It's Only Rock 'N Roll
The Rolling Stones
Rolling Stones Records 79109
Released: October 1974
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 20
Certified Gold: 10/31/74
The title song of the Stones' new album has all the old energy, has the band hitting several standardized licks and using some old repeats and other gimmicks as if they still see a freshness in it all -- but the title song deals directly with the premise, with what it is now time for, which means it doesn't have to bother much with the ambiguities that come up when the subject is actually explored. The opener, "If You Can't Rock Me," mostly calls to mind what a fine album-opener "Brown Sugar" was, but on another level it also suggests that this is the normal way to start a show that must go on. "Till the Next Goodbye" and "If You Want to Be My Friend" -- in (here we go again) aesthetic terms the other rather good songs -- are normal Rolling Stones ways of keeping it going, the sudden shift to acoustic guitars being as sound a business decision here as it was in the case of "Wild Horses." The Stones can't do a "Ruby Tuesday" every time they come to the lyrical part of the show, but then neither can anyone else. There's a curious thing called "Luxury" starting the other side; it finds Jagger sort of acknowledging Caribbean influences simply by pronouncing the words as if he'd been shut in with some old Harry Belafonte records for two or three hard days -- while everything else about the performance is straight-from-the-hip rock-and-roll. It is, perhaps, another aspect of what the title means by "only." "Short and Curlies" is another sort of thing the Stones must feel is expected of them, the expectation dating from when they were brash pioneers on the frontier of pop-music obscenity, a frontier that no longer exists.
Of course, as the Stones indicate in "Fingerprint File," the new album's final song, we are being overheard by all sorts of crazy bureaucrats these days. That could affect the way we sound. And then there's no accounting for how all this shrugging practice, and the blushing that goes with it, might be affecting our hearing.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 1/75.
This is the long-awaited album of rock'n'roll's favorite band and it features some of the best things The Stones have done in many years. Joining them on keyboards throughout are Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart. The overall sound of the group is hard to peg. All of the hardness from the past is included with a touch of softness throughout. Jagger's vocals are still the group's main selling point, but the tunes he has penned with Keith Richard are superb vehicles for the entire band. This group will be around for many more years, because they only release quality material and they have a feel for presenting good old rock'n'roll. Blue Magic joins them on one track. The diversity of each tune, including an interpretation of an old soul classic, makes this effort unbeatable. Because of the time lag from the last effort this one should score exceptionally high on the charts. Best cuts: "If You Can't Rock," "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll," "Time Waits For No One," "Luxury," "If You Really Want To Be My Friend," "Fingerprint File."
- Billboard, 1974.
This is measurably stronger than Goats Head Soup, and I hear enough new hooks and arresting bass runs and audacious jokes to stretch over three ordinary albums -- or do I mean two? I also hear lazy rhymes and a song about dancing with Father Time and two sides that begin at a peak and wind down from there and an LP title that means more than it intends -- or do I mean less? B
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
It's uneven, but at times It's Only Rock and Roll catches fire. The songs and performances are stronger than those on Goats Head Soup; the tossed-off numbers sound effortless, not careless. Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band" with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of "If You Can't Rock Me" and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation of "Luxury," the aching beauty of "Time Waits for No One," and the agreeable filler of "Dance Little Sister" and "Short and Curlies" all the more enjoyable. * * *
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
It's Only Rock 'N Roll is important for several reasons. One, it marked the last Stones album featuring guitarist Mick Taylor and featured the Stones debut of his eventual replacement, Ronnie Wood of the Faces. It was also the first album produced by the Glimmer Twins, the pseudonym adopted by vocalist Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards.
It wasn't a particularly happy time in the Stones camp when the sessions began in November 1973 at Munich's Musicland Studios. "A lot of drugs were going on, which make it kind of difficult," says Andy Johns, who split the engineering duties with Keith Harwood. "It was not the most fun I had working with those guys. It certainly wasn't as fun as Exile on Main St., and the material was not as good."
The title track, which would eventually join the ranks of "Satisfaction" and "Brown Sugar" as one of the band's best-known anthems, was credited to Jagger-Richards, but rumor has it that the song was actually written by Jagger and Wood in the latter's basement. In the album's liner notes, Wood is credited with the "inspiration" for the song. The track featured the Faces' Kenny Jones on drums, rather than the Stones' Charlie Watts, and R&B great Willie Weeks on bass, rather than Bill Wyman.
However, the other tracks on the album featured the core Stones lineup, often augmented by the usual assortment of outside players. For example, Billy Preston, known for his work with the Beatles, played on "If You Can't Rock Me," "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," and "Fingerprint File." Says Johns, "Billy was fantastic. He had been touring with them as an opening act previous to that record, so he ended up playing on those sessions." Other outside players featured on the album included keyboardists Nicky Hopkins and longtime Stones session player Ian Stewart, as well as percussionist Ray Cooper from Elton John's band.
In addition to the nine originals on the album, the Stones opted to cover the 1966 Temptations hit "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," but it wasn't Richards's first choice. "Keith kept wanting to do the Dobie Gray song 'Drift Away,'" says Johns. "They tried it for four or five days, but it never quite worked. Ronnie was there for that and Mick Taylor wasn't, so I just kind of assumed that Ronnie was going to be in the band."
In its fourth week on the chart, It's Only Rock 'N Roll reached Number One, becoming the Stones' fifth chart-topper. Its one-week stop at the summit gave it the dubious distinction as the Stones' shortest stay at the top.
On December 2, less than a month after It's Only Rock 'N Roll hit Number One, the Stones officially announced that Taylor had left the group due to creative differences.
- Craig Rosen, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 1996.
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