Aftermath was the first Rolling Stones album to feature all original compositions. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went into the studio in Los Angeles with enough original material for an entire album. The days of searching for appropriate songs to quickly fill out an album were over.
While the content of Aftermath is less, even than some of their future classic albums, it is nonetheless an excellent album. What is interesting is that it could have been better.
The Rolling Stones released “19th Nervous Breakdown” several months earlier as a non album song. This classic, frenetic rocker was terrific with a dense and layered sound supporting Mick Jagger’s vocal. “It reached number two on the American charts and could have easily been included on Aftermath. Also the double sided single “Lady Jane/Mother’s Little Helper” was released in the United States.
During this time period a single could have both sides on the charts. “Lady Jane” which is included on Aftermath reached number 24. “Mother’s Little Helper,” which was on the English album but not the American release went top ten. Again this superior song could have been included on “Aftermath.”
Brian Jones had a field day on Aftermath. He played the sitar on “Paint It Black,” the dulcimer on “Lady Jane,” a sax on “Flight 505,” harmonica on “Goin’ Home” and an African xylophone on “Under My Thumb.” While Brian Jones influence as to the musical direction of the Stones was on the wane he continued to bring his musical genius to the basic instrumental tracks in the studio. Most of the instrumental surprises on the early Rolling Stones material were due to Brian Jones creativity and virtuosity with an increasing number of instruments.
“Paint It Black” is one of my favorite Rolling Stones singles. Its depressive lyrics and ominous sound built on Charlie Watts drumming with Brian Jones sitar weaving through the mix created just the right image for the Stone at this point in their career.