Aftermath (The Rolling Stones album)
|Studio album by|
|Released||15 April 1966|
|Recorded||3–8 December 1965, 6–9 March 1966|
|Studio||RCA Studios, Hollywood, California|
|Producer||Andrew Loog Oldham|
|The Rolling Stones UK chronology|
|The Rolling Stones US chronology|
US release by London Records
|Singles from Aftermath (US)|
Aftermath is a studio album by English rock band the Rolling Stones. It was released in the United Kingdom on 15 April 1966 by Decca Records and in the United States on 20 June by London Records. The American edition featured a different cover and track listing, substituting the single "Paint It Black" in place of four of the British album's songs. Overall, it is the band's fourth British and sixth American studio release.
The album is considered an artistic breakthrough for the Rolling Stones: it is the first to consist entirely of original Mick Jagger–Keith Richards compositions, while Brian Jones played a variety of instruments not usually associated with their music, including sitar, Appalachian dulcimer, marimbas and Japanese koto, as well as guitar, harmonica and keyboards, though much of the music is still rooted in Chicago electric blues. It was the first Rolling Stones album to be recorded entirely in the United States, at RCA Studios in California, and their first album released in true stereo. It is also one of the earliest rock albums to eclipse the 50-minute mark, and contains one of the earliest rock songs to pass the 10-minute mark ("Goin' Home").
In August 2002 both editions of Aftermath were reissued in a new remastered CD and SACD digipak by ABKCO Records, with the UK version containing an otherwise unavailable stereo mix of "Mother's Little Helper". In the same year the US edition of Aftermath was ranked at number 109 on Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time". It has also been certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, indicating sales of at least one million copies.
Writing and recording
The Rolling Stones began recording Aftermath immediately after their October–December 1965 US tour – their fourth and largest tour of the United States up to that point. According to Bill Wyman in his book Rolling with the Stones, the album was originally conceived as the soundtrack for a planned film, Back, Behind and in Front. The plan was abandoned after lead singer Mick Jagger met with the potential director, Nicholas Ray, and disliked him.[nb 1] The recording sessions took place at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, in between the band's touring commitments, and were highly productive. The sessions were held on 6–10 December 1965 and 3–12 March 1966. Charlie Watts, the group's drummer, told the press that they had completed 10 songs during the first block of sessions; according to Wyman's book, at least 20 were recorded in March. Co-written by Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards, these songs also included the A-sides of two singles released by the Rolling Stones in the first half of 1966, "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Paint It Black".
Referring to the atmosphere at RCA, Richards told Beat Instrumental magazine in February that year: "Our previous sessions have always been rush jobs. This time we were able to relax a little, take our time." The main engineer for the album, Dave Hassinger, was pivotal in making the group feel comfortable during the sessions as he, according to Wyman, let them experiment with instrumentals and team up with session musicians like Jack Nitzsche to variegate their sound. Wyman recalled that Nitzsche and Brian Jones would pick up instruments that were in the studio and experiment with various sounds for each song. Aftermath is also notable for being the first LP to feature completely original material by the group. Jagger and Richards wrote many of the songs while on the recent US tour. In 2003, Jagger recalled that Richards was writing a lot of melodies and the group would perform them in a number of different ways, which were mainly thought out in the studio. During this period, having long been promoted as a rougher alternative to the Beatles by Andrew Loog Oldham, the Stones' manager and producer, the band began to respond to the Beatles' increasingly sophisticated music.
Jones was very important in shaping the album's tone and arrangements, as he experimented with a vast array of ethnic instruments such as the marimba, sitar, Appalachian dulcimer and organ, which contrasted with the folk, pop, country, blues and rock compositions, thus resulting in a diverse mix of musical styles. Stones biographer Stephen Davis cites the "acid imagery and exotic influences" on the Beatles' Rubber Soul album as the inspiration for Jones' experimentation with the Indian sitar in January 1966. Aftermath was the first record on which the majority of the guitar playing was left to Richards due to Jones' multi-instrumentalism, a habit that served as an intense training period for Richards' craftmanship which culminated in his playing almost all of the guitars on Let It Bleed. On some songs, Richards supported Wyman's bass lines with a fuzz bass part, which music historians Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon recognise as an idea inspired by the Beatles' example on Rubber Soul.
