The Problem with Mick Jagger

America doesn’t know what to do with Mick Jagger.

Jagger famously captured the essence of rebellion and raw sexuality decades ago. At the height of his creative powers and cultural relevance in the 1960s, he was a threat to the established order and a voice for a younger generation. He was also aware of the limitations of that role. He once said, “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.”

Now he’s singing “Satisfaction” well into his 70s. Why? Because performing is what he loves. Being a musician is his passion. And so he continues to tour and record music, as the Rolling Stones have been doing since 1962. But we don’t know how to handle a 75-year-old Mick Jagger prancing onstage, shaking his butt, and singing “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Start Me Up,” and, indeed “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” all of them staples of the Stones’s No Filter tour in 2018. 

Seventy-five-year-olds are not supposed to sing about sex and drugs. They’re supposed to move over and let a younger generation have the stage. It’s OK for older generations to occasionally entertain us so long as they do cute things such as escape nursing homes to attend heavy metal concerts. But Mick Jagger refuses to step aside and age quietly.

Our discomfort with Mick Jagger became clear when news broke that the Rolling Stones were going to postpone their 2019 tour because Jagger was suffering from an undisclosed medical condition. In due course, we would learn that he required a heart valve replacement, which was performed successfully April 4. Although the news triggered plenty of supportive comments, jokes about his age surfaced on social media, and The New York Times ran an ageist article that noted, “Jagger is not the first 1960s-era music icon to show signs of slowing down in old age” and chalked up his (then undisclosed) health problem as a result of the demands of touring.

I thought it was interesting and disappointing that The New York Times assumed Mick Jagger was suffering an age-related problem before anyone knew what was wrong with him. And citing the ravages of touring seemed odd given that Jagger has prided himself on how well he takes care of his body through a strict diet and rigorous exercise. If anything, touring energizes him. 

To be sure, the odds of requiring a heart valve replacement increase as you get older. But why is it necessary for publications such as CNN to point out repeatedly that Jagger is a 75-year-old grandfather and great grandfather when reporting the results of the surgery?  

We don’t know what to do about Mick Jagger because we don’t know what to do about the reality of growing old. We want to keep the elderly in the background because seeing them reminds us of our older selves. Perhaps this very personal fear of growing old helps explain rampant ageism in the workplace, as discussed in a recent Fast Company article, “Ageism is thriving, so what are companies going to do about it?” Ageism is not about rejection of The Other. Ageism is about negating our older selves. 

In fact, Mick Jagger is a reminder that our stereotypical notions about aging can be proven wrong. He’s a vibrant rock star dancing and singing about whatever he wants, even if the notion of a 75-year-old man singing about sex makes some people uncomfortable. Well, deal with it. And hope that your future is as bright as Mick Jagger’s.

Don Henley’s “Cass County”: The Sweet Ache of Loss and Reflection

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I knew I was going to like Don Henley’s recently released country album, Cass County, the moment I heard Miranda Lambert’s graceful vocal and the sweet harmonica on the opening song, Tift Merritt’s “Bramble Rose.” The melodic harmonica evoked “Sweet Virginia” from the Rolling Stones’s Exile on Main St., and Lambert reminded me of how country can appeal through and understated melody without the bombast. And then, to my surprise, Mick Jagger sang a verse, nailing his contribution with a sensitivity lacking in some of his faux country fumblings with the Rolling Stones. As it turns out, Jagger had already gently worked his way into the song with his harmonica playing. No wonder “Sweet Virginia” came to mind.

Cass County is a rare album in which guest performances from superstar vocalists enrich an artistic statement instead of sounding like a soulless collection of voices competing for your attention. And there are many guest performances, ranging from Dolly Parton on Charlie and Ira Louvin’s “When I Stop Dreaming” to Merle Haggard on “The Cost of Living,” written by Henley and Stan Lynch. How many albums can you name in which Mick Jagger contributes a vocal lick and is never heard from again? In an interview with Taste of Country, Henley offers some clues as to how he pulled off the collaborations. It’s clear that he had a strong vision for the role he wanted each artist to play. He co-wrote the songs “The Cost of Living” and “No, Thank You” with Merle Haggard and Vince Gill in mind, like a screenwriter crafting a script for an actor. Here is how he describes collaborating with Merle Haggard:

[W]hen we sat down to write “The Cost of Living,” I had Merle Haggard in mind. I could hear his voice in my head, and I wrote accordingly. My great hope was that he would come and sing it with me, and sure enough, he did, and it’s the perfect song for him. He even said, when he heard the guitar solo he said, “You know, that sounds like something I’d do.” I just looked at [co-producer] Stan [Lynch] and grinned, and went, “Yup. That’s ’cause we wrote it with you in mind.”

