In mid-June 1978, I walked into one of the two independent record stores in town. As I was browsing through the albums, I had brought enough money to purchase three albums. I was on a mission to purchase two specific albums: REO Speedwagon’s You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish and Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf. Those two were definite. The third one was going to be one in which I was going to purchase according to the recommendation of the guy working there that day.
So, I walked up to the clerk and asked him which album was “hot” right now. He told me that I didn’t want the hot album since it was the Grease soundtrack. Instead, he lead me to the just-released Rolling Stones’ album Some Girls. The Stones?!?! The clerk and I had just been disparaging the Stones’ 1977 live album, Love You Live. We had been playing the album in the store just six months earlier, when neither of us could take it any more. Sorry Stones fans, especially to you, Troy Swafford, but that album sucked. So, totally on the clerk’s endorsement, I bought the album. Since I had purchased the album BEFORE the Stones got sued over the unauthorized use of famous women’s images on the cover, I still have an unedited cover. Lucky me…I guess. Unfortunately, thousands of records with this cover are still available so it is not as rare as I hoped it would.
Needless to say, when I got home, I listened to REO first, which was a pretty good listen. Then, it was on to Meat Loaf. I was surprised when I found out that Bat Out of Hell was actually a good album. After Meat was done cooking, it was time for the Stones. I was not ready for what I was about to hear. When the needle popped into the grooves of the vinyl, I heard the opening bottom end of one of the band’s greatest song, “Miss You”. The rock gods were stealing back the dance floor, much as Blondie would do later in the year with “Heart of Glass”. Okay, I was hooked, but I also knew these guys were pushing 40, and no rock artists of that age had created new, exciting music. At least, that’s what the Sex Pistols and rock critic Lester Bangs were telling me.
So, if “Miss You” was the Stones statement on disco and the dance world and how those genres were long part of the rock world, the next song, “When the Whip Comes Down” starts to reclaim the punk sound from the punks themselves. Yes, the lyrics were alluding to masochism, but it was also a statement to the Sex Pistols, The Clash and the rest of the UK punk scene since it seemed to have a ground zero of Malcolm McLaren’s fashion boutique called SEX. The clothing sold there included sadomasochism wardrobe, so with that knowledge, you begin to understand the politics of that song, not only by incorporating punk’s sound, but also by making a veiled threat against the punks who were attempting to throw the Stones off their throne.
As Side One plays on, the Stones remind us a couple of things about them. First, they were the masters of rock music as they blast through a Motown cover of the Temptations’ “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” reminding everyone that the Stones grew up in the R&B and Blues worlds. Then, song four, “Some Girls”, that the Stones were the original punks as the use foul language and chauvinistic lyrics against the groupies that they have come to know over the years. And, finally, the Stones end Side One with “Lies”, with lyrics that are aimed at their detractors: the punks and the critics. Basically, Side One was the Rolling Stones reclaiming their crown over the rock world.
As the turntable clicked off as Side One ended, I bounced across my old teenager bedroom to flip that album over in anticipation. I was hooked on this album. But, my relatively small sample of album listens had taught me that occasionally you will get an album that has one great side and one clunker side. So, as Side Two began, I was dumbfounded by the music of that first song. Wait! The Stones were playing country. I knew that they dabbled in country in the late-1960s/early-1970s while they were hanging out with than country gadfly Gram Parsons. But, during those years, their version of country was way different than what I was hearing as “Far Away Eyes” played on. Then, as I began to listen more closely to the lyrics that were being sloppily sung, I noticed parody and sarcasm, both which were right in my wheelhouse. Not only were these “old” geezers showing me that they could play any genre, but they also had mastered parody in their lyrics about televangelists.
After that aside, the Stones got back to the hard, fast rocking that the punks were trying to make theirs. But all of a sudden, The Stones were showing they still had life in their instruments. They burn through “Respectable”, and then through Keith Richard’s cowboy song “Before They Make Me Run”. The latter song became one of my running songs that year, especially when I took a recorded tape of the album to Colorado for that national track meet. When I had that song in my mind, I ran well. The beat seemed conducive to running, at least it worked for me.
After those two rocking songs, the Stones gave us a ballad, “Beast of Burden”. But, come on! This is NOT going to be a normal ballad. Nope, Mick and Keith dipped back into the masochistic lyrics to provide lyrics that worked on three levels: the level to offend, the veiled directives to the UK punks and a word or two to those groupies hanging around them with the hope of one the Stones falling in love with them. It wasn’t going to happen.
And, just when I thought the Stones would cruise out the last song on the album, they saved arguably the best song for last: “Shattered”. That song is an amalgam of nearly everything they did on the album. They were “out-punking” the punks, out dancing the dancers and out-rocker the-now-classic rockers. The Rolling Stones were closing out their Some Girls album with one of their greatest songs of all-time.
When the album ended, I was blown away. My jaw was probably lying on the floor. All I could do was stand up, grab my basketball and go outside to shoot 500 shots. There was nothing else I could do when I had just listened to one of the great albums of all-time. By the way, I will experience this kind of euphoria just a couple of more times between that moment and the end of 1984. There are many albums that I love to listen to, but there are few that totally blew my minds. And, Some Girls was my first. Remember, I had no intention in buying this album when I arrived at the record store that day.