(Pictured: the Rolling Stones, circa 1978.)
When I’m working in my office at home, I have the laptop music stash on shuffle, and I have to admit that the music often goes unheard if I’m engrossed in something. It’s different in the car. On a long car trip, there’s not much to do except listen. On a recent trip, I decided to revisit a couple of albums I’ve heard a million times to see how they sound right now. The first was Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, discussed in an earlier post. Now we’re up to the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls, and a ranking of the 10 tracks on the original album, least to best.
10. “Some Girls.” Decadent, depraved sleaze is part of what makes the Stones great. But the very same thing can make them unlikable when taken to an extreme.
8. (tie) “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Lies.” I am pretty sure these two are the same song, as are about half of the bonus tracks on the 2011 deluxe reissue.
7. “Just My Imagination.” I’d say this and “Beast of Burden” were the same song too, if “Just My Imagination” wasn’t already famous long before the Stones got to it.
6. “Before They Make Me Run.” Possibly the best Keith Richards vocal this side of “Happy,” although the bonus track “We Had It All” is pretty good, too.
5. “Respectable.” I am half-sure Charlie Watts laid down one drum track at the start of the Some Girls sessions and then spent the rest of the time lying by the pool while the engineers recycled it for a half-dozen different songs. For that reason, it wouldn’t be entirely wrong to lump “Respectable” with “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Lies,” but I like “Respectable” better for reasons I am not able to articulate. (If you aren’t satisfied by that, get your own blog.)
4. “Miss You.” In which the Stones embrace the nascent disco era, although the bass guitar line that sounded very contemporary in 1978 is badly dated now. The album version of “Miss You” clocks in at 4:48, but it’s edited down from a far longer performance with an extra verse and additional harp-honking by session man Sugar Blue.
3. “Beast of Burden.” England’s punk rockers had already branded the Stones as tired old dinosaurs by 1978; on “Beast of Burden,” it’s like the Stones are responding, “Yeah, but we’re sleeping every night on a pile of money that reaches to the sky, so rave on.”
2. “Shattered.” In which they give the lie to all the dinosaur talk. They hadn’t sounded this committed since Exile on Main Street.
1. “Far Away Eyes.” A country song, with pedal steel guitar by Ron Wood and a hilarious lyric that Mick Jagger says was based on his actual experience driving through rural California near dawn with the radio on. Although I don’t think I’ve heard it, there’s a bootleg version sung by Keef that stands a chance of being even funnier.
When I started listening, I intended to rank the bonus tracks from the 2011 reissue alongside the original album, but there’s not enough difference among them to make the exercise worthwhile. Only a couple of them are worthy of bumping one of the original album’s tracks: the aforementioned “We Had It All,” which had been a country hit for Waylon Jennings, and the Chicago-style grinder “Keep Up Blues.”
(“Keep Up Blues” is an instrumental track from the late 70s with a vocal written and recorded by Mick in 2011 especially for the Some Girls reissue. Several other bonus tracks were similarly finished by Mick, Keef, and producer Don Was, just as they’d done for the Exile reissue. That seems like a bit of a cheat to me, but “Keep Up Blues” remains a damn good song.)
Some Girls was the seventh of nine straight #1 albums the Stones scored in the States between 1971 and 1981. It’s the largest seller of them all. Here in 2016, I still respect it, although I like it less than I did in 1978. But that’s true of many things.
(This is the 2000th published post in the history of this blog. My thanks to all who are still bothering to read them. Post number 2001 will appear on Saturday of this week.)