Cass County is Don Henley’s album, with each artist contributing to his vision, which is why the duets feel graceful and natural, not forced (the bane of hip-hop collaborations). Through his production with Stan Lynch, the multiple voices mesh with the layered instrumentals and Henley’s own distinctive vocal style, which still sounds honey-smooth yet with a whiskey edge (a voice that helped define the country rock sound in the 1970s). Henley has a reputation for being an exacting artist with a strong sense of purpose, attributes which serve him well on Cass County.

The songs on Cass County reflect compelling themes: the decay of small-town life (“Waiting Tables,” whose musical structure and narrative evoke the great “Lyin’ Eyes” from his glory days with the Eagles), the fading of childhood memories (“Train in the Distance”), and the onslaught of age (“The Cost of Living”). In his interview with Taste of Country and also with Ultimate Classic Rock, he reflects on the inevitable loss that comes with growing older. People around you start dying, including the ones who defined your growing-up experiences. At age 68, Henley takes stock of the area where he lived as a child in Cass County, and he senses loss, as he mentions to Taste of Country:

[A] lot of the old folks — the ones that were referred to as “the greatest generation,” the ones who came home from World War II and really made that town tick — are all gone now.

Growing older also means gaining perspective on how your past has influenced you. “I’ve come to learn in my age that perspective is probably the most important — besides your health, perspective is the most important thing you can have, and it’s hard to get, and it’s even harder to keep,” he says to Ultimate Classic Rock.

The landscape and people of Cass County, Texas, have had a profound influence on Henley. Cass County is a muse. Exploring the lakes and creeks of the area created images that stuck with him. The simple honesty and caring of the people loom large in his memories. He speaks of Cass County, where he maintains a 200-acre farm, as a creative refuge.

Cass County is for people who have done some living and don’t mind looking back at where they’ve been and how they feel about getting older. In “The Cost of Living,” he sings:

I look in the mirror now

I see that time can be unkind

But I know every wrinkle

And I earned every line

So, wear it like a royal crown

When you get old and gray

It’s the cost of living

And everyone pays

This is not an album for bearded millennial hipsters from Brooklyn. This is an album for me.

“Sticky Fingers”: How an Album Cover Defined the Stones

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Some album covers are memorable because they perfectly express an artist’s image (or brand, if you will) as well as music. Such is the case with Sticky Fingers, the 11th American studio album of the Rolling Stones. Sticky Fingers, newly re-issued to celebrate its 44th anniversary, created controversy in 1971 for its Andy Warhol designed close-up of a man’s crotch, featuring with a functional zipper that dared the listener, “Go ahead, unzip me.” More than four decades later, the cover for Sticky Fingers expresses the Stones at its best: salacious, impossible to ignore, and rough around the edges.

The album’s history and legacy are well documented. Sticky Fingers was partly recorded in the fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in the United States during the band’s 1969 U.S. tour (you can catch a glimpse of the recording in Gimme Shelter, the historic movie about the tour), as well as the Stones mobile studio unit in Stargroves (where Led Zeppelin would later record Houses of the Holy).

Sticky Fingers featured familiar Stones terrain: sex (“Brown Sugar”), drugs (“Sister Morphine,” “Dead Flowers”), the blues (“I Got the Blues”), and dirty rock and roll all over. The album also displayed the improvisational talents of guitarist Mick Taylor, especially on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” and some surprisingly tender, if weary moments, most notably “Moonlight Mile” and “Wild Horses.” The violence and menace of 1969’s Let It Bleed gave way to a more decadent, yet more introspective feel, resulting in an artistic breakthrough.

No other Stones album cover would express the band’s decadence so well. According to 100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind the Sleeves, by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell (themselves legends of album cover design), Warhol suggested the idea of using a real trouser zipper to Mick Jagger at a party in 1969. Jagger, intrigued, asked Warhol to do the design.

According to Warhol’s former manager Paul Morrissey (quoted in 100 Best Album Covers), “Andy was sensible enough to know not to be pretentious when doing album covers. This was a realistic attempt at selling sex and naughtiness. It was done simply and cheaply, without the pretensions of that seem to go with other covers.”

The stark black-and-white close-up of a man’s crotch captured the cheap, simple approach. “It was a cheap camera and cheap film,” said Morrissey. “I have no idea what brand.”

