The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue

Emotional Rescue (1980)


1. Dance (Pt. 1) 2. Summer Romance 3. Send It To Me 4. Let Me Go 5. Indian Girl 6. Where The Boys Go 7. Down In The Hole 8. Emotional Rescue 9. She’s So Cold 10. All About You


A disappointment, but not nearly as awful as it’s sometimes made out to be. See, as ridiculous as it may sound to say about a band like the Stones, who had been at the forefront of popular music since 1964, Some Girls was a real mid-career commercial breakthrough for them. As in, youthful idiots who had previously never heard of them suddenly found themselves dancing to “Miss You” at clubs and got hooked on this trendy new band called the Rolling Stones. Sort of like how most teenagers and twenty-somethings with terrible musical taste today only know who Mick Jagger is because he got name dropped in a Ke$ha song. Sad, sad, sad, but that’s just the way it is. So to all those people, Emotional Rescue might as well have been their second album. Accordingly, it demonstrates all the hallmarks of your average sophomore slump LP. For instance, it’s marginally more diverse than its predecessor, but it fails to be anything but an obvious retread. Thus, comparisons to Some Girls are inevitable, and when weighted down by that fact, Emotional Rescue inevitably suffers. Where, on Girls, the riffs were tight and catchy, they’re now sloppy rehashes; where the lyrics were clever and witty, they’re now pandering and almost offensively dumb. Case in point: the quite catchy but obnoxious “Where The Boys Go;” where the “punk” songs on Some Girls demonstrated genuine inspiration and originality, “Boys” comes off as almost a parody of the Sex Pistols, complete with a crummy Johnny Rotten impression by Mick.

But, although it’s largely breezy and slight to a point that occasionally verges on stupidity, it wasn’t an easy album to make. Keith had kicked “the breakfast of champions,” to use his own words, and reformed his junkie ways in response to the whole Canadian bust debacle. And wouldn’t you know it, the fact that he was actually lucid in the studio for the first time since who knows when had huge effect on the balance of power and atmosphere of the sessions. See, Mick had gotten used to running the show with Keith being zonked out for the entirety of the 70s, while Keith, having finally come to his senses, wanted to reestablish his leadership role in the band and keep its direction from being dictated by a mega-vain, trend-hopping whore. Unfortunately, Keith didn’t get his way – Mick and the rest of the band had gotten so used to his lack of credibility whilst on the junk that Mick’s standard response to any of Keith’s suggestions became, “oh, shut up, Keith.” One unfortunate byproduct of this friction between the Glimmer Twins was that they couldn’t agree on which songs to put on and leave off the album, which meant that a great number of tracks superior to those that made the final cut—including “Start Me Up” and several others—got left on the cutting room floor.

The result isn’t a disaster so much as a lost opportunity. What could’ve been a strong follow-up to Some Girls became nothing more than a fun throwaway summer album. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with making that kind of album myself, and since most of the outtakes wound up on the much stronger Tattoo You the following year, I guess no harm done. But there’s less real substance here than any previous Stones album. I mean, shit, there’s a song called “Summer Romance,” and as far as Stones songs about screwing teenage chicks go, it’s about the tonal opposite of “Stray Cat Blues.” But the guitar work is about five times tighter than it is almost anywhere else on this thing, and it’s one of the record’s catchiest and most entertaining songs. So is the outstandingly fun single “She’s So Cold,” which features such brilliant, Pulitzer-worthy lines as, “she’s so cold like an ice cream cone.” Really getting highbrow there, huh, Mick? I dunno, so long as you don’t go into this album expecting any lyrical revelations and can deal with a few dumb lines here and there, I see no reason to hate this album. Besides, Mick’s only attempt at “serious” writing here is the godawful ballad “Indian Girl.” Memo to all songwriters: when writing a song about conflict in Latin America, resist the urge to include chintzy mariachi horns on it. They don’t make you sound “culturally authentic.” They make you sound stupid. The goofy dance groove tune “Dance (Pt. 1)” might also grate if you’re not partial to that sort of thing, but the riff—composed by Ronnie Wood—is actually pretty darn catchy if you can deal with Mick acting like a clownish jackass (when I listen to this song, I like to imagine him dancing around on a New York sidewalk yelling, “HEY, what am ah doin’ standin’ heeeah on the conah of West 8th Street and 6th Avenuuuue! Keith! Watchu doin’!” and pedestrians warily crossing the street and giving him strange looks as they surely would if a crazed hobo were shouting such things on the corner of West 8th Street and 6th Avenue. It makes the experience much more enjoyable).

There are exactly three songs on Rescue that sound like more than five minutes of thought actually went into them – and they’re the last three songs on the album. I already mentioned how I love “She’s So Cold,” which may not come as a surprise considering that it’s the closest thing to a classic Stones rocker on the album. But you may be shocked to discover that I’m also wild about the disco-tastic “Emotional Rescue.” I love that fucking song, and I have no idea why! It’s a completely ridiculous excuse for a Rolling Stones single! But it’s great! I mean, listen to Woody’s slammin’ bassline! It rules! And Mick’s performance is one of the most hilariously awesome of his career. I mean, it’s not easy to veer from a girlish falsetto to an odd voice that can only be described as that of a Transylvanian vampire (yeah, the old fashioned kind… not the modern-day, shirtless metrosexual ones) in the same song. But if the cheese is too much for you, be comforted by the fact that the album closes with Keith’s gorgeously bitter ballad “All About You,” which displays about a hundred times more authenticity and genuine emotion than the entire rest of the album combined. It’s a heartbreakingly cathartic performance by Keith, who uses the song as a platform to vent about Mick. And when it’s contrasted with Mick’s priorities for the majority of this album—picking up chicks, half-assing shit, and ripping off inferior artists—it’s hard not to take Keith’s side. And Mick hadn’t even made any crappy solo albums yet.