October 17-31, 1970: Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, Mick Jagger's home Stargroves, Newbury & Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
November 25-30, 1972: Dynamic Sound Studios, Kingston, Jamaica
December 6-13, 1972: Dynamic Sound Studios, Kingston, Jamaica
May 23-June 20, 1973: Island Recording Studios, London, England
Overdubbed & mixed:
May 23-June 20, 1973: Island Recording Studios, London, England
Chief engineer: Andy Johns
Mixer: Andy Johns
Released: August 1973
Original label: Rolling Stones Records (on WEA)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Nicky Hopkins, Ian Stewart, Billy Preston, Bobby Keys, Jim Price, Jim Horn, Chuck Findley, Jimmy Miller, Rebop, Pascal, Nick Harrison (arranger).
Dancing with Mr. D
100 Years Ago
Coming Down Again
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
Hide Your Love
Can You Hear the Music
The shoot was organised for 1 PM and Mick and Keith turned up about 5 PM and Keith was in a very bolshy mood. Storm Thorgerson and I had outlined the concept to the Stones and they were all enthusiastic - especially Mick. They were all to be centaurs and minotaurs prancing about in the photo in an Arcadian landscape, like the young bucks they were. Right up Mick's street.
I really like the new (album) actually. I enjoyed recording in Jamaica.
(Star Star is) the only song with any slice of cynicism. All the others are into beauty. It's very hard to write about those primitive emotions without being cynical about it - that's when you sound old. I mean, if you can't go into a coffee shop and sort of fall in love with every glass of coffee, and listen to the jukebox - that's difficult to portray in a song.
I really feel close to this album, and I really put all I had into it... I guess it comes across that I'm more into songs. It wasn't as vague as the last album which kind of went on so long that I didn't like some of the things. There's more thought to this one. It was recorded all over the place over about two or three months. The tracks are much more varied than the last one. I didn't want it to be just a bunch of rock songs.
I say stupid things like that when I’m promoting albums. You've got to take that with a pinch of salt. Course it’s better! This album, if you liked Exile, this is even better! I can imagine myself saying that.
Was it a druggy album? Its not got a lot of druggy subject material, apart from perhaps Coming Down Again, but you’ll have to talk to Keith about that. I mean, my guess is that could be a drug reference. (laughs) But the rest of it... There’s a drug reference in Heartbreaker, but I wouldn’t really characterize it as the most druggy Stones record.
Sometimes you feel you've never done an album where you're not really doing anything further, you're not taking things beyond what you've already done. You're just in one kind of groove and you feel you just want to stay in that position... Goats Head Soup, to me, was a marking-time album. I like it in many ways but I don't think it has the freshness that (It's Only Rock 'n Roll) has. Listening to it a couple of months ago and comparing it to this one that's how I felt.
(T)here's some very good things on that album. It's just the wrong emphasis on certain things. That was the period when Exile On Main Street was still a great idea but we'd only just split from Ireland. We'd only been away three months when we cut the fucker.
By the time of Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'N Roll, people had to contend with Exile for real and that's why I say that Mick Taylor wasn't particularly good for the group. He joined at a time when with any other band he wouldn't have been forced out of England, forced to live that kind of life that was alien to him... He was really an odd man out. There was no way he could feel part of the whole thing as much as the rest of us... Mick Taylor wasn't good for the Stones. It was a sterile period for us 'cause there were things we had to force through. Maybe it's just me. It was a period we had to go through. Also Mick is such a LEAD guitarist, which completely destroyed the whole concept of the Stones, that is, the idea that you don't walk into a guitar store and ask for a lead guitar or a rhythm guitar. You PLAY a fuckin' GUITAR. You are a GUITAR player. If you just want to fuck about with three strings at the top end, well, alright, but that's not what the Stones are about.
Goats Head Soup is not one of my favorite albums, but there's a lot of interesting things on it. I think it's a weak album - it's a bit directionless. I think we all felt that way too, at the time.
I didn't think there was any one song on there that really stood out. I thought Goats Head Soup was kind of bland, shall I say, after Exile On Main Street.
The problem (with the Stones' mid-70s albums), which I was ignorant of for a long time, was studio musicians and sidemen taking over the band. The real problem with those albums was the band was led astray by brilliant players like Billy Preston. We'd start off a typical Stones track and Billy would start playing something so fuckin' good musically that we'd get sidetracked and end up with a compromised track. THAT made the difference.
might have said that. I was probably pissed off about a track or two. But nah, I wouldn’t want to stick that on anything, especially this record, because all of the sidemen, there’s very few of them, and they’re the best in the world, you know?
I mean, the rhythmic stuff, like the stuff on Criss Cross,
that’s Billy Preston and Nicky (Hopkins). The fashion at that time was
playing the clavinet with the wah-wah stuff, and that gives it this
certain push. It’s not Herbie Hancock exactly. (You can hear t) on 100 Years Ago and then Criss Cross, which we just re-finished. But they’re a slightly different vibe, and Heartbreaker
too... (Billy) was very distinctive. As I said before, the stuff that
he did with us in various ways when he played the organ, it always gave
it that gospel feel.
Listening to the record now, I mean, Dancing with Mr. D, that is a funky track. And Heartbreaker. I remembered, of course, Billy Preston was in there as well as Nicky Hopkins and of course Ian Stewart. We had this funk thing going that hadn’t dawned on me so much until I re-heard it recently... I think being ’73, we are what we listen to, and a lot of funk music was infiltrating. As a musician, you don’t live in a vacuum. Charlie Watts was fascinated with funk rhythms, and always had been, since James Brown. So it was a natural progression for us to move and try that out.
