Mid-Period Stones

Mid-Period Stones – Spotify

This is the era that built the band’s reputation. Sure, tons of hits came earlier, which were documented so well on the 1966 compilation “Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass),” but it was after this that the band truly started testing limits, showing they were more than a hit machine, it’s these works which truly made the band legendary.


Released for Christmas ’67, this LP is seen as a giant misfire, a poor imitation of the Beatles, inspired by their legendary “Sgt. Pepper.” But if this came out today, by a star band, it would be seen as a solid effort. Alas, back then you actually had to buy music, so that which was not laden with hits sat in the bins. Sure, the Beatles ushered in the album era, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later, certainly the seventies, that so many got the message. There might have been underground FM radio in San Francisco and New York in 1967, but elsewhere it was years away.

“She’s A Rainbow”

This is as close to a hit as “Satanic Majesties” contains. Upbeat but complicated it hearkened back to what came before yet was most certainly innovative. Furthermore, it’s dated not a whit. If you were there back then, paying attention, you’ll nod your head. If you’re a newbie you’ll be stunned how poppy the track is. There’s this canard that the bands of yore were so busy testing limits that they didn’t care about either melody or commercialism, this is patently untrue. You get this on one listen, it’s more enticing than seemingly everything on Active Rock radio today.

“2000 Light Years From Home”

The piece de resistance, the reason you bought “Satanic Majesties,” an almost five minute journey into outer space when that was truly the final frontier and “Star Trek” ruled and we hadn’t yet been to the moon.

The goal was to get a big rig stereo, but this sounds good even on small systems, and is especially good on headphones. The song speaks of alienation, a core concept of the era, funny how Bernie and Trump are appealing to this segment of the population but the acts are busy being upbeat and telling us how much better they are than us. Art is about having more questions than answers. And that’s how the Stones broke through, when they were still close to broke and no one knew Mick went to the London School Of Economics.


What a riff! With a memorable chorus to boot!

Most people don’t know this, but if you play it twice you can’t get it out of your head, you’ve got to play it ad infinitum, truly a find.

“In Another Land”

A Bill Wyman track which is a period piece that entranced me back then and that I still like today.


Was released at the same time as the White Album. But unlike the Beatles, the Stones were coming off a stiff, few were waiting with bated breath, furthermore, in the U.S. the cover resembled that of the White Album in its simplicity, so the record was considered an afterthought by many.


Arguably the best Stones LP ever, “Beggars Banquet” was unexpected and broke new ground by being more simplistic, instead of adding more the band took it down to the studs, and the result is staggering, a journey into the minds of artists that we just want to get closer to.

“Sympathy For The Devil”

This was not a hit! It only gained notoriety in the wake of “Let It Bleed” and the Altamont movie, “Gimme Shelter.” Funny to think the band was once considered dangerous, that they were aligned with dark forces, but this track enhanced that reputation.

“Street Fighting Man”

Ditto. Its fame came with time. Furthermore, despite the anarchy of 1968, this was seen as a bit inauthentic. The Bay Area bands could own the revolution, but these English cats? Not really.

“Stray Cat Blues”

Listen to the intro, with the alternating male and female moans… This is the most dangerous cut on the LP, this was the true rock and roll ethos, bands of boys going on the road and taking advantage.

I can see that you’re fifteen years old
No, I don’t want your ID

Underage girls, the rockers were famous for them. It was a different era, one in which you could even put these words on wax.

“No Expectations”

Where Rod Stewart got the sound he made famous on his first three albums. This country-influenced number is everything today’s Nashville’s hits are not. Funny how the Tennessee town is imitating the rock of yesteryear yet the progenitors were in thrall to the crooners of yore.

“Dear Doctor”

Risk rewards. Instead of trying to create radio-friendly fodder, the Stones dropped an even more country-influenced track, which despite its at times tongue-in-cheek vocal ends up being authentic. The kind of track you sing along to at home, it’s just you and the record.

