Mit »Some Girls« traten Jagger und Co. gegen Punk in London und Disco in New York an. Der Nachfolger von »Black And Blue« befreite die Stones 1978, in Zeiten der Sex Pistols und des Studio-54, vom Stigma der Dinosaurier-Band, konsolidierte ihren Ruhm, installierte sie als rebellische, angepunkte Glamour-Hardrocker. »Some Girls« sei das beste Stones-Album seit »Exile On Main St.«, schrieb kurz nach der Erstveröffentlichung die internationale Musikkritik. Mit gut sechsfachem Platin-Status ist »Some Girls« mittlerweile auch noch die kommerziell erfolgreichste Stones-LP aller Zeiten. In Paris, quasi ohne Gastmusiker, back to basics, als reine Gitarrenband, mit Blut und Schweiß spielten die Stones ein »Rock´n´Roll-Noir«-Werk ein, mit politisch unkorrekten, sexistischen Zeilen wie etwa: »Black Girls just want to get f****ed all night / I just don´t have that much jam« des Titelsongs. Kontrapunktiert von ihrer #1-Single »Miss You«, dem größten Disco-Song, den je eine Rockband aufnahm. Ähnlich toll und dabei ganz anders: die Top-10-Single »Beast of Burden«, unlängst gecovert von The Kooks.
The Rolling Stones' 14th studio album was recorded in Paris but written and mixed in disco-crazed New York, as the sounds of a harsh new genre called punk rock started to penetrate the public consciousness. The result of this melting pot is a remarkable, deeply enjoyable record that let the world know that The Stones were still very much alive and kicking it.
It’s 1977. Elvis is dead. Most of Lynyrd Skynyrd are dead. Marc Bolan is dead. Prog fans, hippies and rock and roll fans will all be dead shortly. They are being hunted down and spat upon and pogo’d to death by hordes of angry teenagers with green hair, safety pins in their faces and anarchy symbols carved into their foreheads.
Peace, love and understanding are over and violence is in. The world is in flames and the air screams and shrieks with sound of tuneless snarling sung by singers who can’t sing, and discordant guitars played by guitar players who can’t play - nowhere more so than at 254 West 54th Street, Manhattan, where Mick Jagger attends the opening night of legendary hard core punk club Studio 54…
Hang on, that’s not right. Studio 54 is a disco. And Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer have just recorded I Feel Love, one of the most influential dance records of all time. And Saturday Night Fever, probably the greatest mainstream disco record ever made, is number one all over the world. According to Joe Strummer, London’s Burning; but here in New York, it’s like punk isn’t happening.
Strange times, these – especially for Keith Richards, who by this point is asking you to baby better come back later next week, seeing as how’s on a bit of a losing streak, crashing cars, getting busted for coke (guilty) and acid (innocent), and then REALLY getting busted, for smack, in Canada, and facing a lengthy jail sentence.
So what next for The Rolling Stones in this maelstrom of musical meltdown and personnel pandemonium? Some Girls, that’s what – a tremendously fresh, energetic and accomplished response to the surrounding sound of cultures clashing and band members falling over. Some Girls is a lewd, rude, dance floor and concert hall classic, with its famous trademark tongue stuck firmly in its cheek, and wherever else it can reach.
It manages to incorporate the aggression and dynamism of the London/Paris new wave AND the dance-funk-sex-sleaze combo of the hedonist New York disco scene, without losing the core rhythm and blues heartbeat that is the soul of The Rolling Stones. It’s hard enough to describe: pause and consider what alchemy was required to do this.
When the whip comes down, the tough get going. This is groovy, wiry, tough, funny music. The very sound of it invokes images and sensations of grinding groins, gyrating hips, lip-licking innuendo and hot breathy pouting. Then you hear the words.
“I was gay in New York/I was a fag in LA” Mick shouts, while Keith and – especially – Ronnie Wood cook up a smoking guitar brew of almost unprecedentedly demonic energy.
“When the shit hits the fan/I’ll be sitting on the can”, adds Mick, helpfully filling out the deeply unsavoury picture of New York sub-culture on 53rd Street with the kind of detail that Lou Reed would have been proud to include on the contemporary Street Hassle.
Astonishingly, some critics accused Jagger of not being entirely honest with the audience by pretending that he was living as street whore: “…why is this man lying when he's obviously pleased as punch with himself and is getting roomfuls of satisfaction?”
It beggars the banquet of belief that anyone could take this at face value. The Rolling Stones tell stories. And just like Hunter S. Thompson noted, quoting William Faulkner, the best kind of fiction is always ‘truer’ than any kind of non-fiction. Just because they’re making this shit up doesn’t mean it’s not for real.
Sure, The Rolling Stones are on an over-the-top wind up of everything – including themselves – on Some Girls. But equally sure, they – especially Mick – mean every note and every word of it when they’re belting it out. On Just My Imagination, a cover of the Barrett Strong/Norman Whitfield classic, when he wails “To have a girl like her is a dream come true/And of all the girls in New York, she loves me true”, you believe him, and you believe he means it.
