Saturday, November 14, 2009

ALBUM REVIEW: The Rolling Stones, Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967)

By Nathan Stallings

One of the more challenging releases in music history, the Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request is also one of the more divisive releases. While divisive is an appropriate description of the album's reception within the mainstream music media of the time, it also describes the reception within the Stones' fan base.

The mainstream decried it as a ripoff of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (the cover doesn't help). The Stones fan base, already slightly perplexed by the baroque pop leanings of the Between The Buttons, was pushed over the edge with the album's blatant psychedelic inclinations, while the title of album was sure to turn people away (now it would be considered a boost). In short, the album was doomed from the start.

Fortunately, time does do the album some service as a large number of the tracks, such as the sing-along folk of the lead off track, "Sing This All Together," and the psychedelic sunshine pop of first single, "She's A Rainbow," demonstrate. Bassist Bill Wyman has his only turn as a songwriter for the band with the second single from the album, the baroque pop song "In Another Land," which sounds like it could be from the soundtrack of some medieval fantasy while "Citadel," "The Lantern" and "2000 Man" sound like the rock songs from the same soundtrack.

The cover of the album also lends credence to the whole medieval fantasy concept. The real gem on the album is the dark and moody "2000 Light Years From Home," a nightmare of a track that underscores the dark side of the 60s psychedelic movement.

The album is somewhat weighted down by filler tracks, such as the eight minute-plus "Sing This All Together (See What Happens)," while "Gomper," although somewhat plodding and tedious, does serve as a good lead up to "2000 Light Years From Home." The closer "On With The Show" sounds like a leftover from Between The Buttons but is by no means a letdown as its nonsensical atmosphere (and its underpinning ode to the rock 'n' roll decadence that would consume the band by the early 1970s) is a great way to close out this album.

Unique in its own right, Their Satanic Majesties Request provides an important link between the Stones' early work and their subsequent return to straightforward rock 'n' roll with their subsequent release, Beggar's Banquet. In summary, this album has the trappings of a cult classic.

My name is Nathan Stallings and my interests are both popular music and music history. Some of my favorite artists are The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, The Smiths, David Bowie, The Kinks, Depeche Mode, Bob Dylan, Morrissey, Chuck Berry, Bob Marley, R.E.M., Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Muddy Waters, The Cars, Miles Davis, Smashing Pumpkins, Merle Haggard and The Cure too name a few. You can visit my Rolling Stones website at:

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