February 9-24, 1967: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
May 16-21, 1967: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
June 9-13, 1967: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
July 2-22, 1967: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
August 10-September 7, 1967: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
October 2-23, 1967: Olympic Sound Studios & De Lane Lea Studios, London, England
Chief engineer: Glyn Johns
Released: December 1967
Original label: London Records (Polygram)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Nicky Hopkins, John Paul Jones, Eddie Kramer, Ronnie Lane, Steve Marriott, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, unspecified musicians (strings, brass).
Sing This All
In Another Land
Sing This All Together (See What Happens)
She's a Rainbow
2000 Light Years from Home
On with the Show
It's not really meant to be a very nice picture at all. Look at the expressions on our faces. It's a Grimm's fairy-tale - one of those stories that used to frighten as a young child.
Michael Cooper was in charge of the whole thing, under his leadership. It was handicrafts day... you make Saturn, and I'll make the rings. I forget the name of those people, those 3D postcards. Thing is, everyone looks round on that one. They take pictures at slightly different times and distances and they're put together and the heads move but after it gets scratched you don't really see it anymore. People always ask, Are John and George in there? I don't even know. I'd forgotten if they're all in there. They are all in there. And Paul and Ringo... Lyndon Johnson and Mao we just started... we had to put a stop to it. We were getting the whole of Sergeant Pepper in there, just for the hell of it. It was getting late and Michael finally got Saturn suspended... It was really funny... we should have done a gig that night.
I can remember virtually nothing of those sessions. It's a total blank. We were pretty much the way we look on the cover! The thing I remember most about making Satanic Majesties is that cover. We went to New York with Michael Cooper and met a Japanese guy who had a camera that could produce a 3-D effect. We built the set on acid, went all round New York getting the flowers and the rest of the props; we were painting it, spraying it. We were just loony, and after the Beatles had done Sgt. Pepper, it was like, Let's get even more ridiculous.
We were on acid doing the cover picture. I always remember doing that. It was like being at school, you know, sticking on the bits of colored paper and things. It was really silly. But we enjoyed it. (laughs)
We've completed about half the tracks and are still working on a number of others. I'm very happy at the moment and want others to be happy, too.
We seldom all turn up together at the studio. The office just rings in and says we need you on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and I just motor on down. We generally begin recording around 11 PM and go on to 5 AM in the morning.
The making of this album was THE rock 'n' roll circus, well before we had the idea of a real one. Every day at the studio it was a lottery as to who would turn up and what - if any - positive contribution they would make when they did. Keith would arrive with anything up to ten people, Brian with another half-a-dozen and it was the same for Mick. They were assorted girlfriennds and friends. I hated it! Then again, so did Andrew (Oldham) and just gave up on it. There were times when I wish I could have done, too.
We've been carrying on recording the album but it has taken so long because of all this trouble we've had. Even while we were recording, it made us edgy, especially near the end. We had just been getting into a nice recording groove when the court thing happened and messed us up.
Mick Jagger arrived at the studios when they were working on Their Satanic Majesties and said he wanted a load of unusual sounds that had never been done before. I had a nosh and finally thought of something using echo. I plugged it all in and finally got it to work. I got Mick to listen and he said, Great, half-a-dozen more like that and we're okay.
I don't know (that we were trying to copy the Beatles). I never listened any more to the Beatles than to anyone else in those days when we were working. It's probably more down to the fact that we were going through the same things. Maybe we were doing it a little bit after them. Anyway, we were following them through so many scenes. We're only just mirrors ourselves of that whole thing. It took us much longer to get a record out for us, our stuff was always coming out later anyway. I moved around a lot. And then Anita and I got together and I lay back for a long time... There was a time 3, 4 years ago, in '67, when everybody just stopped, everything just stopped dead. Everybody was trying to work it out, what was going to go on. So many weird things happened to so many weird people at one time. America really turned itself round, the kids.... coming together.
Actually, Brian didn't play any guitar on the Satanic Majesties album, but he did play those string things on 2000 Light Years from Home.
(There was a)bsolutely no idea behind it. No, it's wrong to say there is or was no idea at all; there was, but it was all completely external. It was done over such a long period of time that eventually it just evolved. The first thing we did was She's a Rainbow, then 2000 Light Years from Home, then Citadel and it just got freakier as we went along. Then we did Sing This Song All Together and On with the Show, The Lantern and then Bill's one. It took almost a whole year to make, not because it's so fantastically complex that we needed a whole year but because we were strung out... (The drug trials) took a lot of time plus we didn't know if we had a producer or not. Sometimes Andrew would turn up, sometimes he wouldn't. We never knew if we would be in jail or what. Keith and I never sat down and played the songs to each other. We just made that album for what it is.
