The Music of 1968

Dave from A Sound Day (check out the other posts on Dave’s “Turntable Talk”) posted this on November 5, 2022. He wanted a group of us to write about what we thought was the best year in music…I ended up picking the turbulent year of 1968.

When I think of the best year of music …for me it’s between 7 years. I would pick 1965 through 1971. I cannot pick all so here it goes…I pick 1968. It had some of the greatest albums and singles ever.

It was a turbulent year, to say the least. We lost two proponents of peace—Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Other events include the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, riots in Washington, DC, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and heightened social unrest over the Vietnam War, values, and race.

The music was also toughened up by moving away from psychedelic music. The social climate and The Band’s album Music from Big Pink had a lot of influence on this. You still had psychedelic music released but overall, music was more stripped down to the basics.

My favorite album of all time was released by The Beatles. My favorite album by The Rolling Stones was released that year as well. Let’s look at the albums released in 1968…it’s outstanding.

The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

The Kinks – Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Band – Music From Big Pink

Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

Cream – Wheel Of Fire

The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Big Brother and Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle

The Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

Traffic – Traffic

That list could be on my desert island list… those albums are still being played today. I’ve only scratched the surface of the albums that year.

The Holy Trinity of Rock all released music that year… which would be The Beatles, The Who, and The Stones. I can’t imagine living in the era when these bands were in their prime and roamed the earth. The Who didn’t release an album, but they did release some singles and were gearing up for the following year. Let’s look at some of the singles of that year.

The Beatles – Hey Jude/Revolution

The Beatles – Lady Madonna

The Who – Magic Bus

The Rolling Stones – Jumping Jack Flash

Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

The Doors – Hello, I Love You

The Rascals – People Got To Be Free

Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

The Supremes – Love Child

The Chamber Brothers – Time Has Come Today

Janis Joplin – Piece of My Heart

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Suzie Q

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

The year featured the debut album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Brian Jones made his final album with the Rolling Stones and it was the start of their great 5 album stretch. The Who started to record the album that would break them worldwide with Tommy. Dock of the Bay would be released posthumously after Otis Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. The Grateful Dead would release their second album Anthem of the Sun and continue to build one of the largest fan bases ever. Jimi Hendrix was breaking barriers with his experimentation in the studio as well as live.

The Band would change the game by releasing Music From Big Pink. It influenced nearly everyone at the time to go back to a rootsy kind of music. Fleetwood Mac would release their debut album this year. Jeff Beck would release his legendary album Truth.

FM radio was getting huge at this time and showed that audiences didn’t have to have top 40 hits to buy albums. Take Van Morrison for instance. Astral Weeks didn’t have a “hit” on the album but continued to be played and sell. The Beatles  The White Album is as diverse as you can get… Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Reggae, Avant-Gard, Blues, Hard Rock, and some 20’s British Music Hall thrown in for good measure. No singles were released from this album or Sgt Pepper the previous year. They treated singles and albums as two different things. Hey Jude and the hit version of Revolution was recorded during the White Album but yet they left those two off. The Stones would do the same and leave off Jumpin’ Jack Flash from  Beggars Banquet.

1968 set the stage for the coming decade’s rock music. Bands like The Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin didn’t need hit singles. You bought the album now and listened to the music in the context of that format. There were still pop/rock singles but the albums were gaining traction.

To wrap it up…I think any of the years between 1965-1971 could have a strong argument for my tastes. If you are into disco or synth music…not as much.

My top 10 Favorite Stones Albums

This is an almost impossible task. It is of course subjective. How do you compare Between the Buttons to Some Girls… Steel Wheels to Goats Head Soup? There was such a difference in eras…and in the Stones case decades apart.

When making these lists the question always comes to mind…do I make the list of my favorite albums or what I think artistically their best albums are in history. I’ve just gone with my personal favorite.

Beggars Banquet

1: Beggars Banquet 1968 – This was the second Stones album I ever owned and with songs like Prodigal Son, Jigsaw Puzzle, and the filthy Stray Cat Blues it’s hard to resist. Their rock/blues peak started with this album into a stretch of 5 great albums in a row. The common dominator was producer Jimmy Miller in all 5. This album was the last one to feature Brian Jones.

