2011 – Universal Republic Records
1978 – Rolling Stones Records
In the words of Lou Reed, “Those were different times.”
And they were. New York was still reeling from a financial crisis and the country as a whole wasn’t much better off. Son of Sam had kept the city on edge for months, and punk rock was exploding worldwide.
As punk became a real player, there was a heightened sense of competition among bands as rock and roll’s first generation gap began to appear and grow wider by the minute.
The Who, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones were common targets as the new guard called out the old as being washed-up and tired. The newly-coined “corporate rock,” courtesy of Foreigner, Journey, Styx and others, was all over FM radio and it gave the punks a target as big as the hair on the heads of millions of leftover hippies and fist-pumping young rockers.
So here come the Rolling Stones, expatriates of the highest degree, absorbing the frenetically jagged New York vibe and turning it into the last undeniably great record of their then-vital career.
They were somewhat on the ropes in ’78, coming off the recent release of some average product in Black and Blue and Love You Live. Having now survived the departure of Mick Taylor, the group was about to fully realize what a great choice they made in his replacement, former Faces member Ron Wood, who developed a very different chemistry with Keith Richards that proved equally as successful.
Keith’s drug bust, one of near-jail proportions, proved to be a catalyst for him to write one of his greatest songs and perpetuated his outlaw status. It also helped to inspire him to lay down some of the roughest and toughest guitar he had brought forth in years.
Mick Jagger was the true sponge, bringing the underbelly of the city to life through his words and keeping the Stones on the edge with his attitude. His observations were keen and comical, biting and shaded.
Pulling it all together was engineer Chris Kimsey, who just plugged em in, turned em up and let them do their thing. The crisp, stripped-down sound still had layers and texture, but contained a freshness that was both welcome and necessary.
In its decadence, wit, variety and fire, Some Girls launched the Stones well beyond their previous few years of self-indulgent output and placed them squarely in the moment with a lot to say.
Going back to these songs 34 years later, the Some Girls experience is still relevant, still compelling, and still rockin.
They always knew how to jump start a dance floor and this time around, they were ready to take on the challenge again. Not all of their fans were ready for them to do it via the disco route, but in the end it didn’t matter. What initially may have been looked at as trend-chasing has proven to be laying claim to a bit of territory.
“Miss You” is a true Stones classic, accepted within the context of their catalog because below the surface, it was genuine Stones. After a nice even setup, the guitars get loud and rough, Mick takes you from falsetto to in your face, Charlie and Bill are way up front in the mix, and the well-placed sax solo fits nicely.
What acts as a weave for the song is the great harmonica playing of Sugar Blue, bringing a refreshing melodic change from the typical disco of the day.
You are hereby served notice that this is not your mid-seventies glitter-flecked Stones. Not quite sure yet where we are headed, but it’s not back there.
"WHEN THE WHIP COMES DOWN"
If it’s too complicated, is it still rock and roll? The answer to that begins with “When the Whip Comes Down.”
Responding to the kids, the critics, and their fans, they let loose with the first of the album’s back-to-basics rockers. The reflections of a mover in the city’s gay community, the song just cooks and occasionally flashes powered by the rat-a-tat of Charlie Watts and the extra depth provided by Mick playing rhythm guitar. Gritty and loud with your feet on the street. A great song and a sign of good things to come.
"JUST MY IMAGINATION"
Upon hearing the original Temptations version, who would have thought that the Stones would cover it, and then, how did they do such a great job?
The Stones own this one from the get-go, led by the swirly twin melodies of Keith and Woody. A big fat bass gives it a bounce and Mick sings like he means it. It’s all very solid and very catchy. It helps to have a great song to cover and to be smart enough to know that you can pull it off.
Three songs in, we’ve gone disco, rock and roll and Motown. Unpredictable and perfectly executed.
On “Some Girls” Mick cobbles together verses about the women of the world, Keith gives it a murky blues feel, and we get what resembles the adult version of a Dr. Seuss-like sing-song with its repetition and wordplay. This one is funny and catchy and again features Sugar Blue, who is right at home and it shows.
Whoever is on the receiving end of this one (Was it ex-wife Bianca?) had it spelled out in all of its fury. Crashing and banging out of the gate, this song never lets up until the shotgun blast ending. A perfect partner to “When the Whip Comes Down” and a warning shot to those who called them over the hill.