At some stage (the band) realized that Andrew (Oldham)'s ideas on producing were only ideas he'd got from them in the first place. There must have been some sort of bust-up with Andrew 'cause all of a sudden they really wanted to get rid of him. Before they started Satanic Majesties a lot of time was booked at Olympic. Andrew was supposed to be there as producer. And he was there only in a literal sense. We went in and played a lot of blues just as badly as we could. Andrew just walked out. At the time I didn't understand what was going on. They were probably a bit fed up with Oldham wanting to be the record producer and not really producing.
We were doing practically everything ourselves anyway. I'm fed up with arrangers and people. We've done all the music ourselves.
I don't know if much good came out of Satanic Majesties. We had a go at anything we wanted to do - and most of the time we did it ourselves... In those days if you wanted a tabla you had to try and play the thing, which is what we all did. Mick would be banging away on something, I'd be banging something. It was, Let's play this song all together. It was actually a lot of fun rather than a musical revolution.
It wasn't meant to be ambitious, it just got that way. It must have taken nearly all of '67 to get it together. Started in February and March and it came out in November.
The only thing I can say, from the Stones' point of view, is that it was the first album we ever made off the road. Because we stopped touring; we just burned up by 1966. We finished Between The Buttons, you know, Let's Spend the Night Together, and boom, we stopped working for like a year and a half. And in that year and a half, we had to make another album. And that was insane - on acid, busted, right? It was like such a fractured business, a total alien way of working to us at the time. So it kind of reflects.
Half of it was, Let's give people what we think they want. The other half was, Let's get out of here as quickly as possible.
It really began with the Beatles' Revolver album. It was the beginning of an appeal to the intellect. Once you could tell how well a group was doing by the reaction to their sex appeal but the days of the hysteria are fading and for that reason there will never be a new Stones or a new Beatles. We are moving after minds and so are most of the new groups.
There are lots of easy things to listen to like Sing This All Together. As an album I don't think it's as far out as Sgt. Pepper. It's primarily an album to listen to but I don't feel people will think we've gone totally round the bend because of that.
Yes, of course the album is a very personal thing. But the Beatles are just as introspective. You have to remember that our entire lives have been affected lately by social-political influences. You have to expect those things to come out in our work. In a way songs like 2000 Light Years from Home are prophetic, not at all introvert. They are the things we believe to be happening and will happen. Changes in values and attitudes.
It's just another album. It's different from the others we've done and it's different from the next we will do. But it's still just an album. The work on this album is not a landmark or a milestone or anything pretentious like that. All we have tried is make an album we like, with some sounds that haven't been done before.
I don't want to come on and say: We're progressing. We're just changing - that's all. There's no forwards, no backwards. It's just the sounds we do one night in a studio. I don't know if it's progressing or not. People talk a lot of rubbish and get so pretentious about records. They talk about them as conscious patterns of development rather than spontaneous feeling.
I was happy (when it was finished). I breathed a sigh of relief because we had finally finished it. It's just there to take it or leave it... I'm very conscious of the fact that it doesn't reflect (our arrests) in any of the songs. That they aren't all about policemen as they could well have been.
I don't know what to think about it. It's very weird really and doesn't have anything to do with me. It hasn't got any sort of songs in it, all the words are very obscure - no they aren't really... Well, it's a very heady album, very spaced out.
Satanic Majesties was the mood of the time. In those times it was flowers, beads and stars on your face, that's what it was. You can't play or write outside the mood of the times, unless you live on a mountain... In fact, I'm rather fond of that album, and I wouldn't mind doing something like that again.
There was a point at which we decided that we just won't play, we're just making records. We weren't playing at all. We can sit down and play THAT song from THAT album if necessary, you know what I mean? Because there are all sorts of songs that we can play, but there was a point where we couldn't. Could you do some of those tracks from Satanic Majesties? And I couldn't remember how they'd go. That was just like the studio stuff. We were fed up with doing that. Because it's like... We got very, very commercial. All the songs were very pop. I mean, they weren't sort of very rock. But we just went freaking off in that direction. You do get fed up playing just hard rock all the time. You want to try and do something new, you don't quite know how it's going to turn out. If it turns out shitty, well...
God knows I love rock and roll. Still, I'd like to see the band experiment more, with form as well as content. Because myself, I like Satanic Majesties...
With Satanic Majesties it seemed they felt something clever was expected of them because they had this tremendous rivalry with the Beatles. I think they felt that if the Beatles did something they had to do something equally good. With Satanic Majesties they were trying to impress, to compete. But throughout all (the Stones') albums there's this incredible black feeling which is natural.