“Parachute Woman”

Hooky, an immediate groove, this sound is the backbone of “Exile On Main Street.” This track got no traction back when but it’s beloved today. It’s infectious. Rock would rule if there was one cut as magical as this today.

“Factory Girl”

There are no factories and the musicians are all screwing models.

Most people don’t align with perfect 10’s. Furthermore, exterior is far from everything. You don’t want someone looking over your shoulder, but someone who loves you.

“Salt Of The Earth”

There’s not a dud on “Beggars Banquet,” you can listen from start to finish without lifting the needle, without pressing “skip.” One of Keith’s best vocals, the way the track transitions from a low production acoustic number to a kitchen sink production works, what a finish!

P.S. Eventually the original bathroom stall cover was released in the U.S., but our nation is still puritanical. The Stones, Jimi with “Electric Ladyland” and “Queen” with “Bicycle Race”…the artwork was seen as too much for Americans, no wonder we were in thrall to these English cats who tested limits.


My favorite Stones LP, a return to production, a cornucopia of sounds, it’s “Sticky Fingers” that gets all the love, but “Let It Bleed” was just a bit less obvious, a bit more soulful.

“Gimmie Shelter”

There was nothing like dropping the needle on this gem. It got little airplay but it became a bedroom staple. Some tracks are just undeniable. Meanwhile, credit Merry Clayton for adding an exuberance, a sexuality that puts the track over the top, the same way the female vocal does at the end of “Exile”‘s “Let It Loose.”

“Midnight Rambler”

Once upon a time there really was a Boston Strangler, the sixties were a dark era. This cut ended up being the highlight of the live show, with Mick’s scarf thrusts and lighting changes. You’ve got to love a track that changes tempo.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

A choir and then Al Kooper’s French horn and then poignant lyrics in a seven and a half minute track that accelerates into hyperspace…WHAT MORE COULD YOU WANT?

There used to be a Chelsea Drugstore, it was ultimately featured in “A Clockwork Orange,” I made a pilgrimage, the place was relatively benign but I tingled walking through the inspiration for this masterpiece.

Yes, it was a one listen smash. But it wasn’t until “Sticky Fingers” that everybody was on board. Fans were thrilled, but it wasn’t until “The Big Chill” that this track became iconic, deservedly so!

“You Got The Silver”

Possibly Keith’s best vocal ever, a magical cut, I prefer it to “Happy.”

“Monkey Man”

That twinkly sound, that riffing guitar, this was an explosion in your brain, it’s cuts like these that cemented the rock revolution. Just an album track, but unique in its own right. It twists and turns and if you hear this and don’t want to go on the road with the band…YOU’RE NO FUN!

“Live With Me”

The first side’s “Monkey Man.” Almost as good. Every cut on “Let It Bleed” is a winner. Put it in the time capsule, it was on the tour for this LP that the act first got the moniker “The World’s Greatest Rock And Roll Band.”


“Sympathy For The Devil”

In its slowed-down live iteration, it’s all about the groove. Be sure to wait for the solos, they’re the highlight of the LP, you grimace and wince, playing your air guitar, this album doesn’t live up to its hype as one of the best live LPs ever, but Mick Taylor was now in the band and the unit reached new heights, he drove them there, Ronnie Wood fits the image, is friends with Keith, but Taylor was more lyrical, he stretched Keith, he’s a legend who deserves credit.


The victory lap, the Beatles were toast, the Stones were the biggest act in the world and it’s this album that made them such.

“Brown Sugar”

The party didn’t start until this played. It was the weekend anthem. You poured down your drink, you got up and boogied, it freed you from your inhibitions, it’s pure magic from start to finish, and one cannot write about it without mentioning the great work of the gone and seemingly forgotten Ian Stewart and Bobby Keys.

“Sister Morphine”

My favorite track on the album. Dark and sincere. Never a hit single, rarely played on the radio, no one who grew their hair out did not know it.

