Saturday, 2 June 2018
The Rolling Stones - Between The Buttons (1967)
Released January 1967
Recorded at Olympic Studios, London
This was The Stones last "60s pop/rock" album, before the psychedelic experiment of "Satanic Majesties" and then the blues rock of "Beggars' Banquet". In that respect it marks the end of an era, although on the other hand it marks the start of proper, fully constructed albums, with a vastly-improved sound quality from the tinniness and monaural airs of the earlier albums. It is an often-forgotten album though, the band rarely, if ever, resurrect any of its tracks to play live (apart from "Connection") and the tracks just sort of come and go when one listens to it. They all seem a bit throwaway, often dominated by an unaccompanied bit of Charlie Watts drumming, such as on the two lively openers, "Yesterday's Papers" and "My Obsession".
The Stones seem almost polite and shy-ish on much of the album's material - certainly no "Get Off My Cloud" defiance, "Stupid Girl" misogyny or "Let's Spend The Night Together" lust. Jagger's beautiful vocal over Brian Jones piano-accordion is typical of this. Like "Lady Jane", it is almost Elizabethan in its instrumentation and ambience.
"Connection" is one of the rockiest numbers. One of the only ones with any sort of faint grit, or bluesiness. However, it ends far too quickly. It is soon back to the mild-mannered stuff though, with the non-lead guitar, organ-backed slowie "She Smiled Sweetly". Jagger's saccharine vocal is not one of his best. Nice bass from Bill Wyman though. "Cool, Calm And Collected" is one of those quintessentially British, music-hall style rollicking singalongs best left to Paul McCartney and The Kinks (by whom this is so influenced). It certainly doesn't suit The Stones. Ray Davies could get away with that silly "posh" voice, such as on "Dedicated Follower Of Fashion", but sung by Mick Jagger it just sounds ludicrous. One of the album's low points. It goes on too long, too.
"All Sold Out" is more like it, more typical of mid-60s Stones material. At last, a bit of Richards guitar, and some pounding Watts drums. About time too. Some more bluesy guitar on "Please Go Home", another impressive track with a "Not Fade Away"/"Mona" Bo Diddley rhythm. Apparently a "theramin" instrument was used on this to make weird noises. The Beach Boys had memorably used one on "Good Vibrations" not long before. The Stones did not really need to use gimmicky instruments like this, just use Keith's guitar, for God's sake. "Who's Been Sleeping Here" is also a good track, good vocal, nice bass and drums on a mid-pace rocker with even a bit of harmonica returning. Shades of Dylan's electric guitar/organ sound on here as well, together with oblique, mystifying lyrics. It wouldn't sounded out of place on "Highway 61 Revisited".
That old Charlie Watts drum sound is back for the more typically-Stones sounding "Complicated". It's ok, but basically sounds like a reject from "Aftermath". "Miss Amanda Jones" expresses Jagger's fascination with "society" girls, as voiced before on "Lady Jane" and "Play With Fire". Some Chuck Berry guitar prevails, thankfully, for the first time on the album. Keith Richards was criminally underused throughout. The album's best rocker.
"Something Happened To Me Today" was a Kinks meets The Beatles in a music hall unfortunate prelude to The Stones' derivative era - whistling, a tuba, some New Orleans jazz brass and those "posh" affected voices that would blight parts of "Satanic Majesties". The Stones should never be doing stuff like this.
On "Satanic Majesties", The Stones aped The Beatles, on this album they aped The Kinks. They were The Rolling Stones. They didn't need to ape anyone.