Rolling Stones Let Psych Flag Fly On '67's Their Satanic Majesties Request
The Rolling Stones' 1967 album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, turns 45 today. The album's subject matter and oddity make it a strange holiday release, but hey it was the '60s.
Best-known for the saccharine "She's a Rainbow" and oft-covered "2000 Man," the album gets lost in the Stones' greater late-'60s shuffle. It was also the first Stones album to have gimmicky packaging, the lenticular job preceding the naughty Sticky Fingers zipper, and the die-cuts on Some Girls.A year later, the group would release Beggars Banquet, which would be the first in a run of five LPs that would solidify the Stones as the "Greatest Rock and Roll Band In the World."
Coming off the stately Between the Buttons months earlier, Request most definitely isn't a favorite of most fans, sticking out as a faddish trifle. Released just months after their rivals in the Beatles unleashed Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, many critics laughed it off the Stones' attempt to cash in on the mystic/kooky fad.
It is said by some that Mick Jagger decided that psychedelia was the way to go for his Stones after surveying the pop landscape and hearing Sgt. Pepper. But it wasn't even Brian Jones who shifted the band the psych way, which you would have expected. Jones was way more interested in the drugs and women part of psych, seeming to have already grown out of the already years old movement by the Majesties recording sessions.
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Jagger himself has always been somewhat of a hipster, in terms of musically jumping ship to ship, sometimes for worse or better. Melding disco and punk sneer on Some Girls? Awesome. Canned '80s production on Dirty Work? Fuck off.
The Beatles didn't seem to mind much, seeing that John Lennon and Paul McCartney sang backing vocals for their "little brothers" (as the Beatles contingent will call them) on Majesties' "Sing This All Together."
In the grand scheme of things, the Fabs and the Stones were late to the psych party anyway, but they at least made it palatable for teenyboppers. The 13th Floor Elevators had already left the atmosphere, as had the Byrds and Donovan. Some argue that Revolver was more psych anyway.
Within the abstract shards on Majesties, you can hear most of the sounds to come from the Stones during that next run of albums, especially on "The Lantern" and "Gomper." It's as if the true spirit of the band was trying to peak out, or they all reached an internal breakthrough as the album evolved, unable to stop the psych train and return the tapestries and beads.
Two of the best songs from this recording period, "We Love You" and "Dandelion," were instead released as stand-alone singles. "Child of the Moon" surfaced around this time too.
Majesties is not without its fervent fans, though. Of course the biggest one has to be the Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe, himself born just months before the album's release. He reveled in Majesties and bought into the carpet-sitting and hash vibe.
Be sure to check out the bootlegs from the Majesties era too, full of great organ and piano work from Jones and Stones collaborator Nicky Hopkins. "Gold Painted Fingernails" would have fit nicely on Exile.
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