The red rubber stamp design of the album title and band’s name added to the gritty look.

Artist Craig Braun was responsible for translating Warhol’s design into a functional album cover. As told in a recent New York Times article, Mick Jagger insisted that the zipper needed to work, and it had to reveal something when you pulled it down.

“[The Rolling Stones] knew if they put jeans and a working zipper that people were going to want to see what was back there,” Braun said.

Braun obtained a photo of the Andy Warhol model in his white underwear to slip behind the zipper. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a close-up of Mick Jagger’s crotch you see when you pull down the zipper.)

Realizing Warhol’s vision was a chore. The zipper damaged some of the initial pressings when the albums were stacked and shipped to record stores. The zipper literally dented the vinyl inside the sleeves pressed against it. Removing the zipper would ruin its effect. The solution was for each zipper to be manually pulled down just far enough that the tip of the zipper would no longer rub against the vinyl of any other albums in shipment. As Braun told Joe Coscarelli of The New York Times:

“I got this idea that maybe, if the glue was dry enough, we could have the little old ladies at the end of the assembly line pull the zipper down far enough so that the round part would hit the center disc label,” he said. “It worked, and it was even better to see the zipper pulled halfway down.”

As famous as the cover is, the artwork inside is also notable for the debut of the Rolling Stones’s iconic tongue logo, designed by John Pasche. The tongue logo would become as famous and recognizable as the Nike Swoosh logo, which also appeared for the first time in 1971.

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If the album cover reminded us of the Stones’s dirtiness, then the rolling tongue recast the band in a new light: a rock and roll brand, and eventually a lucrative one, gaining revenue streams from touring and merchandising, and corporate deals that few, if anyone, envisioned in 1971. And that tongue retains its power. Lucky Brand recently signed a merchandising deal with the Stones in which the tongue eclipses the clothing.

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The album became a Number One seller, reaching triple platinum status, and achieved several critical accolades. Rolling Stone would rank Sticky Fingers Number 64 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2003, VH1 would rank Sticky Fingers as the greatest album cover of all time. Ultimate Classic Rock would rank Sticky Fingers as one of the most shocking covers ever, although the album really looks more raunchy than shocking.

According to rock critic Richard Harrington, “This album heralded an age of really imaginative and provocative packaging. It also introduced the greatest band logo of all time.”

Here are other albums I’ve profiled in my series on memorable album covers:

Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel

Al Green: Greatest Hits

Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy

Led Zeppelin: Untitled

Willie Nelson: Red Headed Stranger

Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run

 

Visual Storytelling in Today’s “All Access” Era

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Access. It’s the most valuable currency of celebrity journalism. Photojournalists Bob Gruen and Ken Regan built celebrated careers by getting access to coveted rock stars such as Madonna, whom Ken Regan photographed as she was about to become a star. Regan, who passed away in 2012, was welcomed into the homes of rock stars not only because he had undeniable talent, but he handled access with discretion. But in today’s era of stars granting “all access” to everyone through social media, what’s the role of the great professionals like Gruen, Regan and Annie Leibovitz? At a time when anyone with an iPhone can become a photojournalist, what sets apart great visual storytelling from pedestrian photography?

I asked that question and a few others as I re-acquainted myself with retrospectives on the careers of Gruen and Regan: Rock Seen, which covers some of the landmark moments of Gruen’s work, and All Access: The Rock & Roll Photography of Ken Regan.

Both of the books are vivid reminders that rock and roll is as much a visual medium as it is a musical one. Sometimes the rock stars just explode off the page, as in this photo of Jimi Hendrix taken by Ken Regan:

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My Cold-Weather Rock and Roll

Jim Morrison, retro. RET

Winter has tightened its grip on Chicago. On a Friday afternoon in early December, the temperatures feel like they are dropping by the minute. The sun escapes the chill of the day early, leaving behind long shadows and an occasional gust of cold wind. This is the time for staying inside and listening to cold-weather rock and roll. Cold-weather music feels heavy like a wool blanket. Cold-weather rock songs can sound as dark and foreboding as a January night or as quiet as a snowfall, but in either case, they make you want to retreat from the outside world. “Gimme Shelter” is cold-weather rock. “Miss You” is not. Led Zeppelin’s fourth (untitled) album is cold-weather music, but Houses of the Holy by and large belongs to summer. Here are some of my favorite cold-weather albums — the music of my world now:

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All Things Must Pass. In my mind’s eye, George Harrison writes somber, majestic songs like “Beware of Darkness” on a cold November afternoon while cloistered in the shadows of his Friar Park estate. Never mind Continue reading

