Friday, 30 January 2015

the stones' psychedelic elephant in the room

Here's a piece of classic 1967 psychedelia in the form of the promo clip for "2000 Light Years From Home" taken from probably the most argued over Stones album ever, 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'.
Seen by many as the worst record the Stones ever made, for others a moment of Stones magic never to be reproduced again. Richard Metzger at Dangerous Minds made the album his favourite Stones recording and frankly we're with him on this. Despite all the criticism of how the Stones had abandoned their rhythm and blues roots in a trendy move of the era to counter the seminal psychedelia of The Beatles' Sgt Pepper album, 'On Their Satanic Majesties' not only out psyched The Beatles with probably a better representation of just what an acid soaked year it had become but had intriguingly found the group abandoning up until then, a pretty slavish resistance to anything outside of rhythm and blues influenced rock and roll.
The studio sessions were also notoriously shambolic with hangers on and wannabe's flocking round their chosen ones. Even producer Andrew Loog Oldham walked out when the chaos had become too much.
Bill Wyman at the time

    " it was a lottery as to who would turn up and what – if any – positive contribution they would make.."
Jagger was quoted as saying
    "There's a lot of rubbish on Satanic Majesties. Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, "Enough already, thank you very much, now can we just get on with this song?" Anyone let loose in the studio will produce stuff like that. There was simply too much hanging around. It's like believing everything you do is great and not having any editing"
Even Brian Jones chipped in at the time
    "It's really like sort of got-together chaos. Because we all panicked a little, even as soon as a month before the release date that we had planned, we really hadn't got anything put together. We had all these great things that we'd done, but we couldn't possibly put it out as an album. And so we just got them together, and did a little bit of editing here and there."
Down the years Keith Richards has also agreed with his band mates criticism calling the album "a load of crap" but also added he did like some of the songs "2000 Light Years from Home", "Citadel" and "She's a Rainbow".

Which is actually a good lump of the album. And yes, and there's the rub Keith, like it or not those songs have stood up remarkably well over the decades. Even to the extent that you were playing one at a recent Knebworth gig, remember? (er well probably not)
In fact the tracks sound brighter and more inventive today than in 67 when groups were experimenting far more broadly with music than they do in recordings now. Remember also this experimentation was done with real instruments and much manual handling of recording techniques.
The band had also, in keeping with the general chaos of the event, invited some willing helpers with backing vocals and other duties from Nicky Hopkins (piano, organ, mellotron, harpsichord) - John Paul Jones (string arrangement on "She's a Rainbow") - Lennon and McCartney (backing vocals and percussion on "Sing This All Together") - Ronnie Lane (backing vocals and acoustic guitar on "In Another Land") - and Steve Marriott (backing vocals on "In Another Land")
Who, it might be said , were all willing night trippers and sky pilots in 1967. And you don't have those guys hanging around without some magic floating about those sessions. No, it's obvious that for the first time in those chaotic sessions The Rolling Stones were flying without a wire and they didn't much care for it especially on reflection. Not being in control that is and as we all know Messrs Jagger and Richards have always preferred it down nice and tight.

The Stones never did make another album in the same way. The diversity and chances taken in making this astounding piece of audio were never dared attempted again, mores the pity. And the opportunity to have Brian Jones playing Mellotron, keyboards, guitars, flute, brass, soprano saxophone, electric dulcimer, recorder and percussion was soon gone forever.
The original album cover was suitably audacious to suit the recording, it came with a 3D panel on the front, and to go with the album a psychedelic video promotion of course, rare enough in itself for the time, of "2000 Light Years From Home" which was also released as a single in the UK.
With it's fabulous mellotron arrangement either by Nicky Hopkins or Brian Jones, a downright wicked bass riff from Bill Wyman and general eeriness of the track this surely has to be a sound that groups like the Moody Blues went on to explore further. There is a disembodied unearthly sound about the whole album and "2000 Light Years From Home" embodies it perfectly.