Early-mid February 1968: Keith Richards' home (Redlands), West Wittering, Sussex, England
February 21-Mid-March 1968: R. G. Jones Studios, Morden, Surrey, England
March 17-April 3, 1968: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
May 9-23, 1968: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
June 4-10, 1968: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
June 24-28, 1968: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
July 6-25, 1968: Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA
Chief engineers: Glyn Johns & Eddie Kramer
Released: December 1968
Original label: London Records (Polygram)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Nicky Hopkins, Jimmy Miller, Dave Mason, Rocky Dijon, Rick Grech, Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Watts Street (L.A.) gospel choir.
Sympathy for the Devil
Street Fighting Man
Stray Cat Blues
Salt of the Earth
(The title) comes from a cat called Christopher Gibbs. Mick laid it on me but it was Christopher who arrived at that mixture. Although we had all been throwing around Tramps' Mushup or something. On the same idea. We wanted to do the picture. That idea came first, the beggars thing came first... Mick was very much into that tattered minstrel bit then.
I don't find (the cover we proposed) at all offensive. Decca has put out a sleeve showing an atom bomb exploding. I find that more upsetting.
Anita, Mick and I found this wall. Barry Feinstein photographed it. It was a great picture. A real funky cover. The fight (Decca Records) gave us we dug in our heels. They really wouldn't budge. It stopped the album from coming out (sooner). Eventually it got to be too much of a drag. It went on for 9 months or so. It was like them saying, We don't give a shit if your album never goes out. After that, we knew it was impossible and started looking around to do it differently.
We really have tried to keep the album within the bounds of good taste. I mean we haven't shown the whole lavatory. That would have been rude. We've only shown the top half! Two people at the record company have told us that the sleeve is terribly offensive. Apart from them we have been unable to find anyone else who it offends. I asked one person to pick out something that offended him and he quite seriously picked out Bob Dylan. Apparently Bob Dylan's Dream on the wall offends him... We've gone as far as we can in terms of concessions over the release of this sleeve. I even suggested that they put it in a brown paper bag with Unfit For Children and the title of the album on the outside. But no, they wouldn't have it. They stuck to their guns... It was simply an idea that had not been done before and we chose to put the writing on a lavatory wall because that's where you see most writings on walls. There's really nothing obsecene there except in people's own minds... We'll get this album distributed somehow even if I have to go down the end of Greek Street and Carlisle Street at two o'clock on Saturday morning and sell them myself.
I've lost interest in (the album cover battle) situation. It's been a complete waste of energy. We agreed to them using a different sleeve in the end and it still hasn't been realised yet. They change their minds all the time about it - come and go.
(The fight) was so silly - everything written on the wall was relevant to the album. Do they really believe people don't read things on public lavatory walls?
We copped out, but we did it for money, so it was all right.
There is a change between the material on Satanic Majesties and Beggars Banquet. I'd grown sick to death of the whole Maharishi guru shit and the beads and bells. Who knows where these things come from, but I guess it was a reaction to what we'd done in our time off and also that severe dose of reality. A spell in prison at Wormwood Scrubs would certanily give you room for thought! I was fucking pissed with being busted. So it was, Right we'll go and strip this thing down. There's a lot of anger in the music from that period.
During that long recording lay-off after Between The Buttons, I got rather bored with what I was playing on guitar... Anyway I eventually got into open-D tuning, which I used on Beggars Banquet. Street Fighting Man is all that, and Jumpin' Jack Flash. Child of the Moon was one of the early open-tuning numbers on the electric guitars, because Street Fighting Man was all acoustic guitars.
I (was) working a lot with open-E and open-D tuning for Beggars Banquet, working from what I'd learned during that year off the year before. (But I wasn't using the open-G yet), not at that time, except I played around with it for slide...
