Beggar's Banquet is a complete album. While it does not attempt Sgt. Pepper-type unity it manages to touch all the bases. It derives its central motive and mood from the theme of "revolution" but isn't limited to that. Over at the Stones house there's plenty of room for groupies, doctors, jigsaw puzzles, factory girls, and broken hearts as well. Yet even these subjects are colored by the impact of "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man." Beggar's Banquet ought to convince us all that the Stones are right. By putting all these different themes on the same album the Stones are trying to tell us that they all belong together. They do.
The art work in this album is quite nice. The center spread is a particularly appealing depiction of the Stones acting out the album's title. However, it continues to grate on me that the cover of the album is not what the Stones intended, and that the Stones were forced to abandon the one they had originally intended to use by London Records. The idea that a record company executive should have the right to tell the Stones what is a suitable cover for their album is an outrage. It is typical of the Stones that they held out against the new cover for quite a while and then gave in. It just wasn't worth the continued hassle. Nonetheless, giving in doesn't solve the problem. As long as record companies are run by businessmen, artists will never achieve full control over how their art is presented to their public. There has been too much glib talk lately about the power of musicians. Unless musicians organize themselves more effectively, and unless journalists give them all the support they can, things like this will happen again and again. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech but it doesn't forbid a record company from censoring the artists it controls via an exclusive recording contract.
The next time New York's East Side revolutionary contingent wants to shake somebody up (besides Bill Graham), why don't they head uptown to London Records? I'm sure the President of London Records could use the education.
This article is from the January 4th, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.
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