Lessons from the Rolling Stones: You can’t always get what you want…
So this is a post that has been a while in the making, and I didn’t expect it to come together with one of the most exciting things to ever happen to Abu Dhabi, but somehow it did. And it sort of seems fitting to me that it did. I was so looking forward to seeing the Rolling Stones.
I had been excited for days. It hadn’t even occurred to me that I would feel anything other than excitement, although I was well aware of the personal significance. My Dad had seen the Rolling Stones back in the 60s. I remember him telling me about how he went to see them when he was a student at Hull University, although he had always regretted the fact that he had not seen the Beatles when he had the chance. This was all there was to the story he told me, so I don’t know why, but it had always stuck in my mind for some reason. I suppose it was an interesting side of my Dad to learn about, a side that I had never before imagined or known anything about. But anyway, here I am in Abu Dhabi, years later, on an otherwise normal evening, albeit a rather exciting one – standing in a crowd, watching none other than the legendary Rolling Stones perform. They lived up to expectations. It was funny really, there I was, standing at the bar trying to get a few drinks in before they came on stage when the lights fell and the atmosphere changed. As the music started and the lights came up, you could see immediately that unmistakable figure – Mick Jagger. A funny looking man really, strutting across the stage, flailing his arms in that way that removed any shadow of a doubt that it could ever be anyone else. ‘Such distinctive mannerisms’ I mused to my companions.
It crept up on me, like it always does I suppose. One minute I’m fine and doing the normal everyday things I always do, and the next I suddenly find myself engulfed in a wave of emotion. I hoped that no one would notice – that everyone would be so absorbed in charismatic Mick and Ronnie and the rest of them. I could see a couple of random girls in the crowd in front of me giving me the ‘what’s all that about’ faces, and normally I’m sure it would have bothered me, but this time it didn’t. Perhaps it was the darkness in the crowd that sheltered me, even from my friends closest to me. I don’t know, but somehow nothing else mattered really, I was alone in the crowd and lost in my thoughts. All I could think was: my Dad stood in front of these same guys, many years ago and now here I am, standing in front of them, but without my Dad. Not even just without my Dad by my side, but without a Dad to be able to talk about my experience afterwards with. These guys are not very much younger than my Dad was. Yes, they’ve lived what you might call ‘chequered lives’ but they’ve survived, and here they are, fit and healthy as far as we know and still travelling the world and performing gruelling, exhausting two hour sets for thousands of fans. My dad was a fit and healthy man. That’s what makes it all worse really. He was a fit man so everything that happened was so unexpected. In fact, he’d been out on the golf course the day he took the second stroke, and of course he’d insisted on walking most of it as he always did. My Dad would have been 77 years old on the 22nd January 2014. That’s what this post was originally intended to be about, but something strange came over me at the Rolling Stones and whatever I’d been struggling to write about since January 22nd came pouring out of me in that darkness and the shadows of the stage. So here it is, a post that’s less about the Rolling Stones and more about my Dad and me. I had taken part in an online vote earlier that day to help decide the UAEs favourite Rolling Stones song to be played live that night. I love the song, though it suddenly seemed ironic as I stood there and ‘gimme shelter’ played out.
Keith Richards summed the evening up perfectly: “It’s nice to be here. It’s nice to be anywhere”. Indeed, Keith. Indeed.