No, I did not spell Exile On Main Street wrong, when it comes to my favourite Stones album, I choose “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (1967), the Rolling Stones short foray into psychedelia. Now, “Majesty” is not considered, by most, to be the best Stones album. Again. people often acknowledge “Exile” or “Let It Bleed” or “Sticky Fingers” which are all quintessential Rolling Stones albums. However, Majesty is just a personal favourite: the production is on point, it’s the Stones at their most experimental before they solidified the ‘stones sound’ of the 70s, and Brian Jones was still in the band.
People argue that because of its psychedelic leanings that it was a rip off of the Beatles, whom had just released their seminal, Sgt. Peppers album only months before. Coincidentally, on the album cover a Shirley Temple doll on the right is wearing a “Welcome The Rolling Stones” T-shirt. The motivation for doing so, was meant as an act of camaraderie with their fellow musicians. However, one wonders if this was them throwing down the gauntlet to best them, as it were. So, it naturally follows: was Majesty a ‘hold my drink moment’ for the Stones against the Beatles (or hold my hash pipe as it were)? The Stones would in turn feature the Beatles members’ heads (hidden in the bushes) of Majesty. Who knows, the band’s motivations for the inclusion, it could be classic British cheekiness or maybe it was them trying to out best each other in the psychedelic arena? However, it could be argued that even amongst the band members themselves (in both camps) there was a sense of competition.
However, it is dismissive to think that Majesties stands in the shadows of The Beatles’ Sgt. Peppers. Firstly, I don’t think Majesty was intended to nor does it sound like a Beatles album. Secondly, the whole psychedelic movement was mass cultural and although The Beatles were the largest band in the world utilizing the sound, they were not the sole proprietors of it. In Majesty, there are hippy group sing-a-longs, and some orchestration (reminiscent of the Beatles) as in the opener “Sing This All Together” and the vaudevillian closer “On With Show” (respectively) but I don’t think it should be considered a wannabe Beatles album.
For instance, the second song, “Citadel” might be one of the Stones’ finest sounding moments: the guitars rattle, the drum compression pops, mellotrons whirl. Bill Wyman’s crimsoned & clovered “In Another Land” is a nice slice of psychedelic pop. “2000 Man” sounds like the 70’s Stones in the 60’s with its odd-timed drums and asks the questions: “could this be the Rolling Stones from the future?” Also, the psy-fi fantasy of “2000 Light Years From Home“, is there any other Rolling Stones song as haunting? But again, it sounds more like a saucerful of Floyd more than a Strawberry Field. Then there is “She’s A Rainbow“, which does seem very unlike Rolling Stones with more flounce than “Lady Jane“. I would argue that this song takes liberal doses from another band Love and their back catalogue moreso than the Beatles. “She Comes In Colors” is not only a phrase directly lifted from a song of the same by Love, which came out a year before the Stones on Love’s Da Capo (1966), but other stylistic elements from other Love songs as well were borrowed (the percussion, the latin trumpets). So, its not just the Beatles that the Stones may have borrowed from liberally. Indeed, since their bluesy origins The Stones have borrowed from many bands and musicians, except maybe Brian Jones (he was an original).
Lastly, “The Lantern” is one of the Rolling Stone’s best songs. Honest and minimal with a really nice trumpet arrangement. Is it the Rolling Stone’s attempt at the Doors’ “Crystal Ship?” Maybe. Needless to say I had to include it as a soft landing to end of our last Cottage Country Mix Vol 23.
Rush to read our next pick in our 10-Day Album challenge. Albums that influenced The Cottage Country Mixes.
Hear The Rolling Stone’s “The Lantern” on Cottage Country Vol. 23: