Sep 062007
 


Let’s put an end to the nonsense over whether the last half-decent “Mick Taylor-era” Stones album, Goats Head Soup, or the first solid “return to form” Stones album, Some Girls, is better. The former couldn’t be more boiled down from the picked over bones of the Exile on Main Street era; the latter, upon its release, was of the here and now. Sure there was a good deal of 2-chord filler, but it reeked of late nights at Studio 54 and Truman Capote’s locomotive breath. The band sounded refreshed and committed to its mostly humble tunes. To boot, the album included the band’s best-crafted, Brazillian model pick-up single of the ’70s, one that actually managed to sound worth jumping into the sack over. We’ll get into the particulars of Some Girls in a bit. Let’s start with an initial shot at Goats Head Soup.

Jagger’s best solo album.

I’m not going to waste time. What’s Goats Head Soup‘s catchiest song, the horribly named “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”, but the 6th or 7th dip into the well that initially flowed from Let It Bleed‘s “Monkey Man” and “Live With Me”. Hell, it’s even got the brief Carlos Santana guitar interlude first used in “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”! This song, possibly the best of the best-known songs from Goats Head Soup, is representative of the album’s self-satisfied, burned-out, proto-Classic Rock approach. This song was made for parking your Camaro near Pennypack Park to meet up with some buds for a kegger in the woods. This song is the rock equivalent of going home with the “other” girl you met in the bar, not the one you wanted to get to know better. Cheap! Wake up with her in the morning and all you’re left with is “Can You Hear the Music”.


Supporters of Goats Head Soup will point to some of the album’s deep tracks, such as the tender “Winter”. Spare me Jagger’s lament of a “cold, cold winter”; spare me his wish to be “out in California”! Like the album’s big hit, “Angie”, this is yet another come-on to some 19-year-old Brazilian model disguised as a song, despite the nice little string-and-guitar interlude. This isn’t like Jesse Winchester’s song called “Snow”, if I’ve got the title right, or many other fine songs about being out in the cold, emotionally as well as physically. Speaking of “Angie”, this entire album is marked down 10 points just for Jagger’s repeated use of the hitch in the way he sings the woman’s name. There’s good reason Spongebob and Patrick were warned not to play with the hooks!

What Mickey said.

Let’s look a little more closely at this pick-up song issue… Christ, didn’t simply being a Rolling Stone get those guys enough tail? They had to construct entire albums around this objective? It’s way too clear, if you listen closely to the lyrics on Goats Head Soup, that Jagger needed to get laid constantly! Needed to get laid, I said, not wanted. I begrudge no person for wanting to get laid constantly, and god bless anyone who can achieve this. However, when I want to listen to a rock ‘n roll album, I want to listen to musicians working to come together over the groove itself. On Goats Head Soup the band recorded with one eye on the ladies. “Women weaken legs!” said Rocky’s trainer, Mickey, right?

More than enough jam.

On Some Girls, Mick, Keef, and the boys allow themselves to spend some quality Man Time together. Sure, the tail was all around them, but they sound content hammering away on their 2-chord vamps. What’s “When the Whip Comes Down” but a boys’ night out throwaway, but it’s got the spirit hoped for when the boys get together for that cherished night to relive past imagined glories. They’re getting off on each other, leaving me with no pseudo-poetic mating moves to bog down my listening experience. Tell me about your conquests tomorrow, lads. Let’s rock!

Some Girls contains 3 killer songs by the best Stones standards–“Miss You”, “Some Girls”, and “Beast of Burden”. Then there’s one of Jagger’s finest tongue-in-cheek “Americana porch” routines, “Far Away Eyes”, and Keef’s best spotlight number since “Happy”, “Before They Make Me Run”. Come to think of it, does Keef even have much of a presence on Goats Head Soup? Call it Jagger’s finest solo album, if you’d like, but I don’t get a strong Keef vibe from the album, which in turn means I don’t get enough of a Stones vibe from the album. Is this an album on which he was too out of it to contribute much? Is this The Stones’ In Through the Out Door? Keef was back in business for Some Girls, there’s that healthy battle between the Glimmer Twins evident in the grooves.

I should note, I would have provided sound clips of these great Stones songs from Some Girls, but I bet you know them already, and you know deep down – when you put aside your long-held feelings of not fitting in with the cool kids in high school – just how good these cuts are. Most of you probably haven’t listened to Goats Head Soup since the last time you tried to imagine what it would have been like to have been headed for that kegger in the woods. It’s for these reasons I’ve only provided clips from Goats Head Soup, to refresh your memory.

