Revisiting The Rolling Stones Psychedelic adventure “Their Satanic Majesties Request”
A Right Anomaly
“An anomaly in The Rolling Stones” discography someone once said, but for many people it’s one of their top 10 favorite Stones albums of all time. “Their Satanic Majesties Request” was released on the 8th of December 1967, in time for a “cosmic Christmas” (the initial working title of the album) the same year that saw multiple releases of psychedelic rock albums, and the Stones were no exception to the trend, deciding to go on with their own Psychedelic masterpiece, maybe also strongly influenced to keep up the continuous challenge to The Beatles who had released earlier their own Psychedelic adventure “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Both bands swung together in healthy competition for the best album of the year during the late 60’s. “Sgt. Peppers” had The Rolling Stones referenced on their cover art, and The Stones had The Pepper’s Beatles heads on theirs (you need to look for them harder though). Some say the Stones failed their psychedelic experiment, while “Sgt Peppers” went on to became the Nº 1 album on literally every list that mentions the year 1967 or the 60′ decade, “Majesties” is sometimes not even mentioned and it is considered still to this day to a lot of people one of Stone’s weaker albums, however I feel they won it. This album, if nothing less, can prove how a strongly blues rock influenced band can do an album with no blues at all in it and doing it with such strongly crafted songs such as “2000 Light Years From Home”, “2000 Man” “In Another Land” or “She’s A Rainbow”.
Olympic Studios, London 1967
The year of 1967 was a period of experimentation in rock music. The psychedelic trend caught over with most of the already existing Rock bands, the Stones decided to move to Olympic Studios in London and to move away from their comfort zone after their early 1967 release of “Between The Buttons”, (recorded almost entirely in Los Angeles) which already had some west coast psych flavored to it but still under the classic Stones classic formula, the songs were however smarter than their early garage/blues rock albums, with the exception of the superior “Aftermath”, that already featured beautiful crafted songs such as “Paint It, Black” (in the U.S version), “Mothers Little Helper”, “I Am Waiting”, “Under My Thumb” or “Lady Jane”. Featuring their amazing multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones in the band, doing “Their Satanic Majesties Request” offered them the choice of experimenting with multiple, exotic instruments that were simply not used in rock songs. Regardless of all the turmoil that happened later between Jones and Jagger & Richards, it cannot be denied that the Stones most creative/experimental period took place during the years he was in the band. Jones was responsible for most of the unusual instruments that were featured in the album and though Jagger and Richards were the composers of the songs, if it wasn’t for Jones special touch during that period, doubtful that would had the same impact. As good as Richards is in rhythm guitar is hard to imagine him or Jagger mastering for example a Vibraphone or a Sitar. In the end, the band was not completely satisfied with the results, perhaps because they felt they went too far from their comfort zone, except for Jones and Wyman, but went ahead and release it anyway. This can explain the neglect of the master tapes and outtakes of the sessions that were accidentally found outside the Olympic Studios sitting in a box to be tossed away in 2009. I and many others see it as psychedelic masterpiece, and this is my views on this delivery ordered by “their satanic majesties”.
A Cosmic Christmas Delivery
The album opens with “Sing This All Together”, which I think is the weakest track on the record, maybe because it feels more like a sort of Jam then a full developed crafted song, and I think it would fit better if had been more seriously taken. The second track, one of my all time Stones songs, “Citadel” and one of the most disregarded ones. Unfortunately there are no known live versions of this great psych rock song, and it could had been well fit into their 60’s live sets, but taken in consideration the band was not touring much during 1967 and 1968 saw a quick abandonment of psychedelic rock by the Stones it is sort of understandable due to it’s strong Psychedelic beat and vibe. “In Another Land”, one of the highlights of the album, it’s a Bill Wyman composed and sung track, with Jagger, Small Face’s Ronnie Lane and Steve Marriot as backing vocals. A rare occasion where you can see Wyman’s shinning as singer and composer. “2000 Man”, became one of the albums most memorable tracks, maybe because of the 1979 KISS cover in their “Dynasty” album that introduced the song to new generations. It’s an acoustic track, mild and folksy with interesting lyrics about a future man. The Side 1 ends with a reprise of “Sing All This Together” named as “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”, again, a jam like track that doesn’t really adds much to the album in my opinion. Side 2 starts with the biggest album track, that became a Stones classic, “She’s A Rainbow”, a beautiful crafted melodic song that sounds fresh to this day, featuring a string arrangement by the pre-Zeppelin John Paul Jones.The album goes on with “The Lantern”, a deep psychedelic track,, appropriately followed up by another similar one, “Gomper” -take your time to listen to Brian Jones wonderful mastery in these two tracks. Coming to and end, it’s time for what some consider to be the best track on the album, “2000 Light Years from Home”. This song, which is the only one in the album that got a video, or how was it called back then, “promotional film” sums up what this album really is: dark, mysterious, witchy, trippy. Just recently the Stones did played this song live during their 50th anniversary special concerts, by request, as they never really include songs from “Majesties” in their live sets, However, in this case, this is a studio built song, made for studio and complicated to recreate it live with all the magic that it has, Maybe if Jones was still around could had worked live…The last track of the album is “On with The show”, which actually fits well to end the album even if, again, with a jam feeling on it, but it is a good song, and kind of reminds of the closing track of “Between The Buttons”, “Something Happened To Me Yesterday” (maybe is the piano bits) though not a strong song, it is pleasant to the ears and gives the album a fitting end.
