I bought a couple of Stones albums recently (Some Girls and Let It Bleed, I had them on record but anyway) and have just played them over and over. The frivolousness of it all; the bromance of Mick and Keef; the banal auterism of sixties songwriting grandeur; the drugs and alcohol and self absorption; the simplicity of the recording and mixing; the echoes of Redlands and Nellcote; the floating mysteries of Anita Pallenberg and Bianca Jagger; the steady unflustered bass and drums; the petty misogyny and black essentialism; the sheer enthusiasm for the music they project.
The love! Oh, the love they play with is the thing. They love it, and then they share it. And right in the middle of both Shine A Light and Some Girls is Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), and the thing about Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) is that it has replicated that sense of love I had spent most of last year burying.
It starts off with a guy reflecting on the wonder of being loved (“such a lucky guy”) and watching his girl walk off to work. He can’t believe it, it’s “a dream come true” and the suspicion arises that maybe it isn’t true and is just his imagination. So the song spins off into fantasy “soon we’ll be married” and brings forth these wonderfully shaped horns (classic motown moment) that bridge the dreams and the bodies in which they play. The guy then offers a prayer both thankful and protective “don’t ever let another take her love from me, ” which leads him back to dreaming “when her arms enfold me I hear a tender rhapsody.”
Then comes the realisation that it is just his hoping and wishing that has produced this love: “but in reality, she doesn’t even know me” and it really is just a guy dreaming of love, of being loved who has let his imagination run away.
But it is the hope, the dreaming, wishing, the open ended possibility that I just adore about the song. It doesn’t matter that the passing beauty doesn’t actually love him, what counts is that he can imagine himself being loved by the most beautiful wonderful woman he can see or find. The song is a self esteem builder, it rises to the crescendo of horns and guitars and Mick wholly focused on the imaginative zone, crooning with the self produced wonder : “Just my imagination, ooo yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah runnin’ away with me, Ooo, just my imagination runnin’…”
It is just tremendous. I knew in some trivia head way that it wasn’t a Jagger/Richards number but I hadn’t given it any thought aside from that, but after listening to it about six thousand times I sat up and thought: “it’s a motown number!”
And, of course, it was a classic Temptations number, a Barrett Strong – Norman Whitfield composition. So down the rabbit hole I went, motown, stax, atlantic, muscle shoals (where the stones recorded Sticky Fingers), funk, George Clinton, Sharon Jones, Philadelphia International, the Ojays and so on. The music people make is something worth loving. And I can’t hear enough at the moment, and I always listened to a lot, but I think after the endless spiralling in recent months I have engaged with the thing that will keep me from spiralling. I am letting my imagination run away.