5 Marketing Lessons from the 121212 Concert for Sandy Relief

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Rock concerts for causes have come a long way since George Harrison and Ravi Shankar organized the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971 and raised $250,000 to help refugees in war-torn Bangladesh. The Concert for Bangladesh was an untelevised rock show (actually two of them) witnessed by 40,000 people in Madison Square Garden. By contrast, last week’s 121212 Concert for Sandy Relief was a multimedia experience accessible to 2 billion people globally, earning $35 million in one night (with millions more to come). Here are five marketing lessons from the 121212 Concert:

1. Extend Your Reach

The 121212 Concert, which supported Robin Hood Relief (a highly regarded organization assisting Hurricane Sandy victims), made it virtually impossible for you to miss the show.  The concert was broadcast on 39 television stations, streamed to 25 websites, and aired on 50 radio stations, creating “the most widely distributed live musical event in history,” according to Nielsen. By contrast, even the highly successful 2001 Concert for New York City (which also benefited Robin Hood Relief) was broadcast on VH1 exclusively. If you wanted to watch the concert, they gave you no reason to miss it.

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It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll and Technology for the Rolling Stones

How do rock and roll bad boys stay relevant when they grow older and less dangerous?

The Rolling Stones no longer symbolize youthful rebellion and decadence as they did 50 years ago. So like a smart business that refines its brand, the Stones now focus on one core asset: their rock legacy. As the Rolling Stones celebrate their 50th anniversary with a limited-run tour that came to the United States December 8, the four principal band members (average age: 68) have assumed the role of the blues greats who inspired them to become the Rolling Stones in the first place:  playing their music onstage until they drop. And the Stones are innovating with digital technology to share that legacy. In doing so, the Rolling Stones provide a lesson for marketers on how to update your brand and find new ways to create a valuable audience experience.

The recent 50 and Counting Tour concerts in London and New York, drawing upon a catalog of songs such as “Gimme Shelter” and “Paint It, Black,” have reminded fans and critics of the band’s musical legacy. And you simply cannot overstate what the Stones have accomplished in their storied career. Especially in their first 10 years, the group created music that was by turns brutal, beautiful, threatening, and galvanizing. Their most well known songs and albums routinely rank near or at the top of critics’ lists of the greatest and most influential works in rock history.

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From Eminem to Warhol: creating art out of vinyl

Daniel Edlen makes art out of vinyl LPs. Yup, I’m talking about the shiny black LPs that defined how we experienced music in the pre-digital era, which have become in vogue again more than 60 years after vinyl was introduced. Daniel’s business, Vinyl Art, offers stunning images of iconic musicians via portraits hand painted with white acrylic on vinyl.

His website offers a compelling challenge: “Gone digital? Get back to what you lost” by exploring the tactile world of vinyl as experienced through Daniel’s portraits of musicians ranging from Eminem to Elvis. For $350, you can bring Johnny Cash’s brooding face or Aretha Franklin’s soulful gaze to your home — or have a piece of your own commissioned.

By celebrating the joy of the physical musical experience in a digital world, Vinyl Art is succeeding. His work has been exhibited in locations such as the VH1 Corporate Gallery, commissioned by the David Lynch Foundation, and owned by the likes of Lou Reed.

According to Electric Moustache, “Vinyl Art is badass,” and I agree. I recently interviewed Daniel to find out more about Vinyl Art — what inspires him to do what he does and how he uses digital to build his business. He also discusses a brand new Andy Warhol triptych he created to celebrate Warhol’s iconic album designs for The Velvet Underground & Nico, Sticky Fingers, and John Lennon’s Menlove Ave. In the interview, Daniel shares not only a passion for music and art but for giving, as well. To view more Vinyl Art, check out a free eBook of his work here.

Why vinyl art? What inspires you to do what you do?

Giving inspires me. Not giving to get but giving to contribute. I like the question “Are you a miner or a farmer?” Miners take and don’t give back. Farmers take but then replenish, remix, restore. Throughout my earlier years I took from culture, incorporating sights and sounds into who I am today. The opportunity to create my Vinyl Art is an opportunity to give back to our culture in my way. Continue reading

How Facebook perverts the English language

I certainly do not “Like” how Facebook perverts the English language by forcing us to us words inaccurately.

Case in point: recently, I heard about the launch of a Facebook page for a forthcoming (at the time) biography of Mick Jagger. I wanted to learn more about the book, get access to additional content about its subject, and better understand how the author was using Facebook to build a community.

