CK Retro Review: December’s Children (And Everybody’s) by The Rolling StonesPosted: October 13, 2015
Rushed into the stores in November 1965 by London Records to take advantage of the holiday season, December’s Children (And Everybody’s) wasn’t really an album proper by The Rolling Stones. A batch of songs were taken from the UK Version of Out Of Our Heads, mixed with some singles and leftovers, and a goofy Andrew Loog Oldham title was slapped on it. Voila! New product. Nonetheless, it’s a collection that hold up quite well, with a few choice covers and some excellent originals, a few of which show that the Jagger/Richards songwriting partnership had ambitions to challenge Lennon/McCartney on the contemplative side of rock. Here is a song-by-song review.
12. “Look What You’ve Done”- Not even Brian Jones’ best efforts on harmonica can do much with this blues. Yes, they do it well, but there’s a hint of going through the motions.
11. “Talkin’ ‘Bout You”- At this point, the Chuck Berry covers were a bit routine, but Bill Wyman’s Peter Gunn bassline gives this one a bit of novelty. And the source material is quite strong.
10. “Gotta Get Away”- My favorite part of this song is right before the final chorus when Mick Jagger spews out some completely unintelligible lyrics and then sings, “You understand me now.” Sure we do, Mick. Aside from that, it’s a just-OK mid-tempo rambler with a Motown-style chorus.
9. “Route 66”- Pretty good live recreation of their studio take that holds together even with the ruckus of the screaming.
8. “I’m Movin’ On”- Yeah, the two live cuts were an effort to fill out the album, but they’re both rock solid. This rocked-up country song features an extended outro and some wild harmonica from Jones. And, needless to say, a lot more screaming.
7. “The Singer Not The Song”- The lyrics are a bit rote, but the melody is quite fetching. The chord changes hit you in the heart bone, and Keith Richards is the hero here with both his harmonies (even a little falsetto at the end) and his delicate acoustic work in the break. Great chorus too.
6. “Blue Turns To Grey”- Jagger as a romantic advisor hands out some bad news to a guy who’s just been dumped: It’s only gonna get worse, pal. Like “The Singer Not The Song”, the melodic twists are really an indication that the band had more in its arsenal than bluesy power and defiant attitude.
5. “I’m Free”- You can dock it a couple points if you want for borrowing a bit off The Beatles’ “Eight Days A Week.” But there’s something sedate and peaceful about this simple declaration of liberty that’s a bit out of character for the band and yet refreshing. Almost mantra-like before that became the thing.
4. “She Said Yeah”- Look out below. In about a minute-and-a-half, the band manages three verses, an instrumental break and ample repetitions of the chorus. In that way, it gives “Rip This Joint” a run for its money in the tempo department. Somewhere in there Mick is singing about diamond rings, but you’ll be too lost in the adrenaline rush to notice it.
3. “You Better Move On”- It was a few years old by this time, but it’s still a lovely effort. Songwriter Arthur Alexander also provided the source material for a great Beatles cover ballad (“Anna”.) The elegance of the melody is brought forth by the restraint of the playing, and Jagger elocutes with precise diction so every word makes its mark. A great heartbreaker.
2. “As Tears Go By”- They gave it the “Yesterday” treatment after the fact, but they had written the song more than a year earlier (for Marianne Faithful) than that Beatles classic, so we’ll give them a pass. In any case, it’s done beautifully, yet another song that showed that pop and classical weren’t at cross purposes. That it was Jagger and Richards proving that point bucked the perception of the group, but the music always outweighed the caricature, even back then.
1. “Get Off Of My Cloud”- Jagger and Richards have always been hard on this song because it’s not as fine as “Satisfaction”, but, come on, guys, how many songs in the world are? Charlie Watts rat-a-tat is like a second hook next to the doubled riff with Jones on guitar and Ian Stewart on piano. Richards tears away with fuzzed-out rhythm playing and the chorus climbs to majesty. Doesn’t really matter too much what Jagger is singing in the verses because his in-your-face refrain says all that you need to say about the wish for isolation when everybody around is a bore or a hassle.
(E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. For more on the subject, check out my new book, Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs, coming out in November and available for preorder at the link below.)