Year Released: 1978
Have I Heard This Before?: Hmm…the Rolling Stones, you say? Never heard of them.
Okay, that was a dumb joke. But what else can you say. They’re the Rolling Stones. They were inevitably going to pop up. And yes, I’ve heard just about their whole discography, including Some Girls.
High Points: There’s debate over which Stones album is the last great Stones album, and Some Girls is the answer to that question for a lot of critics and fans. I don’t agree with that assessment, but there’s enough on Some Girls to earn it a label of “decent,” if not more. There is at least one all-time great Stones song here in “Beast of Burden,” which hits that sweet spot between blues, country, and rock that only the Rolling Stones could work in without embarrassing themselves. And musically, the Stones could still write energetic rockers in the form of “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Before They Make Me Run,” the latter of which is just a fun-as-hell Keith Richards song. What’s more, the Stones still sound loose and natural here, which is something they would lose pretty much immediately after this.
Before I start saying the mean things, I should emphasize that any negative thoughts I have about this album do not apply to Keith Richards, who rules.
Low Points: I’m not crazy about Some Girls as a whole. It’s nowhere near the worst Stones album, but this is the point to me where the Stones ended up playing catch-up. Some would point to “Miss You,” the funky opener that was thought of at the time as the Stones “going disco” as an example of this, and while I’m not fond of “Miss You,” what’s more off about the album is how forced some of the songs feel. It’s inevitable that the band would have been aware of punk rock while making this album, and so much of it feels like they’re trying to prove that they can still hang with the tough new kids. This results in a few lyrical embarrassments (the rank misogyny of the title track is pretty bad even by Mick Jagger’s standards, and “Whip” spins a story about street hustlers that strikes as both casually homophobic and wholly unbelievable) and guitars that sound canned and overproduced in an attempt to sound heavy (“Shattered” is the worst offender here). I’m more sympathetic to the album now than I used to be, but Some Girls is still less of a last hurrah than it is a bump on the downward slope the band had already started on.
Further Listening: This is the youngest Rolling Stones album on the list, and the rest of their truly great albums will be covered as we go on. But for me, their decline starts with 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup and continues from there. That said the run of album from Soup up to 1981’s Tattoo You (which would also include It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, Black and Blue, and Emotional Rescue) all have a few moments that make them worth checking out, even if they’re not great. After that, though, things get rough.
Loose Thoughts: I would argue that Some Girls is absolutely the Stones’ mid-life crisis album, which happened for a lot of Sixties rockers around the time that punk broke through. That said, they certainly carried themselves better than a few of their contemporaries, who released some real dreck around this time. The Who’s Who Are You springs to mind as a particularly egregious example of a band refusing to accept how old they are now, and they didn’t even have the good taste to write something as good as “Beast of Burden” for that one.
Rating: Teenage me was really put off by Some Girls, so I might be softening in my old age when I say that this is a Meh-to-Good album. The Stones certainly made worse than this, but it’s not an all-time classic, especially when stacked against what the band could do at their best.