Saturday, January 17, 2015

Between the Buttons (1967)

(Requested by reader S.S.)

Between the Buttons falls in that trough of Rolling Stones albums between the original focus on rhythm and blues covers and the later turn as world's greatest rock 'n' roll band, from their most obvious period of aping Beatles moves, also known as "psychedelia." Generally I prefer Aftermath and on some days even Their Satanic Majesties Request. But it was good to revisit Buttons again and find something that sounds a lot to me now like Mick Jagger's first solo album—and a pretty good one too, full of inconsequential little songs about yesterday's papers, my obsession, my connections, who's been sleeping here, something happened to me yesterday, etc. Jagger's most foppish persona tends to be front and center, with the bluesy guitar impulses of Brian Jones and Keith Richards often retired well to the background. No covers either—all Jagger/Richards originals. Interestingly, Jagger claims now to still like only "Back Street Girl." But the album still sounds like a Jagger solo to me, with the student of economics way that it calculates and checks off, throwing high signs to the Beatles, Kinks, Who, drugs, preening fashion, and other usual suspects. Jones, perhaps at the beginning of his long slow fade, has traded in for vibraphone, recorder, saxophone, electric dulcimer, and oscillator, among other sounds he contributed. Busy busy. The main difference between the UK and US versions is the inclusion of a couple of big hits for the States album: "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend [the Night / Some Time, the latter at the famous special request of Ed Sullivan] Together." One of my favorites on Buttons, perhaps because it's relatively strange and fresh to me, was not on the US version: "Please Go Home," which revs up a real nice head. It's altogether tempting to dismiss Between the Buttons as a badly aging sellout, but that's a little silly. From 1965 to maybe 1968 (before going on to deathless editions of classic rock), Jagger and Richards turned out to be first-rate masters of pop songcraft, among the very best, and Between the Buttons is basically a collection of experiments, with varying results and no US hits on the Brit version. As I said I'm more for Aftermath, not least for the one-on-one between signature long album side closers: "Goin' Home" (a brief obsession I still adore when I think to play it) vs. "Something Happened to Me Yesterday," which sounds vain, coy, smug, with (uncredited) brass section—of a piece indeed with Bob Dylan's bawdy "Rainy Day Women," another song I don't like nearly as much as I think I should. It's not really psychedelic, for one thing. I might have benefited from knowing "Something Happened" when I first got into psychedelics. But I didn't, so it's "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Itchycoo Park" that still sound the better and more mysteriously meaningful to me that way. Between the Buttons is essential, of course, because it's the Stones of the period, but it's ultimately in the minor key in every way.

No comments:

Post a Comment