As Keith Richards famously stated to the judge at his first drug trial, “We’re not concerned with your petty morals.”
Veteran San Francisco media personality Steve Wagner was co-host, writer, and executive producer of the Bay Area television programs Reel Life and Filmtrip.
Steve has ghostwritten several published books, contributed articles on music, film, and popular culture to numerous publications, and presented lectures and workshops on music, art, and mythology throughout the U.S.
His book All You Need is Myth: The Beatles and Gods of Rock (2019), a study of the classic rock era through the lens of classical mythology, is the product of ten years of research and composition.
We continue our twelve days of rock archetypes with the Rolling Stones, who represent the mythic devil archetype in the rock pantheon. From their earliest media incarnation, the Stones were seen and promoted as the shadow opposite of the Beatles (the savior archetype). The Stones’ association with the blues—the Devil’s music—as well as their scandalous narrative of drugs, sex, and the tragic Altamont concert, signals the integration of shadow energy while shining a light on our darkest passions. As Keith Richards famously stated to the judge at his first drug trial, “We’re not concerned with your petty morals.” Below is an excerpt from the new book All You Need is Myth: The Beatles and the Gods of Rock, that explores the devilish throne the Stones occupy in the rock mythos:
Though the Stones’ flirtation (or collision) with the occult may have been suspected by the public, their association with archetypal evil became unequivocal on December 6, 1969 at Altamont Speedway in Northern California. Headlining a free concert of their own design, the attempt to upstage the recent Woodstock festival manifested violence, injury, theft, and murder; amidst the unruly throng of 300,000 occurred four deaths, including the infamous stabbing of a young man by members of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang acting as “security” for the event. The mythic significance of Altamont as germane to the Stones’ legacy is fundamentally akin to the death of John Lennon in context of the Beatles’ savior mythology; both events synergized the temporal, archetypal, and communal mythologies of their subjects, permanently cementing their respective core ethos.
The Rolling Stones’ identification with the physical and not spiritual world is metaphorical of the devil’s arch relationship to the savior; numerous biblical passages describe Satan’s lordship over the earth in distinction to Jesus’s reign in heaven. The “battle” between the Beatles and the Stones can thus be understood as a modern allegory of the spirit/body dichotomy at the heart of the human experience. Similarly exemplified in the generally divergent concerns of classical and jazz music—the former emphasizing structure and order, the latter stressing emotion and intuition—the clash was magnified once more in the rock mythos as the Stones’ impulsive blues tested the Beatles’ mannered pop. The process continues still as the Stones’ physical longevity scales the Beatles’ brief but impeccably chiseled celestial summit for the title of world’s greatest rock & roll band.
Transcending the sense of underlying energy and the point of direct experience that is beyond the physical world, the logic of the brain, and, most frustratingly, language.
Representing the deeper feminine qualities of inner wisdom and intuitive process, concerns of ecology and equality, possession of hidden knowledge, and emphasis on truth and integrity, attributes of countless mythic goddesses of the ancient world.
Everything we experience in our material world is realized and created through a dance with its opposite.