The Beatles had Sgt. Peppers, The Beach Boys had Pet Sounds, Bob Dylan had Blonde On Blonde and The Rolling Stones had Their Satanic Majesties Request. While critics praised The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Dylan, they were not so kind to The Rolling Stones.
Their Satanic Majesties Request is like no other Rolling Stones album. It was not rhythm and blues nor was it straight rock 'n' roll. It can best be described as a quick Rolling Stones detour into psychedelic rock that was prevalent in the United States at the time. I would have liked to have seen this music performed to one of the light shows at the Fillmore East or West.
Today, Their Satanic Majesties Request is best remembered for its 3-D cover. You could even find the faces of the four Beatles buried in the cover’s regalia. Sort of like an early where's Waldo.
It is difficult to know what The Rolling Stones were thinking while creating this album. It may have been a reaction to Sgt. Peppers or possibly their own increasing drug use. Whatever their thought process, it is an album you will either love or hate.
“She’s A Rainbow” was a chanting, rocking piece of psychedelic music. This song was released as a single and only rose to number 25 on the American charts.
“The Lantern” was basically a Keith Richards creation set to music by Nicky Hopkins, who would go on to be a long term Stones sideman, both in the studio and in concert. Here he plays the piano and mellotron giving the song a hallucinatory feel. “2000 Light Years From Home” followed in the same direction but here it was Brian Jones on the mellotron. This song would reappear in the 1990s as a part of the Stones live shows.
“In Another Land” features the first Bill Wyman lead vocal on a Rolling Stones song. The song is fine but Wyman was not and would never be a strong vocalist. This would be more an experiment than something that would be incorporated into their act.
Some other highlights include Brian Jones playing the organ on “2000 Man” and the harp on “On With The Show.”
Over the years The Rolling Stones have taken very few chances with their albums. They may have lived a liberal life style, but their music has always been on the conservative side. This conservatism has served the Rolling Stones well as they are among the very best at what they do, and that is to create rock 'n' roll. All of that is what made Their Satanic Majesties Request so unusual and ultimately interesting. It is an album of mood over music.
I still listen to Their Satanic Majesties Request upon occasion and find that it has improved with age. The album was a commercial success staying at number two on the American charts for six weeks.
The Rolling Stones would quickly return to their rock format leaving Their Satanic Majesties Request as not only an artifact of the era but of their catalogue of album releases as well.
P.S. The maze on the inside of the original cover cannot be successfully completed.