Thursday, May 22, 2008

Their Satanic Majesties Request Roundup

Their Satanic Majesties Request Roundup

1. "Sing This All Together" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:46
2. "Citadel" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:50
3. "In Another Land" (Bill Wyman) – 3:15
4. "2000 Man" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:07
5. "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 8:33
6. "She's a Rainbow" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 4:35
7. "The Lantern" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 4:23
8. "Gomper" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 5:08
9. "2000 Light Years from Home" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 4:45
10. "On with the Show" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:39

I first encountered this album in high school during my Beatles phase. I dismissed it as yet another Sgt. Pepper's ripoff and never listened to it again until I forced myself over the last couple of weeks. I do a small amount of research for each of my posts on this blog, and when I began to post on Satanic Majesties I discovered, somewhat to my consternation, that some critical revision has taken place, and people have a more sympathetic view of this album. Tony Sclafani, at Perfect Sound Forever, writes

Despite its flaws, it's a radical departure from the norm that few artists have ever attempted. For one time only, it seems, The Stones ditched their monochromatic sound and worldview for a multihued, anything-goes mindset that really was "like a rainbow," to paraphrase the disc's only major hit song.
At AllMusic, Richie Unterberger maintains
Never before or since did the Stones take so many chances in the studio. This writer, at least, feels that the record has been unfairly undervalued, partly because purists expect the Stones to constantly champion a blues 'n' raunch world view.
I don't think of myself as a purist, but it's absolutely true that I think the Stones are at their best when rocking out, and at their worst when they stray from that in any direction. I like to think this is because the quality of their rocking shows that this style plays directly into their strengths as musicians, but it is conceivable that I am simply unable to accept anything experimental from a band with as well-defined a rock and roll persona as the Rolling Stones.

However, I think this is beside the point. I think (most of) the songs on Satanic Majesties are complete abd utter shit, meandering and undisciplined, derivative, witless, unable to meet even the low standards within the sub-genre of Sgt. Pepper's-inspired psychedelia. I mean, the songs are either good or not – and I'm pretty sure that even these revisionist critics would agree that the songs are not among the best.

What these people seem to be saying is that the experimental quality of the recordings are notable and deserve respect and attention. Nick Hornby, in his capacity as a music critic, wrote somewhere that most critics are so inundated with boring crap during the course of their jobs that they will latch on to anything that possesses the ability to command attention. I think that's what is happening here: these critics are bored with the Stones' near endless procession of rock and roll hits, and point to this album because it is not just another blues-based riffer.

Most people, however, are not critics, and we are not yet bored with the hits. In comparison with, say, Let It Bleed, Satanic Majesties takes the listener in all kinds of unexpected directions, but it is simply not a good collection of songs. For me, that's where the argument begins and ends.

Background from Wikipedia:
Begun just after Between the Buttons had been released, the recording of Their Satanic Majesties Request was a long and sporadic one, broken up by court appearances and jail terms. Starting with this release, non-compilation albums from the band would be released in uniform editions across international markets.

Released in December 1967, Their Satanic Majesties Request reached #3 in the UK and #2 in the US (easily going gold), but its commercial performance declined rapidly. It was soon viewed as a pretentious, poorly conceived attempt to outdo The Beatles and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (released June 1967), often explained by drug trials and excesses in contemporary musical fashion. The response of the audience and the growing rejection of the flower power scene by Jagger and Richards would mean a turning point for the Stones: in 1968 the Stones would return to the hard driving blues that earned them fame early in their career.

In 1998 a bootleg box set of eight CDs with outtakes of the Satanic' sessions was released on the market. The box set shows the band developing the songs, and striking is the cooperation between Brian Jones, Keith Richards and session pianist Nicky Hopkins. Richards is leading the sessions and most songs seem to be written by him, and both Hopkins and Jones indulge in creating elaborate soundscapes, with Brian Jones' parts created on the Mellotron being especially important for the sound and atmosphere of the album.

Indeed, admiration and love of the album has grown over the years as a kind of punk rockers' own ragged flipside to the Beatles more cheerful masterpieces from the same period. Songs such as "Citadel" have been covered by a number of young rock bands, and the whole album is held in particularly high esteem by the Rolling Stones-inspired band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, who paid tribute to it through the release of their 1995 album, Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request.

Initial releases of the album featured a three-dimensional picture of the band on the cover by photographer Michael Cooper. When viewed in a certain way, the lenticular image shows the band members' faces turning towards each other with the exception of Jagger, whose hands appear crossed in front of him. Looking closely on its cover, one can see the faces of each of the four Beatles. It was the first of four Stones albums to feature a novelty cover (the others were the zipper on Sticky Fingers, the cut-out faces on Some Girls, and the stickers on Undercover). Later editions replaced the glued-on 3-dimensional image with a standard photo, probably due to production costs.