Finally, let’s look at the cover art. The cover art for Some Girls is outstanding. If you don’t agree with that, you mustn’t have eyes. It’s even a die-cut cover, which makes it cooler. Any time I look at the cover of Goats Head Soup, on the other hand, I can only ask myself, What is the meaning of Mick Jagger’s face in a stretched-out, lambskin condom?

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  41 Responses to “Showdown: Goats Head Soup vs Some Girls”

  1. First off, thanks for taking this issue to the main stage. I hope a productive discussion will ensue.

    But it seems to me that your initial argument boils down to this: that you like the decadence of Some Girls better than Goats Head Soup. I say this because all the criticisms you level at Goats Head Soup could be levelled at Some Girls. Both albums have novelty songs on them (Angie and Miss You), retreads (Heartbreaker and Faraway Eyes), , attempts to play the bad boy (Star Star and Respectable), and sex obsession (Winter and Some Girls).

    So the deciding criteria comes down to a couple of things. I’ll take Mick Taylor any day over Ron Wood. I’ll also take the Exile 2 production over all those flanged guitars (a particularly bad example of the Stones trying to keep up as a 70s “studio” band)..

    Granted, Richards doesn’t play as much a role on Goats Head Soup, but his one song, Coming Down Again, is absolutely killer–I highly recommend listening to this song. I will, however, grant you that the cover art for Some Girls is way better.

  2. Mr. Moderator

    This should be a good one, Dr. John. Thanks for pushing this important issue onto the Main Stage. Before frank and healthy discussion continue, however, I would like to clarify one thing among the fine points you have raised: I don’t consider either “Angie” or “Miss You” to be novelty songs. I consider the former to be Jagger’s attempt at claiming some of the turf that Rod Stewart, then in his massive prime, had been grabbing from the Stones (now THERE’S another topic we could get into – how much better Rod Stewart was – briefly – at being the Stones). Although “Miss You” gets taken to task for being a “response” to disco, I don’t think it’s that different than stuff the band was heading toward on some of the funkier numbers from Black and Blue. I think it’s a well-done song, if not a stone classic.

    I know what you mean about “Faraway Eyes” falling under the retread category, and the “bad boy” thing make sense as well. It’s not the “decadence” of Some Girls that I like better than the decadence of Goats Head Soup, rather the insularity and comraderie of Some Girls. It sounds like they all showed up for the sessions. It even sounds like Charlie played drums on all the songs for a change.

  3. meanstom

    Although I’m not typically a fan of phase shifters, the sound works on Some Girls. I think they used it to cover for the inadequacies of that Richards-Wood guitar tandem, in which neither guitarist was a true lead player and during which Richards began doing more squatting and gesturing than actually playing the damn guitar.

    Love Jagger’s purple jeff cap in that vid.

    Some Girls has the tunes, but Mod underestimates Taylor’s guitar work on GHS.

  4. I’ve taken a stance on this issue before and I’ll take it again.

    Clearly, Some Girls is a much better album than Goat’s Head Soup. GHS is cool late night, low blue light Stones, maybe the only album in that category for them, and underrated by many. Some Girls is the Stones final great album and a significant cut above GHS. I’ll make a case for SG as going head to head with a better record, Exile, as the Stones best party album (not counting hits collections), and purely as a party album, SG may get the nod.

    What I find fascinating about these discussions: somebody says GHS is underrated, then proceeds to overrate it, as Dr. John has done. Then, in response to the overrating, somebody responds by underrating it, as Mr. Mod has done here.

    A better way to make your claim that an album is underrated is to be a little more cautious in upgrading it, eh?

    Is GHS the best of the not-quite-great Stones records? And please no comparison to Sticky Fingers, which remains on the list of great Stones records until someone proves otherwise.

    I think “Miss You” is a stone classic.

  5. BigSteve

    I listened to my vinyl transfer not too long ago, and I found GHS quite enjoyable. I also have fond memories of It’s Only Rock & Roll, the other album at the tail end of the Mick Taylor era. In fact I get them mixed up — I was thinking that Ain’t Too Proud To Beg and Short & Curlies were on GHS. Both albums came out when I was in college, which probably explains the fondness.

    Neither of them are as good as Exile, I guess, but there can only be one greatest rock album ever made. As I’ve said before, I don’t really like these ranking exercises. 1972 and 1978 — those were different times. GHS is the best Stones album that could have been made in 1972. Dig the clavinet! I like Some Girls a lot, but so much had changed in those six years.

    To be honest, I’m having a hard time focusing, because I followed the link to Pennypack Park. That kid’s myspace page is quite disturbing. I guess I’ve led a sheltered life.

