April 15 – Stones Album The ‘Aftermath’ Of Competition With Beatles?

One of the side-effects of The Beatles incredible run of records in the ’60s was the effect they had on other bands of the era. The Beach Boys were openly competitive with them, and so were the Rolling Stones. They all listened intently to one another’s releases and then tried to one-up them. A good example of that was this day in 1966, when the Rolling Stones put out the British version of the album Aftermath. The American version came out about three months later.

It represented quite a step forward for the Stones in many ways…and not coincidentally, they started working on it just after the Beatles released Rubber Soul. And the expansion of sounds and instruments the Fab Four were beginning to show rubbed off on this one – Brian Jones in particular got musically experimental, playing a sitar on “Paint it Black” and a koto (a Japanese string instrument) on “Take It Or Leave It.” Sound-wise, they began incorporating elements of country and psychedelia in with their traditional blues rock stylings. It was the first they’d recorded in stereo. And there was perhaps just a wee bit more American influence as well; they recorded the album in L.A., and they’d hooked up with Allen Klein to work as their North American manager. Few people in music would end up saying much good about Klein, but in the here and now, he got the band an advance of over $1 million which added to their confidence.

The confidence showed up in the lyrics, which generally followed a theme of sex, anger and power. Many today label it a “misogynistic” record, but at the time, few cared. They focused on the songs, which were among the Stones best to that point – including “I Am Waiting,” “Lady Jane”, “Under My Thumb,” “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Paint it Black.” Sort of. “Paint it Black” was put out as a standalone single in Britain at the time and wasn’t on their copies; it did make it onto the shorter American release which was however, short three other songs. The Brits got 52 minutes of music in all, the lengthiest LP made to that point. (That sort of differentiation between North American and European releases was common at the time; in fact Aftermath was only the fourth Rolling Stones album at home but their sixth on this side of the Atlantic.) There were limits to how much swagger the Stones could display mind you. Their record companies (London Records here and Decca Records in Europe) nixed their plans to call it Could You Walk On Water? …which given the Beatles problems later that year after John Lennon made his more popular than Jesus comments, seemed to be remarkably astute of them. Decca however, spared no superlatives when putting out the record, comparing it to equivalent in importance of Shakespeare or Dickens “for gramaphone records.”

Reviews at the time were positive. Record Mirror figured “the Rolling Stones have on their hands the smash LP of the year,” the NME figured that they were musical “masterminds” and speculated “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Lady Jane” could be massive hits, Robert Christgau figured it was the “only possible challenge to Rubber Soul …for innovation, tightness and lyrical intelligence.” Years later, Entertainment Weekly would grade it “A-”, allmusic gave it a perfect 5-stars, and Pop Matters noted that it “cemented their reputation as a subversive cultural force.” Many would point to it as a significant step towards the psychedelic sounds that so dominated the following few years, and the aggression that would spur on the punk movement a decade later.

Predictions were right. “Mother’s Little Helper” was put out as a single here and made it to #8, oddly they didn’t release it as a 7” in the UK. “Paint it Black” was a worldwide hit, their sixth #1 in Britain and third #1 hit in the States and Canada. The album went to #1 for eight weeks in the UK and became their first one to go gold there; it also topped German charts and got to #2 in the U.S. where it eventually became their first platinum one.

Of course, as they were reveling in the “aftermath” of the Aftermath success, the Beatles were putting together Revolver… and the competition continued to heat up.

18 thoughts on “April 15 – Stones Album The ‘Aftermath’ Of Competition With Beatles?

  1. Badfinger (Max)

    I had this album and loved it. Paint It Black is a masterpiece by itself. The period they are probably best know for was with Mick Taylor probably…but I love the Brian Jones era because he brought a new texture to their sound. They gave you some variety in the mid-sixties.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. most definitely. When I was going through the background lists, this album’s name didn’t ring a bell but when I looked at the track listing, I thought ‘oh yeah – that was an important one!” . A lot of good songs and musical progression from them.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I had completely forgotten ‘I Am Waiting’ it’s a wee gem from the past, so thanks Dave. I rarely trawl through the Stones back catalogue, so this was a nice surprise. ‘Mothers Little Helper’ -one I hadn’t forgotten- didn’t seem to offend the stuffy Christian matriarchs in the US as much as you would have imagined in light of John’s ‘bigger than God’ comment.
    Let the record show; (Under My Thumb) it’s pretty un-PC these days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. they had some really good songs on there, it is surprising though that there isn’t more backlash against it nowadays like you say. At the time, apparently most women were quite OK with the lyrics…but yah, that attitude would not get you anywhere these days unless you were a rapper.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I didn’t recognize the album name either. But those are songs that basically defined the Stones’ sound for me from childhood. I was probably hearing them played as singles on my parents’ radio.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. While if you’d ask me I would immediately tell you the Stones are among my all-time favorite bands, I haven’t listened to most of their records in their entirety including “Aftermath.” Based on the tracks I know, undoubtedly, it’s a great album.

    I’ve listened to tunes like “Paint It Black”, “Lady Jane”, “Under My Thumb” and “Mother’s Little Helper” many times but not the entire album. It’s a pity the UK version didn’t include “Paint It Black” – one of my favorites!

    My all-time favorite band The Beatles are one of the very few groups where I can legitimately say I’ve listened to all of their (British) studio albums. Doing the same with the Stones would be a very big job nowadays! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have about same reaction to ‘Aftermath’ as you – I know maybe 7 of the songs and they’re pretty good but there are tracks on it I’ve never listened to. Yes, they do have quite a catalog … but when you think it’s over 60 years, they’ve not really been THAT prolific.

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