Saturday, May 24, 2008

Out of Time

Track 5
"Out of Time" – 3:41

A song left over from the Aftermath sessions a year previously[*], "Out of Time" sounds much older than that – it reminds me a lot of early-60s Girl Group structure, with the melodramatic marimba opening and the backing vocals throughout. I can picture the Marvelettes doing this song. After dealing with two albums of experimental garbage, it is a relief to hear the Stones do something this old school, and do it so well.

The Mick Voice. I will be discussing this in the weeks to come. You know the Mick Voice: jaw sticking out, severe underbite, slurring words all over the place. Think of the first line of "Angie" – that is the Mick Voice. When I began this project, friend of the blog and general raconteur Ron Littlejohn challenged me to find the first overt instance of the Mick Voice. I don't think this counts, not exactly, but you can hear the very beginnings of the Mick Voice 46 seconds into the song as he sings tyeeyeeime. What do you think?

[* Aftermath sessions a year previously: it actually appeared on the British version of Aftermath – in fact, I was unable to track down the Flowers version for this post, which is a much-edited version of the British Aftermath release I included in the Youtube clip.]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?

Track 2
"Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" – 2:34

(I forgot to do Flowers! 3 of the songs are repeats from Between the Buttons, so I won't do those.)

There is a good song lurking in here somewhere, but this mix is total shit. The horns sound like shit, the bottom end is muddy, you can't hear the guitars clearly. The song itself is an archetypical garage rock shaggy dog story, with a nice double-time beat. I've read that Keith was not impressed by the final product, which buried the rhythm section.

Here's another mix, with results just as poor:

This is probably more like what it was meant to sound like. It's Mick performing the song in 1993 on his Wandering Spirit solo tour.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The 40-Year Old Boy (non-Stones)

Mike Schmidt
The 40-Year Old Boy podcast

Something a little different. Mike Schmidt is a standup comic and writer in Los Angeles, a very funny man whose jokes I have never, ever stolen. Podcast fans may remember him as the Season One co-host of Never Not Funny, where he his lightning-quick delivery was a great counterpoint to Jimmy Pardo's sometimes laconic style. After a long wait, Schmidt now produces his own solo podcast, The 40-Year Old Boy, which is now nine episodes strong. The show consists mainly of Schmidt's anecdotes of living in LA as a comic, of being a fan of really crappy classic rock, and of his brushes with famous people – but the star of the show is his delivery, which is unbelievably quick and extremely funny.

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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On with the Show

Their Satanic Majesties Request
Track 10
"On with the Show" – 3:39

All I can say is

Did these guys have any original ideas at all?

2000 Light Years from Home

Their Satanic Majesties Request
Track 9
"2000 Light Years from Home" – 4:45

(Excuse the goofy youtube Star Trek video.)

I want to like this track, I really do. I am a big fan of trashy garage rock, and "2000 Light Years" has that vibe. The rhythm section kicks all kinds of ass – I am a sucker for a shaker every time. Those weird swirling Mellotron strings that drop in an out of the song add a hilarious air of sci-fi exoticism. "2000 Light Years" reminds me of something I may have heard on Nuggets or something.

But I just can't commit. See, I know the song is not just some small bit of weirdness by some long haired teenagers who read too much Arthur C Clarke. "2000 Light Years" is a song by the Rolling Stones on an album called Their Satanic Majesties Request – in other words, it's a song about Big Statements and Grand Ambitions, and it's sunk by the pretensions of its own concept.

How long did it take for the Stones to realise that by promising cheap thrills but delivering much more, they would be able to accomplish greater things than by promising more and delivering less? I think it only took them a single album – this one.

I guess I should consider myself lucky that the Stones learned the lesson so quickly. It's a lesson that Bono, for one, has yet to learn.

UPDATE: Mondo links to this great mashup in the comments:

These guys have tons of good stuff, much better than the usual mashup fare. Thanks, Mondo!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Their Satanic Majesties Request
Track 8
"Gomper" – 5:08

There are some who would claim that Satanic Majesties is not merely a Sgt. Pepper's ripoff, but contains interesting and original ideas of its own. I mean, I think these people exist. If they didn't, I would have nothing to write here. These imaginary contrarians would have their work cut out for them attempting to explain "Gomper", a song which, in addition to lacking any redeeming artistic qualities, is a complete ripoff of the Beatles' "Within You, Without You", the dreary George Harrison "Indian" track on Pepper. Harrison was at least attempting something new – the Stones lack that excuse. An utterly pointless, derivative track.

(How derivative? "Gomper" has exactly the same track length as "Within You, Without You", to the second.)

The Lantern

Their Satanic Majesties Request
Track 7
"The Lantern" – 4:23

Not even a song – a sketch of a song, maybe. Contains exactly one good idea: Keith's great electric lick that comes in at the end of most lines.

We in our present life knew that the stars were right.
That if you are the first to go, you'll leave a sign to let me know, tell me so.
Please, carry the Lantern lights.
Listen, I'm 37 years old and I don't do drugs. I just don't need this kind of song in my life.

Monday, May 19, 2008

She's a Rainbow

Their Satanic Majesties Request
Track 6
"She's a Rainbow" – 4:35

An actual pop song, in form if not performance. "Rainbow" is probably the most enduring legacy of Satanic Majesties by virtue of Nicky Hopkins music box high-note piano obbligato, which plays elaborate variations of the catchy melody throughout. Somewhat amusing is listening to Mick strain to match the leaps in pitch demanded by that melody – he does a pretty good job even though this is clearly not his strength as a vocalist. Based on that, and the rumours that Mick and Keith routinely denied songwriting credits to collaborators, I'm going to put forward the thesis that Hopkins was responsible for composing the melody.

And her face is like a sail
Speck of white so fair and pale
Have you seen a lady fairer?
Mick occasionally went to these "Lady Jane" types of lyrics, which are so utterly at odds with the upfront misogyny displayed previously on songs like "Stupid Girl" and "Under My Thumb" (much less the songs still to come, like "Starfucker" and everything related to Some Girls) that one wonders where they came from.

I mean, it's pretty easy to picture a Mick Jagger writing something like "Starfucker", but I'm having trouble with the image of Mick composing lyrics dedicating his love to a fair maiden who lives in yon castle. My theory: these kinds of things are buried deep within the collective consciousness of the British people, and that anyone raised within that culture is potentially capable – given the proper circumstances – of attempting to write a poem to Fair Mary of Wallington. We can only thank god that it doesn't happen more often.

A song this catchy demands to be covered, but the internet reveals that surprisingly few artists have been up to the challenge. In the mid 90s I remember seeing the Canadian indie band cub perform the song in Vancouver (I think, or maybe it was Montréal) – wikipedia tells me they released it as a single. Nena (of "Luftballons" fame) released a pretty decent version last year:

Sing This All Together (See What Happens)

Their Satanic Majesties Request
Track 5
"Sing This All Together (See What Happens)" – 8:33

Number 9. Number 9. Number 9.

I am not going to review this mess, which is an experimental sound collage in the style of Lennon's (and Yoko's) experiments in the late 60s. Does this particular track predate "Revolution No. 9"? I don't give a shit. You don't give a shit. I'm pretty sure the Stones no longer give a shit. Let us never discuss it again.