It was fifty years ago today, wait, no, that was the other album. The Rolling Stones were long accused of following in the Beatles’ footsteps. They were managed by Andrew Loog Oldham, who was one of Brian Epstein’s assistants. Brian Jones put a sitar on the song “Paint It Black” after George Harrison recorded his eastern-tinged accompaniment to John Lennon’s acoustic riff in “Norwegian Wood.” The Beatles went psychedelic on their legacy-ensuring Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Stones almost derailed theirs with Their Satanic Majesties Request.
The Rolling Stones were a blues band, before and after, though they were also architects of rock. The album that was started under the working title “Cosmic Christmas” will be getting the birthday treatment on Sept. 22, when Abkco will release a 50th Anniversary Edition of its 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request.
The Stones were the bad boys of ’60s rock. The Beatles may have hit a high falsetto implying naughtiness when they wanted to hold your hand, but Mick Jagger just wanted to make love. The Beatles sang they could be left out, or in, the violence of the “Revolution,” the Rolling Stones had “Sympathy for the Devil.” Their earlier stab at demonic demos were not met with sympathy from the critics.
The Stones began recording Their Satanic Majesties Request soon after Between the Buttons, which they dropped in January 1967. The album came out in December 1967. It was their first self-produced LP. The sessions were interrupted by Jagger, Jones, and Keith Richards’ drug trials and jail terms (Lennon and Paul McCartney both sing on the Rolling Stones’ pre-incarceration song “We Love You”). It’s not well produced and parts come off murky. The new package was remastered by engineer Bob Ludwig, with Abkco chief engineer Teri Landi, for both stereo and mono mixes.
“In 2002 we were paying a little more attention to finding a middle ground between what the master sounded like and what was cut for release,” Landi told Variety. “This time, we opened it up to let everybody know what the master sounds like.”
The veteran remastering team bring new brightness to the sessions. “2,000 Light Years From Home,” which features Jones on Mellotron, reportedly has a new freshness. Veteran studio musician John Paul Jones, who went on to play bass and keyboards in Led Zeppelin did the string arrangement for “She’s a Rainbow,” Nicky Hopkins was the studio pianist against the Stones’ steady rhythm section of bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts. The seemingly-improvised and aimless “Gomper” and the reprise of “Sing This All Together” are “carefully arranged and densely layered,” Variety reports, having listened to the cleaned up versions.
“They were very dedicated to making this a consistent record,” Landi told Variety. “It’s amazing, under the circumstances, that it flows as well as it does.”
The album wasn’t just a response to the Beatles’ songs of peace, love and spiritual harmony. It was the bridge threatened by troubled waters, the band’s first real descent into audio decadence. “It’s such a vast departure from what they had previously done that it seemed like they were just jumping on the psychedelic bandwagon,” Landi says. “But really, it’s a natural bridge between what came before and what came next.”
The album’s artwork, a visual response to Sgt. Pepper, was done by Michael Cooper. They almost put up a shot of Jagger naked on a cross. The liner notes were written by Rob Bowman. They include personal notes about Brian Jones suffering a nervous breakdown after his longtime girlfriend Anita Pallenberg dumped him for Richards, who believed he was saving her.
We’ll update this when we know what all the special features and bonus material will be, but until then, here’s the tracklist for the original album.
The Rolling Stones, Their Satanic Majesties Request Track Listing (Stereo and Mono Mixes)
1. “Sing This All Together”
3. “In Another Land”
4. “2000 Man”
5. “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”
6. “She’s a Rainbow”
7. “The Lantern”
9. “2000 Light Years from Home”
10. “On With the Show”
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