Artist: The Rolling Stones
Album: The Rolling Stones
Genre: Rock n’ Roll / Rhythm and Blues
“I want you back again
I want your love again
I know you find it hard to reason with me
But this time it’s different, darling you’ll see”
For those who know me very well, I have a feeling I already know what you’re thinking. What am I going to say about the Rolling Stones that is absolutely crazy? I get it, I have a reputation amongst my loved ones and close friends as having a… different opinion of things. I get it, I tend to not like what’s popular and seem against the mainstream. I don’t like having an opinion that’s based on what everyone else is thinking and yes, I do give the impression that I like to go against the grain and dislike something just because it’s liked. After some of the things I said about The Beatles it must be inevitable. I will say share some unpopular opinion about The Rolling Stones. It must happen, that’s how I am, that’s my point of view. Right?
Well, in this case I’m happy to say you’re 100%, absolutely wrong. I love The Rolling Stones and, believe it or not, I really enjoyed this album. Hell, I loved this album. This has currently been the highlight of the 60s for me (well, this and Sam Cooke, can’t forget about Sam Cooke). It came super close to actually becoming my favorite album on the list so far (But Live at The Harlem Square Club is a tough one to beat). It was that good for me.
For a debut album it’s a pretty damn solid one. The Rolling Stones managed to not only show off their skills but their charisma as well, which is a feat every band tries to do with their debuts. A ton usually succeed, but others tend to fall into place a little later. Some do so well on their first album that they are unable to recreate that strength again in future albums. But we’re not talking about that here, we’re talking about The Rolling Freakin’ Stones, who managed to not only create a damn good debut album but were able to prove they could do it again and again and even grow as artists and musicians. There’s a good reason they’re as big as they are, they really are just that good and it’s a nice blend of Mick Jagger’s vocals and performance and Keith Richard’s Guitar work (blending their talent together in their tight song writing). They deserve all the praise they get.
They haven’t reached that level of songwriting quite yet at this point, seeing how this album has 11 covers out of 12 songs, with only one being an original. That being said it doesn’t take away from the album at all. To them this was a love letter to Rhythm and Blues, a genre they loved so much they had to make an album commemorating some of their favourite songs. They do this in a spectacular way, infusing Rock influences into their Rhythm and Blues songs, melding the two styles together to make something that is really their own. And they don’t shy away from taking risks with their music as well. A song like King Bee that incorporates a string of guitar notes that actually imitates the sound of a bee buzz is quite the artistic risk for a band on their first album in the early 60s. It’s like they knew their playing capabilities and wanted to take advantage of that in the recording studio. Good on them because it really shows.
Now, i’m going to go ahead and make a few comparisons to The Beatles. I feel that’s fair seeing as these two were the biggest bands part of the British Invasion (Don’t worry we’ll get around to The Who and Yardbirds soon, but let’s focus on these guys). I do believe that The Rolling Stones are way better than The Beatles. No competition for me. They’re just an all-around stronger band. Stronger musically, lyrically and performance wise. Sure, people can easily debate The Beatles strengths with their later albums, but remember at this time The Beatles were still doing their pop cheese. While the bowl cut boys were singing love lyrics to simple pop tunes, The Rolling Stones were swinging their way in with rock-infused Rhythm and Blues. The competition was high for the two and in the end they had to share the spotlight, which is fine. They both catered to very different needs.
I always found The Rolling Stones to be way more mature musically than The Beatles. Like they were the cool, older brother of The British Invasion. The Beatles were cute and had the girl’s screaming, but The Rolling Stones were the guys all the girls wanted to sleep with. There’s no denying they got laid way more than The Beatles did. It’s hard not to see that. When The Rolling Stones sang love songs, it came with the sincerity of an adult who had true feelings compared to the puppy love feeling The Beatles evoked in their music. The Rolling Stones sang about making love to you while The Beatles sang about holding your hand. That’s really it, they catered to different needs and wants in their music listening audience. Girls went to The Beatles to have a good, fun time while they went to the Rolling Stones to be swooned and possibly be fucked gently into the night. There is this sense of maturity that isn’t seen in current (early 60s) Beatles albums that the Rolling Stones seemed to have. They were cool, cocky and damn sexy and all that shines through their debut here.
That’s really what this album is: A cool, cocky, sexy album. They even manage to make the harmonica sound so damn cool as it blares through some of the songs in a subtle and warm way. For the most part the harmonica always comes in really damn loud and kind of obnoxiously, but here it seems to blend beautifully with the rest of the instruments, never upstaging them in any way. They seem to mix the rock sensibilities of Chuck Berry with the sexiness of Elvis Presley and the cool attitude of Sinatra himself. The cockiness is so high they even redubbed this album as England’s Newest Hit Makers when it was released in the US, as if they were so confident they would continue to be making hit after hit after hit (thankfully for them they did).
One song stood out to me though in a way that’s hard to describe. It was strange because as the album went on, musically it sounded pretty consistent. But then when Tell Me appeared, there was a quality to it that just sounded different as if it was apart from the rest. The band sounded at their tightest and strongest here and Jagger sounded like he was giving it his all in the vocals. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly about it I liked so much, but musically it just seemed to deliver in a way that the other songs didn’t, and the other songs delivered, believe me they did. They had me dancing and toe-tapping like nobody’s business. Picture this: me standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to turn green for me to cross, my legs and feet dancing away, but my upper body staying perfectly still. Yeah. Probably not that weird for those who know me, but if an album manages to make me dance and feel the music like this did than that’s already a big plus. This one just managed to suck me in and have me feeling every second of it. When those drums hit and the stellar guitar playing of Richards sings, it just felt really good. Remember too, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this album either. So to have this feeling on a multiple listen is truly a remarkable thing. But who knows why…
It also happens to, coincidentally, be the one song on the album that Jagger and Richards wrote… so maybe that’s why. It was a personal song for them and it reflected through their performances, which then caused it to stand out as being truly unique on the album.
That’s my guess at least and I feel it’s a logical one.
Song of Choice: Tell Me