Album Review – Rolling Stones (re-issue)

Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request (ABKCO)

Their Satanic Majesties Request has long suffered in terms of the public perception of it as a Stones album. There’s probably two factors at play here. Firstly, that 1967 was such a strong year for music with releases from The Beatles, Kinks, Hendrix, Love etc.. that made such a deep impression they’re still being analysed and eologised half a century later. (I have no doubt that there are records from 2017 that will be examined in 2067 but that’s a discussion for another time). Then there’s the fact that it followed on from two high points in the Stones catalogue, Aftermath and Between The Buttons and over the next five years it would be directly followed by Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St. In lesser hands each one of those albums are strong enough to be a career highpoint.

Leaving aside the turbulence in their lives that year, which has been written about enough (look it up if you have to), what is the legacy of Their Satanic Majesties Request fifty years on? 

First of all, it continues to take a more experimental approach to music as evidenced on the previous two albums, which would be jettisoned in favour of a return to their blues(ier) roots by the next album. To put it on is to feel and hear a band who are pushing the boundaries, albeit not in an altogether focused way. It was the first album that the band produced themselves, after producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham had quit earlier that year. Mick Jagger would later give his opinion that this hadn’t been for the best and that the sessions would have benefited from someone telling them to get on with it. Of course, the other side of that argument is that once Jimmy Miller came on board (up to and including 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup), the Stones were never as adventurous over the course of an album again. 

‘She’s A Rainbow’ is a case in point. Probably the best known song on the album; it is a beautiful psychedelic song, which is almost like a nursery rhyme. However, some of the instrumentation is excessive, detracting a little from the charm. ‘Gomper’ sees the band in fully-fledged explorative mode without overstaying its welcome. While making nine other carbon copies of this track would have made for a tiring album, it is an example of how it could all work. Somehow it comes together here.

Bill Wyman has often been seen as the quiet one in the Stones, and this album features  ‘In Another Land;’ it’s the only song in the Rolling Stones canon both written and sung by him.  He took advantage of the fact that he was the lone member who showed up to the studio one day. The Small Faces happened to be recording next door, so Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane were invited to contribute backing vocals, with Marriott also providing 12-string acoustic guitar. This was turned into a full Rolling Stones affarir with the addition of  Brian Jones on mellotron, Stones cohort Nicky Hopkins on harpsichord and finally by adding Charlie Watts on drums, and Mick and Keith adding backing vocals. It is one of the better tracks on here.

This is not an awful Rolling Stones album, but all these years later, it feels like their attempt to cash-in on psychedelia without really pulling it off. There’s plenty to investigate, but aside from a few tracks, not a huge amount that really captures the Stones at their best. Some of their efforts from Goat’s Head Soup onwards would be patchy affairs – but like this, all with at least one or two tracks to recommend them. There’s fun to be add – but even with the addition of both mono and stereo mixes here, it’s probably not an album that’ll end up being played particularly often.


Their Satanic Majesties Request is out now

The best double A-side ever?


There’s a common belief that ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen was the first music video ever. The reality is that promotional films had ben getting made for music since back in the forties, and there’s sections of musical films which would probably have been able to be used.

This wasn’t the Beatles’ first double A-side (‘Eleanor Rigby’/’Yellow Submarine’ in the UK) and even though I still hold Revolver up as my favourite album ever, I think those two tracks were probably the weakest on it – though I obviously understand why Parlophone might have baulked at putting out ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’/’Love You To’ as a single, had it been discussed.

This was the first Beatles single in several years not to get to no.1 (held off by Engelbert Humperdinck’s ‘Please Release Me – oh the indignity!) yet it was one of their strongest singles, pulling together two of their best songs together ‘Strawberry Fields Ever’ and ‘Penny Lane.’ Both of them had ‘promotional films’ made for them – and this well over a decade before MTV launched in the US! NB I suspect the sleeve at the top was not the UK one – but can you guess why?

Oh and call it what you want, but this is a flippin’ well-iconic music video/film clip/promotional video.

From D.A. Pennebaker’s Bob Dylan documentary Don’t Look Back

Finally, another early example of a promo video. This is the Rolling Stones doing ‘It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I like It)’ in 1974. Years ago, I met bassist Bill Wyman (he was doing a signing in the bookshop where I worked at the tiome, Ottakar’s on George St, now gone). He told me that they’d each been insured for £1,000,000 for this video. Not surprising when you get to about three and a half minutes in…

33 1/3 Part 27


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.

Rolling Stones post exile

I know it’s kinda accepted wisdom that the Stones ‘jumped the shark’ at some point in the seventies, but I still think there were moments of genius.

This is very good, very funky and extremely political. The title track of their 1983 album Undercover. Much better than ‘She was Hot.’ U2 were taking notes…

Rolling Stones -‘Undercover Of The Night.’

There’s a link to another Stones song here ‘She’s So Cold.’ (what is the point of disabling the embedding if you can still see it?!?!) This is from Emotional Rescue.

The very first time I ever remember seeing a Stones song on TV (deprived childhood) was this on Top Of The Pops in 1986. Keep putting off buying Dirty Work, there’s something offputting about the sleeve…

Rolling Stones -‘Harlem Shuffle.’

1994’s Voodoo Lounge seemed a return to form in some ways after the eighties excesses that marred Steel Wheels. Charlie Watts seems to look completely perplexed in the video! This was the first post-Bill Wyman album. (Actually I once met Bill Wyman; he did a signing in the bookshop where I weas working at the time, so I spent half an hour chatting to him about stuff.)

The Stones ended up sharing a writing credit with k.d.lang for this song, after one of the Stones kids commented on the similarity to lang’s song ‘Constant Craving.’ This is from 1997’s Bridges To Babylon. Not an amazing album – but better than many of their latter-day albums.

Rolling Stones – ‘Anybody Seen My Baby.’

Finally, when I met Bill Wyman, I couldn’t not ask him about this video. It sounded terrifying!

Rolling Stones -‘It’s Only Rock’n’ Roll.’

Rolling Stones’ official website