How The Rolling Stones got from Their Satanic Majesties Request to Beggars Banquet in about a year’s time is beyond me. However it happened, it would begin a series of rock 'n' roll albums that would be almost unparalleled.
Beggars Banquet would bring a new producer to the Rolling Stones family. Jimmy Miller, who had worked with Traffic and Family, would bring his laid-back style to the Stones' recording process with spectacular results. It would also be Brian Jones' final complete album as drug use and his lack of interest in the Stones' changing musical vision would find him leaving the group.
The seeds for Beggars Banquet were sown in the summer of 1968 with the release of the hit single “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” This hard-rocking single showed The Rolling Stones had left the psychedelic sounds of Their Satanic Majesties Request behind and had returned to no nonsense rock & roll. The Stones would continue the trend of not adding this single to their upcoming album.
It leads off with “Sympathy For The Devil.” This sinister song would be The Rolling Stones, and especially Mick Jagger, not only admitting but proclaiming we are indeed the devil. Keith Richards’ increasingly creative guitar-playing underpins Jagger’s vocals. The song would send chills down the listener’s spine and remain an important part of The Rolling Stones concert act and persona for the rest of their career.
I will never understand why “Street Fighting Man” was never a bigger hit. Released as a single, it only reached number 48 on the American charts. In many ways this was a protest song about the futility of protest. Dave Mason, of Traffic, plays an Indian instrument called the shenai which gives the song a meditative counterpoint to Jagger’s energy.
The creative center of Beggars Banquet takes the Stones in a country direction. “No Expectations” is presented with acoustic guitars and light drumming backing Jagger’s storytelling vocals and featured what was probably the last great instrumental performance by Brian Jones. He brought his slide guitar to this subtle blues song in one last brilliant burst of creative energy.
Great song but the problem was, it was written by bluesman The Reverend Robert Wilkins who demanded not only money but the writing credit. He received both. “Factory Girl” and “Doctor Doctor” continue the Rolling Stones foray into country-based music, and when taken as a unit, these songs are spectacular.
“Stray Cat Blues” is a typical Rolling Stones explicit sex romp. “Parachute Woman” is a rhythm & blues-based rocker. “Salt Of The Earth” returns the Rolling Stone to their roots, at least in a musical sense. While the Stones would make a lot of blue collar rock 'n' roll, they had left that lifestyle far behind.
Beggars Banquet would be a commercial success despite not having a breakout single. While it would only reach number 5 on the American charts, it would continue to sell for months and quickly pass the million mark. It was ranked as the 57th greatest album of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. It is a must-own for any serious fan or rock 'n' roll.