Favorite song – Stray Cat Blues

Sticky Fingers

2: Sticky Fingers 1971 – Is this the best Stones album artistically?  I would have to say yes. There is not a weak track on this album. After reviewing it and comparing it to Exile on Main Street…I have to give it to Sticky Fingers as artistically the best Stones album…but it’s my second. They had a lot of competition that year with The Who Who’s Next and Led Zeppelin IV.

Favorite song – Dead Flowers

Let It Bleed larger

3: Let It Bleed 1969 – The first album with Mick Taylor. This was the second album into their gold stretch of 5 great albums. The Mick Taylor years are said by some to be their best albums. I do miss Brian Jones’s coloring of the musical pictures though. They were more flexible with Jones than anyone else but it’s hard to beat Mick Taylor’s fat guitar sound.

Favorite song – Monkey Man

Exile On Mainstreet

4: Exile On Mainstreet 1972 – This was my favorite Stones album at one time. It was mostly recorded in the  Nellcôte in France in a damp basement. It’s one of the greatest double albums ever. Not much I can say about this album that hasn’t already been said.

Favorite Song – tied… Happy and All Down The Line

Some Girls

5: Some Girls 1978 – What a filthy-sounding title track and I mean that in the best way. This album was great…personally, I think it’s their last great album…but the next one on the list is close.

Favorite Song – Before They Make Me Run

Tattoo You

6: Tattoo You 1981 – Over the hill… Geritol-drinking old geezers…those are some of the comments I heard about the Stones while they were 39 and 40! This album was a hodgepodge of outtakes and older songs put together for an album. For me…this was their last brush with greatness. Not that some of the later albums weren’t good…they were but not at this level of good.

Favorite Song – Worried About You

Between The Buttons

7: Between The Buttons (American Version) 1967 – This was the first Stones album I owned. I had to add a Brian Jones-era album. This period gets overlooked too much. They were adventurous during this period and tried new things…I wish that would have carried over more later on instead of the blues/rock on and on….but they did touch a little funk and reggae later on.

Favorite song – Ruby Tuesday

Goat's Head Soup

8: Goats Head Soup 1973 – The new deluxe mix has moved this one up. It was a drop-off from Sticky Fingers and Exile on Mainstreet but they were hard to compete with.

Favorite song – 100 Years Ago

black and blue

9: Black and Blue 1976- This was not known as a great album and it’s not. You would need a scorecard to see what guitar player they were auditioning on each track.  It contains my all-time favorite Rolling Stones song…Memory Motel. They do mix it up with different styles with this one.

Favorite song – Memory Motel

It's Only Rock and Roll.jpg

10: It’s Only Rock and Roll 1974 – This was a drop from the previous 5 albums and the last album featuring Mick Taylor. It does contain some good songs like the title track, Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, If You Can’t Rock Me, and others.

Favorite Song – If You Can’t Rock Me

Honorable Mention

Get Your Ya Yas Out

Get Your Ya Ya’s Out 1970 – I didn’t include any live albums but if I did this one would be in there. I also liked Still Life but this one to me is their best by far.

Favorite Song – Jumping Jack Flash

Their Satanic Majesties Request

Their Satanic Majesties Request 1967 – I know Stones fans who either hate this album or love it. I like it because they showed some more range in this one. They tried something different after Sgt Pepper was released and some of it works.

Favorite Song – She’s A Rainbow

The Rolling Stones Steel Wheels | Classic Rock Review

Steel Wheels 1989 – My favorite album after Tattoo You would be Steel Wheels by far. It contained the songs Mixed Emotions and Rock in a Hard Place. I missed this tour and the last one with Bill Wyman playing bass.

Favorite Song – Sad, Sad, Sad

Below is Happy from the 1972 tour…for my money, they never sounded better. One big reason was Mick Taylor and his Les Paul. Also, I like hearing Keith sing lead and backup…no it’s not perfect but it’s the Stones…no professional backup singers, please.

Rolling Stones – Stray Cat Blues

Mick sounds sinister and ominous in this track and the guitar is absolutely filthy. I feel the need for a shower after I listen to it.  It’s raunchy and sleazy…but a great album cut.

I once had a girlfriend and being around me she started to appreciate the Beatles. I thought that was cool because I never pushed them on her…then I played her some Stones. After around a week of listening to Beggars Banquet, she told me…Max, The Beatles seemed to progress so much as they went on…The Stones…they are low rent.

