CK Retro Review: Some Girls by The Rolling Stones

I’m not sure if 1978’s Some Girls is significantly better than the three albums that preceded it in The Rolling Stones catalog, albums which don’t have as lofty a reputation. The difference is that Some Girls, the band’s first full album with Ron Wood as a member, demands your attention; even when it’s going off the rails a bit, you can’t ignore it, and when it’s on its game, it’s thrilling in a way Stones albums hadn’t been since the ’68-’72 apex. There’s a sense of purpose to it as opposed to just seeming like an album meant to fill out a contract. There’s even a rough theme surrounding the New York City nightlife at a time when the city was a seedier, scarier, more unpredictable, for good and bad, place than it is today. Here is a song-by-song review:

TWO STARS

10. “Lies”- The problem with the full-throttle, trebly approach that The Glimmer Twins applied to many of their uptempo productions starting with this album is that it then causes Jagger to shout to be heard. When the song’s not much to write home about, as is the case here, the whole effect can be grating.

9. “Some Girls”- I have no problem with the boys being provocative, as long as they do it within the context of a crackling song. Yet I have the creeping suspicion that “Some Girls” existed for no other reason to garner newsprint. Mission accomplished, but it doesn’t mean that I want to hit the replay button on a pretty dull slog of a track.

8. “Far Away Eyes”- Jagger’s ill-advised impulse to drawl out the lyrics in the verses mars what could have been a decent country turn. I’m not really fond of those lyrics anyway, but their flaws would be less noticeable without the silliness. It’s too bad, because Wood’s steel guitar and the harmonies in the refrain belong to a much better song.

THREE STARS

7. “Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)”- Part of me wishes that they had dug a little deeper into the Motown catalog for their 70’s cover choices. That said, they do a little bit better with this one than they did with “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg.”

6. “When The Whip Comes Down”- There’s a certain toughness to the two-guitar attack of Richards and Wood that there was never was with Richards and Mick Taylor. Part of that is the production and part of that was a conscious change in the style of songs the band was writing. In any case, that attack, along with Watts lightning-flash drumming, lends serious heft to Jagger’s odd tale of a gay garbage collector.

FOUR STARS

5. “Respectable”- Mick pretty much abandons the verses early on, which is fine because this one is crisp and peppy enough to get by just on the music and the sneering choruses, which Jagger claimed weren’t a swipe at his wife, although the impending divorce claimed otherwise. In those scant two verses, however, he efficiently dismantles those who would feign airs when the reality of their situation is much baser. And the fact that he uses the first person voice in the first verse means that he could foresee a time when he would be, against all odds, Sir Mick.

4. “Before They Make Me Run”- Jagger probably helped out with some of the lyrics because sometimes it takes someone on the outside to tell you how bad things really are, almost like an intervention. But Richards wrests control of the song with his vocal, always careening in the opposite direction of where you think it should be, and his defiant cool. The interlocking phalanx of guitars is a dynamic bit of business as well. If you had to explain Keith Richards to an alien, play him this song.

FIVE STARS

3. “Beast Of Burden”- The closest thing to a ballad on the album (“Far Away Eyes” is more of a parody of a ballad to me), this is also the song with the best guitar work here. At the slower tempo, you can clearly hear the interplay between Richards and Wood, one going this way, the other that, briefly intermingling, and then separating again while always keeping the song’s content in mind. Wood also beefs up the harmonies of Jagger and Richards, giving them an endearingly ragged quality. Those harmonies form some solidarity behind Jagger’s put-upon narrator, who takes his stand in the dirt, willing to risk the girl’s leaving rather than doing any more gruntwork in the name of love. No wonder people thought it was about he and Keith.

2. “Shattered”- One of Jagger’s finest performances, as he half-raps, half-bellows, capturing the coolness and the frenzy of New York city in that manner. Richards’ belching guitar sounds like a subway tunneling through hell, while Wood’s solo sparkles like Times Square. The city is slowly eradicating the narrator’s nervous system; even the sex seems like too much for him. And if he crumbles, NYC isn’t going to stop and shed a tear from him. Instead it’s going to move on and pummel the next poor sap who crosses its path: (“I’m shattered/What does it matter?”) All you can do is keep your head down, mind the maggots, and utter “Shadoobie”, the mantra of the city, under your breath.

1.”Miss You”- Everybody just assumes that the disco move was a jump on the bandwagon. What they’re missing is that the music here is the best vehicle for conveying the message of the song. The suavity of the rhythm mirrors the narrator’s attempts at restraint, but the carnal undertow eventually sweeps him up into exclaiming his lust to the world in the anguished bridge and the falsetto refrain. Bill Wyman and Watts play the kind of disco beat you would expect them to, effortless and elegant. Richards gets his riffage in even in this setting, and Jagger modulates his performance flawlessly. Sugar Blue’s harp and Mel Collins’ sax split the tension of the night. A lot of rock bands face-planted in their attempts at disco; no sweat for the Stones.

(E-mail me at countdownkid@hotmail.com or follow me on Twitter @JimBeviglia. My new book, Counting Down The Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs, is out now and available at the link below.)

http://www.amazon.com/Counting-Down-The-Rolling-Stones/dp/1442254467

 

 

 

 

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