Top of the Pops: Some Girls

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October 4, 2012 by NowhereButPop

By Andrew Doscas


From the opening lick of Keith Richard’s riff and the pounding four to the floor drum beat of Charlie Watts, as soon as you hear “Miss You” you know exactly what song it is, who sings it, and what album it came off of.  And when listening to the album as a whole, you know precisely what you’ve gotten yourself into for the next 41 minutes.  As far as opening tracks go, “Miss You” is the perfect fit; it reflects the mood of the album and puts you in that mood, not necessarily the mood, but a mood.  Any semblance of doubt is extinguished as soon as Jagger lets out that broodingly seductive howl that has become the most memorable part of the song.  Not only did the single permeate through the summer of ’78, so did the album.  If people only know one Stones album, it’s Some Girls, due in large part to the massive success of “Miss You”, their eighth and final #1 hit single.  By the time the album came out on June 9, 1978 it already cast its shadow on the summer.  There was no escaping it; “Miss You”, “Beast of Burden” and “Shattered” would be played in clubs for the next ten years.  But even further, the album as a whole reflects a state of mind that is only hinted at in “Miss You”.

In the late 70s New York was the center of the world…..not exaggerating.  It was the disco capital, Saturday Night Fever was HUGE, The Yankees were good again, and the city was struggling between crime and poverty, and riches and excess.  In short it was a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah, and it was this beautiful wreck that served as the inspiration of Some Girls.

When asked if the Rolling Stones had some overall linking theme of their songs, Keith Richards responded with a one word answer: “Women”.  The obviousness of the title Some Girls aside, this is never more present than on the album.  Four out of the five tracks on side one are about women.  The opening track is a howling croon of desire for Jerry Hall (a woman).  The next track, “When the Whip Comes Down” is about a gay man who moves from LA to New York to become a garbage collector.  While not about a woman, there are direct references to New York, the obvious setting for the album as a whole.

While I’m generally not a fan of covers, the Stones version of “Just My Imagination” is immaculate.[1]  Despite the fact that it’s Mick Jagger singing about his unrequited love for a woman (which is a highly unbelievable concept in the first place) there’s so much heart in it that by the end of the song I feel bad for the narrator.  It’s almost as if the party that began with the first two tracks was momentarily put on hold for a quick and sobering moment.  However, any such sympathy I had for Jagger exiting “Just My Imagination” is quickly recanted as soon as the title track comes up.  “Some Girls” despite being slightly controversial for its stereotyping of women of various ethnicities is still a critical, if not the most crucial track on the album.  It’s literally about some girls.  Closing out side one, we get “Lies” a digestible little number about what else, a man who is fed up with his girlfriend’s lies.  On side one, the presence of women is never felt stronger on any other side of any other Stones album.  Five songs in, it seems like Richards is staying true to his word.

Halfway through the album, one thing is made abundantly clear: the Rolling Stones are back; this isn’t your father’s Rolling Stones though.  Gone are the elaborate collaborations, the horn and string sections, and the guest musicians.  This is the Rolling Stones and Bill Wyman all getting together and making music by themselves with little to no outside influence.  The blues rock is still there, but now it’s infused with disco, pop, and a grittier, dirties electric guitar sound courtesy of Ronnie Wood.  Some Girls is the sound of a band doing what they’ve always done, just going about it in a different way.  That’s what made it sound so fresh and rejuvenated their careers.  The Stones were back, and everybody wanted to be a part of it.

Remember, we’re only halfway through the album; we still have five tracks to go.  Whereas side one began with a quick and energetic re-introduction to the band, side two begins with the standard stereotypical Rolling Stones country song.  This time around it’s a sarcastic retort about the desperation of wanting to be in love with anyone you can find entitled “Far Away Eyes”.  It takes away to get acquainted with the song, but by the time you do, you’ll realize that it’s a nice compliment to the rest of the album.