She was paying attention. She didn’t mean that in a bad way but yea…that is the essence of the Stones…showing the seedier side in their songs…and believe me…this song does. As humans…The Beatles could be as nasty but they didn’t usually reflect that in a lot of music…The Stones went out of their way to do so.

Stray Cat Blues is off of my favorite album by the Rolling Stones…Beggars Banquet. Would this song fly today? NO…oh pardon me… let me reword that…HELL NO… It’s hard to believe it flew back in 1968. I could be wrong but I doubt you would hear this on very many classic radio stations today.

Keith Richards is on top of his game in this one. Mick seemed to be testing or provoking audiences with this one.

This was the first album to start the stretch of 5 albums (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, and Goats Head Soup) that helped make the Stones what they are today. In 1967 after failing to live up to Sgt Pepper with Their Satanic Majesties Request (although I do like that album) they came back retooled with a new producer Jimmy Miller

The Stones got back doing what they do best…playing country rock blues…although with a different sound than Little Red Rooster. A weary Brian Jones was still in the band at this time and contributed to all but two songs…but it’s mostly Keith on guitar. Brian, because of the state he was in, was used more as a touch-up artist…filling in some holes with sitar, tambura, guitar,  blues harp, and mellotron. It would also be the last studio album Brian would work on.

I’ve always related Beggars Banquet to the White Album. They were both released in 1968 and both were raw and honest. No studio trickery with either…a big departure from the psychedelic era of 1967.

The album peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Charts, #3 in the UK, and #3 in Canada in 1969.

The lyrics were bad enough with I can see that you’re fifteen years old/
No I don’t want your I.D…. when playing it live on the 69 tour it became I can see that you’re thirteen years old/ No I don’t want your I.D. Mick seemed to be jabbing and provoking seeing how much he could get by with.

When you listen to it I would suggest the studio version. Many of the nuances are lost in this live version. I always try to pick a live version around the time they made the song but this one is not the best I heard.

Cat Scratch Blues

I hear the click-clack of your feet on the stairs
I know you’re no scare-eyed honey
There’ll be a feast if you just come upstairs
But it’s no hanging matter
It’s no capital crime

I can see that you’re fifteen years old
No I don’t want your I.D.
And I’ve seen that you’re so far from home
But it’s no hanging matter
It’s no capital crime

Oh yeah, you’re a strange stray cat
Oh yeah, don’tcha scratch like that
Oh yeah, you’re a strange stray cat
Bet your mama don’t know you scream like that
I bet your mother don’t know you can spit like that.

You look so weird and you’re so far from home
But you don’t really miss your mother
Don’t look so scared I’m no mad-brained bear
But it’s no hanging matter
It’s no capital crime
Oh, yeah
Woo!

I bet your mama don’t know that you scratch like that
I bet she don’t know you can bite like that

You say you got a friend, that she’s wilder than you
Why don’t you bring her upstairs
If she’s so wild then she can join in too
It’s no hanging matter
It’s no capital crime

Oh yeah, you’re a strange stray cat
Oh yeah, don’tcha scratch like that
Oh yeah, you’re a strange stray cat
I bet you mama don’t know you can bite like that
I’ll bet she never saw you scratch my back

Rolling Stones – Jigsaw Puzzle

This song is from my personal favorite Rolling Stones album, Beggars Banquet released in 1968. As great as Beggars Banquet is, it could have been considered  even better had they included the song they recorded during the early sessions….they released it as a single instead…the song was Jumping Jack Flash.

Jigsaw Puzzle is a great album cut on an album full of them.  The song seemed influenced by Bob Dylan. It has Nicky Hopkins on piano, Keith Richards on slide, and Brian Jones on Mellotron. This album was the first of 5 produced by Jimmy Miller.

Rolling Stone ranked it 69th in its countdown of the band’s top 100 songs, calling it “a country-rock blast of Highway 61 Revisited surrealism.”

Non guitar players may not see the significance in this but when Keith Richards found the 5-string open G tuning…some say from Ry Cooder… that changed the Stones future. Without that discovery I don’t think they have the songs or impact they ended up having.

Songs that were written around that tuning was Brown Sugar, Jumping Jack Flash, Start Me Up, Street Fighting Man, and the list goes on and on. If you are a Stones cover band…most songs after 1967 is in this open G tuning…you have no choice but to learn it.

