Beggars Banquet :The Best Album of 1969

Even though it was released in December of 1968, BEGGAR’S BANQUET was my most played album of 1969. I got that record the moment it was released and it very rarely left my turntable for one full year. Side 1, Side 2, back to Side 1, and on and on. There are very few albums I can said that about, very few albums I listen to in its entirety without getting bored by a clunker or two. I was enamored by this collection of Stones tunes. The slick printed cover (American version which was completely different from the British cover), the photo spread inside, and the music. These songs were individually and collectively a great relief, a wonderful change in direction from the ROLLING STONES ’67 set of THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST, which I owned but never played all the way through. The only tunes I liked on TSMR were 2000 LIGHT YEARS FROM HOME and SHE’S A RAINBOW. The rest were rubbish.

Before SATANIC MAJESTIES I was stuck on BETWEEN THE BUTTONS(1967) (US version), especially side 1 which we played endlessly at my buddy George’s house.TSMR is/was nothing like BUTTONS. But then, BEGGAR’S BANQUET is released and with that a new STONES approach to the blues.The BB album was the real deal, and foreshadowed what would become of the STONES over the next few years and releases.  To my ears Beggar’s Banquet was a Keith album as Brian Jones due to “personal reasons” is limited here to slide guitar on NO EXPECTATIONS, a harmonica on PARACHUTE WOMAN, DEAR DOCTOR and PRODIGAL SON. It was the last ROLLING STONES album to be released during Brian Jones’ life.

Side One Track 1, SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, just listen to the title before you put the needle down, WHAT? Sympathy for whom? Are you kidding me? Conga, screams, maracas, Nicky Hopkins on piano, and THE WORDS…PLEASE TO MEET YOU, seriously this is not Satanic Majesties at all. WOW.Then the voices, Get down,hit it, guitar riffs…six minutes plus of sheer ecstasy . I danced around my room so many times shaking imaginary maracas.

Track 2:NO EXPECTATIONS, Keith on acoustic, Brian in a semi-sober moment plays slide. Bill with a few bass thuds,I still play this tune on my guitar, “never in my sweet short life have I felt like this before”.

Track 3: DEAR DOCTOR, humorous to say the least..”Help me please Doctor I’m damaged”…“preserve it right there in that jar”. Sang this tune with like minded folks, very poor off keyed singers after a few cocktails.

Track 4:PARACHUTE WOMAN: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, some echo added to vocals, and Charlie beating it down, “join me for a ride”.

Track 5: JIGSAW PUZZLE: The drum beat is awesome, I played it thousands of time, Charlie was the man. “Me, I waiting so patiently, lying on the floor”.

SIDE TWO Track 1 STREET FIGHTING MAN: The guitar intro and then the drums…this was the tune revolutionaries were using as their theme song, well, pseudo- revolutionaries. Hey, it was a sign of the times.

Track 2: PRODIGAL SON: Not a Stones tune but a remake that they called their own.Charlie’s high hat work is exceptional, Mick’s vocals is a take on a blues man.

Track 3: STRAY CAT BLUES: This was sex, straight out.”I bet your mama don’t know you can scream like that”…

Track 4: FACTORY GIRL: I first thought this was the same riff from 2000 light years, but no. As I was working in a factory at the time this tune made so much sense.”Waiting for a factory girl…”

Track 5: SALT OF THE EARTH: This is the one that did it for me. Aren’t we all salt of the earth? and when the drums kick in….”Let’s drink to the uncounted heads”…these words made so much sense to me…and then the mention….  “A choice of cancer or polio”.

Salt Of The Earth

The Rolling Stones

Let’s drink to the hard working people

Let’s drink to the lowly of birth

Raise your glass to the good and the evil

Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier

Spare a thought for his back breaking work

Say a prayer for his wife and his children

Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd

A swirling mass of gray and

Black and white

They don’t look real to me

In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people

Let’s drink to the uncounted heads

Let’s think of the wavering millions

Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter

His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows

And a parade of the gray suited grafters

A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look in the faceless crowd

A swirling mass of grays and

Black and white

They don’t look real to me

Or don’t they look so strange

Let’s drink to the hard working people

Let’s think of the lowly of birth

Spare a thought for the rag taggy people

Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Let’s drink to the hard working people

Let’s drink to the salt of the earth

Let’s drink to the two thousand million

Let’s think of the humble of birth

So, I’m stuck on the STONES, not really shouting it out but I do like their most recent stuff (1968) more than the Beatles or anyone else at this time. Then, LET IT BLEED is released …

LET IT BLEED December 1969, I have it before Christmas and bought another copy to give my girlfriend as part of her Christmas gift package.

SIDE ONE: Track 1; GIMME SHELTER, Merry Clayton, just a shout away.  Charlie hitting the cymbals, harp playing. fade out, nicely done.

Track 2: LOVE IN VAIN: another stolen tune, but one that everyone, including me plays.I saw FACES do this one night and after they finished Rod Stewart said, “I gave it a try but Mick owns it”.

Track 3:COUNTRY HONK: Didn’t make sense until you put it in perspective of HONKY TONK WOMAN. I really like this tune. Thanks Graham, I know this was you.

Track 4:LIVE WITH ME: Charlie lays it down, Bill bass lines are straight on, …“Don’t you think there is a place for you between the sheets”. What a great line but don’t try to use it. Bobby Keys nails this solo on sax, and I actually tried at the time of release to find out who this guy was.

SIDE 2: Track 1:LET IT BLEED:”There will always be a space in my parking lot”…No longer is music “I Wanna Hold your hand” we are now in a dirty, filthy basement, yeah man.

Track 2:MIDNIGHT RAMBLER: I had no idea what to make of this song, played it hundreds of times, trying to decipher what it was. THEN, I saw it live. My Lord. Now I knew. And about that moment I saw it live the ROLLING STONES became one of my all time favorite live bands.

Track 3:YOU GOT THE SILVER:It’s KEITH, say no more.The future of THE STONES.Brian is in there somewhere, so they say, but I don’t hear him.

Track 4:MONKEY MAN: A bit of Satantic Majesties kick off but then “all my friends are junkies” we are going down fast…I’m glad you are a monkey woman ,too”. Nicely, done.The guitars are intense.

Track 5: YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT: No words describe what I heard as a 17 year old male. The chorus, the horn, the acoustic guitar, Mick’s intro, “ but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need”….are they talking to me?

It’s the STONES I played all of 1969, saw a few others bands, but 1969 was…THE STONES and I saw them.