Their Satanic Majesties Request
|Their Satanic Majesties Request|
|Studio album by The Rolling Stones|
|Released||8 December 1967|
|Recorded||9 February – 23 October 1967 at Olympic Studios-Studio A, London|
|Genre||Psychedelic rock, psychedelic pop|
|Producer||The Rolling Stones|
|The Rolling Stones chronology|
|Singles from Their Satanic Majesties Request|
Their Satanic Majesties Request is the sixth British and eighth American studio album by the Rolling Stones, released on 8 December 1967 by Decca Records in the United Kingdom and the following day in the United States by London Records. Its title is a play on the “Her Britannic Majesty requests and requires …” text that appears inside a British passport. It was also the first Stones album where the track listings were the same for the UK and US versions.
Upon its release, the album “drew mixed reviews from the critics as well as some mixed reactions within the group itself.” In recent years, however, it has gained a cult following since it was The Rolling Stones’ only overt outing into the psychedelic realm, and because of its lenticular cover (which critics still compare to that of the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band).
Begun just after Between the Buttons had been released on 20 January 1967, the recording of Their Satanic Majesties Request was long and sporadic, broken up by court appearances and jail terms. For the same reasons, the entire band was seldom present in the studio at one time. Further slowing productivity was the presence of the multiple guests that the band members had brought along. One of the more level-headed members of the band during this time, Bill Wyman, wary of psychedelic drugs, wrote the song “In Another Land” to parody the Stones’ current goings-on. In his 2002 book Rolling with the Stones, Wyman described the situations in the studio:
Every day at the studio it was a lottery as to who would turn up and what – if any – positive contribution they would make when they did. Keith would arrive with anything up to ten people, Brian with another half-a-dozen and it was the same for Mick. They were assorted girlfriends and friends. I hated it! Then again, so did Andrew (Oldham) and just gave up on it. There were times when I wish I could have done, too.
Their producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham, already fed up with the band’s lack of focus, distanced himself from them following their drug bust and finally quit, leaving them without a producer. As a result, Their Satanic Majesties Request was the Stones’ only self-produced album, which Mick Jagger later opined was not for the best:
There’s a lot of rubbish on Satanic Majesties. Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, “Enough already, thank you very much, now can we just get on with this song?” Anyone let loose in the studio will produce stuff like that. There was simply too much hanging around. It’s like believing everything you do is great and not having any editing.
According to Brian Jones, a month before the album’s planned release date the group “hadn’t got anything put together”:
It’s really like sort of got-together chaos. Because we all panicked a little, even as soon as a month before the release date that we had planned, we really hadn’t got anything put together. We had all these great things that we’d done, but we couldn’t possibly put it out as an album. And so we just got them together, and did a little bit of editing here and there.
Keith Richards himself has been critical of the album in later years. While he likes some of the songs (“2000 Light Years from Home“, “Citadel” and “She’s a Rainbow“), he stated, “the album was a load of crap”.
The Stones experimented with many new instruments and sound effects during the sessions, including Mellotron, short wave radio static, and string arrangements by John Paul Jones. In 1998, a bootleg box set of eight CDs with outtakes from the Satanic sessions was released, and it shows the band developing the songs over multiple takes as well as the experimentation that went into the recording of the album.
The working title of the album was Cosmic Christmas. In the hidden coda titled “Cosmic Christmas” (following “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”), Wyman tells “it’s slowed-down: ‘We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!'” Some of the album’s songs were also recorded under various working titles, some appearing rather non sequitur and radically different from the final titles. These working titles include: “Acid in the Grass” (“In Another Land”), “I Want People to Know” (“2000 Man”), “Flowers in Your Bonnet” (“She’s a Rainbow”), “Fly My Kite” (“The Lantern”), “Toffee Apple” (“2000 Light Years from Home”), and “Surprise Me” (“On with the Show”).
Release and reception
|The Village Voice||B+|
Released in December 1967, Their Satanic Majesties Request reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 2 in the US (easily going gold), but its commercial performance declined rapidly. It was soon viewed as a pretentious, poorly conceived attempt to outdo the Beatles and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (released in June 1967), often explained by drug trials and excesses in contemporary musical fashion, although John Lennon and Paul McCartney did provide backing vocals (uncredited) on “Sing This All Together” and “We Love You“ (recorded during the Satanic Majesties Request sessions, but released as a single three months before the album).
The production, in particular, came in for harsh criticism from Jon Landau in the fifth issue of Rolling Stone, and Jimmy Miller (recommended by the album’s engineer, Glyn Johns) was asked to produce the Stones’ subsequent albums, on which they would return to the hard driving blues that earned them fame early in their career. In an April 1968 album review, Richard Corliss of the New York Times was also critical of the production value stating “…their imagination seems to have dried up when it comes to some of the arrangements. While still better than their previous ones, the arrangements are often ragged, fashionably monotonous and off-key.” Despite this he gave the album an overall positive review, going as far as calling it a better concept album than Of Cabbages and Kings (1967, by Chad & Jeremy), The Beat Goes On (1968, by Vanilla Fudge) and even Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967, by the Beatles). In a 1970 Rolling Stone interview, Lennon commented on the album: “Satanic Majesties is Pepper. “We Love You”…that’s “All You Need Is Love“”.