  6. I’m with Mr. Mod’s assessment on all this. To wit:

    –GHS LP cover will forever and always creep me out. I can’t stand looking at it.

    –I hate the song “Angie”…

    –Taylor’s fine guitar work does not an album make.

    –I never bought another Stones record after Some Girls (in fact I do believe that one of the few vinyl LPs I still have is this Stones LP and it is the original cover before it got pulled for the unauthorized photos…)

  7. mwall, I don’t see how I’m overrating the album. Let me reiterate a couple of points. I think “Winter” is a really cool song that I can’t live without. I think “Heartbreaker” (no I won’t use the stupid original title) and “Dancing with Mr. D” are energetic, rhythmic workouts. These songs show that the Stones were still at the top of their form, although their perch was shaky.

    Now I think “Beast of Burden” is also a fine song. But it far overshadows the rest of the album, which seems rather complacent and overall, shows the Stones following the scene rather than being at the forefront of it.

  8. Mr. Moderator

    Mwall and BigSteve, may I respectfully steer you away from concerns regarding over- or underrating and “ranking” these albums. I think both Dr. John and I were interested in exploring deeper issues, maybe even philosophical and moral ones. Honestly, I’m shocked that we haven’t heard from the likes of 2000 Man, saturnismine, Geo, Hrrundi, Citizen Mom, Oats, et al. I’m sure in due time these Townsfolk and others will chime in. I know for a fact that Sammy is on a similar page as Dr. John. Surely we can allow ourselves to get our hands dirty over this issue. Surely Townsman Mockcarr will make nonsense out of this.

  9. alexmagic

    I’m not sure I want to back Goats Head Soup in the fight, but I’ll offer a few words on its behalf. Foremost, I think “100 Years Ago” deserves a mention – the stop and start of it, Billy Preston’s clavinet, and I actually like the uncharacteristic opening lines.

    I will make the unpopular choice of the GHS cover over Some Girls.

    Any time I look at the cover of Goats Head Soup, on the other hand, I can only ask myself, What is the meaning of Mick Jagger’s face in a stretched-out, lambskin condom?

    I say it means that Mick was trying on some characters in the songs, characters who literally and figuratively

    needed to get laid constantly! Needed to get laid

    And songs about people in his orbit who – unlike self-aware thespian Mick Jagger – had not yet realized that, like some other things,

    “Women weaken legs!”

    I would also like to call for a restoration of the ten points deducted for “Angie” because the way he says the name throughout specifically reminds me of Barney’s nickname for Andy on the Andy Griffith Show. Subtext.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    I’ll restore 5 points for your Andy Griffith Show association, all right?

  11. 2000 Man

    What a cool day to finally have a few minutes free!

    Prior to A Bigger Bang coming out and almost poisoning the entire Stones well with it’s awfulness, Goat’s Head Soup was my least favorite Stones album. The first reason is because it sounds awful. Jimmy Miller was a used up husk, and Mick and Keith thought that the Exile mix of gritty songs run through a tape recorder with dirt on the heads would work even better with slow songs recorded with a tape recorder with mud on the heads. The vinyl versions all sound terrible, and the original cd pressing was even worse. When the catalog went to Virgin, I’ve got to really give credit to the cleanup crew, because that cd sounds almost pretty darned good. You can hear things you could never hear before on every song.

    But that’s not enough to save the album. Granted, the 1973 music charts were full of singer/songwriter types and strings and horns replacing gritty guitars, so Angie was born, and hitting number one proves that The Stones still knew what they were doing on the singles charts. Up against the Jim Croce’s and Sylvia’s of the world, Angie was pretty good. The album is too mellow, though. It’s a Rolling Stones album, and it’s just so incredibly sleepy. These are the guys that played R&B and Rock n’ Roll that practically demanded people get their asses out of their seats and shake it, and there’s none of that on GHS. I’ve always felt that Criss Cross should definitely have knocked off any of the songs besides Heartbreaker or Dancing With Mr. D or Starfucker, just to get a little life in the album. All that slow music buried under layers of sonic sludge and hiss just puts me to sleep. For the Mick Taylor fans in the world, considering he had greater input on GHS and It’s Only Rock N’ Roll I think you’d have to admit that had he stayed in the band, they would have been finished right about then and there.

