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The Rolling Stones Return With Beggars Banquet

The band releases its best, most immensely pleasing record yet

August 10, 1968
Mick Jagger Rolling Stones
Mick Jagger on the cover of Rolling Stone
Dean Goodhill

The Rolling Stones have returned, and they are bringing back rock and roll with them. They have finished their next album – titled Beggar's Banquet – and it is the best record they have yet done. In all aspects it is a great album; great Rolling Stones' material and performance; a great rock and roll album, without pretense, an achievement of significance in both lyrics and music.

Beggar's Banquet marks the comeback of the Stones from the disastrous Their Satanic Majesties Request, a recording episode as unfortunate as any for any group in the world. Their new album will mark a point in the short history of rock and roll: the formal end of all the pretentious, non-musical, boring, insignificant, self-conscious and worthless stuff that has been tolerated during the past year in the absence of any standards set by the several great figures in rock and roll.

The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: The Rolling Stones, Beggar's Banquet

Beggar's Banquet should be the mark of this change, for it was Their Satanic Majesties Request which was the prototype of junk masquerading as meaningful. In Satanic Majesties, the Stones fell hook, line and sinker into the post-Sgt. Pepper trap of trying to put out a "progressive," "significant" and "different" album, as revolutionary as the Beatles. But it couldn't be done, because only the Beatles can put out an album by the Beatles.

And only the Rolling Stones could put out Beggar's Banquet. The music is characterized by its assertion of rock and roll: strong, dynamic lines from the bass and the drums. With these come an overlay of Keith Richards on acoustic guitar; Brian Jones on steel guitar and piano, much of it directly from the country and western tradition in rock and roll. In feeling – and in some of the lyrics and phrasing – it is also reminiscent of Bob Dylan's Highway 61.

There's a tramp sitting on my doorstep,
Trying to waste his time;
With his mentholated sandwich,
He's a walking clothesline.
Here comes the Bishop's daughter,
On the other side;
She looks a trifle jealous,
She's been an outcast all her life.

Both Mick Jagger's singing and his writing are his best yet. The lyrics above, from a track titled "Jigsaw Puzzle," show the strong Dylan influence.

The gangster looks so frightening,
With his luger in his hand;
But when he gets home to his children,
He's a family man.
But when it comes to the nitty gritty,
He can shove in his knife;
Yes he really looks quite religious,
He's been an outlaw all his life.

"Jigsaw Puzzle" features Brian Jones on slide guitar, and the piano playing of Nicky Hopkins, a young Englishman who has played on several of the Stones' records before, but really excels in the new album. On this song, he plays in the chorded Dylan style. The song begins with these instruments in a slow ballad style, and then goes into an extended instrumental break, with powerful bass punches – a whole rock and roll scene.

Oh the singer he looks angry,
At being brought to the line;
And the bass player he looks nervous,
About the girls outside;
And the drummer, he's so shattered,
Trying to keep the time;

 

The guitar players look famished,
They've been outcasts all their lives.

 

Mick Jagger brought the unmixed master tapes for the new album to Los Angeles in the middle of July. With him came Jimmy Miller, a 27-year-old American, who has been the producer of every group Stevie Winwood has been in (such tunes as "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm A Man") and whom the Stones signed to help them with this album.

With him, Mick also brought the artwork for the album, to show around and consider. It follows the idea of the title. The best shot, for a double spread photo on the inside of the album, is a picture of the Stones dressed ragamuffin style at this huge eating table in some castle, with a fantastic spread before them. The photo will be printed in dark brown, approximating the old daguerreotype photograph and just a few things, like cherries in a bowl, will be tinted a rose color like the postcards of the 1920's.

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