The Rolling Stones – Aftermath (1966)

Aftermath is a studio album by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. The group recorded the album at RCA Studios in California in December 1965 and March 1966, during breaks between their international tours. It was released in the United Kingdom on 15 April 1966 by Decca Records and in the United States on 2 July by London Records. It is the band’s fourth British and sixth American studio album, and closely follows a series of international hit singles that helped bring the Stones newfound wealth and popularity that rivalled their contemporaries, the Beatles.

The album is considered by music scholars to be an artistic breakthrough for the Rolling Stones. It is their first to consist entirely of original compositions, all of which were credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Brian Jones emerged as a key contributor and experimented with instruments not usually associated with popular music, including the sitar, Appalachian dulcimer, Japanese koto and marimbas, as well as guitar and harmonica. Along with Jones’ instrumental textures, the Stones incorporated a wider range of chords and stylistic elements beyond their Chicago blues and R&B influences, such as pop, folk, country, psychedelia, Baroque and Middle Eastern music. Influenced in part by intense love affairs outside the band and their demanding touring itinerary, Jagger and Richards wrote the album around psychodramatic themes of love, sex, desire, power and dominance, hate, obsession, modern society and rock stardom. Women feature as prominent characters in their often dark, sarcastic, casually offensive lyrics.

The album’s release was briefly delayed by controversy over the proposed packaging and title – Could You Walk on the Water? – by the Stones’ manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham. Decca and London rejected his idea, fearing the allusion to Jesus walking on water would provoke a negative reaction from Christians in the US. In response to the lack of creative control, and without another idea for the title, the Stones bitterly settled on Aftermath, and two different photos of the band were used for the cover to each edition of the album. The UK release featured a run-time of more than 52 minutes, the longest for a popular music LP up to that point. The American edition was issued with a shorter track listing, substituting the single “Paint It, Black” in place of four of the British version’s songs, in keeping with the industry preference for shorter LPs in the US market at the time.

Aftermath was an immediate commercial success in both the UK and the US, topping the British albums chart for eight consecutive weeks and eventually achieving platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. Rivalling the contemporaneous impact of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul (1965), the album reflected the youth culture and values of 1960s Swinging London and the burgeoning counterculture while attracting thousands of new fans to the Rolling Stones. An inaugural release of the album era, it marked the beginnings of the LP replacing the single as popular music’s dominant product and artistic medium. The album was also highly successful with critics, although some listeners were offended by the derisive attitudes towards female characters in certain songs. Its subversive music solidified the band’s rebellious rock image while pioneering the darker psychological and social content that glam rock and British punk rock would explore in the 1970s. Aftermath has since been considered the most important of the Stones’ early, formative music and their first classic album, frequently ranking on professional lists of the greatest albums.

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Mother’s Little Helper” 2:40
2. “Stupid Girl” 2:52
3. “Lady Jane” 3:06
4. “Under My Thumb” 3:20
5. “Doncha Bother Me” 2:35
6. “Goin’ Home” 11:35
Total length: 26:08

Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Flight 505” 3:25
2. “High and Dry” 3:06
3. “Out of Time” 5:15
4. “It’s Not Easy” 2:52
5. “I Am Waiting” 3:10
6. “Take It or Leave It” 2:47
7. “Think” 3:10
8. “What to Do” 2:30
Total length: 26:15

AllMusic Review: The Rolling Stones finally delivered a set of all-original material with this LP, which also did much to define the group as the bad boys of rock & roll with their sneering attitude toward the world in general and the female sex in particular. The borderline misogyny could get a bit juvenile in tunes like “Stupid Girl.” But on the other hand the group began incorporating the influences of psychedelia and Dylan into their material with classics like “Paint It Black,” an eerily insistent number one hit graced by some of the best use of sitar (played by Brian Jones) on a rock record. Other classics included the jazzy “Under My Thumb,” where Jones added exotic accents with his vibes, and the delicate Elizabethan ballad “Lady Jane,” where dulcimer can be heard. Some of the material is fairly ho-hum, to be honest, as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were still prone to inconsistent songwriting; “Goin’ Home,” an 11-minute blues jam, was remarkable more for its barrier-crashing length than its content. Look out for an obscure gem, however, in the brooding, meditative “I Am Waiting.” — Richie Unterberger

Schill Score: 9.25/10

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