    Which would have been a shame because Some Girls turned out to be a pretty great album. Yeah, it’s simple. Cutting fully one third of the chords of Keith’s mantra, “Five strings, three chords and one asshole,” but it’s fun and people can dance to it. While the flange effect on the guitars may make it sound somewhat dated (ever listen to Dirty Work?), it’s dated from a time where rock n’ roll sounded pretty good. Where Angie hit number one in 73, Miss You did the same in 78, but I still hear people getting the simple, stupid “whoo whoo” chorus from Miss You stuck in their heads and whistling or singing it all the time. People do that when they hear Angie, but they don’t have that one stuck in their head. Some Girls just has a great vibe, and all the songs are just so good (maybe because they had so many to choose from out of those sessions). I’ll go with Some Girls any day. For maxi fun, the 12″ single of Miss You on hot pink vinyl is a great version, with Bill’s bass super chunky in the mix.

  12. Mr. Moderator

    2000 Man, your response means a lot to me and others, many of whom have been nodding their head in quiet agreement with our points of view. Thank you for restoring my faith – along with Dr. John, I might add – in the powers of RTH to boldly investigate the soul of rock ‘n roll. This post of yours is likely the Turning Point. Come on, Hrrundi, what’s your ZZ Top-centric perspective on these albums?

  13. saturnismine

    over the course of the entire trajectory of the stones, both of these albums are at the bottom of the second tier, before you get to all the real shite.

    the activity of picking them apart to determine which one is better approaches celine-like folly.

    so in my book, you guys are kings among men.

    i’m as impressed by 2k’s taxonomic burial of Goat’s Head as i am by dr. john’s impassioned defense of it.

    nice work fellas!

    2k, I agree with what you say about the sound of Goat’s Head, except for the track “Heartbreaker”, which sounds much more live, much less canned, than the rest of the album.

    I’ve gotta go with Some Girls. I wish it didn’t sound the way it does (bravo to those who have made an effort to justify the heavy use of phase shifters on that album, but MAN do i ever HATE them…good LORD turn them the fuck off!!!). Charlie’s drums are too high in the mix..too bright, and Wyman’s bass is too mid-rangey.

    The only song where the sound works FOR the song (for my ears, anyway) is “Shattered”. What a fucking masterpiece of mid-70s coked out, disoriented, Son-of-Sam era fuckdom that song is! Goat’s Head has nothing that works quite so successfully.

  14. 2000 Man

    saturn, no way is Some Girls “second tier.” It just ain’t. Shattered is apparently the hardest two chord song on the planet to play (which shouldn’t be saying much), as the Stones themselves occasionally struggle with it live, but every cover band I’ve ever seen has utterly butchered those two chords. I also know it’s not second tier because it’s the first Stones album I could get behind in my yoot. All my friends loved them, but then again they loved The Doobie Bros. and thought Devo sucked, so what the hell did they know? But Some Girls sucked me in. I couldn’t defend my usual rock snobbery with all that rock n’ roll fun blasting all around me.

  15. hrrundivbakshi

    Apologizing ahead of the game for my brevity, I offer only the following, for now:

    There is nothing — NOTHING — in the whole Stones canon as Great as the opening for “Some Girls.” That ringing, clanging, phased-out-the-wazoo opening trio of chords, followed by that big “ba-WHOOOOM!” on the bass, and then everything tumbles right in place behind the sleazy harmonica. Brilliant. I’d also opine that “Some Girls” was Ron Wood’s greatest moment as a Stone — by that, I mean the album, not just the song. He’s awesome throughout it.

    GHS is unfocused — that’s its main problem, I think. Like, I wish I could just set down across from Mick and ask of that album, “what was your POINT?” That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just unmemorable, I think. A few very high points on the record, for sure, but it ain’t no “Some Girls.” And — as much as I worship at the altar of Mick Taylor — his playing is hackneyed and chock full of rock cliches on that record. Which, again, *cannot* be said of Ronnie’s “Some Girls” contributions.

  16. saturnismine

    relax, 2k. my first tier is VERY exclusive:

    Beggars, Sticky.

    That’s it. I don’t think Some Girls is anywhere NEAR these albums. there’s a bunch in betwen. i know you think Exile is the end all, and i love Exile, it’s a monumental achievement and all, but it just doesn’t work for me the way these albums do. sorry if my view offends.

    btw, there are way more than two chords in shatered. the break has a whole bunch.

    but there’s no need to quibble. you’re right, that riff IS elusive. and it NEEDS phase shifting. if you play the right notes (which are only on the two thickest strings of the guitar) without the phase shifter, you sound like you learned to play guitar two days ago.

  17. There is nothing — NOTHING — in the whole Stones canon as Great as the opening for “Some Girls.”

    Really? I somehow think you’re full of hyperbole there. What about the backing vocals in “Gimme Shelter” or its opening riff? I don’t think you can beat that personally.

