It seems only logical to begin our rummage through Rolling Stone's attic of albums with the band who used the same inspiration for their nomenclature. Although Rolling Stones appear on the list ten times, it is with their 18th album Tattoo You that we start.
Before we do, a small caveat. I am determined to complete this review without referring to the many misdeeds of these matured musical maestros. Surely, we've all heard every Keith and Mick story going by now? 1981's studio album Tattoo You was, however, a rare positive consequence of a Keith and Mick narrative. During one of their now notorious periods of being less than BFFs, Rolling Stones were left in a position where they needed an album to accompany a tour. Associate producer Chris Kimsey advised the band that he could cobble together something from rejected material, unfinished songs and other gems that, for one reason or another, never found their way off the cutting room floor. The amount of recording work would be minimal and there would be a limited need for band members to be in the same place at the same time.
The result is an album of two halves. The first six tracks are classic rock tracks, the last five are ballads. The former is where the Stones seem to be the most comfortable. Richards and Jagger alternating the role of nominated sex God, the former singing about his 'tits and ass with soul' and the latter indicating that once you start him up, he will never stop which is not an image that I really need now that he is a septuagenarian. Perhaps you had to be there. Blues-influenced track Black Limousine and the rather chaotic Neighbours complete what at the time would have been a solid side one.
Flip the record over and there isn't quite the same pizazz and there is a slight feeling of going through the motions. I can't hear a Rolling Stones ballad without thinking of their crowning glory and ultimate benchmark in the field, 1973's Angie. As an aside, I can't think about Angie without thinking about Angie Bowie, who I can't think about without remembering the tragic death of David Bowie. I can't think about that without recalling the tragic Big Brother David death mix-up, which I can't think about without lamenting the tragic real life death of David Gest. It's a macabre merry-go-round of misery. Anyhow, tangent complete, there is nothing on this album that even comes close to Angie. There are a couple of nice solos that punctuate the last five tracks, in particular the smooth saxophone interlude from the great Sonny Rollins on closing track Waiting On A Friend. Apart from that, it feels like filler at best.
The album went on to achieve massive success, reaching number 2 in the UK and spending nine weeks at number 1 in the USA – the last Rolling Stones album to achieve that feat. Start Me Up is also their highest placing single in both charts in the last 35 years. It is therefore no surprise that many Rolling Stones fans see Tattoo You as the last great Rolling Stones album. I wouldn't quite go that far. Looking at the album's origin story, I think it is fairer to say that Chris Kimsey had most of an album and the band 'made do and mended' around it to create something passable which was then carried on an up-current of Stones hysteria at the time and labelled brilliant. It's a bit like that time when the police did a drugs raid on Richards' Redlands estate... oh, so close.
Then again, I might be wrong. I am a Musical Moron after all...
Lyric of the month
“You know marrying money is a full time job”
Mick and Keith at odds
Hidden among the discards
Their last great opus?
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