Monday, December 26, 2011
THE ROLLING STONES
BETWEEN THE BUTTONS
Wreathed in smoke, ingenuity and a touch of insanity, the sessions for this album produced hard rocking pop. Rootsy blues was shelved, with piano driven, Ray Davies-inspired English music hall styles taking hold.
Be careful, lads. It is here that the drugs will start doing YOU!
One of two sets unleashed by the band in 1967, this was unlike anything they did before or since. The US version of this LP cut "Backstreet Girl" and "Please Go Home", replacing them with "Let's Spend the Night Together" and "Ruby Tuesday". Whether this tampering with the running order improved the package or not is subjective. The latter two selections were big hits, duly promoted on radio as well as the small screen. Check out this "live vocals with a backing track" performance, taped for the Ed Sullivan show.
Dividing their time between LA and London while recording, the results run from the barrelhouse fun of "Cool, Calm & Collected" (kazoos? why not?) to the excellent "Connection", which shares honors with "Miss Amanda Jones" as the most driving piece etched into this disc.
"Guess which drug I just discovered?" colors "Something Happened to me Yesterday". Keith sings lead (his debut on record) along with Mick backed up by a prominent tuba. The cover photo reinforces the "trippy" nature of the work, with three of the five Stones immersed in the burgeoning drug culture that enveloped their peers during that era.
Brian Jones turns in his last focused efforts before he was completely dragged down by substance intake and gradually elbowed from the group. In addition to guitar and some vocals, he also handled accordion, vibraphone, harmonica, recorder, percussion, kazoo, saxophone, dulcimer and organ. Four different piano players (Jones included) bang on the 88s throughout.
"She Smiled Sweetly" is the only track that should be buried in a landfill.
Overall, the impression left here is mighty fine, with the Jagger/Richards song writing engine in top form. Underrated and overlooked, this slice of Swinging London is worth checking out.
Now for some trivia from cosmopolitan raver/drummer Charlie Watts:
"Andrew (Oldham) told me to do the drawings for the LP and said the title would be between the buttons. I thought he meant the title was "Between The Buttons", so it stayed."
WARNING: Look for a vinyl copy of this, if you truly want a fair evaluation of how it was originally presented.
The original issue of this collection on CD sounded like shit, which is really a shame. Extreme liberties were taken with the placement of instruments in the stereo field. Some tracks sound as if they have been presented in duophonic format (transferring the mono master to two separate channels, boosting the low end frequencies in one channel and emphasizing the high treble frequencies in the other) which further kills the listening experience.
The 2002 ABKCO reissues are an improvement, though audiophiles are advised to hunt down the London Records CD version (available in Europe and Japan prior to 1997) as it has the best sound of all digital releases.
Naturally, Mick has long since disavowed this material, calling it "rubbish".
Definitely in the top five of all Stones LPs.