Jagger came to me after Satanic Majesties and said, We're going to get a new producer, so I said, OK, fine. He said, We're going to get an American. I thought, Oh my God, that's all I need. I don't think my ego can stand having some bloody Yankee coming in here and start telling me what sort of sound to get with the Rolling Stones. So I said, I know somebody! I know there's one in England already and he's fantastic, and he'd just done the Traffic album: Jimmy Miller. And it was a remarkably good record he made, the first record he made with Traffic. I said, He's a really nice guy. I'd met him, he'd been in the next studio room and I said, I'm sure he'd be fantastic. Anything but some strange lunatic, drug addict from Los Angeles. So... Jagger actually took the bait and off he went, met Jimmy Miller and gave him the job. And the first thing Jimmy Miller did (laughs) was fire ME. Cause he'd been using Eddie Kramer as an engineer. And so, naturally, quite obviously, he wanted to use his own engineer, the guy he knew.
I came in at a crucial time. The night Jagger phoned I just knew he was going to ask me to produce them. I just glided over to his house on a cloud. Before I was there 10 minutes he asked me if I'd be interested. Besides being excited, I'd always been a Stones fan... They'd play me songs on cassette or acoustic guitar, and we'd talk about how we'd develop it. That's how we came to record on cassette. I'd contribute in an unobtrusive, uninsulting, unnegative way. Everything was always great; how could WE make it better.
(Mick) told me that he'd liked what I'd done with Traffic. We met and discussed ideas and later we began the sessions. Mick has found it too much of a strain producing Their Satanic Majesties Request and playing as well. So he contacted me.
(Even though he wasn't really contributing anymore), there was no immediate necessity to go through the drama of replacing Brian because no gigs were lined up. We first had to recognize the fact that we needed to make a really good album. After Satanic Majesties we wanted to make a STONES album.
I'm delighted (to produce the Stones). Being down here with the Stones while they are rehearsing, you get to know and feel their music. You become one of them, which not only makes for a feeling of brotherhood and love, but also keeps you in sympathy with the ideas. It saves a lot of time and misunderstanding in the recording studio later.
Jumpin' Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man came about because I had become fascinated by the possibilities of playing an acoustic guitar through a cassette recorder, using it as a pick-up, really, so that I could still get the crispness of an acoustic - which you can never get off an electric guitar - but overloading this tiny little machine so the effect was that it sounded both acoustic and electric. Technology was starting to increase in sophistication, but I just wanted to reduce it back to basics. I bought one of the first cassette machines - a must for a budding songwriter - and then day in, day out recorded on it. Then I began to get interested in the actual sound of the machine, how close you could put the microphone to the guitar and what effect you could get out of it... When we were in the studio I would bring in that little Philips cassette recorder, get a wooden extension speaker, plug that into the back of the recorder, shove a microphone in front of the speaker in the middle of the studio and record it. W e would all sit back and watch this little microphone record the cassette machine in the middle of the studio at Olympic, which was the size of Salder's Wells. Then we'd go back, listen to it, play over it, mash it up and there was the track.
(Brian was) probably the one I've made most effort to get along with. When the sessions started, he came to me and said he didn't think he would be able to contribute much. I didn't push him. I asked Mick what the situation was and Mick said: Look, you can't force him, but he'll be OK. And he was right. When we started working he really got into it and started to get excited, and he apologized to me for having had doubts at the beginning. Brian is very insecure. He has to have people around him all the time - and he has a lot of hang-ups. But when he's doing something that really interests him he's almost a different character.
God, what was I doing? Who was I living with? It was all recorded in London, and I was living in this rented house in Chester Square. I was living with Marianne Faithfull. Was I still? Yeah. And I was just writing a lot, reading a lot. I was educating myself. I was reading a lot of poetry, I was reading a lot of philosophy. I was out and about. I was very social, always hanging out with (art gallery owner) Robert Fraser's group of people. And I wasn't taking so many drugs that it was messing up my creative processes. It was a very good period, 1968 - there was good feeling in the air. It was very a creative period for everyone. There was lot going on in the theater. Marianne was kind of involved with it, so I would go to the theater upstairs, hang out with the young directors of the time and the young filmmakers.
I'm very hung-up on electronic music at present. If there is not room to include it on our album I would like to do something separately.