Those songs would not have sounded the same without that tuning or maybe not written at all. Keith showed Mick that tuning and he wrote the music to Brown Sugar. For the guitar players out there….the tuning is G-D-G-B-D staring with the A string after you remove the low E.

Jigsaw Puzzle

There’s a tramp sittin’ on my doorstep
Tryin’ to waste his time
With his methylated sandwich
He’s a walking clothesline
And here comes the bishop’s daughter
On the other side
And she looks a trifle jealous
She’s been an outcast all her life

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do my jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh the gangster looks so fright’ning
With his Luger in his hand
But when he gets home to his children
He’s a family man
But when it comes to the nitty-gritty
He can shove in his knife
Yes he really looks quite religious
He’s been an outlaw all his life

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Yes, yes now
Oh, all right

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh the singer, he looks angry
At being thrown to the lions
And the bass player, he looks nervous
About the girls outside
And the drummer, he’s so shattered
Trying to keep up time
And the guitar players look damaged
They’ve been outcasts all their lives

Me, I’m waiting so patiently
Lying on the floor
I’m just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Oh, there’s twenty-thousand grandmas
Wave their hankies in the air
All burning up their pensions
And shouting, “It’s not fair!”
There’s a regiment of soldiers
Standing looking on
And the queen is bravely shouting,
“What the hell is going on?”

With a blood-curdling “tally-ho”
She charged into the ranks
And blessed all those grandmas who
With their dying breaths screamed, “Thanks!”

Me, I’m just waiting so patiently
With my woman on the floor
We’re just trying to do this jig-saw puzzle
Before it rains anymore

Rolling Stones – No Expectations…Sunday Album Cuts

This song will chill you out on this Sunday. No Expectations was on the 1968 album Beggars Banquet.  The song is a favorite of mine on the album. This one and Prodigal Son is a throwback to some of their older blues influences. The feeling and the emotion of this song is fantastic.

Brian Jones was on the album and made one of his last contributions with slide on this song. The following year Brian would die in a swimming pool at his home.

This is one of the great Stones album tracks.

Mick Jagger: “That’s Brian playing steel guitar. We were sitting around in a circle on the floor, singing and playing, recording with open mikes. That was the last time I remember Brian really being totally involved in something that was really worth doing. He was there with everyone else. It’s funny how you remember – but that was the last moment I remember him doing that, because he had just lost interest in everything.” 

From Songfacts

When Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones died in 1969, this song took on new meaning, as lyrics like “Our love is like our music, it’s here and then it’s gone” made it a fitting elegy. Jones’ slide guitar on the song was one of his last meaningful contributions to the group; after years of drug addiction and squabbles with the band, he was fired from the group in June 1969 and died less than a month later.

The Stones performed this on Rock and Roll Circus, a British TV special The Stones taped in 1968, but never aired. Brian Jones played this with a passion he was clearly losing as drugs took over his life. Rock and Roll Circus was released on video in 1995.

Nicky Hopkins, who also played with The Who and The Beatles, played piano on this.

Lenny Kravitz opened several shows for The Rolling Stones in 1994, and was invited onstage to jam with them at a Cleveland show. Kravitz helped out Mick Jagger in 2001, co-writing, performing on, and producing his song “God Gave Me Everything.” 

This song was featured in the 1978 ant-war film Coming Home, with Jane Fonda and John Voight

No Expectations

Take me to the station
And put me on a train
I’ve got no expectations
To pass through here again

Once I was a rich man and
Now I am so poor
But never in my sweet short life
Have I felt like this before

You heart is like a diamond
You throw your pearls at swine
And as I watch you leaving me
You pack my peace of mind

Our love was like the water
That splashes on a stone
Our love is like our music
It’s here, and then it’s gone

So take me to the airport
And put me on a plane
I’ve got no expectations
To pass through here again

Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet…Desert Island Albums

This is my fifth-round choice from Hanspostcard’s album draft…100 albums in 100 days.

https://slicethelife.com/2020/08/17/2020-album-draft-round-5-pick-3-badfinger20-selects-the-rolling-stones-beggars-banquet/

“Please allow me to introduce myself”

Beggars Banquet and Between the Buttons were the first two Rolling Stone albums I owned not counting Hot Rocks, the greatest hits collection. I played this album to death. As with most Stones albums you get what you get…rock, blues, and a little country thrown in the mix. I got this album when I was 12 and it opened my eyes wide to the Stones…much more than a collection of their hits would ever do.

