Review #330: Aftermath, The Rolling Stones

Karla Clifton
3 min readNov 18, 2022

#330: Aftermath, The Rolling Stones

It’s 2022. (Right? Still? Somehow?) Aftermath was recorded in 1966, making it 56 years old. Well, I hate to be the person to tell you this unhappy fact, but here it is:

With each passing day, the Rolling Stones become a little less relevant.

That’s kind of terrifying to me, because when I was a kid, people were already making jokes about the Rolling Stones being ancient. Now I’m an adult, and the Rolling Stones last played in August of this year. Is Mick Jagger really 79 years old, or is he merely a skeleton holding a microphone?

But before Mick Jagger mostly appeared as a line in other people’s songs, he was a cultural bastion. This record was the first one to be entirely composed by Jagger and Keith “Human Guitar” Richards. And did they do good? Just ask “Paint It Black,” a psychedelic grief song painted black with rock and roll. (Fun Fact, the comma you sometimes see in the title was a Decca Records misprint. Unfun Fact, the comma did briefly stir up some racial controversy.)

That’s not the only breakthrough masterpiece on the record — “Goin’ Home” is one of those dirty country tunes that the Stones love so much, but it’s 11:35 minutes long, making it the longest pop music song ever (at the time). It’s also credited as the first extended rock improvisation from a “major recording act.”

But of course, several of these songsWikipedia pages reference misogynistic lyrics. The worst offender is clearly “Stupid Girl,” which was written about some of their hangers-on. (I refuse to use the word “groupie.”) Mick and Keith spoke about feeling used and isolated by all the sexual attention they received, but yeah, I’m never gonna be impressed by songs that call girls stupid, unless it’s by Garbage.

“Under My Thumb” is more of a character study, but it still kind of freaked me out: it’s about killing your girlfriend’s spirit. But even though it gave me a jolt, I still love this song. It’s not like Jerry Lee Lewis’ songs, where he’s presenting himself as a good guy but it’s clear he’s not. The Stones are presenting themselves as the bad guys.

Not every song is a huge musical feat or moral quandary, though — sometimes they’re just having a great time, which is what you want from the Rolling Stones, isn’t it? “Flight 505” and “It’s Not Easy” use my favorite Stones party trick, which is taking a 12-bar blues and running sandpaper over it. And “High and Dry,” where Mick curses a rich lady that left him for dead, reminds me that the Stones have a much better sense humor than the Beatles’ ever did.

Not every song is my favorite. “Think” is fine, and “I Am Waiting” is silly. “Lady Jane” sounds like the first third of a Led Zeppelin song, in a bad way. I feel like the US version could have missed those songs in favor of some of the ones they dropped from the UK version. “Mother’s Little Helper,” a funny and dark tune about tranq-ed out housewives? “Take It or Leave It,” a tune they wrote for then lifted from the Searchers? “What to Do,” which the MEAT PUPPETS cover??? Instead, I have to hear about how Mick Jagger is Waiting for someone to come out of somewhere.

Anyway. It’s 2022, and this was recorded in 1966, and the Rolling Stones become less relevant with each passing day. And yet, I’m sure I’ll be talking about their legacy for my whole life. Hell, I bet some pop star releases another song that name drops Mick Jagger this week.

Favorite Line from a Song: “Doncha Bother Me,” where Mick declares, The lines around my eyes are protected by a copyright law.

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