LondonReleased November 1968"Beggars Banquet " marked the return of the Rolling Stones to basic, hard-edged rock & roll. Their previous LP, "Their Santanic Majesties Request," had been mired in psychedelic experimentation of a sort for which the band had little genuine feeling -- despite the series of drug-related arrests that had plagued the group "Beggars Banquet" was rooted in rhythm & blues and powered by propulsive tracks like "Street Fighting Man," "Sympathy for the Devil." "Stray Cat Blues," and "Parachute Woman." The Stones had stopped following trends and were back at full force.
The album signified "the Rolling Stones' coming of age," says Glyn Johns, who engineered the record and had worked with the Stones since their earliest days. "I think that the material was far better than anything they'd ever done before. The whole mood of the record was far stronger to me musically."
Producer Jimmy Miller describes Keith Richards as having been "A real workhorse" on the album, largely because Brian Jones rarely made it in to the studio and when he did, he behaved erratically, due to his drug use and emotional problems. "Brian was sort of in and out," Miller says. "He'd show up occasionally when he was in the mood to play, and he could never really be relied on. . . When he would show up at a session --~let's say he had just bought a star that day, he'd feel like playing it, so he'd look in his calendar to see if the Stones were in. Now he may have missed the previous four sessions. We'd be doing let's say, a blues thing. He'd walk in with a sitar, which was totally irrelevant to what we were doing, an want to play it. I used to try to accommodate him. I would isolate him, put him in a booth and not record him onto any tract that we really needed. And the others, particularly Mich and Keith, would often say to me, 'Just tell him to piss off and get the hell out of here'."
Despite his problems, Jones contributed extraordinary slide guitar playing to "No Expectations," "Parachute Woman" and "Jig-Saw Puzzle." His sitar -- and tamboura, as well -- can be heard on "Street Fighting Man."
In typical Rolling Stones fashion, various other hitches arose regarding "Beggars Banquet." The album's original cover art, depicting a bathroom wall covered with graffiti, was banned. The Stones attempted unsuccessfully to fight their record company's decision -- and from today's perspective, the cover seems quite harmless. Nevertheless, the dispute held up the album's release for months. Jagger and Richards were misidentified on the record as the authors of Robert Wilkins's Biblical blues number "Prodigal Son." And the political correctness of "Street Fighting Man" -- with its ambivalent lines "What can a poor boy do/'Cept sing in a rock and roll band" -- was debated intensely and at great length in the underground media.
As usual, the Stones flourished amid the charges and countercharges. They were back to playing fast and loose, and "Beggars Banquet " was filled with distinctive and original touches (The driving basic track of "Street Fighting Man," for example, was recorded on a cassette deck at Keith's house, with Keith on acoustic guitar and Charlie Watts on a toy drum kit.) For "Beggars Banquet," the Stones had gone to great lengths to toughen their sou