Music and lyrics
According to American musicologist David Malvinni, Aftermath is the culmination of the Rolling Stones' stylistic development dating back to 1964, a "hybrid musical style forged from the band's myriad sources – early rock and roll, the blues, R & B, soul, pop balladry, and folk rock". Along with the band's next album, Between the Buttons (1967), it is cited by Malvinni as belonging to "their pop-rock repertoire", featuring a "chordal" range more "varied" and inclusive of minor chords than their blues-based recordings. Margotin and Guesdon went further in saying the band are shown on the album to be "liberated from various overwhelming influences, notably that of the Chicago bluesmen". Instead, they said, the record features an original style of art rock that resulted from Jones' musical experimentation and draws on "rock, blues, Baroque, classical, pop, country, world music, R&B". Robert Christgau said the texture of the band's blues-derived hard rock was "permanently enriched": "As Brian daubed on occult instrumental colors (dulcimer, sitar, marimbas, and bells on Aftermath alone) and Charlie molded jazz chops to rock forms and Bill's bass gathered wit and Keith rocked roughly on, the group as a whole learned to respect and exploit (never revere) studio nuance."
– Mick Jagger, 1995
The sound of the album contrasts the dark themes explored in Jagger and Richards' lyrics, which often scorn female lovers. Jagger, who had been accused of misogyny in the past, was said by Margotin and Guesdon to be avenging real-life grievances with the songs, using "language and imagery that had the power to hurt".[nb 2] "Stupid Girl", which assails the "supposed greed and facile certitudes of women", was speculated by the writers to indirectly criticise one of Jagger's earliest girlfriends, Chrissie Shrimpton. "High and Dry" expresses a cynical outlook on a lost romantic connection, while "Under My Thumb", "Out of Time" and "Think" show how "a man's revenge on his mistress (or perhaps wife) becomes a source of real pleasure". In Steven Hyden's opinion, while songs such as "Stupid Girl" and "Under My Thumb" may be misogynistic, they "could also be heard as disturbing portraits of their hatefully macho protagonists." A more compassionate attitude toward women is expressed in "Lady Jane"'s story of romantic courtship and "Mother's Little Helper", which examines a housewife who uses pharmaceutical drugs to cope with her daily life. Similar to the latter song, "What to Do" connects modern society to feelings of unhappiness. The band's misgivings about their rock stardom are also touched on, including fans who imitate them ("Doncha Bother Me") and relentless concert tours ("Goin' Home").
The darker themes led Margotin and Guesdon to call Aftermath "a somber album in which desolation, paranoia, despair, and frustration are echoed as track succeeds track". Referring to the American version of the LP – which omits three songs and adds "Paint It Black" as the opening track – music academic James E. Perone identified numerous musical and lyrical features that lend Aftermath a conceptual unity, although not sufficient for it to be considered a concept album. He said that this unity allows for the record to be "read as a psychodrama around the theme of love, desire, and obsession that never quite turns out right". As he explained:
The individual songs seem to ping-pong back and forth between themes of love/desire for women and the desire to control women and out-and-out misogyny. However, the band uses musical connections between songs as well as the subtheme of travel, the use of feline metaphors for women, and other lyrical connections to suggest that the characters whom lead singer Mick Jagger portrays throughout the album are really one and perhaps stem from the deep recesses of his psyche.
Ian MacDonald said that like Between the Buttons, "Aftermath revealed the Stones taking on the role of chroniclers of Swinging London and creating a subversive sort of pop paralleled only by The Kinks." Music journalist Tom Moon likened it to a collaboration between the Velvet Underground and the Stax house band, and described the result as "blues-rock flower power", but added, "all the flowers are painted black, with Brian [Jones]'s marimba and dulcimer adding color to these tough, lean, desperately lonely songs." According to Hyden, the album's "sarcastic, dark, and casually shocking" songs introduced the themes Jagger "would ruminate on throughout his career: sex as pleasure, sex as power, love disguised as hate, and hate disguised as love."
Title and packaging
During the recording, Oldham wanted to title the album Could You Walk on the Water? The idea upset the heads of the Rolling Stones' American distributor, London Records, who feared a negative response from Christians. The title controversy embroiled the band in a conflict with their British record label, Decca, over lack of creative control, delaying the album's release. Oldham's proposed title was coupled with the idea of producing a deluxe gatefold featuring six pages of colour photos from the Rolling Stones' preceding American tour and a cover depicting the band walking atop a California reservoir. It was ultimately rejected by Decca, and according to Davis, "in the bitterness (over lack of control of their work) that followed, the album was called Aftermath for want of another concept." The proposed packaging – albeit with a cover showing the band members standing on the shore of the reservoir – ended up being used for the US version of the compilation album Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass), released in March 1966.