This was the first album to start the stretch of 5 albums (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, and Goats Head Soup) that helped make the Stones what they are today. In 1967 after failing to live up to Sgt Pepper with Their Satanic Majesties Request (although I do like that album) they came back retooled with a new producer Jimmy Miller.

The Stones got back to doing what they do best…playing the blues…although with a different sound than Little Red Rooster. A weary Brian Jones was still in the band at this time and contributed to all but two songs…but it’s mostly Keith on guitar. Brian, because of the state he was in, was used more as a touch-up artist…filling in some holes with sitar, tambura, guitar,  blues harp, and mellotron.

This album is not considered up there with Sticky Fingers or Exile On Main Street but I have the strongest connection to it. I’ve always related Beggars Banquet to the White Album. They were both released in 1968 and both were raw and honest. No studio trickery to either…a big departure from the psychedelic era of 1967.

I don’t think Jimmy Miller gets enough credit for their sound. That is not a knock against the Stones but the Miller produced albums are special.

The Jumping Jack Flash single (also Miller produced) was released in May of 1968 to signal a change was coming and this album followed on December 6, 1968.

Beggars Banquet was delayed for months because of the album cover. The original cover (which is now used) had a dirty toilet covered with graffiti. The photo was taken by Barry Feinstein in a tiny bathroom at a Porsche repair shop above Hollywood Blvd. and Cahuenga Blvd.

Mick and Keith were given crayons to add more graffiti for the back credits. Their record companies for America and the UK would not approve the cover. The Stones finally relented and released a plain  “invitation” white cover…which is the cover I owned.

Now for the songs. Sympathy for the Devil and Street Fighting Man are the two most well-known songs off the album. Sympathy for the Devil is perhaps the Stones’ best-written song and with a samba beat that touches on voodoo. Street Fighting Man is maybe the most powerful song they ever wrote. “Well now what can a poor boy do
except to sing for a rock n’ roll band?”

Those two songs are classics but this album is a great collection of 10 songs. Prodigal Son has always been a favorite of mine. They really do the old blues well in this one. It’s a song written by Robert Wilkins, a reverend who recorded Delta Blues in the 1920s and 1930s.

No Expectations…Brian Jones’ slide guitar in this is great…it sets the mood for this song.  Mick has said it was Brian’s last great contribution to the Stones. One of the best album cuts from the Stones.

Stray Cat Blues…Mick sounds so ominous in this track. The guitar is absolutely filthy as well.  I feel the need for a shower after I listen to it. This song would not fly today. It’s raunchy and sleazy…but a great album cut. I hear the click-clack of your feet on the stairs
I know you’re no scare-eyed honey

My other favorite songs are Factory Girl, Salt of the Earth, and Jigsaw Puzzle.

The album peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Charts, #3 in the UK, and #3 in Canada in 1969.

Looks like I have brought the first Stones album to our respective islands. If you get an urge to dance around a fire singing “whoo, whoo… whoo, whoo“…come on over and I’ll drop the needle on the vinyl and shake some maracas.

1. Sympathy for the Devil

2. No Expectations

3. Dear Doctor

4. Parachute Woman

5. Jig-Saw Puzzle

6. Street Fighting Man

7. Prodigal Son

8. Stray Cat Blues

9. Factory Girl

10. Salt of the Earth

 

Rolling Stones – Street Fighting Man

The tone of this track is ominous. What a powerful statement The Stones were making in this song. With me growing up in the late 70s and 80s I didn’t grasp what the song was getting across when I first heard it. We didn’t have the turmoil that was going on during the sixties happening at that time.

Now the tone…something about the sixties that is missing today is the low fi experimenting. Keith Richards started developing this song in late 1966 but had a hard time getting the sound he was after. The breakthrough came when he bought a Philips cassette recorder and realized he could get a dry, crisp sound by playing his acoustic guitar into it and overloading it. The only electric instrument on the entire song is the bass. The guitar you hear is coming from an old Philips cassette recorder.

Philips Cassette Recorder

Charlie Watts used a 1930s toy drum kit called a London Jazz Kit Set…it was something close to this…

The song was released in 1968 and was on Beggars Banquet. The song peaked at #48 in the Billboard 100, #21 in the UK, and #32 in Canada.