    I’ll have to listen to these albums again as I haven’t listened to either in a while (in particular I haven’t listened to Goats’ Head Soup since I was a teenager. Generally speaking, though, I think Some Girls is a much, much better album and I agree with all or most of the comments that Mr. Mod, 2000man, saturn and hrundi have posted in regard to this matter, especially with the assertion that it’s too mellow of an album as well as the issue of its poor sound (at least on the vinyl version).

    I don’t really have a first tier aside from maybe Beggars Banquet. Generally speaking, I think that just about every Stones album, even those from their classic periods, have filler on them. Thus I’ll take any Stones singles or hits collection that goes up to ’73 or so over just about any of their studio albums and for that matter, I’ll take the New York Dolls’ 1st album over any Stones album. I know that’ll thrill plurby, but I’ve gotta be honest here.

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    berlyant accuses:

    Really? I somehow think you’re full of hyperbole there.

    I defend myself:

    Not really. I have a bunch of Stones “openings” tied for first place.

  19. I’ve got a vinyl copy of Goats Head Soup and it sounds fine. Perhaps the production is a bit off, but I like the sort of dub feel (they did record it in Jamaica).

    I’ve heard all the criticisms being forwarded and most of them are valid, but I think GHS is the last semi-successful attempt to push the Stones sound in a new direction; compared to Sticky Fingers (the Stones template), it sounds subversive–especially because after Exile, you’d expect them to retreat a bit, but I really don’t think they did. No some of the messed up feeling I like about GHS is more or less accidental, not planned, most probably due to Richards’s drug intake.

    Whereas, forgive me, but much of the praises for Some Girls reminds me of how safe the record is. The big opening of the title track is strictly by the numbers. The songs play tight, but they’ve done that before, and better (as on Sticky Fingers). The phase-shifted guitar makes for a smoother, fuller, but less dynamic, less threatening sound. And if they had experienced such a creative rebirth, as is so often argued, why’d they have to put “Just My Imagination” on it?

    Everyone loves an underdog, and that’s what GHS is in the Stones catalog. Whereas Some Girls struts and preens like the 10-point favorites.

  20. sammymaudlin

    You guys are sad. 2K, of all people, I looked forward to you putting Mr. Moderator is his well deserved place for this, what I thought was a gag, post.

    GHS wallows like very few albums. It is the lowest lowlife album they released. Dirty, grimy and bleary eyed. End of the night. Drugs are gone and even if they weren’t, I’m a gummer away from an OD.

    It was like they recorded it three hours after partying with The Stooges all night.

    And with the exception of Silver Train and Winter the songs stand up mighty tall compared to Sticky and Beggars and for my money top most of the wearing-the-blues-on-my sleeve posing of Exile.

    GHS is indeed the punctuation on this period of The Stones but they played to it and documented it brilliantly. They couldn’t continue on this path anymore. But instead of the rehashing and weak-efforting that you guys hear, it is rather the sound of the band reaching the end of an era. They laid it down on wax. They didn’t cop out. They scrapped the bottom and stayed down long enough to record GHS.

    The album has several references to “the end” and death, right? Their literal flirtation with death and/or the figurative death of their generation’s promise and influence and/or the band’s era (as if they might actually have been that self aware.)

    Dancing w/Mr. D (death), Winter (the final season), Coming Down Again… Now it seems about a hundred years ago.

    (And top tier- you’re not going to include Let It Bleed? Shame on you.)

    And enough of the Some Girls myth. It is “common knowledge” that SG is the last great blah blah blah. Hate to say it but Some Girls blows.

    Its forced, contrived and hollow. Shattered it pretty cool, but not in a Stones way.

    Talk about your emperor with no clothes. Come on!

    I’ll tell you where Mod is coming from on this. He has low tolerance for meandering. That’s an observation, not a judgment, and GHS is jam packed with filthy depressant induced meandering.

    He likes SG as it is end-to-end tight little pop songs. I’ve got no problem with tight pop songs. I love them. But the Stones, man, gotta rock more than roll or they blow.

    And as far as the Stones doing pop songs, if they must, I’ll take Tattoo You over Some Girls any day.

  21. Goats Head Poop. Doo Doo Doo do-do indeed.

  22. Well done, Sammy! You have turned the defense of GHS into a provocative attack on the sacred cows of Stonesdom (Exile, Beggars, and Sticky). And I agree with you about Let It Bleed as well. So, now what do you GHS haters have to say for yourselves?

  23. Wrote the last post rather too quickly; waht I meant to say was “a provocative questioning of the sacred myths of Stonesdom.”