The front cover photo for Aftermath's British release was taken by Guy Webster and the cover design was done by Oldham, who was credited as "Sandy Beach". Instead of the elaborate essay that Oldham usually supplied for the Stones' albums, the liner notes were written by Hassinger and were a straight commentary on the music. For the cover image, close-ups of the band members' faces were diagonally aligned against a pale-pink and black coloured background, and the album title was cut in half across a line break. The back of the LP featured four black-and-white photos of the group taken by Jerry Schatzberg at his photographic studio in New York in February 1966. Jones was vocal in his dislike of Oldham's design when interviewed by Melody Maker in April.
For the American edition's cover, a colour photo was taken by David Bailey depicting Jones and Richards in front of Jagger, Watts and Wyman, against a blurred black background. According to Margotin and Guesdon, the photo was intentionally blurred as "an allusion to the psychedelic movement" and "corresponds better to the Stones' new artistic direction".
Aftermath was first released in the United Kingdom on 15 April 1966 by Decca. The release followed a two-week European tour, beginning on 25 March. In the Netherlands, the album was rush-released by Phonogram Records during the week of 14 May in response to high demand from Dutch music retailers. On 20 June, London issued the American edition with a shorter track listing; "Paint It Black" (released as a single in May) was substituted in place of "Out of Time", "Take It or Leave It", "What to Do" and "Mother's Little Helper".[nb 3] According to pop historian Richard Havens, "it was reduced in length at the insistence of the band’s American label to conform to the normal standards of the day – eleven tracks was enough for any fan in the view of London Records." Overall, Aftermath was the band's fourth British and sixth American studio release.
– Music critic Roy Carr, 1976
In the UK, Aftermath topped the albums chart for eight consecutive weeks, replacing the soundtrack album for The Sound of Music (1965) at number 1. It stayed on the chart for 28 weeks. The album became a top-10 best-seller in the Netherlands, while the American edition was also a popular success. It entered the Billboard Top LPs on 9 July 1966 at number 117, making it the chart's highest new entry that week. By 13 August, the album had risen to number 2 behind the Beatles' Yesterday and Today. Havens attributed the US LP's chart success in part to its inclusion of "Paint It Black", which had topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in June. On 2 July, "Mother's Little Helper" was released in the US as a single with "Lady Jane" as the B-side; it peaked at number 8 on the Hot 100. The album's songs also proved popular among other recording artists, with "Mother's Little Helper", "Take It or Leave It", "Under My Thumb" and "Lady Jane" all being covered within a month of its release. Adding to Jagger and Richards' success as writers, Chris Farlowe topped the UK charts with his Jagger-produced recording of "Out of Time" in August 1966.[nb 4] On 9 August, Aftermath received gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America; it was certified platinum in 1989 for sales of one million copies.
The Rolling Stones' new sound on the album helped attract "thousands of new fans", The Daily Telegraph later wrote. In Malvinni's opinion, Aftermath was "the crucial step for the Stones' conquering of the pop world and their much-needed answer to the Beatles' Rubber Soul", which had been released in December 1965 and also embodied the emergence of youth culture in popular music during the mid 1960s. Speaking on the cultural impact of the British release in 1966, Margotin and Guesdon said it was "in a sense, the soundtrack of Swinging London, a gift to hip young people" and "one of the brightest stars of the new culture (or counterculture) that was to reach its zenith the following year in the Summer of Love".
Aftermath received highly favourable reviews in the music press. It was released just months before Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and the Beatles' Revolver, albums by artists that Jagger and Richards had received comparisons to while Oldham was promoting the band's artistic maturation to the press.[nb 5] Keith Altman of the New Musical Express wrote in his review: "Those masterminds behind the electric machines – The Rolling Stones – have produced the finest value for money ever on their new LP". He described "Goin' Home" as a "fantastic R&B improvisation" and said that "Lady Jane", "Under My Thumb" and "Mother's Little Helper" had the potential to be "excellent singles". Richard Green of Record Mirror began his review by saying: "Whether they realise it or not – and I think Andrew Oldham does – the Rolling Stones have on their hands the smash LP of the year with Aftermath. I say that without knowing what's coming later, but whatever it is will have to go some to top this album." Green described the record as "distinctly rock and rolly" with Watts' drumming "particularly exceptional".
