Or, part five of a quest to discover whether it’s worth buying those early Stones albums on vinyl…
Aftermath was the most difficult album to find on vinyl at a decent price – most copies were on sale for £30-£40 upwards, so when I found a nice copy for £20 I snapped it up. The reason it fetches a high price? Probably because of all the early Stones LPs, Aftermath has the strongest reputation. Here’s why:
1. Aftermath is all about the songs.
From opener of “Mother’s Little Helper” to the soul groove of “Under My Thumb”, the under-rated ballad “I Am Waiting” and hit single for Chris Farlowe “Out Of Time”, it’s the songs that make Aftermath a great album. The U.S. version even had “Paint It, Black”, taking Brian Jones’ sitar to number one in the charts. Even the more straightforward R&B numbers have nice flourishes. For example, “Flight 505” has a great heavy bass line and there’s a playful piano introduction that knocks out the riff to “Satisfaction”.
2. More Sexist Than A Whitesnake / Kiss Collaboration!
Jagger appeared to use Aftermath as a series of not-so-subtle messages to (soon to be ex-) fiancée Chrissie Shrimpton. His one-man tirade against women on this album begins with “Stupid Girl”, which is less than flattering to the opposite sex in the same way that The Death Star was less than flattering to Alderaan. Next is “Under My Thumb”, a victorious brag about a girl who has “changed her ways” thanks presumably to Jagger’s sheer wonderfulness: “It’s down to me, yes it is / The way she does just what she’s told” he tells us. It is, even now, quite breathtakingly misogynistic.
No better is “Out of Time” (“you’re obsolete baby” – always the way to a girl’s heart, I find), and it was a wonder that the next song on the album wasn’t titled “Welcome To Dumpsville, Population: You”. But perhaps that might have been too subtle. Either way Ms Shrimpton’s days were numbered, and history will tell us she may have had a lucky escape.
Ironically one of the last songs on the album, “It’s Not Easy” bemoans how hard it is living on your own. Work that one out if you can…
3. Classic Marimba Action. (PS What’s A Marimba?)
Aside from Jagger’s chronic misogyny, the album is notable for Brian Jones’ creativity on a number of exotic instruments, including a ferociously picked sitar on Mother’s Little Helper, dulcimer on the stately “Lady Jane” and the lovely “I Am Waiting”, plus most notably / famously of all, the marimba on “Out of Time” and “Under My Thumb”.
As Bill Wyman said about the latter: “Well. Without the marimba part, it’s not really a song, is it?”
“Under My Thumb” is still an extraordinary record. Jagger’s lyrics are rather ungentlemanly, but it’s one of The Rolling Stones best tunes.
The story of how Jones came to be playing the marimba was pure chance: The Baja Marimba band, a Mexican novelty group, had left their instruments – including a marimba – in a corner of the RCA studio where The Stones were recording. Brian Jones spotted the instruments, went over, started experimenting and the rest is history.
As an aside, although Under My Thumb is often described as having Brian Jones “famously” playing the marimba, I wasn’t entirely clear what a marimba was. It appears I am not alone.
I asked a friend to draw a marimba. This is the (innacurate) result…..
4. Eleven Minute Blues Epic!
At eleven minutes long, “Goin’ Home” was a true rarity, or as Andrew Loog Oldham put it, “By 1965 only Dylan, the Stones, and Marty Robbins had defied the three-minute law – and kicked open the doors to the future.”
However, the reason how it became such an epic – and a forerunner of classic Stones track “Midnight Rambler” – is more prosaic. The truth is, no-one had worked out how the song would end…
Bill Wyman remembers “While we were playing it, we awaited a signal to stop but no one signalled. There is a gap in the drumming at one point when Keith picked up his coat and threw it at Charlie, but that didn’t stop him for long.”
Oldham breathlessly recalls the session in “Rolling Stoned”, “…at the five-minute line….Mick’s vocal was over and he crossed his arms without missing a beat. Keith curled into his guitar… not allowing anybody to catch his eye. As we crossed into six minutes, it was still the one, still the take, but if something didn’t happen and if somebody didn’t take charge and find an ending, we could be derailed….
He describes the track minute by minute until …”The Stones….allowed themselves to descend to a last après skasmic crawl. Eleven minutes-plus on the slopes and spent; thank God we’d had enough tape between reels. The group fell about, as well they should, exhilarated. They laughed, hugged each other, and collapsed on the floor.”
5. No Chuck Berry Covers!
Aftermath is the first Rolling Stones album not to feature any cover versions. No doubt the band felt pretty confident on the back of a string of three major singles, “Satisfaction”, “Get Off Of My Cloud” and “19th Nervous Breakdown”. These strong songs, all written by Jagger/ Richards, paved the way for this, their first all-originals album. The growing song-writing bond between Jagger and Richards coincided with Brian Jones’ estrangement from his band members. Aftermath sees the band in the early stages of breaking apart, seen in Jagger’s increasing frustration with Jones’ erratic behaviour, as described by Denny Bruce, who shared a flat with keyboard player Jack Nitzsche.
“There was one one session where Jack, the next day, said, “you know Mick and Keith can be really nasty, man. Last night Brian just wasn’t allowed to contribute on a song they were working on. He had a harp part he thought would work out. And they went “alright, go out in the studio.” They made him do it five or six times, where he had blood on both sides of his mouth from wailing so hard on the harp. But they hadn’t even rolled the tape.”
Why Vinyl? Do You Have A Rare Copy Of Aftermath?
The earliest copies had a purple shadow behind the white lettering of “Aftermath”. If your copy has this, congratulations. That might be worth twice the regular price. Mine doesn’t, sadly. A “regular” mint copy of Aftermath may still fetch over £100…
Also, the album is the only place to find the original five minute-plus version of “Out of Time”. The later version on US album “Flowers” is a 3:41 minute edit, and the Metamorphosis version released in 1975 takes Jagger’s vocals and adds them to Chris Farlowe’s backing track.
In the meantime, here’s what a marimba looks like – Brian is playig one on this 1965 edition of Ready Steady Go!
With Aftermath proving to be a strong album, that was the first four Rolling Stones albums done. Plenty to enjoy, and not too many dodgy Chuck Berry covers.
Next? Well, six months after Aftermath’s release, The Beatles released “Revolver” and the first waft of psychedelia found its way to the UK. The Rolling Stones were listening, and “Between The Buttons” was the result….
And I still haven’t found a copy of “Satanic Majesties Request”…..
- Paul Trynka: Sympathy For The Devil
- Andrew Loog Oldham: Rolling Stoned
- Bill Wyman: Stone Alone