The Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones 39108
Released: June 1978
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 82
Certified 4x Platinum: 10/30/84
With Bob Dylan no longer bringing it all back home, Elvis Presley dead and the Beatles already harmlessly cloned in the wax-museum nostalgia of a Broadway musical, it's no wonder the Rolling Stones decided to make a serious record. Not particularly ambitious, mind you, but serious. These guys aren't dumb, and when the handwriting on the wall begins to smell like formaldehyde and that age-old claim, "the greatest rock & roll band in the world" suddenly sounds less laudatory than laughable, you'd better dredge up your leftover pride, bite the bullet and try like hell to sweat out some good music. Which is exactly what the Stones have done. Though time may not exactly be on their side, with Some Girls they've at lest managed to stop the clock for a while.
On the new album the Stones have stripped down to the archetypal sound of two or three guitars, bass and drums, and it's wonderful to hear the group blazing away again with little more than the basics to protect them. Everything's apparently been recorded as close to live as we'd want it, and the overdubbing and extra musicians have been kept to a minimum. "Respectable" takes a close look at the peculiar position of the Stones, circa 1978, and boasts lines like these:
before it inexplicably begins to lose interest in itself. "When the Whip Comes Down" and "Lies" are a neat combination of white heat and old hat, while "Miss You," "Imagination" and "Shattered" are a good deal better than that. And the title track is every bit as outrageous ("Black girls just want to get fucked all night/I just don't have that much jam") as everyone says. This song may be a sexist and racist horror, but it's also terrifically funny and strangely desperate in a manner that gets under your skin and makes you care. On "Some Girls," Mick Jagger sounds like he's not only singing like Bob Dylan, but about Bob Dylan: "I'll give you a house back in Zuma Beach/And give you half of what I owe."
"Before They Make Me Run" and "Beast of Burden," Some Girls' hardest-hitting songs, are sandwiched between "Respectable" and "Shattered" on side two. It's probably presumptuous to suggest that these four tracks are about the present predicament of this stormy band, but I think they are. When Keith Richards sings, "Well after all is said and done/Gotta move while it's still fun/But let me walk before they make me run," there's no doubt he's talking about the music, his drug bust and the possible end of the road, about which he writes brilliantly ("Watch my taillights fading/There ain't a dry eye in the house..."). And when Mick Jagger implores,
- Paul Nelson, Rolling Stone, 8/10/78.
After the collage of fluff that was Black and Blue, I thought that nothing could get me interested in the Stones again, but I just had to review Some Girls. Hearing "Miss You" and "Far Away Eyes" on the radio, I marveled at how these guys could actually manage to fit so much contempt for so many -- Stones fans, disco fans, Latin women, country audiences -- onto one little single. The album cover of this one, with its take-off on Frederick's of Hollywood drag-queen sleaze, shows quite explicitly not only what the Stones think of women, but also what they think of themselves: they consider both to be cheap, tawdry trash good only for a quick, transient kick. It's fitting that they should end this way (and though it be protracted beyond belief, the end is certainly coming), because anyone who heaps as much contempt on as many people as the Stones have these past few years must inevitably come to an even greater contempt for themselves. Some Girls is supremely indicative of what "decadence" is really about: passivity and boredom.
Almost all the songs here are supposedly about women or the Stones' feelings toward them, yet not one depicts a real relationship or any genuine emotion other than greed. What, for instance, is "Miss You" about? Where is the expression of true longing, the lineaments of true love? Mick seems to be singing from some indifferent twilight, occasionally emerging just long enough to embarrass himself with a limp display of would-be heavy vocal calisthenics: "People think I'm craaaazzzzzy...."
The title track is perhaps the most distinguishing song of all in its attitude toward women -- or perhaps toward other humans in general. If empathy is too much to expect, one might at least ask for some insight, and "Some girls take the shirt off my back/ And leave me with a lethal dose" just doesn't quite fit the bill. What it really comes down to is a matter of what portion of humanity can be bought and sold.
Money is a crucial factor in "Beast of Burden," which may be why what might have been a worthwhile song about the difficulties of love degenerates so quickly into cliché: "You can put me out on the street/ Put me out with no shoes on my feet." And are those imitation Bee Gees falsetto chirpings that we hear in the bridge? The Stones have always followed the trends of the day, but once they took them up as a challenge. Now they just tag along after them meekly, melding them with those Same Old Stones Riffs and occasional bits looted from other (usually black) sources. "Respectable," for instance, is "All Down the Line"/"Silver Train" stapled to an old Isley Brothers cop. It's almost fun, except that you've heard it all before. Meanwhile, Keith Richard and Ron Wood play guitar solos. They play a lot of guitar solos on this album, on all kinds of guitars. I'm told that between the two of them they own hundreds, and I think that's very nice for them. But why do they play with such faraway hands?
"Just My Imagination" is just inferior, though comparing it with the Temptations' original does remind you of what, besides true gut-bucket kick, has been missing from the Stones' music for a long time: heart. Even those who would say that the Stones never had much heart in the first place (which I don't believe) would have to give the band that used to stand inside these shells credit for honesty. And there are two songs here that sound like they might be about halfway honest. Keith's "Before They Make Me Run" suggests that he might have a future in drugged-out country rock. This is the only song on the album that's about an instantly recognizable real-life situation -- Keith's recent Canadian drug bust. There's a similar sort of tentative tiptoe toward self-recognition, on Mick's part this time, in "Shattered," but any real soul searching is averted through pretentious quasi-sociological jottings: "Rats on the West Side, bedbugs uptown...." Like "When the Whip Comes Down," "Shattered" could be in part about a male hustler, but seen without compassion (something even male hustlers, perhaps especially male hustlers, deserve) or even understanding.