“Moonlight Mile”

So subtle, so good. It finished and you felt abandoned. They took you to the edge of the park in the dark and left you there. No one ever talks about this anymore, but this is GENIUS!

“Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”

Mick Taylor’s coming out party, a fully-integrated member of the band, Taylor shines and then in the second half of the track he obliterates you, so exquisite, so lyrical, with Bobby Keys adding flavor.

Everything on “Sticky Fingers” is great, it’s just that the whole LP is a bit more obvious and less dark than what came before, and for those us living in the land of alienation we found it a bit less appealing, but that’s like comparing Gehrig and Ruth, Jordan and Pippen, it’s all fantastic!


Straight to number one and then straight to the dumper. Everybody who heard “Sticky Fingers” wanted to own it, but without hits it didn’t sustain. And it was a step back from the obviousness of “Sticky Fingers.” “Exile” requires dedication to understand, to get. Put in the time, it’s worth the reward.

“Tumbling Dice”

The single that got more juice, more of a hearing, when Linda Ronstadt covered it!

The mix wasn’t right. The vocal was buried. The hook wasn’t obvious. But if you saw the band live in this era, they could lock on to the groove, and the chorus became majestic. Still, the band seemed to have forgotten how to write a hit, and hits help sell the product, never forget that.

However, with the Beatles finished, with AOR rampant, with “Rolling Stone” respectable, the band’s summer tour was a story so big it’s hard to fathom today. It’s as if you put Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Jay Z, Kenny Chesney and Paul McCartney on the same bill and then brought Tupac back from the dead. There was not a publication that did not cover it, it was the apotheosis of the impact of rock and roll, it was the boomers’ victory lap, they’d won, they’d taken over.

“Soul Survivor”

Knowing I was going to see the band, I played this double LP all night and this was the first cut that jumped out, with the staccato, machine gun, guitar.

“Loving Cup”

Phish covers this. It fits their style perfectly. A tight band that starts off in one place and then journeys to another. If this were on “Let It Bleed” it would be better known, but it works on every level.

“Let It Loose”

Probably the best track on “Exile,” stay until the end, with the female wail, it’s as if she’s in the throes of sexual ecstasy and once again you want to get closer, the Stones have done this better than any band, they’re the circus you want to join.

“Casino Boogie”

Talk about capturing lightning in a bottle… It’s loose, but tight. You can’t help but nod your head. Riffs are all fine and dandy, but groove is the essence of the magic, it’s when you touch people’s souls that you become a legend.

“Ventilator Blues”

When your spine is CRACKIN’!

This is what you get when bands are in control as opposed to labels. When it’s about music as opposed to money. This has got more power, more nougat, than a slew of Top Forty hits, it evidences humanity and power, if you know “Exile” you know this!

“I Just Want To See His Face”

Where did this come from?

You’re sitting at home, in the dark, alone, the record is playing and suddenly there’s this subtlety, this otherworldly sound coming out of the speakers. Another Mick Taylor gem. He took the band into places it’s never returned to.

And, of course, “Exile” contains Keith’s anthem “Happy,” the Angela Davis tribute “Sweet Black Angel,” and it’s hard to mention “Ventilator” without including “Stop Breaking Down,” but the truth is for being such a famous album “Exile” is essentially unknown, it’s a Dead Sea Scroll hiding in plain sight, but no one wants to take the time to learn the language, to listen to all 18 tracks. Considered to be too long, an unnecessary double disc package way back when, every cut now seems essential on this project that easily fits on one CD.


A disappointment, a misfire, the whole world was watching and the Stones just couldn’t deliver, there was no exceptional cut, nothing to hook you, just a bunch of good stuff, and when you’re the Stones, that’s not good enough.

“Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”

My favorite song on the album, the lyrics tell a story, the changes in amplitude hook you, the sounds too, but there’s nothing else on the album quite as good.

