This week, in the middle of a mixed playlist what should pop up but “Gomper” a bizarre track off the Rolling Stones 1967 “Their Satanic Majesties Request”. On being clued in to who it was, my SO remarked on the un-Stones-like sound and the general annoying weirdness, which prompted me to dig the whole album out and have a listen.
Now “…Satanic Majesties…” has always been the most difficult of Stones albums to get a handle on- an interesting experiment that doesn’t quite come off, an attempt at a “Sgt. Peppers” rejoinder/pastiche/knock-off (check out the cover) or my particular take- a quick throw of the dice made under the swirling influences of Morocco and hashish, LSD, the disintegration of Brian Jones spurred on by drugs & the decamping of his then girlfriend Anita Pallenberg for his erstwhile friend Keith Richards. It’s an album cobbled together in the face of drug related arrests and as it seemed at the time, impending jail sentences for Jagger and Richards. It’s amazing they got anything on tape at all. Rumor has it Bill Wyman was left to assemble the album in the absence of the principals who were otherwise engaged in front of the beak or absconded to Marrakech. Which would explain a lot.
Obviously there are those that say the only way to listen to this album is in a chemically altered state. To which I say “probably” but it still is an incoherent mess. The only thing here that is fully formed and stands up is “She’s A Rainbow”, as bright and fresh a piece of baroque’n’roll as they ever produced. The most important aspect of this whole adventure is that it caused the Stones to retrench and revert to the blues-and-country sources which underlies their best music. They were far more capable as keepers of the flame than pushing rock’s experimental boundaries. Their next outing would be the single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Beggars Banquet”, a return to form that would kick-off their best, most productive run of albums.