MUSiC: Goat’s Head Soup, The Rolling Stones, 1973

Surprisingly good… and perhaps the end of an era?

This is probably sacrilegious to hardcore Stones fans, but I think this is actually the album Exile On Main Street was hoping it might or could be. Ok, it’s definitely not an exact equivalent, as it’s much shorter and far more focussed. But it’s better for both those reasons. It’s also more consistent and better written overall.

The cover is interesting, looking very much as if intended to transform Jagger’s shaggy mop-topped noggin into a tufted lady-grotto, via a lacey sheet and soft lighting.

Unlike many Stones albums, that kick off with a hit, here you have to wait until track five (or the last track of side one, as it was in LP form), when Angie hits the motherlode. And that’s it, a far as ‘standout hits’ goes for this disc!

Fivetunately, as my dad liked to say occasionally, pretty much all the tracks that lead up to Angie are better than many of the fillers and potboilers that make up substantial amounts of a lot of other Stones records, the sort of meandering fare that has traditionally been suggestive of the idea ‘they were never really an albums band’.

Coming directly after Exile, The Stones were indeed still working/recording as itinerant tax-exiles. Adding further to the continuity, Mick Taylor and Nicky Hopkins are still contributing their distinctive flavours to the satanic stew.

Keef n’ Charlie rockin’ it live, ‘73.

Side one – or the first five tracks – is definitely stronger and more focussed, with side two sounding more ‘in the vein’, so to speak, of Exile, with looser more jam-like feelings dominating proceedings.

Side two get does get stronger and more focussed as it goes on, right up until the ending, where – despite the tight-ish Chuck Berry style music, the ‘rock star excess’ lyrics fall rather flat, all these years later – with the infamous Starfucker (released as a single – and banned by the BBC – with Ahmet Ertegun insisting it be renamed Star Star!).

This tracks reminds me of why I’ve generally avoided the Stones over the years; it’s such pop trash! The music and lyrics are, in all frankness, pretty piss poor. It’s The Stones playing their signature ‘bad boy card‘, and it’s lame.

This aspect of the band has meant that, for years, I’ve dismissed them as musically uninteresting poseurs. And, despite this string of Stones posts celebrating Charlie Watts and the band’s best bits, that still holds, alas.

But, thanks to the moderate amounts of focus and polish (helped by the presence of strings and jazzy horns), and the funkier more soulful material (mostly side one), this less revered disc eclipses the much more lionised Exile. For me at any rate.

A poster for the Australian leg of The Stones ‘73 tour.

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