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Rolling Stones

Category: Musician or composer

The initial line up - from L to R Wyman, Jagger, Jones, Watts, Richards

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The line-up consisted of Brian Jones on guitar and harmonica,  Mick Jagger on lead vocals and harmonica, Keith Richards on guitar and backing vocals, Bill Wyman on bass and Charlie Watts on drums.

The Rolling Stones are not a spiritually driven pop group.  They are producers of wonderfully bouncy songs some of which were composed with a little help from illegal substances, some of which weren't. I have always liked what they have produced, but this is not what this website is all about, it is when someone does something which is way outside what they might normally have done and can thus be said to be inspired.

 

And Their Satanic Majesties Request is just such an album, so different, so unlike anything they had produced or produced since, that one wonders if it was really the Rolling Stones that produced it.  But they did, and under some quite interesting circumstances.

One thing it appears to show is that the band knew their symbolism - see Satan and Kings and Queens.

At the time of this LP, Brian Jones was still with them.  Brian Jones was the founder and original bandleader of the Rolling Stones.  Jones was a multi-instrumentalist, with his main instruments being the guitar, harmonica and keyboards. His innovative use of  instruments, such as the sitar and marimba, was integral to the changing sound of the band.  He “developed a serious drug problem” and his role in the band steadily diminished. He was asked to leave the Rolling Stones in June 1969 and guitarist Mick Taylor took his place in the group. Jones died less than a month later by drowning in the swimming pool at his home on Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, East Sussex.

Their Satanic Majesties Request

The key partnership in the songwriting, however, was that of Jagger and Richards, although clearly Jones's instrumental input was also key. 

It was not until 1965 that they started to produce successful songs such as The Last TimeI can't get no satisfaction, Get off my Cloud, Paint it Black, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Let's spend the night together, Ruby Tuesday and Mother's Little Helper

You may say these were inspired songs in their own way, but here the Stones were helped by 'substances unspecified', although when I was at school we were told it was a surfeit of Mars bars.........

Jagger, Richards and Jones began to be hounded by authorities over their drug use in early 1967, after the News of the World ran a three-part feature entitled "Pop Stars and Drugs: Facts That Will Shock You". The series described alleged LSD parties hosted by The Moody Blues and attended by top stars including The Who's Pete Townshend and Cream's Ginger Baker, and alleged admissions of drug use by leading pop musicians. The first article targeted Donovan (who was raided and charged soon after); the second instalment (published on 5 February) targeted the Rolling Stones.

Jones, Wyman, Richards, Jagger and Watts

A reporter who contributed to the story spent an evening at the exclusive London club Blaise's, where a member of the Rolling Stones "allegedly took several Benzedrine tablets, displayed a piece of hashish and invited his companions back to his flat for a "smoke". The article claimed that this was Mick Jagger, but it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity—the reporter had in fact been eavesdropping on Brian Jones. On the night the article was published Jagger appeared on the Eamonn Andrews chat show and announced that he was filing a writ for libel against the paper.

A week later on Sunday 12 February, Sussex police, tipped off by the News of the World, who in turn were tipped off by Richards' chauffeur,  raided a party at Keith Richards' home, Redlands. No arrests were made at the time but Jagger, Richards and their friend Robert Fraser (an art dealer) were subsequently charged with drugs offences. Richards said in 2003, "When we got busted at Redlands, it suddenly made us realise that this was a whole different ball game and that was when the fun stopped. Up until then it had been as though London existed in a beautiful space where you could do anything you wanted." On the treatment of the man responsible for the raid he later added: "As I heard it, he never walked the same again."

The group after Jones had died and been replaced

On 10 May 1967—the same day Jagger, Richards and Fraser were arraigned in connection with the Redlands charges—Brian Jones' house was raided by police and he was arrested and charged with possession of cannabis. Three out of five Rolling Stones now faced drug charges. Jagger and Richards were tried at the end of June. On 31 July Jagger was sentenced to three months' imprisonment for possession of four amphetamine tablets; Richards was found guilty of allowing cannabis to be smoked on his property and sentenced to one year in prison. Both Jagger and Richards were imprisoned at that point, but were released on bail the next day pending appeal.

The Times ran the famous editorial entitled "Who breaks a butterfly on a wheel?" in which editor William Rees-Mogg was strongly critical of the sentencing, pointing out that Jagger had been treated far more harshly for a minor first offence than "any purely anonymous young man".

On 31 July, the appeals court overturned Richards' conviction, and Jagger's sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge. Brian  Jones was fined £1000, put on three years' probation and ordered to seek professional help.

The group after Jones's death

And in December 1967 Their Satanic Majesties Request  was released.   Satanic Majesties was recorded while Jagger, Richards and Jones were dealing with their court cases. It  became the first album the Rolling Stones produced on their own. It was also the first of their albums released in identical versions on both sides of the Atlantic. Its ‘psychedelic sound’ was complemented by the cover art, which featured a 3D photo by Michael Cooper, who had also photographed the cover of Sgt. Pepper. Bill Wyman wrote and sang a track on the album: "In Another Land", which was also released as a single, the first on which Jagger did not sing lead vocal.

According to Wikipedia, Bill Wyman, wary of psychedelic drugs, wrote the song "In Another Land" to parody the Stones' drug use and where it took them.  In a 2002 interview with Rolling Stone, Wyman described the situations in the studio.
Every day at the studio it was a lottery as to who would turn up and what – if any – positive contribution they would make when they did. Keith would arrive with anything up to ten people, Brian with another half-a-dozen and it was the same for Mick. They were assorted girlfriends and friends. I hated it! Then again, so did Andrew (Oldham) and just gave up on it. There were times when I wish I could have done, too.

"2000 Light Years From Home" is one of the songs from  Their Satanic Majesties Request. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards,  Jagger reportedly wrote the lyrics in Brixton prison.  And it is inspired, quite extraordinary, an out of body experience described, but whether Jagger had one or not I don't know.  Just like Olaf Stapledon's jaunt amongst the stars, but with music.

Mick Jagger has always maintained he does not take drugs - now.  I believe him – with the succession of girlfriends, wives and others he has had, he has no need of drugs for inspiration these days, he has making love and sex, far better alternatives.  But on this occasion he and Richards suffered injustice, loneliness and isolation, and humiliation - very public humiliation - and losing your independence, a heady brew of overload activities designed to produce pure inspiration and squash the ego to a little shadow of its former self.  Add  stress to the equation and you probably have the icing on the proverbial spiritual cake, and it produced an extraordinary result.

Released in December 1967, Their Satanic Majesties Request reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 2 in the US (easily going gold), but its commercial performance declined rapidly. 

Richie Unterberger of Allmusic:
Without a doubt, no Rolling Stones album – and, indeed, very few rock albums from any era – split critical opinion as much as the Rolling Stones' psychedelic outing. Many dismiss the record as sub-Sgt. Pepper posturing; others confess, if only in private, to a fascination with the album's inventive arrangements, which incorporated some African rhythms, Mellotrons, and full orchestration. Never before or since did the Stones take so many chances in the studio. […] In 1968, the Stones would go back to the basics, and never wander down these paths again, making this all the more of a fascinating anomaly in the group's discography.”

In August 2002, Their Satanic Majesties Request was reissued in a new remastered CD, LP and DSD by ABKCO Records. In May 2011, the album was reissued on SHM-SACD.  Note that I have provided other examples of their symbolic songs from around this era, particularly those of Brian Jones, who has not received his due credit for many of the group's most iconic songs.

References

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Observations

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