The final part of a quest to discover whether it’s worth buying those early Stones albums on vinyl…
Their Satanic Majesties Request
Trying to buy an original copy on vinyl of “Their Satanic Majesties Request” for twenty quid is like breeding pandas. An awful lot of effort without much hope of success, and it just ends in disappointment for everyone involved. I trawled Spitalfields Record Fair and looked in every crate marked “Rolling Stones”, but to no avail…
I even found a Black Sabbath bootleg called “Their Satanic Majesties Return”…
Then, just as I was about to give up, I somewhat unexpectedly found what must have been the only copy in the place, just tucked away behind some hen’s teeth. The only trouble was, it was £30, and a second pressing at that, without the lenticular cover. It’s odd. What many people regard as The Stones’ worst album is also the rarest and most expensive.
I wasn’t going to pay £30, and in the end, with the end of a lunch hour looming like a big, looming thingy, I had to give up…
This was a bitter blow. If there’s one thing I dislike more than paying £30 for one record, it’s losing a bet to one of my friends. I may be able to find a good deal like Joey Essex can find Things He Doesn’t Know Yet, but there is a limit even to my powers of discovery and negotiation. To get an idea of how I felt, picture the inner turmoil, angst and frustration of Dostoyevsky when his wifi signal started playing up.
But just when I was working out how to review an album I didn’t own (there’s always Spotify, I thought) I found myself near Bond St tube station. I passed by the HMV. “I don’t suppose…” I thought to myself…
Sure enough, there it was! It’s a bit of a cheat, but you can buy the album for just under £18 if you are prepared to slum it and buy a brand spanking new copy on 180g vinyl….
It’s a bit daft, this record collecting lark sometimes…
I was £2.01 under budget. But what of the album? My task was not just to buy it, but also to praise it, if at all possible.
Five Reasons Why Satanic Majesties Is Worth Buying On Vinyl:
1. The World’s First 3D Cover!
The cover is lenticular, or at least early copies are…
Said Keith Richards, “That was acid. We made that set ourselves. We went to New York, put ourselves in the hands of this Japanese bloke with the only camera in the world that could do the 3-D. Bits of paint and saws, bits of styrofoam.”
Sadly the reissue is not lenticular, so I have to imagine the excitement.
2. Think It’s A Wacky Title? You Should Hear What They Were Going To Call It…
The first title for Satanic…was going to be “The Rolling Stones Cosmic Christmas”.
The Stones also recorded several tracks that weren’t released including potential classics such as “Bathroom / Toilet” and “Gold Painted Fingernails”. As a sense of how good these tracks were, a recording of Wyman snoring on the settee in the control room did make the final cut.
3. Four of the songs.
Okay, it’s time to come clean. I don’t have five good things to say about the album as a whole. There’s four really good songs on this LP, two okay ones (one of which was covered by Kiss of all people)
…and four absolute shockers. I decided to make a few notes on a first listen. Here’s selected “highlights” of what I wrote…
Track 1: “Sing All This Together”
Notes: There’s a junior school music lesson going on in the background. With triangles: traditionally the instruments left in the music box at pre-school after all the tambourines and drums have gone. This stinks the place up like leaving a kipper under the bonnet of a Ford Cortina for a month. I hope the rest of the album isn’t like this.
Track 5: “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”
Notes: See What Happens? Sod all.
Genuinely terrible. Like we are three hours into a particularly interminable junior school music lesson which is interrupted by one of those Hari Krishna bands that used to bang their tambourines around Oxford St. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, some jazz flute pops up. Possibly the worst song ever committed to vinyl.
Track 8: “Gomper”
Notes: Another shocker. The sort of track that even Tony Blackburn wouldn’t play if he were the DJ at your local Indian restaurant.
10. “On With The Show”
Notes: Oh dear. Utter tripe. A museum piece, if the museum was The Museum of Awfulness, in Awful Town, Awful Land.
However, it’s not all bad news.
There are some good songs on “Their Satanic Majesties Request”. I really like “The Lantern“. It sounds to me like a prototype of “Shine A Light” on “Exile On Main St”. “Citadel” is good, “She’s A Rainbow” is all chorus – a great pop song that I am familiar with through The World of Twist’s cover (I prefer The Stones version)….
….and “2,000 Light Years From Home” is a terrific song, albeit it belongs on a Pink Floyd album next to “Astronomy Domine”…
Overall, Satanic Majesties demonstrates that some albums are best heard on a format other than vinyl. Some albums need the skip button. The highs are great, but the lows are really terrible.
It’s not really a surprise.
Bill Wyman: “It was one of the three times we came really close to splitting up”
Keith Richards: “It ended up as a real patchwork. All a bit of flim-flam for me. None of us wanted to make it, but it was time for another Stones album, and Sgt Pepper’s was coming out, so we thought basically we were doing a put-on.”
To be fair, when making Sgt Peppers, The Beatles had quit the road, had George Martin as producer and were settled and happy. For the Stones, their relationship with producer Andrew Loog Oldham was about to end, both Mick and Keith were on bail pending appeal for drugs charges which might have seen them spend a year in jail, and Brian Jones was having residential psychiatric treatment.
I reported back to Chris.
“You’re right” I told him. “Satanic Majesties is 40% stinker, 20% average and 40% excellent.” He looked vindicated.
But we got one thing wrong. Taken as a body of work, the first six Stones records are amazing. They aren’t all dodgy Chuck Berry covers at all. There’s loads to enjoy, and they are a great introduction not only to The Rolling Stones, but also to American R&B, even now, some fifty years after “Satisfaction” first hit the airwaves…
Here’s a playlist of the best bits to save your skip button, including the single “We Love You”…
Categories: Rock Music