There are two kinds of Stones fans–ones that think 1972’s EXILE ON MAINSTREET is the band’s greatest album…and those who differ to 1978’s SOME GIRLS. I fall into the latter category. I think EXILE is a fine album, but SOME GIRLS is more fun. The album came out in a very strange time for music, both punk and disco were in full-swing–and rock acts from the 1960’s were beginning to be pegged as “dinosaurs.”
Yes, that’s right–the Stones were being branded dinosaurs all the way back in 1978. Were those boys ever NOT teased in this manner? But I digress. Mick Jagger and company put out a hell of a record in response to the growing criticism that rock’n roll was dead. SOME GIRLS takes what was best about the era (the dance-ablity of disco, and the raw/primal aggression of early punk) and merges it with the Stones classic blues-rock sensibilities.
The band recorded the album over a period of several tense months in 1977. While most of the world was enjoying STAR WARS, guitarist Keith Richards was sweating a possession of heroin charge (he was busted up in Canada). Suddenly, with the prospect of losing their lead guitarist for several YEARS–the Stones got serious and recorded 50+ songs. It was during this time that Jagger, with Richards distracted, took up the bulk of the song writing duties. SOME GIRLS was a product of his frantic writing/recording period.
The album opens with “Miss You,” a bluesy-disco tinged song that became the band’s final #1 song in the USA. Unlike a lot of music from this era, the song remains catchy and cool as hell–despite the disco influences. I think the reason for this is simply, the Stones didn’t do a full disco song. The rest of SOME GIRLS is an interesting mix of punk and country (believe it or not). “Far Away Eyes” being an extreme, almost country parody and on the other end “Lies” tips closer to blind aggression of the early punk scene. Somewhere in the middle falls the rest of the album. It’s this middle where the magic is.
I have three favorite songs on this record, which in itself says a lot about its overall greatness. They are as follows (in no particular order):
1. “Beast of Burden”
2. “Before They Make Me Run”
“Beast of Burden” with its crazy-ass falsetto and rolling guitar licks is a masterpiece. I’ve read that some of the lyrics were improvised by Jagger on the fly…I’m not sure I buy that, but part of the song’s greatness is how laid-back/casual it seems to flow. On the other end of the spectrum, is the precision and edginess of “Shattered.” Jagger’s practically spitting the verses at you, while the guitar chugs along in the backroom…before BAM! Awesome fucking solo (with hand-claps, which is always important).
There’s a theory that the reason this record sounds so good is because the band finally got a third guitarist–SOME GIRLS marks the first appearance of Jagger the guitar player. Not sure how much water that theory holds, but the music side of things does seem more complex than earlier Stones records.
And while he’s not the world’s greatest singer, I do love the Keith Richards “Before They Make Me Run.” Of course it has an amazing, holy-grail-like guitar lick. The song, though not sung my Jagger, is probably (in my opinion) the best example of a “Rolling Stones Song.” All the elements are there: killer guitar, hooky-but simple lyrics, a bluesy-country feel…it’s awesome. It makes me wish Richards had given up smoking cigarettes (his voice sounds like crap now, way too raspy). He might have even turned into a hell of a vocalist–we’ll never know. I think its funny how confident Richards playing is, but how almost quiet the vocals are. You can tell he knew he wasn’t a very good singer–I’ve noticed this on a lot of the early Clapton solo records, too. I took Clapton a long time to get the nerve to belt out “Layla.”
SOME GIRLS is a classic album, and arguably the last great record from one of the world’s greatest rock bands. Most people have actually heard 65-70% of this record via classic rock radio (which plays damn near everything on it). The damn thing is practically a GREATEST HITS for their 70’s period. This one is definitely on my “Desert Island” List of great records. Go check it out–or if you have it (like me) go give it a re-listen.