The Rolling Stones – Beggar’s Banquet

When we last left The Rolling Stones, they had just answered the siren call of psychedelia in making an album that was interesting, but hardly an album of “songs” or anything. Their Satanic Majesties Request was a nice experiment, but clearly it was time for one of music’s biggest, loudest blues/rock bands to get the guitars back out and rock out again, and boy did they rock out:

Isn't writing their name up there going to throw our aim off?Beggar’s Banquet is an album I somehow missed for a long time. It is right between Their Satanic Majesties Request and my favorite Stones album, Let It Bleed, filling out the middle of their trio of albums designed to make fun of the The Beatles (the original cover to this album was apparently a plain card like title with the title and “R.S.V.P.” written on, to look like The Beatles’ self-titled and all white album). Either way, I discovered it some time last year, and hearing “Sympathy For The Devil” playing, seemingly out of nowhere, at work today made me think about this album and how I should totally write about it.

Basically, while Let It Bleed was an album, well, bleeding with creative and epic blues/rock songs, there needed to be a kind of rebirth of the band, so that people wouldn’t get too confused when they went from the confusing psychedelic stuff they had gotten into to the kind of music they’re supposed to play. First off, they had to come out with a hit single that would really showcase their hard-hitting blues finesse. That single, very unfortunately, wasn’t actually on Beggar’s Banquet, but I felt it necessary to at least mention because it is my favorite Rolling Stones song: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. Maybe it’s something about the awesome yet simple circular guitar riff, maybe it’s the completely bananas lyrics, or maybe it’s because it’s such an integral part to one of my favorite rhythm-based video games Elite Beat Agents, who knows. I just love the song, but we’re here to talk about an album.

Now that the band had picked up their guitars and were ready to wail again, they needed to grab people’s attention. Hmm, how about a mamba song about Satan? Sure, Mick, why not. Sure enough, the lead off to this collection of jams is unlike anything else on the album (which, to me, evokes memories of Aftermath). “Sympathy For The Devil” is a grand old song, something that might belong in a musical or something, if musicals were actually good or if the song otherwise really sucked. It tells, in first person, about the Devil (in his charming, egocentric rock-star self that all the metal bands have been masturbating to since the 80’s), and some of his exploits. The song is fairly powerful, and I’d say a touch high-class for something Mick Jagger wrote:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith

And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Easily one of my favorite Stones song, and my absolute favorite mamba, no competition.

The rest of the album settles into taking turns between slow, bluesy acoustic ballads, making fun of Country music, and rock songs that just aren’t quite as good as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. The first slow, bluesy acoustic ballad is “No Expectations”, which is a fine song, recorded with all members of the band sitting around some open mics. The song tells a soulful story of loneliness and, uhm, being alone. Sorry, the Stones have kind of lapsed into that rushed sort of songwriting where they just put stuff together until it works, in fact they kind of work in that mode for the rest of the album.

In fact, one of the later tracks on the album, and one of the band’s biggest hits is “Street Fighting Man” (located infamously at G SEVEN if you know the movies I know). The song itself is a rocker, through and through, and probably the hardest rocking song to come out of the 60’s recorded almost entirely on acoustic instruments. The lyrics evoke thoughts of the race riots, and other general riots that were going on at the time, and you may think this is The Rolling Stones’ way of silencing all that with their proud song of the streets. In fact, nobody has been able to tell in 30 years what the song is really about, there are literally thousands of interpretations (and I know the meaning of the word “literal”, I really mean there are over 1,000) and I have not read them, but I am hoping at least one of them is “Mick or Keith got a little tired and forgot to put some kind of point to the song before falling asleep”. Either way, great song, no “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, but what is, really?

A song I quite like, though it has gotten some flack in the past, apparently, is “Jigsaw Puzzle”. It’s got this wonderful trip beat by Charlie Watts (a vastly underrated drummer), and apparently is supposed to contain some kind of Dylanesque stream-of-consciousness writing. Well, I’m not sure about all that, but I do kind of like the random imagery being tied together with Mick singing about trying to do a jigsaw puzzle before the rain starts up again, because it kind of makes each of these seemingly random ideas sort of come together to form one cohesive whole, like a damned jigsaw puzzle, see? The completed puzzle is the song, made up of all the seemingly random parts that are put together almost arbitrarily yet tied together by the very concept of ideas being joined together. Makes perfect sense, if you ask me.

Actually, I’m on some pretty trippy cold medicine so now you may know why I not only am rambling a bit in this writeup, but why I chose The Rolling Stones as the band to do it with. No matter what my state of mind, however, I will say Beggar’s Banquet is an awesome festival of bluesy rock music like what The Rolling Stones are supposed to be making, and though there are better albums, this one is at least not Their Satanic Majesties Request, and I think we can all be thankful for that.

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2 Responses

  1. I feel the need to mention that I was stuck on Jumping Jack Flash in Elite Beat Agents for so long I can no longer hear the song without thinking of the number patterns.

    • Man so was I, I think that might be the thing I’m on at the moment, I don’t know, it’s been a while now since I played. Such a great game though!

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