To get content from the book’s Facebook page, I had to “Like”  page – something we do routinely now as a necessary step to perform consumer research for products and services that provide information through Facebook pages.

Of course, “Liking” the page for a book I had not even read was intellectually dishonest. But because of the way Facebook presents branded content, I could not click a “Learn More” button that implies no endorsement on my part.

Because of Facebook’s failure to comprehend the nuances of English language, I was put in a position of hoping that my Facebook friends, experiencing the same dilemma, understand what my “Like” really means. (And I think they do understand as evidenced by the way so many of us designate a Facebook “Like” with quotation marks as if to collectively roll our eyes at the vagaries of living in Facebook’s world.)

Since “Liking” the page for the Mick Jagger biography, I’ve discovered that Facebook automatically lists the book on my profile as one of my personal favorites. Could the situation become even more absurd? I still have not read the book, and my act of basic consumer research has resulted in my Facebook profile publishing less-than-honest information about me.

And, the incident has created a built-in resentment I’m going to need to put aside so that I can assess the book fairly when I read it.

Ironically the world’s leading social network is notorious for its insensitivity toward the way human beings behave, as we’ve seen when Facebook randomly introduces new services like Facebook Beacon that violate our privacy.  Facebook’s oafish command of English and reliance on an intrusive technology feature to post information on my profile without my permission is but another illustration of how human beings take a backseat to technology at Facebook.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg is committed to keeping Facebook’s personnel count small.  But Facebook would do well to invest into something that the company does not seem to understand: human beings. Human beings who value communication. People who understand and respect the words we use to create social networks with each other.

How the Rolling Stones got their mojo back (and you can, too)

Let’s say you’re an aging business or marketing executive with your back against the wall. You’ve accomplished great things in your career but nothing substantial lately. A brash generation of upstarts threatens to muscle you aside with their attitude and fresh ideas. What would you do?

If you wanted to follow the lesson taught by a group of famous multimillionaires known as the Rolling Stones, you would start throwing punches with one hand and waving your middle finger in the air with the other.

As recounted by the recently published The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls by Cyrus R.K. Patell, the Rolling Stones of the late 1970s was a band on the ropes. The group’s most recent albums (Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, and Black and Blue) had revealed signs of complacency and artistic decline. Keith Richards was in the grip of heroin addiction. And the rise of punk rock, full of piss and vinegar, made the Stones look more like dinosaurs than the World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.

In 1977, when Keith Richards was busted in Canada for possession of heroin with intent to traffic, the band’s future was very much in doubt as Richards faced the possibility of a stiff jail sentence.

How did the Rolling Stones respond? By going into the studio and recording what would turn out to be one of its most critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums, Some Girls.

With Some Girls, the Rolling Stones shocked their critics and reasserting their relevance to modern rock music and popular culture. The album would eventually achieve more than 6 million units sold and would be ranked among the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time by Rolling Stone. The Rolling Stones returned to greatness by:

1. Beating the upstarts at their own game.

Punk rockers, brimming with anti-establishment swagger, forgot that the Stones were the original punk upstarts in the 1960s. On Some Girls, the Stones showed up the punks as wannabes by recording sneering, nasty songs like “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Respectable,” which gave society the middle finger (sample lyrics: “You’re a rag-tag girl, you’re the queen of porn/You’re the easiest lay on the White House Lawn”).

The title song famously inspired Reverend Jesse Jackson to launch a boycott against the album for its supposedly racist lyrics. At the time, Jackson characterized the song “Some Girls” as a “racial” insult” that “degrades blacks and women.” Jagger’s reply: “I’ve always said, ‘If you can’t take a joke, it’s too fucking bad’” – a gutsy rebuke given Jackson’s public stature and how much Jagger had to lose at this point in his career. Infamous punk rocker Johnny Rotten seemed like a tame choirboy by comparison.

Keith Richards, meanwhile, was no less unrepentant and defiant. His Some Girls song “Before They Make Me Run” was an unabashed nose thumbing delivered to the Canadian authorities who had busted him in 1977. “I will walk before they make me run,” he vowed in the song — a ballsy statement given that he had yet to be tried for the bust and faced years of hard time in jail. It’s easy to sneer at society when you have nothing to lose — doing so when you could pay the price with your life is another matter.

Even the album cover managed to piss off the entertainment establishment for its unauthorized and unflattering use of photographs of hallowed American icons such as Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe (the Stones later changed the album cover art under threat of litigation).