I mean, everyone was using drugs, Keith particularly. So I think (the mid-70s albums) suffered a bit from all that. General malaise. I think we got a bit carried away with our own popularity and so on. It was a bit of a holiday period (laughs). I mean, we cared, but we didn't care as much as we had. Not really concentrating on the creative process, and we had such money problems. We had been so messed around by Allen Klein and the British Revenue. We were really in a very bad way. So we had to move. And it sort of destabilized us a bit. We flew off all edges... Not only couldn't we stay in England, we couldn't go to America because we had immigration problems. So we were limited. It was a very difficult period.
It’s not an album that’s revered as much as Exile on Main Street, in most people’s minds. I suppose including me, though we do it songs from it onstage... (W)e haven’t done Winter or stuff like that. There’s quite a few things we haven’t done. It’s not an album we do that many songs from. I mean, it’s a different kind of album. It was more or less done in one place, in a relatively short space of time, as opposed to Exile, which was very spread out time-wise. And so it is a different-sounding record. It’s got some good things.
It’s weird, when you listen to something you haven’t really heard in its entirety for a long time. It’s a very interesting album... I feel that we did a great job on it.
I think that during the period I was with (the Stones), we did actually go in a lot of different directions. I mean, there were a lot of songs that we did that they've never really repeated the same type of song. Like songs on Goats Head Soup, which is not my favorite album, but still has got some good stuff on it...
History has proven it unwise to jump to conclusions about Rolling Stones albums. At first Sticky Fingers seemed merely a statement of doper hipness on which the Stones (in Greil Marcus' elegant phrase) rattled drugs as if they were maracas. But drugs wound up serving a figurative as well as a literal purpose and the album became broader and more ambiguous with each repeated listening. At first, Exile on Main Street seemed a terrible disappointment, with its murky, mindless mixes and concentration on the trivial. Over time, it emerged as a masterful study in poetic vulgarity. And if neither of the albums had eventually grown on me thematically, the music would have finally won me over anyway. Now Goats Head Soup stands as the antithesis of Exile - the Stones never worry about contradicting themselves - and it is a wise move, for it would have been suicidal to Exile's conceits any further. Compared to the piling on of one raunchy number on top of another, Soup is a romantic work, with an unmistakable thread of life-affirming pragmatisms running through it. It is set apart not only from Exile, but every past Stones' LP, by its emphasis on the ballad.... The Stones succeed because they rarely forget their purpose - the creation of rock & roll drama. It is for that reason that they can move from the snow-white Americana of Coming Down Again into the urban R&B of Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) without the batting of an eyelash—theirs or ours. When they are uncertain of their purpose - as on Dancing With Mr. D. - they can be hopelessly silly. That track is the weakest opener ever so positioned on one of their albums, and they've never performed with less conviction... There are too many secondary songs on Goats Head Soup to rate it an ultimate Rolling Stones album. The content-defying title expresses the group's uncertainty about its performance. But... three great ballads place the album among their most intimate and emotionally absorbing work. At the same time, Starfucker maintains the stature of the Stones as grand masters of the rock & roll song. If they've played it safe this time, their caution has nevertheless reaped some rewards. Soup stands right next to Mott, the thematically similar LP of the Stones' brightest students, as the best album of 1973. For me, its deepening and unfolding over the coming months will no doubt rate as one of the year's richest musical experiences.
Last year he was singing about what he looks like this year. It sounded better than it looks. Just like Jagger on the Goats Head Soup album cover, the filmy scarf or whatever it is making him look sorta like Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis... don't like that smile, it's just vacant... who is this guy anyway... and inside Charlie and Bill no longer likeable, but not even interestingly unpleasant... the whole thing is just pretentious, Mick Taylor is a big asshole obviously trying to look bad, amoral, like early Lou Reed or something.... But that's not their image anymore, Mick. What is? Nothing. Nondescript fabulousness... There is a sadness about the Stones now, because they amount to such an enormous So what? The sadness comes when you measure not just one album, but the whole sense they're putting across now against what they once meant... Just because the Stones have abdicated their responsibilities is no reason we have to sit still for this shit! Because there is just literally nothing new happening. Bowie is a style collector with almost no ideas of his own, Reed's basically just reworking his old Velvets ideas, people like Elton John are reaching back into nostalgia but that's a blind alley, and everybody else is playing the blues. So unless we get the Rolling Stones off their asses IT'S THE END OF ROCK 'N' ROLL!
Sure, I was as full of nervous anticipation as you were. Every new Stones album has to plow through such expectations that the Second Coming would flop first hearing. Witness mass turnabouts re Exile... Maybe, for all its pleasures, that's what drags you about this album: its air of resolute complacency. Much of Mick's singing simply lacks the intensity of yore, and the album isn't ABOUT much. The Stones are still consummate entertainers, but somewhere along the line we began to expect something more than entertainment from them. In Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed, the Stones began to tell us what was going on... And that's what missing in this very durable record. And beneath that knowledge is the wonderment at how that durable expertise carries on in the face of disintegration. The Rolling Stones are no longer a quintet but now such a perfect corporation that you don't even think to complain when you get expert sax solos instead of Keith's lowslung, lunging forays. A lot of covering up going on, and they're good at it, so Keith's fade and the Stones' cruise into future muzak doesn't hurt at all. You expected more, you won't again. Gotta be disappointed, but you gotta rationalise yourself into love too, 'cause you're a trooper. So are they. So what?
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