From Songfacts

This song deals with civil unrest in Europe and America in 1968. There were student riots in London and Paris, and protests in America over the Vietnam War. The specific event that led Mick Jagger to write the lyric was a demonstration at Grosvenor Square in London on March 17, 1968. Jagger (along with Vanessa Redgrave), joined an estimated 25,000 protesters in condemning the Vietnam War.

The demonstrators marched to the American embassy, where the protest turned violent. Mounted police charged the crowd, which responded by throwing rocks and smoke bombs. About 200 people were taken to the hospital and another 246 arrested. Jagger didn’t make it to the embassy: before the protest turned violent, he abandoned it, returning to his home in nearby Cheyne Walk. Jagger realized that his celebrity was a hindrance to the protest, as his presence distracted from the cause.

This was the first Stones song to make a powerful political statement, although with an air of resignation. Jagger opens the song declaring “the time is right for fighting in the street,” but goes on to sing, “But what can a poor boy do, ‘cept sing in a rock and roll band.”

This sense of hopelessness in the face of atrocity may be why the Rolling Stones became apolitical, focusing their efforts on songs about relationships and rock n’ roll. In the process, they became very rich and beloved by members of all political persuasion.

In the US, this was released as a single on August 31, 1968, just a few days after the Democratic National Convention, which took place August 26-29. The convention was marred by violence, as Chicago police clashed with protesters. When the song was released, every radio station in Chicago (and most in the rest of the country), refused to play it for fear that it would incite more violence. There was no official ban in America or Chicago, but stations knew it was in their best interest to shun the song, which accounts for its meager chart position of #48.

Mick Jagger later said: “The radio stations that banned the song told me that ‘Street Fighting Man’ was subversive. ‘Of course it’s subversive,’ we said. It’s stupid to think you can start a revolution with a record. I wish you could!”

The original title of this song was “Did Everybody Pay Their Dues?” It had completely different lyrics and therefore altogether a different and rather strange meaning, with Jagger singing about an Indian chief and his family. The music however was basically the same (slightly alternative mixes exist), but the lead guitar over the chorus was omitted on the final mix of “Street Fighting Man.” Fairly listenable versions have appeared on various bootlegs.

Keith Richards created a distinctive guitar sound on this track using a technique he also used on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” where his acoustic guitar was overdubbed several times. Said Richards: “‘Street Fighting Man’ was all acoustics. There’s no electric guitar parts in it. Even the high-end lead part was through a cassette player with no limiter. Just distortion. Just two acoustics, played right into the mike, and hit very hard. There’s a sitar in the back, too. That would give the effect of the high notes on the guitar. And Charlie was playing his little 1930s drummer’s practice kit. It was all sort of built into a little attaché case, so some drummer who was going to his gig on the train could open it up – with two little things about the size of small tambourines without the bells on them, and the skin was stretched over that. And he set up this little cymbal, and this little hi-hat would unfold. Charlie sat right in front of the microphone with it. I mean, this drum sound is massive. When you’re recording, the size of things has got nothing to do with it. It’s how you record them. Everything there was totally acoustic. The only electric instrument on there is the bass guitar, which I overdubbed afterwards. What I was after with all of those – Street Fighting Man, Jumping Jack Flash – was to get the drive and dryness of an acoustic guitar but still distort it. They were all attempts at that.”

Dave Mason did session work on this track. He played the shelani, an Indian reed instrument, which comes in near the end of the song. Mason went on to form the group Traffic, and has played guitar on albums by Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Fleetwood Mac.

Mick Jagger said of this song: “It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions…. I wrote a lot of the melody and all the words, and Keith and I sat around and made this wonderful track, with Dave Mason playing the shelani on it live. It’s a kind of Indian reed instrument a bit like a primitive clarinet. It comes in at the end of the tune. It has a very wailing, strange sound.” 

This was recorded on an 8-track machine with one track devoted to the cassette recording Richards and Watts made together. Richards added more acoustic guitar on another track, Watts put some bass drum on another, and the rest were filled out by Jagger’s vocal and the other instruments: Jones on sitar and tamboura, Dave Mason’s shehnai, Nicky Hopkins on piano and Richards on bass because Bill Wyman wasn’t around. There is a great deal of stereo separation in the mix.

In the US, the single was originally released with a picture on the sleeve of police beating protesters in Los Angeles. The music was different on this version, with different vocals and more piano. This single was quickly pulled by the record company and is now a rare collectors item.

