Rolling Stones -‘Beggars Banquet’ (ABKCO, 1968)
It’s a sign of just how good the Stones were that there’s no less than at least four contenders for their best ever album. And while Aftermath, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street all have their advocates, this is mine.
Having been indulging in much experimentation (amongst other things) before this album, this is a ballsy, rock’n’roll album. And much of it sees the Stones investigating their roots. If you wondered how on earth people might ever have seen the Stones as being a blues band, check this album. The last album to completely feature Brian Jones as guitarist, the slide on ‘No Expectations’ and harmonica on ‘Prodigal Son’ show just how much American blues impacted on the band, and how they could do something with it.
I first heard this album when I was at university. I’d always liked the Stones and had been advocating Sticky Fingers as my favourite Stones album for some months previously. But an album that starts off with ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ and finishes with the stunning ‘Salt Of The Earth’ with its’ druggy and gospel-tinged feel cannot be ignored.
It nods to its’ time, with the second side opening with ‘Street Fighting Man’ an apt song for the year that saw the student riots in Paris and further afield. Yet ‘Dear Doctor,’ a rather tongue in cheek number, could have been written at any point in the last 80 years. As the years have gone by and people have become so lost in the mythology and ioconography of the Stones, it seems that people are almost at risk of forgetting why they became famous in the first place (see also: Madonna).
I’ve never seen the Stones live -a trip to London precisely for this purpose in 2003 ended up with the band postponing, after I’d travelled all the way from Edinburgh – and I’m not sure if it will happen now. Certainly not at the ticket prices that got quoted the last time they toured. But their recorded output, from 1963-1972 unquestionably, and some good work in the last thirty five years, show that they really did give the Beatles a run for their money.
Rolling Stones -‘Salt Of The Earth.’ mp3
And this, IMHO, is their crowning achievement.