“Silver Train”

What kind of a world do we live in where Johnny Winter does a better version of your second side opener than you?

“Star Star”

The song with the advance hype, it would have had more success if the title included the F-word, but the truth is it’s a middling Chuck Berry rip-off, something you can enjoy that leaves you kind of blah. Not an anthem, but they meant it to be. The Stones seemed to be so busy living the life of the rich and famous that they lost touch with the street.

“Can You Hear The Music”

A minor, totally forgotten cut, it’s an unheralded number which is the heart of the LP, if only they cut out the stabs for stardom and focused on this more intimate stuff.


Ditto on this. Great atmosphere.

“Hide Your Love”

Great groove, great vocal, another unheralded winner. Rock was sterilized when you had umpteen tracks and the ability to comp the vocal, bands haven’t locked on with each other for eons.


Another bummer. The band had lost the formula. Less commercially successful than its predecessor, this album was better, but it all ran together.

“It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll”

More famous for its title than its music. A middling hit back in ’74. Eh.

“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”

A total winner. A Temptations cover that succeeds on its own merits, because of its instrumentation and Mick’s impassioned vocal, the best cut on the LP, worth listening to, you’ll smile.

“Time Waits For No One”

Mick Taylor’s swan song, this is the second best cut on the album. Pay heed to his fingerwork, listeners knew how great this was back when, but fewer were paying attention than in the “Sticky Fingers” era, even though you wouldn’t know that based on the press.


Seen as an album of odds and ends, a pastiche best avoided, it’s funny how this album has only grown in stature over time, its rather stripped-down sound is more accessible than that on the two LPs that preceded it, it was an empty calorie listen way back when, but today it’s filling and fulfilling.

“Hot Stuff”

Seen as trend-following disco drivel in ’76 the aging process has aided it, but it’s still a half-baked dud.

“Hand Of Fate”

The second best cut on “Black And Blue” it got no airplay back then, it seemingly didn’t exist, but it gets love today. This would fit in perfectly with their ’69-’72 canon, a great groove, a one listen like.

“Fool To Cry”

An actual hit, as opposed to the misfires from previous LPs, it went all the way to number 9 in the U.S., eclipsing “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll”‘s number 16, but it was weird and wimpy, syrupy, yet still Stones-like. You didn’t hate it, but you didn’t love it.

“Crazy Mama”

Better than “Silver Train” and “Star Star” on “Goats Head Soup,” maybe it’s the production that puts it over the top. Completely minor, but inoffensive.
And then comes…

“Memory Motel”

This track came back to life when Mick duetted with Dave Matthews and the result was included on the 1998 live album “No Security,” but before that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone but a hard core fan who knew it. But if you purchased “Black And Blue,” and not many did, it wasn’t a stiff but it was far from a hit, you discovered this gem at the end of side one.

It’s a journey, a story, it humanized the band, and as the song wore to the conclusion of its seven minutes there was an element of majesty.

You’re just a memory
And you used to mean so much to me

Was that the Stones?

Most of their contemporaries had faded with the sixties. The Stones had carried on and hit new peaks, but now despite beaucoup box office, the legend outstripped the art, this was back when albums still counted, before live was everything, before the LP was just the blueprint for the show.

Who knew a renaissance was just around the corner?

That’s right, now including Ron Wood in the place of Mick Taylor, the band dropped a bomb back in ’78, when no one was expecting it, the act freshened its sound and delivered an indelible one listen song that dominated not only the airwaves but the house parties as “Brown Sugar” had half a decade before.

Who knew Mick and Keith had “Miss You” in them? Who knew there were Puerto Rican girls just dyin’ to meet them? Who knew they could cover the Temps’ “Just My Imagination” even more successfully than they covered “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”? Who knew they could break down the sound and lock into the groove of “Beast Of Burden”?

When the Glimmer Twins had their backs to the wall they delivered.

But it was what came before that they built their rep upon.

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