After that quick detour to the mid-west, you’d think that the Stones would get back to hard rock sound and energetic pace of the rest of the album.  They do, but the album starts to drag because of it.  “Respectable”, the next song on the album sounds too similar to “Lies” to be taken seriously.  In hindsight the point of the cut was just to reiterate that this was a new version of the band, that the changes made were throughout the album and not on only a handful of tracks.

All things considered, if the biggest critique of an album is that only one song sounds like another, then I think that must be one hell of an album then.  Some Girls starts to pick up again starting with the next track “Before They Make Me Run”.  This is the closest we ever get to the late 60s-early 70s Stones.  Keith Richards takes the helm and reaffirms his bad boy image making no regrets about his lifestyle and trouble with the law.  It sounds like the sequel to Exile’s “Happy”, another brainchild of Richards.  After the first three songs of side two, there’s a bit of apprehension about where the album is going.  It’s already a good album on the strength of side one, but can the final two tracks make up for the sluggish behavior of the first few tracks on side two?

YES!….yes they can; in fact they more than make up for the decent “Far Away Eyes” and “Respectable”, and the appreciated “Before They Make Me Run”.  “Beast of Burden” is not the only essential, but also the quintessential Rolling Stones ballad.  Despite the fact that it’s Mick Jagger asking if he’s rough enough, or tough enough, or rich enough (really, what does he know about being spurned), the idea of not being good enough for someone is one that everyone can connect to at some point in their life.  For all intents and purposes, this is the most sincere portion of the album, and from the first time you hear the album in sequence, it becomes all the more apparent.  I could just be going by assumptions, but I think every guy in respect to how he feels about a woman has at some point in his life has thought to himself “There’s one thing baby that I don’t understand you keep on telling me I ain’t your kind of man, ain’t I rough enough, ain’t I tough enough ain’t I rich enough, in love enough”.  The fact that it’s Jagger saying this doesn’t cheapen what he means, quite the opposite in fact.  It humanizes the song and makes it all the more relatable and enjoyable.  After the emotional “Beast of Burden” it’s up to the final track to dictate where Some Girls will stand not only in the illustrious catalogue of the band, but in rock history.

Just as it began, Some Girls ends in a bag with the fast paced and in-your-face “Shattered”.[2]  The riff that Richards and Wood trade off in between Jagger almost rapping the lyrics are the most perfect complement of lyrics and notes in the bands history.  The way that all three of them weave into and out of each other is sheer perfection.  Written about New York in the back of a cab in New York, it is “Shattered” that sums up the album and everything that it is and ever will be.  “Pride and joy and greed and sex, that’s what makes are town the best, pride and joy and dirty dreams are still surviving on the streets”.  They’re describing the gorgeous decay of New York all the while reveling in the absurdity of it all.  Everyone from cops in the streets, to his friends, to his lovers, to the random thugs on the street contribute to the 23 sq. mi. of madness.  And now as a result Mick’s brain has been battered and splattered all over Manhattan.

The majority of songs out there are written about women, in Some Girls, we get this in its most concentrated form: blunt, crude, hyper, but at the same time sincere, emotional and all encompassing.  Having its gestation in the throes of chaos colloquially referred to as Manhattan reinvigorated the band with a new sense of purpose and in turn led to the biggest comeback of their career.  The greatness of Some Girls is that all ten tracks represent a band doing what its always done, but in a new way, because they have too.  While staying true to their past and using the present as inspiration, they were able to forge a new path into the future that would last for the next five years.  In a word Some Girls meant survival for the Stones.  At that point in their careers with the onset of disco and punk rock, they had to implement aspects of both genres into their own specially crafted niche in order to stay relevant.  Sure enough and true to form the Stones delivered and once again gave us a new reason to listen to them.

[1] As a reference point, the only other thing I consider to be immaculate is Michael Jordan’s basketball prowess.

[2] My personal favorite by them……since you’re asking and all.


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