It's so unbelievable. It was so weird to make an album and not be on the road that it was totally UNLIKE recording. I liked a few songs, like 2000 Light Years, Citadel and She's a Rainbow, but basically I thought the album was a load of crap. That album was made under the pressure of the court cases and the whole scene that was going on in London at that time.
It's a fractured album. There are some good bits, and it's weird, and there's some real crap on it as well.
(That was) A COMEDY RECORD!!! It's not heavy at all, it's really just lightweight comedy. Somebody put it on the other day, and I thought it was hilarious. Didn't do well, though... (W)e were just obviously out to lunch. I'm saying this because I just heard it recently and realized how much I liked it. What surprised me was the comedic feeling and all the jokes and things we'd never dream of doing now.
Lovely record... No (it's not an appalling mistake)! There should be a few more mistakes like that.
I don't think the songs are as good as a lot of music we did before or after, not by a long way, but that happens. It wasn't one of our great records, although it was a very interesting time. Sometimes you listen back to some music later on that is really quite good and which you've forgotten about - but I don't think that's true of Satanic Majesties.
I probably started to take too many drugs... (I)t's not very good. It had interesting things on it, but I don't think any of the songs are very good. It's a bit like Between The Buttons. It's a sound experience, really, rather than a song experience. There's two good songs on it: She's A Rainbow, which we didn't do on the last tour, although we almost did, and 2000 Light Years from Home, which we did do. The rest of them are nonsense... I think we were just taking too much acid. We were just getting carried away, just thinking anything you did was fun and everyone should listen to it. The whole thing we were on acid... Also, we did it to piss Andrew (Oldham) off, because he was such a pain in the neck. Because he didn't understand it. The more we wanted to unload him, we decided to go on this path to alienate him.
Their Satanic Majesties Request was a really fun moment, and there were some good songs on it: She's a Rainbow was very pretty. Nicky Hopkins on piano was very much in evidence on that record. 2000 Light Years from Home was a good track; we performed that live quite a lot, but the studio version was actually a bit too long and not focused enough. There's a lot of rubbish on Satanic Majesties. Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, Enough already, thank you very much, now can we just get on with this song? Anyone let loose in the studio will produce stuff like that. There was simply too much hanging around. It's like believing everything you do is great and not having any editing - and Andrew had gone by that point.
The Rolling Stones have been the best of all possible words: They have the lack of pretension and sentimentality associated with the blues, the rawness and toughness of hard rock, and the depth which always makes you feel that they are in the midst of saying something. They have never impressed me as being kitsch. Their Satanic Majesties Request, despite moments of unquestionable brilliance, put the status of the Rolling Stones in jeopardy. With it, the Stones abandon their capacity to lead in order to impress the impressionable. They ahve been far too influenced by their musical inferiors and the result is an insecure album in which they try too hard to prove that they too are innovators, and that they too can say something new.
Unfortunately they have been caught up in the familiar dilemma of mistaking the new for the advanced. In the process they have sacrificed most of the virtues which made their music so powerful in the first place: the tightness, the franticness, the directness, and the primitiveness. It is largely a question of intent. The old Stones had the unstated motto of We play rock. And there was always an overriding aura of competence which they tried to generate. They knew they did their thing better than anyone else around, and, in fact, they did. The new Stones have been too infused with the pretentions of their musical inferiors. Hence they have adopted as their motto We make art. Unfortunately, in rock there seems to be an inverse ratio between the amount of striving there is to make art and the quality of the art that results. For there was more art in the Rolling Stones who were just trying to make rock than there is in the Rolling Stones who are trying to create art. It is an identity crisis of the first order and it is one that will have to be resolved more satisfactorily than it has been on Their Satanic Majesties Request if their music is to continue to grow.
(B)efore we give up on pretentious pop, we should listen to the concept LP by the banished Stones. The title - Their Satanic Majesties Request - establishes their untarnished arrogance immediately. Like all their work, this album has its parodic side - the 3-D double-fold cover, for example - but as always, the intonations of Jagger's voice are decisive, and as always, they imply a critical distance from the material. (When Jagger sings, She comes in colors, you have every right to infer a psychedelic orgasm; when Donovan sings, and come if you can, you know it's only for tea.) Don't let the lovely new soft sound fool you - this is hard stuff, all about distance, really, in time and space and spirit. Despite the obligatory production job (a few of the effects distract, but most work) the songs are as good as ever, hummable even. And wonder of wonders, the major innovation - the group improvisation that occupies five-minute chunks of both sides - is reasonably successful. Yet the album might be better. The Stones, with their ad-libbing and street noises, are clearly more interested in the music of chance than the Beatles. Such interests are doomed almost by definition to partial failure. If only they could look back and prune - but their work has been so tight that the attempt would have to end in self-parody. The Stones have no need of that.
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