And then, as Charlie starts cranking up the beat and Messrs Richards and Wood, weavers of the world’s finest electrical guitar riffs, fill the air with some of their best work, you realize that “…in reality, she doesn’t even know me”. Who’d a thought it? Mick Jagger, a fool for love.
Miss You is a straightforward shot at a disco track, themed around love and sex, and it hits the bullseye. Bill Wyman gets the plaudits here for a sultry bass line that it’s hard not to dance to even when you’re sitting down, likewise Charlie’s Philly-flavoured four-on-the-floor drums. The complex multi-part vocal is uncomplicatedly brilliant, lyrics telling another New York tale about loneliness, lust and Puerto Rican girls while a chorus of Ooh Yeahs and Uh Huhs echo the voices in the night. The guitars keep the beat and the harmonies groovy and do some talking of their own, but they take a back seat here, as Sugar Blue’s harmonica and Mel Collins’ saxophone light the song up like the Manhattan skyline. Exquisite, and apparently heartfelt.
This is not the case on the title track. Here, Mick turns the ‘taking the piss’ knob turned up to Volume 11, singing in tones so openly lascivious, and self-mocking - “I don’t have that much jaaaam” - that he can only be joking. On Lies (the clue’s in the title here) the whole band turn in a balls-out thrash of such impeccably splenetic vitriol that, as well as being prepared to believe that this could be The Clash, you almost sympathise with them for being innocent, wronged victims. Respectable piles on more of the same: fast, raw punk rock and roll truth in a fictional framework, a blistering solo apiece for Ronnie and Keith, a manic three chord rhythm turn by Mick, Bill and Charlie just about keeping the whole thing on the rails as it threatens to flip out over the high side on the corners.
On Before They Make Me Run, after an intro that is uncannily – or cannily – similar to the opening bars of Exile On Main Street/Rocks Off, we get another take on the truth of how things are for the band at this peculiar point in time, particularly how they are for Keith, who effectively gives us his version of ‘My Way’, Rolling Stones style:
“Well after all is said and done
I didn't hide, had my fun
And I will walk before they make me run”.
Straight up: you better believe he will. If you’re going to turn a losing streak into a musical winner, this is how to do it: keep smiling and keep it real.
Beast Of Burden, the second single off Some Girls (after Miss You), packs a slower, more soulful punch, and is once again open to interpretation. Who’s the beast and what’s the burden? This is another song that’s been picked to bits and criticized for being anti-feminine, as well as covered multiple times; but really, it is simply as it sounds: a song – a proper one, with verses, refrains, riffs, harmonies and sweet melodies – about the man wanting to go to bed with the girl. The rest is, as it so often is the world of The Rolling Stones, all about everything that might or might not go with that seduction.
Shattered rounds the album out, and is a final extraordinary musical comment on the times and the music and the streets of New York in 1977 and 1978. Accompanied by an insistent, jangle-free subterranean guitar line, Mick raps – literally, raps - about his brains being splattered all over Manhattan, while Ronnie Wood in one of his finest moments as a Rolling Stone plays drums, bass, electric and pedal steel guitars. This is a marvelous, marvelously unusual song, that gets dance and punk and good old-fashioned rock and roll into the studio, kicks the crap out of all three – in a good way – and then makes them perform together as if their lives depend on it.
It’s arguable that The Rolling Stones' life as a successful popular band did depend on Some Girls working properly. The times were changing fast, and The Stones could so easily have been left behind at this point, consigned to their own dated genre, respected but no longer relevant. Instead, they floored it and got way ahead of the game, laughing at everyone and everything at the same time as throwing everything they could find into the sound, and distilling some of their best ever songs and performances and recordings out of the mix.
Hindsight is the critic’s friend, the present his enemy. Looking at some reviews of Some Girls over thirty years later, a lot of what was written and said about the album then is so patently and narrowly and short-sightedly contemporary that it’s hard not to sympathise with the hacks who had to place their bets on the long-term quality of Some Girls in real time. How could they know that it would, relatively quickly, come to be recognized as a stone classic, a gutsy, passionate, deft, sexy, hugely energetic and clever record that manages to bridge the two shifting musical continents of disco and punk, while keeping it solid with the rock foundations on which it was built? It wasn’t obvious at all. Clearly it’s a hard buck to turn, gambling on the changing tastes of generations as yet unborn. Poor the critics who got it wrong.
Then again, fuck ‘em, eh? Losers. The Rolling Stones couldn’t see the future either. They chose to make it instead. Some Girls let the world know a few things about the band, and about music in general, the most important one being that The Rolling Stones, like rock and roll, would be far more resilient and protean and impossible to write off than anybody realized. Some Girls marks a new beginning - not the first and not the last, but once again, The Rolling Stones knuckled down, ground it out and delivered a stunning record. We don’t play favourites here at rollingstones.com, but in such a vast portfolio, there are some towering landmarks that need to be acknowledged as such. Some Girls is one of them. (rollingstones.com)
Miss You (Remastered)
When The Whip Comes Down (Remastered)
Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) (Remastered)