The Rolling Stones – Aftermath

Aftermath (1966)

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1. Paint It Black 2. Stupid Girl 3. Lady Jane 4. Under My Thumb 5. Doncha Bother Me 6. Think 7. Flight 505 8. High And Dry 9. It’s Not Easy 10. I Am Waiting 11. Going Home

 

A large leap forward. Covers albums are so 1964, and it’s not like Mick to be behind the times (see: Disco Years, The). So no more covers – Aftermath is fully comprised of Jagger/Richards compositions. Eleven of ‘em. And they rule ass. The days of Mick and Keith barely managing to come up with a derivative riff not even good enough to stand up next to their 18th second-rate Otis Redding cover are long, long gone. Previously, the Stones had been the Beatles’ biggest competitors on the pop charts. After this record, they became the Beatles’ songwriting rivals as well. Yeah, they’d done “Satisfaction” and a couple of concurrent singles, but a full LP of all-original material is a whole different animal – never mind a full LP of pretty much uniformly excellent original material, no filler included. And there was to be plenty more where that came from – the well of creativity and supreme riffage had been sprung wide open for good.

The word for Aftermath is diversity – not just in songwriting, but also in timbre. Brian, who was by this point beginning to drown himself in drugs and chicks, had pretty much lost interest in the guitar and was instead branching out into a variety of different non-rock instruments. George Harrison beat him to the sitar by a few months, but Brian brought the sweet sounds of the marimbas and the dulcimer to rock ‘n roll. Not that these are exactly game-changing developments—I can’t, off the top of my head, think of any particular notable uses of either instrument in rock music since—but they added intriguingly different textures to Mick and Keith’s new songs and, for the time being, gave Brian a second life in the band. Rumor has it that it was even he, with an assist from Bill Wyman, who came up with the creepy Eastern riff that drives the uber popular “Paint It Black.” Driven by Brian’s sitar, the song is clearly a product of the trendy Indian music influence that every band in the entire world attempted (often dreadfully) to incorporate in 1966, but it totally transcends it. The lyrics are a bit emo, perhaps, but let the music do the talking – dark and powerful as can be.

Brian also takes the lead on the album’s other hit, “Under My Thumb,” even if his tinkly marimba riff sounds about ten times better when sped up and played on guitar. It makes for some mighty mellow rocking—dropping out the drums for the guitar solo was a neat trick—and puts all the more focus on Mick’s blatantly misogynistic lyrics. But who cares! It’s so darn catchy! And feminism is just a bunch of bitches sitting around talking about their periods, right? So take your sexism and shove it! Besides, I think there’s room for interpretation – perhaps it’s a male revenge fantasy sung from the point of view of a guy who’s actually under the girl’s thumb? Maybe. But there’s no such room for interpretation in “Stupid Girl,” which is just mean-spirited high school freshman-level bitching. But with that fruity organ and cute backing vocals, don’t be surprised if you find yourself horrified to be singing along. Lookit that stoopid giiiiiirl…

There’s so many different types of irresistible types of songs here – it’s largely a pop record, but there are some country influences too. The acoustic goofy/catchy send-up “High And Dry” hints at the hickish turn the Stones would take in 1968, and for some reason I seem to always end up listening to “Flight 505,” driven by Stu’s honky tonk piano, at airports or on airplanes. I’m not sure if it’s a great idea to listen to songs about plane crashes in such places, but better one that has a sense of humor about it than, say, “Angels And Fuselage.” I’m even more impressed by the two acoustic ballads.  The stately, baroque “Lady Jane” is the more commercial one, with Mick inhabiting the persona of Henry VIII and “touchingly” informing Anne Boleyn that she’s about to have her head chopped off because he wants to get busy with some other chick (man, Mick really doesn’t treat his women well on this album, does he? Must be because, from what I can gather, he’s a huge player who mostly sees women as sex objects. But, hey, what did I say before? Just forget about it and sing along! My sweet Lady Jaaaane…). But I like “I Am Waiting,” a beautiful, extremely catchy and mature-sounding piece of work, even better. To both tracks, Brian contributes dulcimer, an ungraceful little stringed instrument that can be made out of a freaking cardboard box. At least the ones I used to play when I was a kid were. Fortunately, he can still play guitar, albeit reluctantly, and contributes some of his finest slide to the token blues tune, the upbeat “Doncha Bother Me.”

Oh, I guess there’s one other bluesy song – the closer “Going Home,” which for the first three minutes is the only song on the album that sounds like Mick and Keith could have conceivably written in 1964, and then rambles on for another seven minutes as Mick suggestively ad libs over top. If you peaked at the 11-minute running time and were expecting a mind-expanding psychedelic extendo-jam released a year before Jim Morrison and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s unleashed “The End” on the world, you’re shit out of luck. There’s no solos, no freakouts – just a standard blues progression ambling along at a decidedly mid-tempo pace. Hell, I like it, but then again, I have an ice cube tray that makes Stones tongue logo ice cubes. If you’re like me and/or want, or have ever wanted, 1966 Mick Jagger to lay you down by the fireside, you might agree with me – otherwise, beware. But pick this album up no matter what your ice cubes look like – essential mid-60s listening.



3 Comments

  1. Emily wrote:

    What do you mean you can’t think of notable uses of marimba in rock music? Have you not heard The Nurse?!

    I would also like to add that in the hands of Mick Jagger, misogyny can be sexy. Okay…I cringed a little bit typing that, but damn if I don’t absolutely love Under My Thumb. Sorry feminists.

  2. victoreador wrote:

    Mick’s unreconstucted misogyny so saturated this album that- under penalty of losing the screeching ardor of the slavering hordes of teeny-bopper girl fans should they stop and actually contemplate the lyrics- he wisely included a song about a guy who gets kicked to the curb and abandoned by his girl (maybe for being an assholish misogynist?).

    And it’s hard thing (it’s not easy)
    It’s not easy living on your own
    All of the things that you used to do
    If they’re done now, well they’re done by you
    It seems a big failing in a man
    To take his girl for granted if he can

    There’s no place where you can call home
    Got me running like a cat in a thunderstorm
    Just a big bed and a telephone
    Like the last remnants of a stately home

    And it’s hard (it’s not easy)
    It’s not easy livin’ on your own

    Pretty slick Mick

    Just a big bed and a telephone
    Just a big bed and a telephone
    Like the last remnants of a stately home
    )

  3. Ben wrote:

    This is their “Hard Days Night” I guess. Not just because they wrote every song here, but because there were talks of the stones doing a movie around this time period, but as you already know it didn’t work out.

    I picture the first three stones albums as bad early Animals. They’ve surpassed the Animals here, as they couldn’t write an album of original songs if their lives depended on it. It’s been pointed out many times throughout the years how awesome “Paint it black” is, so I don’t need to add anything more to that. I do think that “Flight 505” is great, and should have been a single. They still haven’t performed it onstage yet.

    As much as I like this album, I can’t ignore the fact that “Lady Jane” is on here. One of my least favorite songs of theirs. Not big on “I am waiting” either. But I do like every other song here, and I like the direction their heading in.


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