The Art Work
The initial idea for the art work of the album was to have Mick Jagger naked in a cross, which was scrapped, considered to be of “bad taste” by Decca. First pressings of the album, mainly the U.K and U.S.A ones, featured a three-dimensional picture of the band on the cover by photographer Michael Cooper (that also photographed “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”). A lenticular image that when viewed in a certain way, shows the band members faces turning towards each other except Jagger, whose hands appear crossed in front of him. The band appears dressed in costumes, Jagger as a sort of magician for example. Then there are also the faces of each of the four Pepper’s Beatles scattered among the band, a response to the Beatles’ inclusion of a doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” sweater on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.Originally the design called for the lenticular image to take up the entire front cover,but finding this to be extremely expensive it was decided to reduce the size of the photo and surround it with the blue-and-white graphic design, this elaborate art work with the 3D lenticular image was dropped later due to high production costs, although maintaining the same art work with the band’s image bigger. There was a rare reissue of the original cover art with the 3D image during the 1980’s, but immediately following that reissue, the master materials for reprinting the 3D cover were intentionally destroyed. There are rumors however that Bill Wyman, in addition of being the legendary former bass player of the band, that is the world’s biggest Rolling Stones collector, still owns the original 3D materials in his private collection. The entire gatefold cover is elaborate, with an endless dense photo collage filling most of the inside cover (along with a maze) designed by Michael Cooper, and a painting by Tony Meeuwissen on the back cover depicting the four elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air), it also features reproductions of old master paintings (Ingres, Poussin, da Vinci,etc.), images of Indian mandalas and portraits, astronomy (including a large image of the planet Saturn), flowers, world maps, etc. The maze with the center marked “It’s Here”, is reportedly impossible to solve. The blue-and-white wisps on the front cover are used in a red-and-white version on the paper inner sleeve (hard to find these days). This was the first of the Stones novelty covers, in 1971 “Sticky Fingers” was released with the real zipper, in 1972 “Exile On Main St.” featured the collection of postcards, in 1978 “Some Girls” featured the cut-out faces and in 1983 “Undercover” with the stickers.
By 1968, after two isolated Psychedelic singles, “We Love You” and “Dandelion”, one album, the Stones said goodbye to their Psychedelic rock phase and moved on to less trendy, experimental shores. “Their Satanic Majesties Request” may remain an anomaly in the Stones discography, but it is a good anomaly, as essential to their discography as “Sticky Fingers” is.
“Sing All This Together” (Jagger/Richards)
“In Another Land” (Bill Wyman)
“2000 Man” (Jagger/Richards)
“Sing All This Together (See What Happens)” (Jagger/Richards)
“She’s A Rainbow” (Jagger/Richards)
“The Lantern” (Jagger/Richards)
“2000 Light Years From Home” (Jagger/Richards)
“On With The Show” (Jagger/Richards)
Mick Jagger: Lead and Backing Vocals, Maracas, Tambourine,Percussion
Keith Richards: Guitars, Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brian Jones: Mellotron, Organ, Guitar, Flute, Soprano Saxophone, Vibraphone, Electric Dulcimer, Recorder, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Bill Wyman: Bass Guitar, Percussion, Backing Vocals; Lead vocals and Piano on “In Another Land”; Oscillator on “2000 Light Years from Home”; Mellotron on coda of “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”
Charlie Watts: Drums, Percussion, Tabla on “Gomper”
Nicky Hopkins: Piano, Organ, Mellotron, Harpsichord
John Paul Jones: String arrangement on “She’s a Rainbow”
Ronnie Lane: Backing Vocals on “In Another Land”
Steve Marriott: Backing Vocals on “In Another Land”
Recorded during: February-October 1967, Olympic Studios, London
Produced by: The Rolling Stones
Release Date: December 8, 1967
“In Another Land”/”The Lantern” Released: 2 December 1967
“She’s a Rainbow”/”2000 Light Years from Home” Released: 23 December 1967
“Citadel”, “In Another Land”, “2000 Man”, “She’s A Rainbow”, “The Lantern”, “2000 Light Years From Home”
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