Supposedly the Stones selected the ten tracks here from about eighty recorded in Paris at the same time. A guitarist friend remarked cynically the other day that now they can just sit back and keep releasing the rest for the next five years. If these are really the best of the bunch, I would invite you to join me in responding to such a gesture of contempt in kind: by sitting back and not buying any more of this drivel, for who has really bought it this time is the Stones themselves.
- Lester Bangs, Stereo Review, 8/78.
The Stones' best album since Exile on Main Street is also their easiest since Let It Bleed or before. They haven't gone for a knock-down uptempto classic, a "Brown Sugar" or "Jumping Jack Flash" -- just straight rock and roll unencumbered by horn sections or Billy Preston. Even Jagger takes a relatively direct approach, and if he retains any credibility for you after six years of dicking around, there should be no agonizing over whether you like this record, no waiting for tunes to kick in. Lyrically, there are some bad moments -- especially on the title cut, which is too fucking indirect to suit me -- but in general the abrasiveness seems personal, earned, unposed, and the vulnerability more genuine than ever. Also, the band is a really good one -- especially the drummer. A
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Probably the last gasp of a once great band. They were playing tighter than ever, particularly Watts (drums) and Wyman (bass), but with this band that's not necessarily a virtue. This is stripped-down, straight-ahead Stones' rock & roll, and it still resonates with the echoes of their former dark grandeur (it was the group's best selling album ever), but the intensity has been replaced with something more commercially akin to the disco sensibility of the time. The CD's sound is punchy, crisp, and terribly overbright. B
- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.
A nasty, hard-rocking album, Some Girls finds the Stones turing out an effortlessly brilliant and eclectic set of material, encompassing the disco pulse of "Miss You," the sleazy snarl of "When the Whip Comes Down," the campy country of "Far Away Eyes," the moving ballad of "Beast of Burden," and Keith's best outlaw song, "Before They Make Me Run." * * * * *
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
Some Girls is the last gasp of the Stones' greatness, with Keith Richards' "Before They Make Me Run" serving as what should have been a fitting epitaph: "See my tail lights fading/ Not a dry eye in the house." * * * *
- Greg Kot, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.
The Stones deflect punk's attack and show off their muscles in the middle of the Studio 54 era with this naughty rock comeback featuring Ron Wood on guitar. If the down and dirty lyrics of this homage to NYC don't detract from your listening pleasure, then you're in for a good time with such sly, slinky songs as the title track, "Miss You" (a disco-y attempt), "When the Whip Comes Down" (pure energy), "Far Away Eyes" (a larf) and "Shattered" (the best ever written about Manhattan). * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
"Christ, Keith fuckin' gets busted every year," Mick Jagger fumed. Keith Richards was lost in drug hell, and the Stones wre on the verge of destruction, but they bounced back with "Miss You," the sleazy "Shattered" and "When the Whip Comes Down." And Richards does his best song, "Before They Make Me Run."
Some Girls was chosen as the 269th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.
- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.
Having successfully sold black R&B back to the Americans in the 1980s, the Rolling Stones' uncanny knack for successfully surfing musical trends re-appeared with 1978's Some Girls in the form of the album's opener, "Miss You." A hypnotically gritty take on the disco craze sweeping the US at the time, "Miss You," with its deeply funky bass line, caught the imagination of American record buyers, who propelled the single to the top of the US singles' chart. The single reached Number Three in the UK.
Otherwise Some Girls, which reached the top spot in the US album charts, Number Two in the UK and spent 82 weeks in the charts, is a typical slice of Rolling Stones fare; "When The Whip Comes Down," "Respectable" and "Shattered" all feature the grinding guitar riffs the band had come to make their own, while "Beast Of Burden" is one of the Stones' best love songs. The country and western styled "Far Away Eyes" provides a change of pace.
The original version of the album cover, designed by Peter Corriston, featured the faces of famous actresses but had to be reshot because the band did not secure permission. Some Girls was chosen as the 269th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in December 2003.
As of 2004, Some Girls was the #29 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
(2011 Deluxe Edition) The Stones recorded a clutch of outstanding tunes for their classic 1978 release that didn't make the final cut -- but several did wind up on their last great album, 1981's Tattoo You. That makes the dozen unearthed tracks here the outtakes of the outtakes. And the substandard nature of blues-chooglers like "When You're Gone" and "You Win Again" is doubly evident given their proximity to such stellar remastered highlights as "Miss You" and "Beast of Burden." B-
- Clark Collis, Entertainment Weekly, 12/2/11.
New guitarist Ron Wood helped inject Some Girls with a welcome friskiness (about the only good thing the Stones were injecting at the time), and the likes of "Miss You" showcase the band at its post-Exile best.
Some Girls was chosen as the 35th greatest album of all time by the editors of Entertainment Weekly in July 2013.
- Entertainment Weekly, 7/5/13.
After a couple of so-so mid-Seventies records, the Stones sounded revitalized on Some Girls, with Mick Jagger reveling in the NYC sleaze of "Shattered" and the disco hit "Miss You." Keith Richards was in rough shape, but he stood unrepentant in "Before They Make Me Run."
Some Girls was chosen as the 468th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.
- Rolling Stone, 10/20.
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