Happy birthday, Some Girls. The Stones’ crassest, funniest, bitchiest album turns 32 this week. It’s still their all-time bestseller, going platinum six times over (way ahead of Tattoo You, at four million). The Stones were mostly still in their mid-thirties when they made this album, but they didn’t play coy about their midlife crises — instead of pretending to be kids, or respectable elder statesmen, they dished about sex, drugs, groupies, diseases, divorces, detox, courtrooms and late-night barefoot rambles through Central Park. It was one of the first records I ever owned, introducing me to exciting new adult concepts like parole officers and paternity suits and giving it away on Seventh Avenue. I had no idea what “Gimme all your money, gimme all your clothes” meant, but I knew if it left you looking like Keith, it was pretty intense.
Some Girls doesn’t sound all that much like any of their other albums, dominated musically by Mick Jagger, who plays more guitar (and cracks more jokes) than ever before or since. After their big mid-Seventies productions, the sound of Some Girls was remarkably spare, as all five Stones holed up in a Paris studio to bash it out with engineer Chris Kimsey. They didn’t call up big-name guests or L.A. session guys to butt in; even longtime chums like Nicky Hopkins, Bobby Keys and Ian Stewart were noticeably absent. It’s still shocking how confident Some Girls sounds rhythmically — while all the other big-name rock vets (Dylan, Who, Zeppelin, Kinks, Floyd, Steely Dan or Genesis or Yes or whoever) were getting lost in texture and finesse and overdubs, the Stones stripped down to focus on their killer rhythm section. They made everything else on rock radio sound embarrassingly slow and overbaked.
Keith Richards’ 1977 drug trial had put the band’s future in jeopardy; as Mick fumed to Rolling Stone at the time, “Christ, Keith fuckin’ gets busted every year.” But the Stones threw all their dread, confusion, verve and surly hostility into the music. “Respectable” and “Lies” are merely excellent rock & roll ditties; the other eight tunes are all-time classics, macking on disco (“Miss You”), punk (“When the Whip Comes Down”), R&B (“Beast of Burden” even more than the Motown cover “Just My Imagination”), Frank Sinatra (“Some Girls”) and country (“Far Away Eyes”). Keith sounded revitalized on his defiant theme song, “Before They Make Me Run,” which is highly recommended to Lindsay Lohan. The nastiest kick on Some Girls is “Shattered” — the underwater guitar fuzz, the ridiculously girlie “shedooby” chants, and Mick’s high-speed rant about biting the Big Apple.
Some Girls came out on June 9, 1978, and was instantly a massive hit. It introduced the Stones to suburban American kids who’d never heard any of their older records but thought “Shattered” was the shit. They got bonus cool points for the brilliant sliding-faces album cover, which let you match up Farrah Fawcett’s hairdo with Ron Wood’s face. It was a copyright lawyer’s nightmare, skewering so many celebrity images it still bears the ugly (and apparently permanent) tag “Pardon Our Appearance: Cover Under Reconstruction.” But since Mick’s the rock star who sang “The lines around my eyes are protected by a copyright law” in 1966, it’s fair to say he had it coming.
After Some Girls, they knew what to do — they held on to Kimsey, and kept their sound lean and mean for Emotional Rescue, Tattoo You and Undercover. And from this same period, let us not forget forget Ron Wood’s 1979 solo jam Gimme Some Neck, which featured his fellow Stones and offered the lost classic “F.U.C. Her,” a worthy precursor to Britney’s “If U Seek Amy.”
The Stones also made a video for “Far Away Eyes.” Maybe, just maybe, drugs were involved.