The studio recording, with acoustic guitars and sitar, is impossible to replicate live, but the group came up with an electric arrangement that packed plenty of punch when they performed it. The song remained a concert favorite throughout their run.

The Stones released this the same month The Beatles came out with “Revolution,” which was their first blatantly political song.

A number of sources claim that this song was inspired by the radicalism of a young student leader Tariq Ali, who was active in revolutionary socialist politics in Britain in the late ’60s. In an interview with the April 19, 2007 edition of the Galway Advertiser, Ali, who is now a writer and filmmaker, confirmed this. “Yes, its true. Jagger was/is an artist. He writes and sings what he wants.”

In the UK, this wasn’t released as a single until July 1971, but it still made a strong showing on the chart, reaching #21.

Rod Stewart covered this on his 1973 album Sing It Again Rod. Rage Against The Machine covered it on their 2000 album Renegades

Mick Jagger said in 1995: “I’m not sure if it really has any resonance for the present day. I don’t really like it that much. I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; De Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing. Yeah, it was a direct inspiration, because by contrast, London was very quiet.” 

Engineer Eddie Kramer recalled to Uncut in a 2016 interview: “The beginning of Street Fighting Man? My recollection is that Jimmy Miller brought in a Wollensak – a cassette machine with one mic built in – stuck it on the floor, pressed ‘Record’ and the band just make a circle round it. And that was the basic track. Now, of course, Keith says it was his idea and his tape machine, but I don’t remember it that way.”

Keith Richards lists this among his favorite Rolling Stones tracks, and feels the message rings true. “When people feel that mad about the way they’re being run, you should go to the streets,” he said. “America wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for people going to the streets.”

Street Fighting Man

Ev’rywhere I hear the sound
Of marching charging feet, boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right
For fighting in the street, boy

Well now, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock n’ roll band?
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man, no

Hey think the time is right
For a palace revolution
But where I live the game
To play is compromise solution

Well now, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock n’ roll band?
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man, no. Get down.

Hey so my name is called Disturbance
I’ll shout and scream
I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants

Well, what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock n’ roll band?
‘Cause in sleepy London town
There’s just no place for a street fighting man, no
Get down

Rolling Stones – Factory Girl

Love the Beggars Banquet album (1968) and this song in particular. Mick remembers the working class in this song. It was written by Mick and Keith.

It’s a mostly acoustic number, with Charlie Watts playing tabla and Ric Grech sitting in on fiddle. Grech was a violinist and bass player who was a member of the band Family in the ’60s and went on to play in Blind Faith with Eric Clapton. He also played on Gram Parsons’ solo albums in the ’70s, and he appears on Ron Wood and Ronnie Lane’s 1976 Mahoney’s Last Stand project.

Dave Mason, who did some session work for Jimi Hendrix and was a member of the band Traffic, played the mandolin on this song.

The song wasn’t released as a single but it’s a great song like most of what’s on Beggars Banquet.

Drummer Charlie Watts: “On Factory Girl, I was doing something you shouldn’t do, which is playing the tabla with sticks instead of trying to get that sound using your hand, which Indian tabla players do, though it’s an extremely difficult technique and painful if you’re not trained.”

From Songfacts

This song is a great example of Mick Jagger taking on a persona, which he often did in his lyrics. Here, he sings from the perspective of a guy who is waiting for his girlfriend – a destitute, disheveled sort – to get out of work at the factory. It’s quite a contrast to Jagger’s reality: a glamorous rock star who often dated models.

Guitarist Keith Richards: “To me ‘Factory Girl’ felt something like Molly Malone, an Irish jig; one of those ancient Celtic things that emerge from time to time, or an Appalachian song. In those days I would just come up and play something, sitting around the room. I still do that today.”

