'Rolingas' is the given name for Argentina's obsessive Rolling Stones fans. Apparently, as a result of the Falklands/Malvinas set-to, Argentina's military dictatorship banned English music. A subculture of fans and bands ferociously devoted to the Stones evolved underground and it's only now allowed to speak its love.
The phenomenon of 'rolingas', and the fierce devotion the Stones inspire throughout Latin America is one of the reasons we're being treated to two new documentaries in a matter of weeks. As someone who's been daft enough to buy various of the Stones' concert movies over the years, I won't be rushing out to see The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America or Havana Moon (nice to see the band still tipping their hat to Chuck Berry). Stones concert movies are the briefest of rock and roll sugar rushes and the carefully orchestrated 'interviews', always Mick to Keith to Charlie to Ronnie, long ago stopped being remotely revealing.
'Twas only ever rock and roll
For those of us who grew up in the 1960s and `70s, the Stones were always a mix of the best rock and roll had to offer and the deeply disappointing. We're the ones weaned on them, who carried our secret love through punk and beyond, as the fire seemed to go out of their music, on record at least.
Mind you, I'm constantly being surprised by how good some of the music from their supposedly crap mid-70s to late ´80s period actually is. Listening to one of my Stones spotify playlists the other day, I was rocked by 'Dance Little Sister' off It's Only Rock and Roll. '100 Years Ago' on Goats Head Soup, with its preposterous attempt by Jagger to be William Blake and Don Covay at the same time, is a peculiar gem.
More recently, Paul Trynka's Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones and Joel Selvin's Altamont: The Rolling Stones, the Hells Angels and the Inside Story of Rock's Darkest Day, both excellent and required reading for Stones obsessives, remind us that Jagger and Richards, though not the other boyz, were nasty little shits back then.
Today, when Jagger comes across as an affable buzzard and Keith as chuckling Uncle Keef, we can perhaps assume that their horrible treatment of Brian and indifference to the havoc they left in their wake at Altamont was simply because they weren't far off being callow youths. They'd also been well and truly stiffed by their olders and supposed betters - philosophically, financially but at least not sexually.
But, of course, it's a mistake to think that the Mick 'n' Keef persona, perfected over decades, has anything to do with who they truly are today as men in their early 70s. So, what do us lifelong fans have left?
We have the music and, on a good night, the Stones are still as good as it gets live. We have an entire online shopping mall of graceless merchandise. We have 'Exhibitionism', the career-spanning, let's outdo Bowie travelling exhibition of the Stones' sanctified toenail clippings. And we have the Stones app.
I confess to downloading the Stones app and peering at it a few times. It hipped me to how phenomenally popular the Stones are in Latin America and with the kind of American fan prepared to buy a lolling tongue romper suit for their great-great-great granddaughter. The app is for what whoever is in charging of populating it with clickbait like 'Vote for your favourite video from the Dirty Work album' no doubt calls the Stones family of fans.
But, while it's mildly heartwarming to think that rock and roll in the form of the Stones still matters to Latin American fans like the 'rolingas', those of us who loved them back when they were dangerous have only our old records to turn to. So be it.
Coda: Havana Moon - Berry's bitter calypso
Like so many of Chuck Berry's greatest songs, 'Havana Moon' is not quite what it appears. It was recorded in 1956 in what history tells us were the glory days of rock and roll. But even then, Berry - ever the businessman - had an ear cocked to the whispers that rock and roll had shot its bolt. 1956 was the year of the calypso craze inspired by Harry Belafonte and Berry had no qualms about mamboing onto the bandwagon.
Unlike the lyrics of Berry's rock and roll records, aimed firmly at whitebread teens, 'Havana Moon' tells the relatively adult story of a poor Cubano guy who meets an American girl on holiday in Cuba. She promises to come back to the island to take him to New York ('De buildings high', Berry sings) and keeps her word. But the Cubano guy drinks a jug of rum and falls asleep. The girl's boat docks, she looks for him but can't find him.
As with so many great Chuck Berry songs, 'Havana Moon' is far more than an attempt to cash in on a fad or a simple tale of boy meets girl, loses girl. You could argue, admittedly at the risk of being pretentious, that the song is really about how the unassailable gulf between Yankee and Latin American cultures.
Which lends a nice degree of irony to the Stones choosing it for the title of the movie documenting their triumph in Cuba. It's never only rock and roll. Thank Elvis.