Rolling Stones - Some Girls (1977)

With the advent of punk rock, The Rolling Stones, among many of their musical contemporaries, were being targeted by some in the movement as cultural dinosaurs, compromising their standing. Mick Jagger felt invigorated by the provocations and was determined to answer them lyrically. It helped, however, that almost all the punks had, openly or not, idolized the Stones in the 1960s and were heavily influenced by the band's rebellious records from that era.

At least as important for the band's reinvigoration was the addition of Ron Wood to the lineup, as Some Girls was the first album recorded with him as a full member. His guitar playing meshed seamlessly with that of Keith Richards, and what he lacked in virtuosity compared to his predecessor Mick Taylor he made up for in energy and dynamics; his pedal steel playing would become one of the band's hallmarks, and his unconventional uses of the instrument are prominent on Some Girls. In addition, Jagger, who had learned to play guitar over the previous decade, contributed a third guitar part to many songs. This gave songs like "Respectable" a three-guitar lineup that was as hard-driving as many punk bands.

Mick Jagger is generally regarded as the principal creative force behind Some Girls, a conception that, though disputable (Richards was present at all of the sessions), is plausible considering Richards' various legal entanglements at the time (see below). Jagger claimed in a 1995 interview to have written a great number of the album's songs (though when the amount was pointed out to him he denied that the record was mostly his own), including its signature song, "Miss You." In addition to punk, Jagger claims to have been influenced by dance music, most notably disco, during the recording of Some Girls, and cites New York City as a major inspiration for the album, an explanation for his lyrical preoccupation with the city throughout.

“ The inspiration for the record was really based in New York and the ways of the town. I think that gave it an extra spur and hardness. And then, of course, there was the punk thing that had started in 1976. Punk and disco were going on at the same time, so it was quite an interesting period. New York and London, too. Paris—there was punk there. Lots of dance music. Paris and New York had all this Latin dance music, which was really quite wonderful. Much more interesting than the stuff that came afterward.”

Less often noted by critics is the fact that if Jagger was indeed the main force behind Some Girls, then he was by extension responsible for the two most well-regarded of The Rolling Stones' post-Exile albums, this and 1981's Tattoo You.

For the first time since 1968's Beggars Banquet, the core band — now Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ron Wood and Bill Wyman — would be the only musicians on a Rolling Stones album, with few extra contributors. Ian McLagan, formerly of The Faces played keyboards, harmonica virtuoso Sugar Blue contributed to several songs, in addition to saxophonist Mel Collins and Simon Kirke, who played percussion (the three jokingly credited as "1 Moroccan, 1 Jew, 1 WASP"). Jagger's guitar contributions caused the band's road manager, Ian Stewart, to be absent from many of the sessions as he felt piano would be superfluous, making this a rare Rolling Stones album on which he did not appear.

A serious concern was the issue of Keith Richards and his highly-publicized heroin possession bust in Toronto in early 1977. While he cleaned up for good that summer after realizing the gravity of his situation - which also sparked his desire to get back into the music - there was still the very real possibility that he might be sent to jail for years. However, in October of 1978, he received a light sentence: to perform a show for charity. As a commemoration of his second lease on life following the end of his heroin addiction, Keith reverted his surname back to "Richards" with an "s" for Some Girls, after fifteen years without it.

The sessions for Some Girls began in October 1977, breaking before Christmas and starting up again after New Year's before finishing in March 1978. Under their new British recording contract with EMI (remaining with Warner Music in North America only), they were able to record at EMI's Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris, a venue at which they would record frequently for the next several years. The Rolling Stones ended up recording about fifty new songs, several of which would turn up in altered forms on Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You. Engineer for the sessions was Chris Kimsey, whose approach to recording breathed life into the somewhat dense sounding recordings like Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock'n Roll albums. Kimsey's direct method of recording, together with the entrance of the then state-of-the-art Mesa/Boogie Mark I amps instead of the Ampeg SVT line of amps, yielded a bright, direct and aggressive guitar sound.
One of the recalled original cover designs for Some Girls
One of the recalled original cover designs for Some Girls

The album cover for Some Girls was designed by Peter Corriston, who would design the next three album covers as well. An elaborate die-cut design, with colors varying on different sleeves, it featured The Rolling Stones and select female celebrities in garish drag, as well as a bunch of lingerie ads. The cover immediately ran into trouble when Lucille Ball, Raquel Welch, and the estates of Judy Garland and Marylin Monroe threatened legal action. It was withdrawn and the offending pictures removed.

Another controversy surrounded the lyrics to the title song, an extended musing on women of various nationalities and races. The line "Black girls just wanna get fucked all night" drew strong protests from various groups, including Jesse Jackson's PUSH. Jagger famously replied, "I've always said, you can't take a joke, it's too fucking bad," although he was reportedly more conciliatory to Jackson in private, as he claimed the song was intended as a parody of racist attitudes. Saturday Night Live cast member Garrett Morris would have the final say on the controversy with a mock-editorial on the show's Weekend Update segment: After giving the impression that he was going to openly criticize the Stones, he quoted a sanitized version of the "Black girls just..." line, then stated "I have one thing to say to you, Mr. Mick Jagger... where are these women?!?"

In May 1978, the first single from the album, "Miss You", a prowling, moody number built on a stripped-down disco beat and bluesy pop harmonies, was released to very strong response, garnering The Rolling Stones their last US #1 hit and reaching #3 in the UK. Some Girls appeared in June to a very welcoming audience, reaching #1 in the US and #2 in the UK, becoming their biggest-selling studio album in the process (currently certified six times platinum in the US alone). It was also a major critical success, with many reviewers calling it a classic return to form, and their best album since 1972's Exile on Main St. (praise that would become cliché by the mid 80s). "Beast Of Burden", "Respectable" (in the UK) and "Shattered" (in the US) would follow as the next singles, all becoming minor hits as well.

The Stones embarked on their summer US Tour 1978 in support of the album, which for the first time saw them mount several small venue shows, sometimes under a pseudonym.

In 1994, Some Girls was remastered and reissued by Virgin Records, with a restoration of the original cover art and the first pressing being packaged in a replica of the original vinyl packaging. In 2003, the album was ranked number 269 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.



Thom Kennedy said...

Really interesting article! I had no idea about this chapter of the Stones history, thanks..

watashi wa james said...

Is this 128kbs?