 

Factory Girl

Waiting for a girl who’s got curlers in her hair
Waiting for a girl she has no money anywhere
We get buses everywhere
Waiting for a factory girl

Waiting for a girl and her knees are much too fat
Waiting for a girl who wears scarves instead of hats
Her zipper’s broken down the back
Waiting for a factory girl

Waiting for a girl and she gets me into fights
Waiting for a girl, we get drunk on Friday night
She’s a sight for sore eyes
Waiting for a factory girl

Waiting for a girl and she’s got stains all down her dress
Waiting for a girl and my feet are getting wet
She ain’t come out yet
Waiting for a factory girl

 

Rolling Stones – Prodigal Son

When I bought Beggars Banquet I knew about Sympathy for the Devil and Street Fighting Man… this song drew me into the rest of the album. I love the acoustic blues played by Keith. It sounds old…really old. This sounds like what influenced the Stones in the first place. This album is one of the Stones’ great ones and the first one produced by Jimmy Miller. Prodigal Son has remained one of my favorite Stones tracks.

Beggars Banquet peaked at #5 in the Billboard Album Chart in 1969.

This song was written by Robert Wilkins, a reverend who recorded Delta Blues in the 1920s and 1930s. Keith Richards enjoyed Blues music and admired the work of Wilkins in the ’60s, which is how The Stones came across this song.

The Prodigal Son is a story told in the Bible (Luke 15: 11-32) about a father who has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance early and goes off to spend the money on hedonistic pursuits. After wasting all the money, he comes home repentant, and the father welcomes him with a feast in his honor. This doesn’t go over well with the older son, who feels that he should be rewarded for good behavior, but the father stresses the value of forgiveness.

From Songfacts

Robert Wilkins’ original version was titled “That’s No Way To Get Along.” The Stones gave their version the title “Prodigal Son.”

In 1928 Wilkins wrote another song called “Rollin’ Stone.”

This is the only cover song on Beggar’s Banquet. The Rolling Stones wanted to be a Blues band when they started out, but they became more Pop-oriented soon after they formed.

Prodigal Son

Well a poor boy took his father’s bread and started down the road
Started down the road
Took all he had and started down the road
Going out in this world, where God only knows
And that’ll be the way to get along

Well poor boy spent all he had, famine come in the land
Famine come in the land
Spent all he had and famine come in the land
Said, “I believe I’ll go and hire me to some man”
And that’ll be the way I’ll get along

Well, man said, “I’ll give you a job for to feed my swine
For to feed my swine
I’ll give you a job for to feed my swine”
Boy stood there and hung his head and cried
Cause that is no way to get along

Said, “I believe I’ll ride, believe I’ll go back home
Believe I’ll go back home
Believe I’ll ride, believe I’ll go back home
Or down the road as far as I can go”
And that’ll be the way to get along

Well, father said, “See my son coming home to me
Coming home to me”
Father ran and fell down on his knees
Said, “Sing and praise, Lord have mercy on me”
Mercy

Oh poor boy stood there, hung his head and cried
Hung his head and cried
Poor boy stood and hung his head and cried
Said, “Father will you look on me as a child?”
Yeah

Well father said, “Eldest son, kill the fatted calf,
Call the family round
Kill that calf and call the family round
My son was lost but now he is found
Cause that’s the way for us to get along”
Hey

Rolling Stones – Salt Of The Earth

Hope everyone had a great long weekend.

Let’s drink to the hard-working people
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

This song is on the great album Beggars Banquet. I had this album and it remains one of my favorite albums by the Stones. There is not a bad song on the LP. This one and Prodigal Son I always liked. Beggars Banquet peaked at #5 on the Billboard album charts in 1969.

Keith and Mick Jagger both sing on this with the  Los Angeles Watts Street Gospel Choir singing background…Nicky Hopkins is on piano.

The title refers to the working class…they are “The salt of the Earth.” Jagger later said: “The song is total cynicism. I’m saying those people haven’t any power and they never will have.” 

From Songfacts

This was one of Keith Richards’ first lead vocal performances for The Stones (his first was on “Something Happened To Me Yesterday” from Between The Buttons). 

The Stones played this on Rock and Roll Circus, a British TV special The Stones taped in 1968 but never aired because they were upstaged by other acts on the show. A series of musical acts and circus performances, it was released on video in 1995.

The Stones performed this in Atlantic City in 1989 with Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin of Guns N’ Roses on vocals.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards performed this at the 2001 “Concert For New York,” which honored the rescue workers, cops, and firefighters in New York City after the World Trade Center disaster.

Salt Of The Earth

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don’t look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the uncounted heads
Let’s think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look in the faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and
Black and white
They don’t look real to me
Or don’t they look so strange

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Let’s drink to the hard working people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth
Let’s drink to the two thousand million
Let’s think of the humble of birth