  24. I think Sammy somewhat overstates the case. GHS is certainly the Stones main if not sole entry in the Psychic Oblivion Sweepstakes. The burned out, drifting away feeling is palpable, and they lay it down with some real rhythmic drive. I genuinely enjoy its
    embrace of this burned-out quality, the way it makes something of it rather than solely give way to it.
    “Too rich, too wasted, too many girls, time to go to California and death but maybe with a few more drugs and girls along the way.” And they really nail the feel of it. But let’s not make either GHS or “Hotel California” into The Great Rock and Roll Saga of Our Times.

    And I can see why you would say Some Girls is a little rote, but ain’t that in the nature of party records? I really do want to know how many rock and roll records are better party records than this one.

    Mr. Mod, I don’t see any great moral or philosophical issues here. Just the Stones, whose souls I deeply do not give a shit about.

    Some Girls for the party, Goat’s Head Soup for the final late night elements of the party. I’m hoping someone will grant the obviously deep profundity of these points.

  25. sammymaudlin

    Who said it was the Greatest Rock Roll Saga of Our Times? That distinction clearly goes to Rod Stewart’s “Body Wishes.”

  26. It’s all that “end of the night,” end of an era,” “one step from OD” stuff. I mean, I don’t think you’re wrong, just that the degree of self-obsession involved doesn’t lend itself to greatness. I prefer “Tonight’s The Night,” where the people who are left have to deal with their feelings about the dead asshole friends they loved.

  27. sammymaudlin

    It’s the not self-obsession in and of itself that I find great but rather that they were able to communicate it while inside of it. And I’m not talking about the lyrics really as much as the palpability (word?), as you say, that the music has that I find mesmerizing.

    Not that its my favorite Stones album but so mush more dense and packed with emotion than the tepid Some Girls.

  28. Mr. Moderator

    Sammy wrote:

    I’ll tell you where Mod is coming from on this. He has low tolerance for meandering.

    Ain’t that the truth! I’m telling you, the Stones put out there share of mediocre albums following Exile…, but GHS is the only one among It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll and Black and Blue, for comparison, that sounds like the Doobie Brothers (biker era) wanking off between recording hit singles. I’m also shocked at the tolerance some of you have for a Stones album with almost no trace of Keef. It just doesn’t sound like he had a hand in the grooves.

    That said, those of you who are defending GHS have made a few good and many interesting points. It’s funny that the whole “underdog” thing came into play. Some of you might understand what I mean when I say this gets back to my points on Winner Rock. Some Girls preens like 10-point favorites because the album knows its got the goods. It doesn’t have to rely on backstory account for all the turgid Jagger formulist rock workouts.

    Finally, who was it, Dr. John, who asked why they had to cover “Just My Imagination”. I think I know why: because it’s a transcendent song – the song itself, if not there late-night, all in fun romp through it. This is the kind of cover the old Stones used to crank out in their sleep during their pre-burnout Brian Jones era. I think this first Stones album with Wood – and I know I’m about to violate the oldest tenet of Rock Town Hall (see our banner) – is a celebration of the return of a perfect Stones threesome up front. Any time the Stones had that magic spark of the third guy up front with Jagger and Richards – first Jones, then the first works with Mick Taylor, before he burned out – they did their best work. As soon as that third guy burned out or got pushed aside by the dominant band leaders, the band suffered greatly. Not too long after Tattoo You, Wood was neutered, spending years drowning his ego in booze and coke. Of course, now it’s too late to hire a new second guitarist and see the band have one final creative burst, but I’m telling you, it was the joy of getting alone with the boys that brought out something special in the recordings for Some Girls. It’s what made recording “Just My Imagination” necessary and it’s what makes listening to that ramshackle version so much fun.

  29. I agree completely with everything you’re saying until you hit “packed,” which I’m of two minds about, and then not at all when you hit “tepid.” But I dig your insights into GHS.

  30. hrrundivbakshi

    Mr. Mod: we REACH! I’m no Ron Wood apologist, but he was really set free to establish color and zazz all across that album. *Ron Wood*, believe it or not, is one of the main reasons why it’s as great as it is. But you’re right — his grapefruits seem to have gotten snipped after they made that record. I wonder why? (No, I mean sincerely: I wonder why he never got the chance to tromp around in guitar hobnail boots after that.) Could it be that Mick and Keith were giving Ronnie all that space because they thought they were helping to create a more chaotic “punk” vibe? If so, they got it all wrong — all those barking, yelping bits and pieces he throws in actually pin things down more, in a wonderful, kaleidoscopic kind of way. I just can’t stop saying nice things about Woody’s work *on that album.*

  31. BigSteve

    Mr Mod says it sounds like Keith didn’t have a hand in GHS’ grooves. Judging from the credits in the Wikipedia article, he was stuck playing bass on three songs (100 Years Ago, Coming Down Again, and Silver Train), and Mick Taylor played bass on Dancing with Mr D., all songs which suffer from a guitarist’s approach to the bass. To hell with the Stones hiring new guitar players to rejuvenate themselves, why did they take so long to hire a full time bassist?

