Originally released in the summer of 78, Some Girls was the best Stones LP in yonks.
Sean Egan 2011-11-08
In the second half of the 1970s, the group that had epitomised youthful rebellion for more than a decade discovered, somewhat to their surprise, that they were no more immune than anyone else to generational change.
When the Sex Pistols et al began deriding The Rolling Stones as Establishment and old, they, stung, responded by going back into the studio and knuckling down to an album that they knew had to be better than their recent underwhelming output. Or perhaps they were more motivated by the fact that this could be the last time they could record together, because they faced the prospect of disintegration over Keith Richards’ infamous 1977 Canadian bust, the theoretical maximum sentence for which was life.
Whatever the truth, Some Girls – released in June 1978 and their first full album with Ronnie Wood – was the best Stones album in yonks. The raised energy levels of tracks like When the Whip Comes Down, Lies and Respectable forcefully make the point that this ensemble were practising breakneck tempos when the punks were in short trousers. However, the Stones also demonstrate a musical palette absolutely beyond their three-chord detractors. Far Away Eyes is a fond mickey-take of country, Shattered a funky dissection of the irritants of big city life and the smash Miss You skilfully co-opts the slick grooves of disco.
Elsewhere, Keith’s vocal showcase Before They Make Me Run – a renunciation of his junkie life – evinces a reflectiveness and regret beyond the emotional vocabulary of musicians in their 20s. In fact – though Mick Jagger can’t resist stirring up some outrage with the lecherous, bluesy title-track – there is an overall sensitivity and vulnerability that had never before been part of the Stones’ make-up, whether it be the machismo-spurning of Miss You, the achingly sweet cover of Just My Imagination or the exquisitely lovelorn Beast of Burden. All this made for a staggeringly good ‘comeback’ that left many veteran Stones fans rather emotional.
The 12 outtakes on this 2011 reissue amount to a whole extra album. They're a mixture of blues that vary from generic to good, competent-to-classy cover versions and a few originals almost up to the quality of the weakest Some Girls tracks. Though the additions don't enhance the original album’s legend, nor do they diminish it any more than the fact that the band sagged once again into artistic complacency after its release.