Review Summary: The Rolling Stones' reaction to punk rock is also one of their most inspired albums but also their last true classic.
The Rolling Stones were public enemy no.1 when punk rock arrived in 1976 and attempted to lay waste to the rock decadence evidenced on post-Exile On Main Street
albums Goat's Head Soup
and It's Only Rock N' Roll
, but the Stones weren't beaten yet and in 1978 they released Some Girls
and the result was ten short sharp songs incorporating rock, disco, soul and country.
Where else do you start your response to punk rock but with a disco song? The disco beat, the funky bassline, the four-to-the-floor drumbeat, the harmonica riff and Mick's weary, horny voice sings "I've been holding out so long, I've been sleeping all alone, Lord, I miss you"
. The gorgeous vocal as Mick takes an audio cold shower, trilling "oooh oooh oooh oooh"
which turns increasingly into "aaah aaah aaah aaah"
. However, Mick becomes increasingly desperate as the slinky wah-wah guitar comes in and he recounts a 'phone call from a friend who wants "to come around twelve with some Puerto Rican girls who are just dying to meet you."
Mick's not interested and whines "oh, everybody waits so long!"
before demanding "Won't you come on! Come on!"
The Rolling Stones were influenced by New York currently and in an echo of "Midnight Rambler" he breathes "I've been walking in Central Park, singing after dark, people think I'm crazy, I've been stumbling on my feet shuffling through the street, asking people, "What's the matter with you boy?""
. The instrumental break featuring sax from Mel Collins and Sugar Blue's harmonica fits into the groove so well you can barely hear Ian McLagan's electric piano.
Mick tries to trick himself into thinking she's just another tease but he admits at the end, "Lord, I miss you child"
is one the Stones' best songs and a strong opener.
When The Whip Comes Down
is more straightforward, a hard-rocking, raunchy riff from Keith before Mick, drowning in the sound, delivers a brilliant testimony of a rent boy but the music keeps assaulting him and obscures the subject just enough for radio play. The pedal steel guitar from new member Ron Wood is great before in the last minute, the thrash becomes a thunk and gathers new energy for a chaotic close.
A cover of the Temptations' Just My Imagination (Running Away From Me)
is next and it's more up tempo than the original and the electric guitars are more prominent making it rougher and tougher, but it's still a faithful and reverential version, in fact the Stones liked it so much it appeared on the 1982 live album Still Life
If Some Girls
was to out-punk the punks, the title track definitely steals The Stranglers' crown of gross misogyny. Jagger drawls a list of racial stereotypes that utterly fails as a mockery of the stereotypes placed on women, as Jagger has stated as its intention. The only thing that saves it is the curious arrangement and strangulated harmonica solos.
isn't much better with its bitch-dissing, but the music speeds past you don't care and strangely when Mick hollers "LIES, LIES, LIES, LIES!"
it echoes the Sex Pistols' "Liar". Far Away Eyes
is another unfunny piss-take, this time turning it onto the bible belt of the southern states of America, Mick putting on an ultra-sarcastic country drawl for the performance, despite Keith singing it on the demo. The strange thing is some of the very best Stones songs are country-based, "Honky Tonk Women", "Wild Horses" and "Sweet Virginia" to name but three and Keith Richards' own love of country and their friendship with Gram Parsons. Ron Wood delivers some of the best pedal steel guitar this side of Bakersfield. Maybe Some Girls
was handbags-at-dawn for Mick and Keith.
is a breathless, rollicking 12-bar sprint in the style of earlier song "Bitch" and is usually heard as a slag-off of Mick's wife Bianca. It's also self-deprecating in its context, especially the line about shooting up with the President. The best thing is how it's a real band effort, with Mick contributing guitar himself.
If you've read up to now, you're probably wondering where Keith is, well his very own Before They Make Me Run
is next and it's one of the best on the album, a rousing rebel rock song about his riskier lifestyle choices and increasingly wizened appearance summed up when he sings "I wasn't looking too good but I was feeling real well"
Beast Of Burden
is a hurt, glowering soul ballad which seems to be about begging a woman for a shag, especially the gorgeous trill of "You're a pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty girl"
but it was actually written as a "thank you" from Keith to Mick for giving him a shoulder during Keith's drug problems in the mid-1970's. You can take it straight with Mick's self-questioning and defiance, though. Ron Wood also contributes a great solo.
The final track Shattered
is almost post-modern in its punkishness and over a New York Dolls-like thrash Mick surveys the carnage, despite being from Dartford himself. The "people dressed in plastic bags directing traffic"
are punks. However, when he hollers "ain't you hungry for success, success, SUCCESS, SUCCESS! Does it matter?! Does it matter?"
Yes, it does because "pride and joy and greed and sex, that's what makes our town the best! Pride and joy and dirty dreams and still surviving on the street and look at me - I'm in tatters, yeah!"
and he invites us to "go ahead, bite the Big Apple, don't mind the maggots!"
. The excellent backing vocal "shadoobie" is the cherry on top.
An example of Mick's extraordinary ability to inhabit other personalities and one of Keith's best riffs, it's one the very best Stones songs and a brilliant and fitting closer to a superb album.
is the best post-Exile On Main Street
Stones album and an essential purchase.
Beast Of Burden
Before They Make Me Run