    I listened to it again tonight, and I still enjoy it, and I find it strange how enjoyable it is after paying attention enough to sense the general burn-out mood. There is definitely a lot of meandering. Coming Down Again is almost six minutes long, and the main part of the song ends at around the 3-minute mark, and the rest of the song is all … coming down.

    I don’t sense any self-pity in all of this. The songs are bleary-eyed, but they still have their eyes open. There’s at least as much glee as terror in Dancing with Mr D.

    Btw if you can’t make up your mind which guitar solo to use, do NOT use both of them, like the Stones do in Starfucker.

    Some Girls is lots more fun than GHS, but 1978 was a lot more fun than 1972. We just didn’t know how soon afterwards the hammer would come down.

  32. I can sense that much of the trouble people have with GHS is it sounds like the Stones just don’t care. But that’s because they were still the big, bad Stones, and felt theu could get away with murky production and a “loser” attitude.

    Your defense of Just My Imagination makes me feel all the stronger that the Stones just don’t care–but in a bad way. There’s no passion, just post-burnout cynicism. A party song? Come on–if I want to really witness the Stones partying I’ll track down that film they made with Robert Frank in 72.

    And I want to make one thing clear: the Stones should never have cared one iota about being Winner Rock. Once they did, they were over.

    As for Ron Wood, Glyn Johns pretty much said he felt his talent was being wasted in the Stones.

  33. Mr. Moderator

    Dr. John, I sense that you and too many others feel threatened and misunderstand this concept of Winner Rock. Someday I hope to make it clear and hope to invite all of you to ride on its massive and generous bandwagon. The Stones were ALL about Winner Rock, as I have defined the term. They were an ass-kicking, take no prisoners band. Any sense of “losing” you or others may get from their music is a ploy to lure you into a trap. They use the language of losing the way a football team runs a draw play.

  34. Mr. Mod,

    from the start the Stones understood the power of negativity, expressed in songs like (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Rarely, if ever, do you find an uplifting sentiment that is unqualified. The rhythms and driving guitar are energetic, but it is a dark energy, that which made the Stones sound what it is.

    If the Stones wrote a rock anthem, arguably, it would be “You Can’t Get What You Want,”a song about the realities of death. Hardly winner rock in my book.

    I’m not saying that winner rock is inherently bad–“Hey Jude” is surely a fine example (the scream before the outro is about as uplifting as rock gets). But my argument is that the Stones well-documented flair for darkness negates any of the feel-good spirit of winner rock.

  35. 2000 Man

    While there may be plenty of reasons why GHS is a bringdown, or the recorded results an inevitable dope fueled few years recording and touring, they just didn’t get much life on to the grooves of that album. The live band in 72 and 73 is arguably the live pinnacle of The Stones. I love the energy and the Exile heavy 72 tour the best, but 73, with it’s GHS songs is equally revered by the unwashed fanatics. I was trying to find a decent video of the Wembley 73 Street Fighting Man, but I can’t find one I like at the moment. But that band was so energized (ok, coked up) and just so rocking, that it makes me wonder where the fast songs all went for GHS. And I did say it used to be my “least favorite.” So I still like it and play it, but I tend to skip around on it. Their last one is the only one I honestly don’t like.

  36. The exchange between Mr. Mod and Dr. John suggests to me that we need to look more deeply into this question of just what constitutes Winner Rock, given that it’s clear we have a variety of definitions being applied to it.

  37. Mr. Moderator

    Dr. John, winning, in terms of Winner Rock, does not mean some cheery, “Don’t Stop Believing” nonsense. It means WINNING. A smashmouth football team that wins doesn’t worry about “uplifting sentiment”; it worries about the final score. Playing to win requires pulling on dark forces as well as light ones.

    This actually ties directly into my “Uncharted Territories” post from this morning, over which many folks might still be scratching their heads. Hop on over there, and I’ll post something that responds to a competition-related suggestion that BigSteve, I think, made earlier today. See you in a minute!