Brian wasn't really involved on Beggars Banquet, apart from some slide on No Expectations; that was the only thing he played on the whole record. He wasn't turning up to the sessions and he wasn't very well. In fact we didn't want him to turn up, I don't think.
Brian Jones was in very bad shape. He was OK on the sessions for Satanic Majesties but on Beggars Banquet, he'd come in with his guitar and half an hour later he'd keel over and be out cold. There's a lot of very prominent piano on that album and that's the reason - essentially they were short one guitarist.
There are a couple country tunes (on the new album) 'cause we've always liked country music... Keith has always been country. That's what his scene was. We still think of country songs as a bit of a joke, I'm afraid. We don't really know anything about country music really, we're just playing games. We aren't really into it enough to know. I think it's going to be a good album.
I think that everybody knew that we had to get back to our roots, you know, and start over... That's why we got Jimmy Miller as a producer and came out with Beggars Banquet and those kinds of albums after, which was reverting back and getting more guts - which is what the Stones are all about.
(Along with Exile On Main Street), Beggars Banquet was also very important. That body of work, between those two albums: that was the most important time for the band. It was the first change the Stones had to make after the teeny-bopper phase. Until then, you went onstage fighting a losing battle. You want to play music? Don't go up there. What's important is hoping no one gets hurt and how we are getting out... To compensate for that, Mick and I developed the songwriting and records. We poured our music into that. Beggars Banquet was like coming out of puberty.
(It's) just a hazy mirror of what we were thinking last summer when we wrote the songs.
(My favorite Stones record to make was t)he last album. But when you get involved in the mixing you get so bored 'cause you've heard it two thousand times.
I guess I like Beggars Banquet the best of everything we've done.
I think Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed.
Yeah, well, you KNOW the ones I like. The first album was good. Beggars Banquet was good. That's about it.
I like Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed very much.
Well, funnily enough, this year I've listened to (Stones albums) more than ever, because they all came out on CD... (T)he ones that impressed me were the ones I always thought were superior - Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed. And Sticky Fingers. And Exile.
(My favorite Stones album ) without me (on it is) Beggars Banquet.
The album bristles with the brand of hard, raunchy rock that has helped to establish the Stones as England's most subversive roisterers since Fagin's gang in Oliver Twist. In keeping with a widespread mood in the pop world, Beggars Banquet turns back to the raw vitality of Negro R&B and the authentic simplicity of country music.
One thing is certain - Sympathy for the Devil is a Rolling Stones classic, beautifully built and with a brilliant lyric. If I could do it justice in words I would be writing songs like it myself.
I think the new Stones album is unflawed and lacking something. I think the new Beatles album is flawed and great anyway.
The Stones have unleased their rawest, ludest, most arrogant, most savage record yet. And it's beautiful.
The Rolling Stones are constantly changing but beneath the changes they remain the most formal of rock bands. Their successive releases have been continuous extensions of their approach, not radical redefinitions, as has so often been the case with the Beatles. The Stones are constantly being reborn, but somehow the baby always looks like its parents... On Beggars Banquet the Stones try to come to terms with violence more explicitly than before and in so doing are forced to take up the subject of politics. The result is the most sophisticated and meaning statement we can expect to hear concerning the two themes - violence and politics - that will probably dominate the rock of 1969... They make it perfectly clear that they are sickened by contemporary society. But it is not their role to tell people what to do. Instead, they use their musical abilities like a seismograph to record the intensity of feelings, the violence, that is so prevalent now...
Beggars Banquet is a complete album. While it does not attempt Sgt. Pepper-type unity it manages to touch all the bases. It derives its central motive and mood from the theme of "revolution" but isn't limited to that. Over at the Stones house there's plenty of room for groupies, doctors, jigsaw puzzles, factory girls, and broken hearts as well. Yet even these subjects are colored by the impact of Sympathy for the Devil and Street Fighting Man. Beggars Banquet ought to convince us all that the Stones are right. By putting all these different themes on the same album the Stones are trying to tell us that they all belong together. They do.
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