Thursday 26 October 2023

The Thursday Album #2 - The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup

The second album in my regular feature of abums that changed my life. We started off with The Rolling Stones and my love of my sisters copy of Sticky Fingers, that I spent a couple of years playing incessantly. In 1973, I was eleven. As a birthday treat, my big sister Val took me on the 52 bus to Kingsbury. There was a 'cool' record shop there. I had some pocket money saved up and wanted a record of my own. I hadn't really decided which one. Val was a pretty hippy chick at the time, and I was her annoying little brother. But she was always kind to me. We turned up at the record shop and she started to chat to the blokes running it. There were booths with headphones, where you could listen to records. I listened to three or four, then Val suggested we buy Goats Head Soup by the Rolling Stones. The bloke in the shop started to take the mickey out of me. Val was rather cross, but I insisted on buying it. On the bus home, she muttered that the guys were rather uncool. 

I got home, unpacked the album and put it on. I expected it to be like Sticky fingers, only better, because of course, the more records you make, the better you must get (If only I knew). I put it on, took out the poster of a goats head and banged it on the turntable. I was completely underwhelmed. Whereas Sticky fingers started with Brown Sugar, which is perhaps the  classic Stones track, it started with Dancing with Mr D, which is a perfectly fine track, but not in the same class. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. Not only that, I was cross, I'd spent my saved up money on a clunker! Then Val explained that you have to listen to really good albums three times, before you appreciate them. She explained how The NME had given Exile on Main St a really bad review when it came out, but a year later, the same reviewer printed a reassessment, saying it was the best Stones album ever. I wasn't convinced.

Worse was to come. At the dinner table, I showed my Dad the poster. He laughed and then said "Where did you get that". I replied that Val had taken me to the record shop and it was from The Rolling Stones new album. To say he went mental was an understatement. He shouted at Val, threw the album in the bin, smacked my bum and sent me to bed, telling me that I was never to bring Rolling Stones records into the house. I was distraught. Val stormed out. Some time later, Mum came up with the album, that she'd fished out of the bin. She said "Don't tell your Dad". Years later, I came to realise that Dad had PTSD from his wartime experiences. When he was triggered he'd go mental. An hour later he'd be fine and there'd be no problem, but I was devastated. I hated the album. I concurred with my Dad that it must have Satanic properties.

A week later, when Dad was at work, Val suggested that we listen to it again. I wasn't overly keen, but when she explained that the last track on side two had a very rude chorus, I relented. I realised that whilst it wasn't Sticky Fingers, it wasn't too bad. A week later, I listened to it again and realised that it was actually rather good. I have come to think that it is perhaps as good as Sticky Fingers. It doesn't have songs quite as outstanding as Brown Sugar and Moonlight Mile, but it is far more consistent. 

So what do I think of the tracks.

1. "Dancing with Mr. D."

I really disliked this track for a long time. It is possibly my least favourite track on the album, but that is probably a hangover from that first listen. It is an OK track, but I always felt they should've written a stronger track to start the album

2. "100 Years Ago"

A nice, reflective track. Bit of a melancholic, boogie woogie feel to it. I have always liked the line "Don't you think it's sometimes wiser to grow up".

3. "Coming Down Again"

Never been a massive fan of this track, it's ok but thats all . The begining is a bit too 'Elton John' for my tastes. Not abig fan of the piano in rock tracks generally. Redeemed by some nice slide guitar. Keith Richards sings. He doesn't do a bad job, but I prefer Jaggers vocals. 

4. "Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)"

For me, this was always the point at which the album gets going. I've always believed that if this had been track 1, the album would have sold ten million more columns. A proper upbeat Stones track. This was the sort of Stones track that I loved. A proper belter, that I believe has never properly been recognised

5. "Angie"

Another track I didn't like at all when I first heard the album. I've come to realise that it's a beautiful song and one of their best. I spent a long time learning to play this on the guitar about 45 years ago. Reputedly about Angie Bowie. I was puzzled when my sister told me this. Writing  a love song for your mate's wife seemed a bit iffy to me. 

Side two

1. "Silver Train"

I've always had a soft spot for songs about trains. A half decent track that has a nice train running, shuffly groove and slide guitar that sounds like a whistle from a steam engine. What is not to like.

2. "Hide Your Love"

Starts with a pub sing song style piano riff. As mentioned earlier, not a big fan of that. It's a nice enough track that grooves along, but for me it is the number where I put the kettle on and make the tea.

3. "Winter"

The sort of slow Stones ballad I love. Just listening to the opening bars makes you put the heating on. Reminiscent to me of Moonlight Mile. The Stones did strangeness in ballads rather well when Mick Taylor was in the band. I've always felt that when Ronnie Wood joined, a lot of the subtleness went out of the music. If you are a songwriter, these songs are well worth a bit of analysis, to understand why they sound so good.

4. "Can You Hear the Music"

A bit too ploddy for me, not a bad track, some nice keyboard work by Nicky Hopkins on it. 

5. "Star Star"

For years, my favourite track on the album, mostly because of the up beat rhythm and the profanities in the chorus. In hindsight, I do sort of see that it confirms all of my Dad's prejudices about the Stones and to some extent his reaction. I'm not entirely sure how I'd have felt if my eldest daughter had taken my son out to the record store and got him to spend all his pocket money on a song that had the lyrics

Honey, honey, call me on the telephone
I know you're movin' out to Hollywood
With your can of tasty foam
All those beat up friends of mine
Got to get you in their books
Lead guitars and movie stars
Get their tongues beneath your hood
Yeah! You a starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, star
Yeah, a starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, star
A starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er, starfu**er star
This and Sticky Fingers were the albums that made me love Rock and Roll. When Punk arrived, I put them to one side and didn't listen to them for a couple of years. When Pete Conway left The False Dots and Craig Withecombe joined, he suggested we did a cover of Get off my cloud and The Last Time in a punky style. I was never overly keen on covers, but we did a half decent job of them. It made me revisit the early Stones catalog, which is rather good. I saw the Stones at Wembley in 1982 and was totally underwhelmed. Having spent five years watching punk gigs in small halls, I hated it. The songs didn't sound anything like the albums, the whole thing was ridiculously overblown and the selection of songs was a bit iffy in my opinion. I didn't listen to them at all until my mate Boz Boorer did a set in Camden playing mostly songs from Sticky Fingers about fifteen years ago. I revisited the albums and remembered why I'd liked them.

When we were getting our new False Dots set together, I wrote a song called "Buy me a bottle of Jack" which I sort of channelled the spirit of Keith Richards for. A sort of bluesy riff and gruff, nihilistic vocals. People seem to like it (you can see the band on Saturday 28th October at The Bull Arts Centre -   CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS )

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