The Rolling Stones

London, 1966

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


For the first few years of their history, the songwriting team of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards honed their skills while their band, The Rolling Stones, became known for their covers of rhythm-and-blues classics (much like many of their contemporaries of the day). With each successive release, the number of originals on the records increased.


So Aftermath, the 1966 release from the Stones (and the sixth album in America), shouldn’t have surprised people by including only originals from Jagger and Richards. And the end result of the years of songwriting development was… well, there was still some work to do.


This release is best known for two of the Stones’ biggest early hits, “Paint It, Black” and “Under My Thumb,” two songs which clearly showed the days of being an r&b band were all but done. Yes, these songs have been pummeled into submission by classic rock radio -  but, no, I’m not sick of hearing them. In fact, the chances in instrumentation that Brian Jones – definitely an unsung hero in the Stones’ early days – on these two tracks sets them apart from so much of the other music that was being created in the pre-psychedelic era. I mean, using sitar on “Paint It, Black”? Marimba on “Under My Thumb”? Dulcimer on “Lady Jane”? Outstanding!


Of course, if the songwriting were weak on these tracks, the instrumentation wouldn’t mean a thing – and, fortunately, the Jagger/Richards combo works its magic. The third track, “Lady Jane,” is a surprisingly gentle number from the Stones that, from my vantage point, shows a suitor giving up relationships with other women to settle in with his beloved. Almost semi-autobiographical from the Stones, don’t you think?


Actually, Aftermath shows the Stones kicking down another pre-set notion – namely, their view of women. Listen closely to “Under My Thumb” or “Stupid Girl” (the first Stones track to actually make it onto a disc, to my knowledge, that contained an expletive). If anything, the image of the Stones as rock’s bad boys (at least as compared to the Beatles) comes through loud and clear here.


One track that I think gets precious little attention is “Think” – a song I know I’ve heard played somewhere (and to whoever had the foresight and courage to do so, thank you). Sure, the sound is a little muddy – the same thing could be said for a lot of this disc – but this one easily counts as a “coulda, shoulda, woulda-been” hit single.


If only all of Aftermath were as strong – in fact, the first half of the disc contains some of the strongest material the Stones had done to date. But the second half of the disc shows that while the Jagger/Richards partnership had matured, they still could write some real clunkers. Take “High And Dry” and “Flight 505” for example – though I give them some credit for daring to take the latter song and give it a not-so-happy ending. Likewise, “Going Home” – admittedly a precursor to the musical workout that “Midnight Rambler” would be – is a simple three-minute blues song stretched to over 11 minutes for no good reason. Three words: boring, boring, boring.


Oh, don’t get me wrong, Aftermath is most definitely the first real album that features the Stones coming into their own skin, but it’s definitely a feeling-out process, and they hadn’t quite hit the comfort level themselves yet. For that matter, I personally don’t think they’d find that for some time – what with upcoming experimentations with psychedelia and lineup changes. But, those are stories for other reviews.


It’s too easy to suggest people check out the numerous best-of compilations for the songs we all know and love. While Aftermath is a difficult listen at times, it’s got some definite gems hidden among the rough patches, and is still well worth your time.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B



© 2007 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of London, and is used for informational purposes only.