed a man prone to sentiment, but it was 20 years since Brian Jones had traipsed off to North Africa to record the Master Musicians of Jajouka, a group of village musicians whose art was handed down generation-by-generation.

And for the Stones -- Jagger and Richards were patching up a severe falling out which had lasted years -- to use Jajouka musicians for this track seemed . . . .

What? An acknowledgement of shared history and the tragedy surrounding Jones? Maybe just a digression? A compromise on Jagger's part to Richards who was vaguely interested in this sound?

However you cut it, Continental Drift stands as an unusual but rewarding piece in the Rolling Stones' long catalogue which by this time (and subsequently) had been reduced to guitar riffs, nods to reggae and New York dance, looks back to old soul and borrowing liberally from their own archetypes.

An odd but interesting one, and a sound they had never touched previously, or since. 

For more one-offs, oddities or songs with an interesting backstory see From the Vaults

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Relic - Nov 1, 2010

Good gardening Graham, stick the fork in with a twist and see what wriggles into view. The Stones probably won’t make Womad but they could have. Did the Moroccans try Jack Daniels one wonders.

Blair - Nov 1, 2010

Yes I think it may have been a combination of the 25 anniversary thing (remember "25 x 5"?) and Jagger's desire that after "WWIII" when they fell out, the resulting reunion would produce something "different rather than repeat" (paraphrasing a Jagger interview I had from an Australian music show at the time) I notice Matt Clifford is in the video - he continues to be a shadowy collaborator for Jagger till this day - kind of contemporary presence - he was likely to have been influential in all this too.

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