Mick Jagger Frank Kofsky - Essay

Frank Kofsky

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

I call [Their Satanic Majesties Request] "interesting." I could just have appropriately said "intriguing," "provocative," "esoteric," even "obscure"; not to mention "fascinating," "delightful," and "ominous." (p. 12)

[Traces] of Beatlery on the album itself are few in number and for the most part superficial; other influences—those of Frank Zappa and, conceivably, Bob Dylan—strike me as being of considerably greater significance….

[Though] their musical means may be different, the Stones are evidently concerned to make a statement indicating their solidarity with the Beatles, as indeed they had already begun to do with We Love You. More than that, the Stones attach enough importance to the idea of the unity of mankind that they make it the subject of both the opening and the finale of the album's frontside.

But while the Stones share a common ideology with the Beatles, the musical expression of that ideology … is handled in a radically different fashion. (p. 13)

[Earlier] in this essay I mentioned that one could detect the influences of Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan on Their Majesties: it is time now to make good that claim.

Zappa first, then, since his influence is the more obvious. To anyone who has heard the Mothers of Invention parody the debauchery of Saturday night in any good, clean, heterosexual, middleclass bar, in America Drinks and Goes Home (Absolutely Free), it will immediately be clear from whence has come the inspiration for the Stones' On With the Show—even right down to the fact that each track occupies the closing position on its respective album. Naturally, not having access to the Stones' mental processes, I can't prove that this is so; but the parallels are certainly suggestive: the M.C. (in the case of the Mothers, an M.C.-singer—rather, "crooner") who exhorts the audience to drink, while promising to have their favorite songs played (Mothers: Bill Bailey; Stones: Ol' Man River, Stormy Weather); the drunken babbling of the crowd (done somewhat more clearly by the Stones), in which you can hear fights starting, girls fending off lecherous advances, calls for more drinks ("Bourbon and soda!"), etc.; the rinky-tink, pseudo-barrelhouse piano. Despite mountains of publicity given to their prospective joint ventures (so to speak) with the Beatles, it would appear that the Stones have been equally taken with the Mothers.

The case for Bob Dylan is not so clear-cut. In all probability, it would never even have occurred to me to think of him in this connection, had not the Stones previously given the game away with their Dylanesque Who's Been Sleeping Here? (Between the Buttons). The Dylan esprit is less blatant and more diffuse on Their Majesties, but a plausible argument for its presence can nonetheless be constructed. For example, the lyric to Citadel. From the first verse and the chorus, one would tend to conclude that the...

(The entire section is 1246 words.)