  38. I listened to Some Girls earlier today and I’m listening to Goats’ Head Soup now. Here are my thoughts.

    I like Some Girls a lot, but with reservations. The guitar phaser they used is definitely a big strike against it, but it doesn’t ruin the songs or the overall vibe. Nevertheless, I’m reminded of some of the tracks from The Who’s album of the same period (Who Are You) or even the 2 early ’80s albums they made with Kenny Jones. It’s that same kind of stiff, turgid sound that says “this is the late ’70s Stones coming back to prove that we can still make a really good album”.

    On the other hand, Goats’ Head Soup is an entirely different animal. Frankly, as I said yesterday, I really disliked this album when I had it as a teenager. Honestly, I have no idea why as I’m shocked at how much I actually like it now. It’s like a more streamlined (despite its meandering tendencies) version of some of the experiments on Exile on Main Street and at least on first listen (well remember I haven’t listened to in ages) it’s much more approachable. As others have said, it’s a dark, druggy, messed up and screwed up album, the sleaziest thing they ever did and that’s saying something.

    Nevertheless, it’s completely sublime. I don’t know why people don’t rate it at least as high as the supposedly better late ’60s and other early ’70s albums. As Dr. John pointed out, it sounded like they were still taking changes. I don’t mind that Keith is barely on it (or at least it sounds like that) since it features some of Mick Taylor’s best work and the chemistry between him and Jagger is excellent on this one. And “Coming Down Again” just reeks of heroin in the same way that The Velvet Underground or Spacemen 3 did.

    Thus, I have to change my preference here. I really like both albums, but I definitely like Goats’ Head Soup a bit more. Oh and I really like that both albums adopt NYC in some of its lyrics and themes (most explicitly in “Miss You,” “Shattered” and “Heartbreaker”, of course), though GHS was recorded in Jamaica.

  39. BigSteve

    You know I don’t think I’d ever been conscious of the phased guitar on Some Girls until it was mentioned several times in this discussion. I guess at the time the record came out, I didn’t know what a phaser was, and, by the time I did know, the sound of the album was already ingrained in my mind. I suspect that it began as an easy way of distinguishing between Keith’s guitar part and Ronnie’s, because their styles are so similar.

    I was doing a little googling on these topics, and I found a Jagger interview done by Jann Wenner. We’ve been talking here about GHS as a burnout, possibly even a slacker, album. Here’s Wenner’s question about the post-Exile period and then Jagger’s answer:

    But these records are kind of weak after those big ones. What happened? Did it have to do with Keith’s drug use?

    Yeah, I think so. I find it so hard to remember, though, I don’t want to commit myself to saying something. I mean, everyone was using drugs, Keith particularly. So I think it suffered a bit from all that. General malaise. I think we got a bit carried away with our own popularity and so on. It was a bit of a holiday period [laughs].

    I mean, we cared, but we didn’t care as much as we had. Not really concentrating on the creative process, and we had such money problems. We had been so messed around by Allen Klein and the British Revenue. We were really in a very bad way. So we had to move. And it sort of destabilized us a bit. We flew off all edges.

  40. Last Post: September 7, 2007

    15 years ago people cared about The Rolling Stones with a passion. They debated albums that were already 30 to 35 years old. I am now going to share my thoughts titled “From Goat’s Head Soup to Some Girls (The Decline & Fall of The Rolling Stones).”

    I was 15 in 1973 and bought my first real album, Goats’ Head Soup by The Rolling Stones. I loved Silver Train and Star Star of course, still do. Coming Down Again is a pretty song with ugly lyrics. Angie is so out of character for the band that it works. I also love the horns on Heartbreaker and the lead guitar (of soon to quit Mick Taylor) on Hide Your Love and Winter.

  41. Continued “From Goat’s Head Soup to Some Girls”

    Now 49 years later I bought the 2020 two-disk reissue and still love it.

    My favorite track is the scandalous STAR STAR with her obscene Polaroids and her tricks with fruit, Ali McGraw and Steve McQueen, New York City, L.A. maybe even old John Wayne made it with this rock groupie before he died.

    But I digress. The real draw of STAR STAR is the blistering guitar work of Keith Richards and Mick Taylor (a la Chuck Berry) the band of Bill, Charlie, with Ian Stewart on piano and Mick Jagger’s vocals drive it hard and harder till the fadeout.

    Keith took the lead from the first licks to the last, with Mick Taylor providing a masterful rhythm guitar track that allows Keith to shine in his most comfortable rock & roll role, the riff-master, every lick he ever played ripped off from Mr. Berry.

    The reissue is great!

    So to let it be on the record, top tier are Beggar’s Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street.

    Goats Head Soup is next tier along with It’s Only Rock & Roll, Black & Blue and Some Girls, but that’s another chapter.

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