Beggars Banquet

The Rolling Stones

Once the psychedelic and sunny days of 1967 came to an end, the Rolling Stones took the lead and delved into a world that would come to embody the swagger and swine of rock and roll. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones were especially eager to go in a new direction and became exiles in Morocco, soaking up the exotic atmosphere. The Glimmer Twins listened to old blues, R & B and soul records, while Jones worked, in earnest, at capturing the magical vibes of the local Moroccan musicians. Unfortunately, Jones' visions were marred upon his return to London, where he renewed his heavy addictions in light of his failures and frustrations with the Stones. Through a dense fog, the golden boy of Carnaby Street struggled through his last few sessions. The sporadic shots of brilliance he managed to squeeze out on Beggars Banquet, the last full studio album from the original Rolling Stones, makes one wonder what Jones could have done if time had been on his side.

There's no question about it: Jagger and Richards were at the helm with Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman aboard and raring to go. Richards, in particular, had been toying with tons of wild tunings and tolerances, jamming with everyone from Ry Cooder to Gram Parsons, and writing some inspiring songs in the process. Jagger fancied himself a quasi-intellectual, reading highbrow books and adapting an almost aristocratic air. Together, the band spun out mini masterpieces, typically cradled in acoustic lightness that intermittently bathed in darker overtones. "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Street Fighting Man" would both come to define the Stones as a far more aggressive and controversial threat than Andrew Oldham could have ever imagined. Musically, these two songs are molded marvels with bulging rhythms that find Jagger at his lyrical and fiendishly best. The mere idea of him exhorting lines like, "Just as every cop is a criminal/And all the sinners saints/As heads is tails/Just call me Lucifer/'Cause I'm in need of some restraint..." in the sea of Rocky Dijon's congas and chorus of human locomotives is at once decadent and demonic.

Politics aside, the Stones cut a musical swath on Beggars Banquet that many claim unequaled -- either by the group themselves or anyone else within shooting range. "No Expectations," one of the Stones' most elegant acoustic pieces, slices through the heart, Jones' slide work balancing the scales with lyrics reflecting his very nature. "Dear Doctor" is a crock on the Delta blues, while "Parachute Woman" and "Factory Girl" further Jagger's exploits with the opposite sex. Finally, "Salt Of the Earth" brings the whole affair home on a silver platter. Recently remastered along with the entire ABKCO/Decca/London (take your pick) catalog, Beggars Banquet, the first of several Stones records produced by Jimmy Miller, was initially delayed because of its notorious cover art depicting a graffiti stained bathroom wall (which has since been released). But that didn't stop it from becoming an essential album of the 60s, and a crown jewel in one of the longest running rock and roll sagas in history.

~ Shawn Perry

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