Classic Rock Review

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The Rolling Stones Some Girls (1978)

115380777From starling.rinet.ru

Before I start joining the general chorus of violent rave-ups on the absolute greatness of Some Girls (rave-ups which are not that far from the truth, actually), I want to say that I really don’t know why this record is so much praised and Black And Blue so universally despised.

Because, to be fair, Black And Blue was a heartfelt, inspired, joyful groove with an experimental and even somewhat uncommercial edge, whereas Some Girls, immaculate as it is, is in its essence nothing but an excellently produced piece of pure commercial product. While Keith was dealing with his drug problems (the infamous Toronto bust of 1977 and the ensuing cold turkey), Jagger took the lead, listened to some contemporary music like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and… er… Kool & The Gang? – and crafted this album.

It’s certainly brilliant, chockfull of hits and sustaining the level of energy and professionalism even throughout the more obscure songs, but it just don’t have that heartfelt feelin’ I’m a-likin’ the most. ‘Commercial’ is the word for it: it was obviously made up specially for the public, to show that it was yet too early to write the Stones off as ‘dinosaurs’ (there I go with that stupid word again) and that they could still find a niche among the younger generation while managing to sound steady, self-assured and definitely non-self-parodic.

In a stark contrast with the past, all the fast rockers on here are based not on the boogie formula, but on the punk rock one: ‘When The Whip Comes Down’ is, as its title implies, no sissyass love song, and both ‘Lies’ and ‘Respectable’ feature terrific guitar interplay between Keith and Ronnie set to (sometimes) completely gross lyrics.

The amazing thing is not that the Rolling Stones are perfectly comfy with their punk image – they really aren’t, as close listens to these tracks show that the band’s handling of the guitars is still way too professional and R’n’B-ish to be compared to the sloppy headbanging of Joey Ramone or Mick Jones – but that their strange ‘hybrid’ of R’n’B and punk perfectly combines the values of both genres. Just listen to the sonic hell of ‘Respectable’!

While Bill Wyman holds up the groove with the fast, rapid-fire bassline, a typical punkish ‘chainsaw’ guitar is holding up the rhythm – but instead of pushing that chainsaw sound into the foreground like most punks would do, they bury it slightly deeper into the background. Is it Mick pushing out the ‘chainsaw’ chords? He actually started playing guitar around that time himself, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were him. On the other hand, the foreground features Keith in one speaker and Ronnie in the other, blazing off tremendous solos and isolated lead phrases off each other, and so the song has it all: standard punk energy from the chainsaw buzz and the classic Stones interplay from the two main guitarists.

On top of that, the lyrics – ‘Well now you’re a pillar of society/You don’t worry ’bout the things you used to be/You’re a rag tag girl you’re the queen of porn/You’re the easiest lay on the White House lawn’. They’re actually said to refer to Mick’s ex-wife, Bianca, but they can actually work as a standard misogynistic rant all the same.

And while we’re on the punkish thematics, what about ‘Shattered’, an incredible rap about the Big Apple? Although in the live set it was speeded up and actually worked better, it is still a fascinating tale about ‘laughter, dreams, and loneliness and (of course) sex and sex and sex!’ Don’t forget the wild (phased?) guitar tone and Charlie’s menacing beat on that one. And if you’re initially put off by Jagger’s barking and ragged phrases and sparse vocalizing, don’t worry: this is one case of ragged phrases that will definitely grow on you.

Still, the Stones would never be a typical punk band – and Some Girls captures just about every musical fad of the late Seventies. The ballads here are either disco (the wonderful ‘Miss You’, definitely one of the best disco songs ever written – and most certainly the best disco song ever written by a primarily non-disco band, putting those wrinkled Bee Gees guys to absolute shame) or more traditional guitarry Stones (‘Beast Of Burden’): both are classics and deservedly so.

The lack of true emotion in the former is compensated by catchy melodies and special vocal efforts by Mick, while the latter is essentially a guitar show – I can’t even start explaining what fascinates me so much about the playing on that song, but it’s the only number on Some Girls that gets me crying (and the live performance of the song is one of the few redeeming, and almost cathartic, factors of the infamous Let’s Spend The Night Together live video).

In addition to that, we have the controversial title track whose lyrics were the object of so much critique (‘black girls just wanna get fucked all night’), but, believe it or not, this is probably the only reason it was ever written. It’s the worst cut on here, actually: very weak melodically and very dependent lyrically.

Still, it’s all compensated with Keith’s ‘Before They Make Me Run’: if you try and ignore the whiny vocals, it’s actually a very good song about his conviction. ‘Far Away Eyes’ is a hilarious parody on redneck music, replete with Jagger’s Southern accent and mocking lyrics. And, finally, the cover of the Temptations’ ‘Just My Imagination’ is quite nice, although overlong.

Overall, this album gives the impression of a ‘special gift’: it reinstated the fans’ hopes in The Rolling Stones, started their ‘silver age’ and, even more important, solidified their status as Un-Old Farts among the newer generations. But, frankly speaking, I must state that whoever thinks this is a better album than Black And Blue should probably check up the meaning of the word ‘better’ in any dictionary he can find!

That’s not to denigrate Some Girls – rather, it’s just meant to give some credit to that unhappy period in the Stones’ mid-Seventies career that’s so often written off just because the media only went crazy for that old chainsaw buzz and disregarded everything else. To hell with the media.

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April 6, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones Some Girls |

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