The music you listen to as a teenager becomes the soundtrack of your life.
I love my soundtrack. And for that I thank Greg Katz.
Greg and I became friends in Long Lots Junior High. The youngest child of a blended, somewhat bohemian family — they had a house right on Old Mill Beach, which was very cool — he introduced me to a wide range of musicians and genres. The Blues Project, Richie Havens, Frank Zappa — Greg was my guide for all of them.
His 1st concert ever was the Beatles, at the Atlantic City Convention Center. He was 11.
His 2nd was the Rolling Stones, the next year. Greg remembers it at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, though his sister thinks it was in Manhattan.
Greg went on to accomplish many things. Music was one — though not the only — motif.
His photo of Buddy Miles performing at Staples was published in the Westport Town Crier.
In 1980 — during the chaotic hours following John Lennon’s murder — Greg was the only journalist inside the Dakota building. (His parents owned an apartment there.)
Greg’s interview with Jay Hastings — the doorman who was the 1st person on the scene — ran in Rolling Stone. It became the definitive account of that night.
Greg’s journalism career includes a share of the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. He was part of a Dallas Morning News team that produced a 14-part series on violence against women throughout the world.
For many years, Greg covered Latin America and the Mideast. Now ranging all over Europe, he’s written about popes, politics and Queen Elizabeth.
But until Sunday night, the only time he’d seen the Rolling Stones was that elementary school day, in either Brooklyn or Manhattan.
As acting news editor for AP’s London bureau — and with the regular arts reporter on vacation — he assigned the story of the Stones’ 50th anniversary bash at London’s 02 Arena to himself.
When we spoke earlier this week, Greg surprised me by saying he’d never been a big Mick Jagger fan. “I always thought he was trying to imitate Otis Redding,” Greg said. “And not well.”
Watching Mick live was different.
“He really, really moved well,” Greg said. “He’s fully engaged with the crowd. He looks very fit, and pain-free.”
The crowd ranged from Stones’ contemporaries — in their 60s — to those born 30 years after “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
Greg says there are at least 3 reasons why people in their teens and 20s were there. “They hear a couple of songs, and really get into the rest of the catalog. Jagger is seen as cool, and undamaged by time. And the Stones are really tied into this whole sense of British pride.” They’re the latest attraction in a year that’s included the Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, and James Bond’s 50th anniversary.
Greg’s concert highlight was “Midnight Rambler.” A wicked blues harp, Mick Taylor’s “incandescent” lead guitar, the brilliant backing of Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, plus Charlie Watts’ energetic drumming, made for 9 minutes of “crackling intensity,” Greg said.
Another highlight: Jagger and Mary J. Blige’s rock-the-house duet on “Gimme Shelter.”
As for Richards himself — Weston’s most famous resident — Greg said, “he wasn’t flashy. But he looked confident and strong. He seemed really happy.”
(On Huffington Post, Greg wrote that Richards’ “survival has surprised many who thought he would succumb to drugs and drink.” The guitarist told the crowd: “We made it. I’m happy to see you. I’m happy to see anybody.”)
The Stones are not Greg’s favorite musicians; he prefers the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. And this wasn’t the best concert he’s ever seen. That would be Brian Wilson and his band performing the entire “Pet Sounds” album.
But, he said, Sunday’s show is among the top 5 concerts he’s seen recently.
I know. It’s only rock ‘n’ roll. But Greg and I like it.
(Click here for Greg Katz’s full story on the Stones’ show.)