With ugly yet energetic songs like “Some Girls,” the Stones were really recapturing the sound and attitude they had created in the 1960 when they were fined for public urination. And they did so with a vengeance.

Patell characterizes the sound of songs like “When the Whip Comes Down” this way: “it’s the Stones out-doing punk, or perhaps incorporating punk sound into their own, layering on sonic nuances that are beyond the ken of all but a few punk and New Wave bands.”

To cite an analogy from the marketing world circa 2011, it’s like one of the established offline agencies figuring out how to beat the social media boutiques by drawing on good old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing techniques that have existed for decades.

2. Learning new tricks

Some Girls features one of the great Stones singles, “Miss You,” which became a Number One song on the Billboard charts in 1978. With its disco-tinged beat and Jagger alternately cooing falsetto and growling about lonely angst, “Miss You” sounded quite unlike anything the Stones had ever recorded (although “Hot Stuff” on Black and Blue from 1976 was something of a portent).

In 1977 and 1978, when the Stones were recording Some Girls, disco music was at the height of its popularity. Billboard’s top hits for 1977 included “Boogie Nights” by Heatwave and “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC and the Sunshine Band. Discothèque Studio 54 was the epicenter for the rich and famous ranging from Truman Capote to Mick Jagger himself.

As related in The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls and in Keith Richards’s biography Life, “[‘Miss You’ is a] result of all the nights Mick spent at Studio 54 and coming up with that beat, that four on the floor . . . Mick wanted to do some disco shit, keep the man happy. But as we got into it, it became quite an interesting beat. And we realized, maybe we’ve got a quintessential disco thing here. And out of it we got a huge hit.”

But by drawing upon disco, the Stones took an enormous risk of sounding like a bunch of old farts trying to pander to a contemporary sound. And disco was dangerous territory for a rock and roll band. Disco was enormously popular, yes, but also alienating to the old guard of rock fans who wore their cut-off jeans proudly and sought refuge in the guitar-heavy sound of Boston and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Contempt for disco would famously erupt in the chaos of the “Disco Demolition Night” riot of 1979 in Chicago’s Comiskey Park.

Incredibly, the Stones figured out how to incorporate the irresistible parts of disco (bass and beat) and in fact claim the sound as their own. How? By adding rough guitars, the bluesy harmonica of guest musician Sugar Blue, and Jagger’s brooding lyrics and soulful singing.

Writes Patell: “Jagger would insist, however, that ‘Miss You’ wasn’t simply a disco song: ‘’Miss You’ wasn’t disco disco. Disco records at that time didn’t have guitars much, and they had all shimmering string lines and oo-eoo-ee girls. It was influenced by it, but not it. I like that.’”

And we like “Miss You,” too. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and artists ranging from the Black Eyed Peas to My Morning Jacket have covered it.

“Miss You” endures because the Stones, although down and out at the time – or perhaps because they were down and out – tested new waters but still had enough confidence in themselves to remain firmly rooted in the sound they knew.

By 1978, the Stones had played together long enough to know how to make great music. By combining the new with their time-tested sound, the Stones recorded a song that still sounds fresh today, while eclipsing many disco tunes that remain trapped in a 1970s time capsule.

From the business and marketing realm, a similar example of adapting embracing the new while staying true to yourself is the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) conference. Since 1984, the event has attracted the world’s leading thinkers with the promise of delivering “ideas worth spreading.” Part of the event’s mystique is its velvet-rope policy. Not just anyone can attend or speak at TED. Attending requires a $6,000 fee and an application. And only the most engaging speakers who agree to adhere to TED’s standards may appear. (Past speakers have included President Bill Clinton and many Nobel Prize winners.)

And yet TED has changed with the times. TED now makes hundreds of its talks available free on the TED website. The organization uses social media to keep its brand fresh and relevant beyond the annual conference. TED also grants licenses to third parties to hold spin-off TEDx events so that you can experience a little bit of TED around the world. And yet the keynote TED conference is stronger than ever (TED 2012 is sold out already).

TED has successfully adapted by using digital and making its brand more accessible while staying true to its mission of sharing ideas worth spreading.

Where is your Some Girls?

Sooner or later, you’re going to feel threatened as the Rolling Stones once did. If you’re a seasoned grey hair, already established in your field, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re 22 years old and you’re reading this post, just give yourself some time: you will get older, and someone will usher in a fresh idea that’s going to make you feel like you just got kicked squarely in the ass.

And that’s good. We all need to be kicked in the ass from time to time. The question is, How will you respond? Will you stick your head in the sand or come out swinging like the Rolling Stones did?