The Rolling Stones – Between The Buttons

Between The Buttons (1967)

A- 

1. Let’s Spend The Night Together 2. Yesterday’s Papers 3. Ruby Tuesday 4. Connection 5. She Smiled Sweetly 6. Cool, Calm & Collected 7. All Sold Out 8. My Obsession 9. Who’s Been Sleeping Here? 10. Complicated 11. Miss Amanda Jones 12. Something Happened To Me Yesterday

 

Straying a bit from the sex blues god thing they made their name on (and would continue to moving forward), but for all its early-’67 pop foppishness, Between The Buttons remains catchy as fuck. And that’s all that matters, right? The whole twee Pet Sounds/”Penny Lane” dance hall sound was just “in” at the time, and the Stones, unsurprisingly, put a lot more muscle behind their take on it than most anyone else did. Not a ton of guitar rock here, and lots of fruity piano pop songs adorned with French horns and cellos and xylophones and shit like that. But they’re good pop songs, god dammit. Start with the groupie peon “Ruby Tuesday,” which, if you can believe this, was one of the most beautiful pop ballads of the 60s well before it was a ubiquitous purveyor of sub-Applebee’s grub. And you know who wrote it? Brian Jones! I swear! He’d never been able to successfully write a single goddamned song before, and drugs and fame had turned him into a sniveling little prick with a greatly diminished role in the band by this point. But he somehow managed, with some help from Keith on the lyrics, to come up with “Ruby Tuesday,” which was all set to be credited to Jones/Richards. But Andrew Loog Oldham put the quash on that plan, wanting to ensure that the Jagger/Richards credit had a monopoly on all the band’s original material in order to foster Lennon/McCartney comparisons. It set up a precedent that Mick and Keith have been exploiting ever since, failing to credit sidemen for songs they wrote or co-wrote – just ask Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood. You can’t really ask Brian, since he’s up in the big swimming pool in the sky now. But at least he makes his presence felt on his crowning achievement with piano and that distinctive recorder line. (See, you can use that thing to play something other than “Good King Wenceslas!” I, for instance, had a book with recorder music transcriptions for every song on the classic album Pokémon: 2.B.A Master when I was a kid. Versatile instrument, the recorder). The meditative, guitar-less “She Smiled Sweetly” is similarly pretty.

The other hit, released on a double A-side single with “Ruby Tuesday,” was the choogling “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” which is pretty much the best piano pop song ever. All those “ba ba ba” and “doo doo doo” backup vocals serve as ample evidence that the Stones couldn’t exactly sing in harmony like the Beatles could, but gosh bless ‘em for trying – the sloppiness makes it all the more endearing, if you axe me. And hats off to Jack Nitzsche’s propulsive piano, which figures prominently on this album. If that concerns you due to the implication of there being less guitars, fear not, for there are still a couple of good solid Keith workouts here… his playing on the driving “All Sold Out” and the delightfully hopped up little foot stomper “Miss Amanda Jones” introduces a more “classic rock”-ish, wankier but welcome tone to his arsenal. But Keef’s finest moment here is when he and Mick gleefully harmonize their way through “Connection,” a solo Keith composition and a lost two-minute power pop classic.

I dunno, a couple of these songs are just a bit too cute to light my world on fire like those on Aftermath, but there’s a great tongue in cheek sense of humor running throughout Buttons. The boys sound like they birthed the album in between fits of stoned giggling, which is probably pretty accurate. It’s funny how innocent all the playful marijuana references sound when put in perspective with the fact that the band was to become junkie central in a few short years. But they were certainly taboo back then – I mean, this was the kind of environment where, when the band played the Ed Sullivan show around this time, Mick was forced to change the completely innocuous phrase “let’s spend the night together” and instead sing “let’s spend some time together,” because god forbid any viewers be spurred to even think about sex. At least Mick exaggeratedly rolled his eyes for the camera while singing the altered phrase, and I guess the verse about getting high just went straight over ol’ Ed’s head. The cheekiness that characterized this era of the Stones is rather less rebelliously dangerous than most other golden age eras of the band, but its musical results are still plenty entertaining. Like the loony dance hall raga “Cool, Calm & Collected” or the Dylan send-up “Who’s Been Sleeping Here?” which is humorous and satirical enough in intention to be by Spinal Tap. Then there’s one of the weirdest, silliest creations of the Stones’ career, closer “Something Happened To Me Yesterday,” which I can only describe as “the result of excessive joint smoking.” Sort of like marathon sessions of Super Smash Bros. or eating three bags of Cheetos. And those are all pretty good things. But if you think the things the Stones accomplished with weed are great, just wait and see what they pull off on smack.



One Comment

  1. Ben wrote:

    Never got into this one. Found this 2.B.A total disappointment coming after “Aftermath”. I even ended up liking “Got Live if You Want it” a lot more than I thought I was going to, so naturally I had pretty high expectations. Aside from “Let’s spend the night together” (my favorite here) and “Connection”, I found side 2 a lot more enjoyable than side 1. You’re right about some of the songs being too cute here. “Cool, calm, collected” sounds like a weaker kinks song from this time period (it also sounds a lot like the intermission on the blur album “Modern Life is Rubbish”).

    I also really like “All sold out”, “Who’s been sleeping here”, “Complicated” and “Miss Amanda Jones”. All four of those (and “Connection”) would have been much better singles than fucking “Ruby Tuesday”, one of their lamest and most overrated songs, Mick sounds like such a douche on that one. “Something happened to me yesterday” is even worse, and might be the worst song they’ve done at this point. It sounds like they were trying way too hard to copy the sound of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy day women”, and the only thing that stops me from totally hating it is that message at the end. I think this might be their most overrated album.


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