"FAR AWAY EYES"
Side two opens with “Far Away Eyes,” a country ballad that harkens back to a Charlie Rich or Conway Twitty record in its simple piano-driven story colored by slide guitar throughout. However, Mick is neither of those guys and this one is far too campy to be at that level. It’s well done for what its worth and here again we get funny and fun.
The purest rock song on the album, “Respectable” just rips from start to finish. Everyone is all in – Charlie’s trash can drums, Bill’s driving bass pushing it all along, the twin guitars slashing, and Mick spitting out “Get out of my life/Don’t take my wife/Don’t come back” as if he cares so much but could not care less. Worth the price right here.
Over the past four tunes, we’ve gone from blues to rock and roll to country and back to rock and roll. The variety keeps comin and the quality is high. We’re building a classic…
"BEFORE THEY MAKE ME RUN"
The long-awaited bookend to “Happy,” this one is at once a story, a lesson, an anthem, and true Keith through and through. Outstanding in every way. Had things turned out differently for Keith, this would have been his closer and may have gone on to be better recognized for the great song that it is. The way it backs up at the end and lets Keith groove is an understated moment.
"BEAST OF BURDEN"
With “Beast of Burden,” Keith pulled out a thoughtful and slippery melody and turned it into an unexpected hit. Easy to dance to and sing along with, it brought the Stones to new ears and played well on non-AOR radio alongside “Miss You.” The call and response chorus and lilting harmonies sealed the deal.
“Shattered” is Mick’s summary statement about the city and its fragile condition. He makes you pay attention while careening off of hotel walls and street corners. Delivered with passion and urgency, you can feel, no matter where you are, the chaos within the lyrics. A nervy riff partnered with an “Uh, Sh-doobie, Shattered, Shattered” refrain, by the end you feel as if you’ve taken the whirlwind tour and come to a screeching halt. The absolutely appropriate capper to the album.
There are two ways to assess “bonus tracks.” One is to worship them as unexpected moments of insight and prolonged enjoyment of your favorite bands. Another is to say “There is a reason why they are called outtakes.”
An additional consideration is that this is the Rolling Stones. Aside from Bob Dylan and the Beatles, not many superstars with 60s roots have been more often bootlegged and followed by such a large worldwide audience.
In this case, let’s say the best songs made the original album. After living with this album for 34 years and having listened to it hundreds of times, it’s clear to me that Mick and Keith made the right decisions about content.
However, for the fans who eagerly awaited being able to replace their bootleg versions of these songs, we have a treasure; twelve songs ranging from country to blues to rock featuring newly overdubbed guitar parts and vocals. Given that the songs were in various stages of completion, Mick and Keith gave them the final touches before release
The best of the bunch are the first three: “Claudine,” a rockabilly romp about Claudine Longet, accused at the time of killing her husband, skier Spider Sabich, “So Young,” a prototypical Stones rocker which would have sounded at home on either Emotional Rescue or Tattoo You, and “Do You Think I Really Care?” a catchy, countrified tune reminiscent of “Dead Flowers.”
The next level includes the bluesy duo of “When You’re Gone” and “Keep Up Blues,” and the band’s easy-going take on the Hank Williams classic “You Win Again,” which was likely on the turntable when they wrote “Far Away Eyes.”
The single released from this reissue was “I Love You Too Much,” a tune that, like “So Young,” has a feel that is inconsistent with this album but was well-suited for either of their next two.
Beyond that, the remaining songs are of interest as a reminder of the incredible output that flowed from the Stones from 1978-1981, but cannot be called essential.
The sound is bright and full of the nuances that didn’t always come across many years ago on a less-than-stellar turntable or an aftermarket cassette player in the car or a first-generation remaster of the compact disc. By filling out the subtle textures with this edition, the sound quality alone makes it definitive.
The liner notes written by Anthony DeCurtis are very well-done and the studio photos are cool. Unfortunately, the original cover which was recalled shortly after the album’s original release due to the band’s unauthorized use of photos of Lucille Ball, Raquel Welch and many other famous female celebrities, could not be restored.
A review of the Some Girls Live in Texas ’78 DVD