The apparent derision of women in the album's lyrics was a source of division among listeners. In the New Left Review, Alan Beckett wrote that the band's lyrics could only be fully appreciated by an audience familiar with modern city life, particularly London. He said that the Stones' "archetypal girl", as first introduced in their 1964 song "Play with Fire", was "rich, spoiled, confused, weak, using drugs, etc.", adding that: "Anyone who has been around Chelsea or Kensington can put at least one name to this character." Responding in the same publication, Richard Merton defended the band's message. He said that in songs such as "Stupid Girl" and "Under My Thumb", the Stones had "defied a central taboo of the social system: mention of sexual inequality" and that "They have done so in the most radical and unacceptable way possible: by celebrating it."
Among US commentators, Bryan Gray wrote in the Deseret News: "This album does the best job yet of alienating the over-twenties. The reason – they attempt to sing." For Stereo Review in March 1969, Christgau included the American release in his basic rock "library" of 25 albums and wrote:
The Beatles arc a collective entity. The Rolling Stones are one person – Mick Jagger, a singer whose power, subtlety, and wit are unparalleled in contemporary popular music, who is also (with fellow Stone Keith Richard) the second-best rock composer in the world. Rock aficionados class the Stones with the Beatles, but perhaps they haven't impressed a wider audience because their devotion to the music is pure: the Hollyridge Strings will never record an album of Jagger–Richard melodies. But for anyone willing to discard his preconceptions, Aftermath is a great experience, a distillation of everything that rock and blues are about.
Christgau later wrote a letter to Stereo Review, charging the magazine's editor with deleting and altering the contents of his article, including his concluding statement on Aftermath: "Let me insist that I do not consider the Rolling Stones' Aftermath 'the best album of its kind,' as your editor would have it. I consider it quite simply the best." In a 1973 piece for Creem, Patti Smith recounted her response to the album in 1966: "The Aftermath album was the real move. two faced woman. doncha bother me. the singer displays contempt for his lady. he's on top and that's what I like. then he raises her as queen. his obsession is her. 'goin home.' What a song. so wild so pump pumping. do it down in the basement. don't come til the last second. cockpit. cover you like an airplane. stones music is screwing music."
|Retrospective professional ratings|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music||UK: |
|The Great Rock Discography||7/10|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
Retrospective appraisals have considered the album the most important and musically formative of the Rolling Stones' early records. In Perone's opinion, Aftermath is one of their most significant albums "because it firmly established the band's dark image and prepared the way for the psychological darkness of glam rock and the social darkness of British punk rock." Writing for MusicHound Rock (1999), Greg Kot highlighted Jones' musical contributions while identifying Aftermath as the album that marked "the entry of these erstwhile blues traditionalists into the album-rock pantheon alongside Dylan and the Beatles, with its canny use of sitar, marimba, and dulcimer". On its top 10 Rolling Stones albums list, NME listed Aftermath at number 6, while stating that "1966’s ‘Aftermath’ saw the Stones at once rejecting and redefining rock’n’roll lore. The first all-originals Stones album, it's so classic-packed their reputation as sub-Beatles hopefuls never recovered." Reviewing the American version for AllMusic, Ritchie Unterberger said the album "did much to define the group as the bad boys of rock & roll with their sneering attitude toward the world in general and the female sex in particular". He expressed reservations about the substance behind songs like "Goin' Home" and "Stupid Girl", finding the latter particularly callow, but applauded the band's use of influences from Dylan and psychedelia on "Paint It Black", and similarly praised "Under My Thumb", "Lady Jane" and "I Am Waiting".
In 2002, the album was digitally remastered along with the band's other 1960s titles as part of ABKCO Records' reissue campaign. In its anticipation, MacDonald reflected on their music from that decade in Uncut and recognised Aftermath as "a 50-minute epic entirely made up of self-penned songs" that represented an "early peak" in the Stones' career. Author Shawn Levy, writing in his 2002 book Ready, Steady, Go!: Swinging London and the Invention of Cool, said that, unlike the three previous Stones albums, Aftermath displayed "purpose" in its sequencing and "a real sense that a coherent vision was at work" in the manner of the Beatles' Rubber Soul. However, he added that with the August 1966 release of Revolver, Aftermath appeared "limp, tame, dated". In an article for Clash celebrating Aftermath's 40th anniversary, Simon Harper said that "whether the album compared to the consummate releases of their rivals that year is open to question, but as the rebirth of the world's greatest rock and roll band, its importance is undisputed." Writing in The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Colin Larkin describes Aftermath as "a breakthrough work in a crucial year" and an album that demonstrated a flexibility in the group's writing and musical styles as well as "signs of the band's inveterate misogyny". Tom Moon, in his appraisal in The Rolling Stone Album Guide, said he prefers the US version for its replacement of "Mother's Little Helper" with "Paint It Black" and admires the Swinging London-inspired lyrics, adding that Jagger "com[es] up with sharp lines even when he's just shaking the maracas of his mind to the beat to give his lips something to do". Writing for The A.V. Club, Hyden cited it as the band's "first full-fledged masterpiece and a template for every classic Stones album that came afterward", crediting it with introducing the "complex, slippery persona" of Jagger's lyrics: "He could be good and evil, man and woman, tough and tender, victim and victimizer. It was a confounding, complicated image, and willfully constructed to be misunderstood and even alienating, but it made Jagger one of rock's most compelling frontmen."
