Thursday, October 18, 2007

A rolling stone in Arcadia

Tom Stoppard has an article in the latest Vanity Fair that touches on his new play, Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett, and his writing process. You can tell from The Real Thing, and from the fact that his latest play is titled Rock 'n' Roll, that Stoppard is a big pop-music fan, but I really enjoyed this anecdote about just how music influences him:
With each play, I tend to become fixated on one particular track and live with it for months, during the writing—my drug of choice, just to get my brain sorted. [...] With Arcadia, the drug was the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," and since that play ends with a couple waltzing to music from an offstage party, I wrote the song into the ending and stayed high on that idea till I'd finished. It was inspiring. When, in rehearsals, it was pointed out to me that "You Can't Always Get What You Want" isn't a waltz and that, therefore, my couple would have to waltz to something else, I was astonished, uncomprehending, and resentful.
Sorry, Tom, that you "couldn't get what you want" regarding the ending of Arcadia, though that makes a good ironic twist. (One of the fun things about being a playwright--or perhaps any kind of writer--is putting in-jokes and references to personal favorite songs, etc., in your plays.) I wonder what song the director ended up using--not many rock songs are in 3/4 time!

Still, I have always considered both Arcadia and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" brilliant, brilliant expressions of human creativity. And now, in my mind, they'll always be connected. The ending of Arcadia never fails to move me and this might make it even more poignant.

Evidently, too, "the sartorially elegant Tom modeled himself on Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, only to become a close friend of the rock singer" (citation) and there is a similarity to their facial features as well (big lips)...though I think Tom has definitely aged better, despite being 6 years older!

Sir Mick (photo from vs. Sir Tom (photo from

But Mick in 1969, singing and hip-swiveling and looking a lot like Stoppard--wow!

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