Without a doubt, no Rolling Stones album – and, indeed, very few rock albums from any era – split critical opinion as much as the Rolling Stones’ psychedelic outing. Many dismiss the record as sub-Sgt. Pepper posturing; others confess, if only in private, to a fascination with the album’s inventive arrangements, which incorporated some African rhythms, Mellotrons, and full orchestration. What’s clear is that never before or after did the Stones take so many chances in the studio…In 1968, the Stones would go back to the basics, and never wander down these paths again, making this all the more of a fascinating anomaly in the group’s discography.
The Wyman-composed “In Another Land” was released as a single, with the artist credit listed as Bill Wyman, rather than the Rolling Stones (the B-Side, “The Lantern”, was credited to the Rolling Stones).
Most album configurations contain the hidden track “Cosmic Christmas” (running time 0:35) following “Sing This All Together (See What Happens)” (running time 7:58).
There are only two songs from the album which the Stones performed live, “2000 Light Years from Home” (1989–90 world tour, 2013 Glastonbury Festival), and “She’s a Rainbow” (1997–98 Bridges to Babylon Tour).
Packaging and design
One proposed cover-a photograph of Jagger naked on a cross-was scrapped by the record company for being “in bad taste”. Initial releases of the album featured a three-dimensional picture of the band on the cover by photographer Michael Cooper. When viewed in a certain way, the lenticular image shows the band members’ faces turning towards each other with the exception of Jagger, whose hands appear crossed in front of him. Looking closely on its cover, one can see the faces of each of the four Beatles, reportedly a response to the Beatles’ inclusion of a doll wearing a “Welcome the Rolling Stones” sweater on the cover of Sgt. Pepper. Later editions replaced the glued-on three-dimensional image with a photograph, due to high production costs. A limited edition LP version in the 1980s reprinted the original 3D cover design; immediately following the reissue, the master materials for reprinting the 3D cover were intentionally destroyed.[why?] The 3D album cover was featured, although shrunk down, for the Japanese SHM-CD release in 2010.
The original cover design called for the lenticular image to take up the entire front cover, but finding this to be prohibitively expensive it was decided to reduce the size of the photo and surround it with the blue-and-white graphic design.
The entire cover design is elaborate, with a dense photo collage filling most of the inside cover (along with a maze) designed by Michael Cooper, and a painting by Tony Meevilwiffen on the back cover depicting the four elements (Earth, Water, Fire, and Air). In some editions the blue-and-white wisps on the front cover are used in a red-and-white version on the paper inner sleeve. The inner-cover collage has dozens of images, taken from reproductions of old master paintings (Ingres, Poussin, DaVinci, among others), Indian mandalas and portraits, astronomy (including a large image of the planet Saturn), flowers, world maps, etc.
It was the first of four Stones albums to feature a novelty cover; the others were the zipper on Sticky Fingers (1971), the cut-out faces on Some Girls (1978), and the stickers on Undercover (1983). The maze on the inside cover of the UK and US releases cannot be completed: a wall at about a half radius in from the lower left corner means one can never arrive at the “It’s Here” in the centre of the maze.
At some point around 1997 rumors were first heard that the album existed as a promo version including a silk padding. A pink padded version was presented by photo accompanied by a letter from the DECCA Copyright Department  but it was shown that the letter does not match the album it was intended to authenticate making it almost entirely certain that this was a forgery.
|1.||“Sing This All Together”||3:46|
|3.||“In Another Land“||3:15|
|5.||“Sing This All Together (See What Happens)”||8:33|
|6.||“She’s a Rainbow“||4:35|
|9.||“2000 Light Years from Home“||4:45|
|10.||“On with the Show“||3:40|
|1967||UK Albums Chart||3|
|1967||French SNEP Albums Chart||1|
|1968||Australian Albums Chart||1|
|1967||“In Another Land”||The Billboard Hot 100||87|
|1968||“She’s a Rainbow”||The Billboard Hot 100||25|
Cover versions and influences
|This section requires expansion. (August 2012)|
“2000 Man” was covered by Kiss for their 1979 album, Dynasty. Punk/Goth pioneers The Damned covered “Citadel” on their 1981 Friday the 13th, EP. California’s Redd Kross also covered “Citadel” on their 1984 Teen Babes from Monsanto EP. The Ohio punk band Sister Ray included “Citadel” in many of their live sets. Sheffield new wave band The Comsat Angels also covered “Citadel” for BBC (Time Considered as a Helix of Precious Stones) and Dutch (Unravelled) radio sessions, and released it as a bonus 12″ to “I’m Falling”, and on their fifth album, 7 Day Weekend. The Yugoslav band Električni Orgazam covered the song “Citadel” in 1983 on their cover album Les Chansones Populaires.