Aftermath has frequently appeared on rankings of the greatest albums of all-time; according to Acclaimed Music, it is the 150th most highly rated record on all-time lists. In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked the American edition of Aftermath at number 109 on the magazine's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. The same version is featured in James Perone's book The Album: A Guide to Pop Music's Most Provocative, Influential, and Important Creations and Chris Smith's 101 Albums That Changed Popular Music, albeit in the latter's appendix "Ten Albums That Almost Made It". Aftermath was also featured in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (2010).
All tracks written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
|1.||"Mother's Little Helper"||2:44|
|4.||"Under My Thumb"||3:41|
|5.||"Doncha Bother Me"||2:41|
|8.||"High and Dry"||3:08|
|9.||"Out of Time"||5:37|
|10.||"It's Not Easy"||2:56|
|11.||"I Am Waiting"||3:11|
|12.||"Take It or Leave It"||2:47|
|14.||"What to Do"||2:32|
All tracks written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
|1.||"Paint It Black"||3:22|
|4.||"Under My Thumb"||3:41|
|5.||"Doncha Bother Me"||2:41|
|8.||"High and Dry"||3:08|
|9.||"It's Not Easy"||2:56|
|10.||"I Am Waiting"||3:11|
For the British release:
The Rolling Stones
- Mick Jagger – lead vocals (all tracks), backing vocals (2, 7, 9–14), tambourine (2, 12), maracas (11), harmonica (5)
- Keith Richards – electric guitar (2, 4–7, 9, 10, 13, 14), backing vocals (2, 7, 9–14), acoustic guitar (1, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12), fuzz bass (4, 7, 10)
- Brian Jones – electric guitar (1, 5, 7, 10, 13), acoustic guitar (1, 2, 14), sitar (1), dulcimer (3, 11), harmonica (6, 8), marimba (4, 9), koto (12), bells (12)
- Bill Wyman – bass guitar (all but 3)
- Charlie Watts – drums (all but 3)
- Jack Nitzsche – piano (1, 9), organ (12), electric piano (2), harpsichord (3, 12), percussion (5), tambourine (6), maracas (6)
- Ian Stewart – piano (4–7, 14), organ (2, 9, 10)
|1966||UK Albums Chart||1|
|1966||French SNEP Albums Charts||25|
|1966||"Paint It, Black"||UK Singles Chart||1|
|1966||"Paint It, Black"||Billboard Hot 100||1|
|1966||"Mother's Little Helper"||Billboard Hot 100||8|
|1966||"Lady Jane"||Billboard Hot 100||24|
|1990||"Paint It, Black"||UK Singles Chart||63|
|2007||"Paint It, Black"||UK Singles Chart||70|
|2010||"Paint It, Black"||Billboard Rock Digital Songs||25|
- The film was announced on 17 December 1965, with the Rolling Stones said to be taking starring roles. The production was officially cancelled the following May, when a press release stated that the band were due to film a screen adaptation of the Dave Wallis novel Only Lovers Left Alive.
- Conceding that male chauvinism became a key theme of the Stones' lyrics from late 1965 onwards, Richards later told his biographer Victor Bockris: "It was all a spin-off from our environment ... hotels and too many dumb chicks. Not all dumb, not by any means, but that's how one got. You got really cut off."
- "Out of Time" and "Take It or Leave It" remained unreleased in the US until June 1967, when they were included on the London Records album Flowers. "What to Do" was eventually released on the 1972 American compilation More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies).
- Farlowe's single was released on Immediate Records, a new Oldham business venture that allowed Jagger and Richards to produce records for the first time.
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