Between The Buttons

The Rolling Stones

London, 1967

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In a sense, you had to have some sympathy for the Rolling Stones in 1967. Mick Jagger and crew finally felt comfortable enough as a band – and especially Jagger and Keith Richards as songwriters – that they left the rhythm-and-blues covers they had started their career with and began to search for their own unique voice in the rock world.


They couldn’t have chosen a worse time to do so. The British Invasion of the early- to mid-‘60s was in its last gasp, and the psychedelic era began to come into focus. It would have been difficult for any band to find their own unique voice in these circumstances – let alone having to face a world that was bookmarked by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on one side and Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde on the other.


Say this much for the Stones: they tried. Between The Buttons is that proof – and the fact it still spawned two hit singles is evidence that they succeeded in certain aspects. But overall, the record is stylistically all over the place, and ends up being one of the most disappointing efforts from the group to date.


If anything strikes me about this disc as being odd, it’s that it really seems like the guitar work of Richards and Brian Jones is pushed to the background – or even completely out of the mix at times. Granted, the band had found themselves experimenting with instrumentation on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Aftermath, but to have a real lack of a solid guitar line is a bit shocking.


The two hits that everyone remembers off Between The Buttons – “Ruby Tuesday” and “Let’s Spend The Night Together” – haven’t kept as much of the shine as other early Stones hits have over the years. This is interesting, simply because I wouldn’t rank these among those that get the heaviest airplay (at least in Chicagoland). The daringness of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” (which would win them infamy when appearing on Ed Sullivan’s show) is the one thing that keeps this track sounding fresh today – as well as the driving piano lines.


Admittedly, I’ve never been a fan of “Ruby Tuesday” – it always had a bit of a sloppy feel to it, much like The Monkees’s “Daydream Believer”.Yet one could almost see this track as the Stones’s answer to “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” in terms of gentle grandeur – and in that regard, the Stones win that race by a nose in my book.


If only the remainder of Between The Buttons were as memorable. Oh, make no mistake, there are some great tracks on this disc, such as the gently driving “Cool, Calm & Collected,” “Miss Amanda Jones” and “She Smiled Sweetly”. I’d easily select any of these three to represent the Stones in terms of forgotten or overlooked classics.


But for each success, there is a major slip in quality and direction. “Yesterday’s Papers” probably was supposed to have some kind of a moral to it, but the song ends up being forgettably annoying. Likewise, tracks such as “My Obsession,” “Complicated” and “Connection” just feel like the Stones are musically meandering their way through the album, not quite knowing which direction to commit to.


But in retrospect, is the fault of this disc’s failure merely the work of the Stones? After all, they struck out on their own musical journey just as the road was not only being dug up in front of them, but was being dynamited in several different directions. That kind of musical upheaval would have sent any band scurrying for shelter, so some credit does have to be given to the lads for trying to weather the storm – and even making some notable music in the face of the changing winds.


Between The Buttons is one of those discs that will tend to confound the listener on nearly every turn, even after repeated listenings. The Rolling Stones’s foundation was on shaky ground – and the earthquake wasn’t done just yet.

Rating: C-

User Rating: C


I have been noticing this in my reading of Stones album reveiws here: why have someone who is not an impartial party re. this band do the reviews?
Buttons a C-; Only Rock'n Roll a D; Goat's Head C-; Hitmakers C-.
Hitmakers is one of the strongest debut albums in rock'n roll. Buttons is brilliant. Goat's Head and Rock'n Roll suffer because they come after the Big 5; not their best but surely not D.
chelsead, you're not serious, are you? "[A]n impartial party" is pretty much the perfect antonym of a music reviewer. The whole point of a music review is for the writer to share his or her opinion of an album. There's no such thing as "impartial" (or for that matter, "objective") when someone is giving their opinion about a work of art.

© 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.