John Gabree

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 562

I have always been partial to the Stones. They have a much surer and, it seems to me, more realistic vision than the Beatles and they have been much more willing to explore the possibilities of rock rather than lean on other musical styles when they get in a bind. I have felt for a long time and feel even more strongly now that the Rolling Stones are the best group in rock-and-roll.

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Banquet is by no means a perfect album. At one point Mick Jagger leans too heavily on rural blues. The lyrics of Sympathy for the Devil, which the group seems to think is the best cut, are pretentious and confused and the point of view is muddled. But this is carping…. I really don't think it would be too strong to call this the best rock album ever made; certainly it is among the half dozen best. (pp. 84-5)

[The] Rolling Stones' Street Fighting Man acknowledges the need for change while questioning the likelihood of success today. Their performance is tough, focused, together; the Beatles [on Revolution] are soft, spongy, and uncaring. Unfortunately, the Beatles have always been easily accessible and pleasant and the Stones difficult and sometimes ugly. It is always an effort to appreciate and especially to love the Stones. But it is worth the effort. (p. 85)

John Gabree, "The Beatles' Ninety-Minute Bore, and the Rolling Stones' 'Beggars Banquet'," in High Fidelity (copyright © by ABC Leisure Magazines, Inc.; all rights reserved; excerpted by permission), Vol. 19, No. 3, March, 1969, pp. 84-5.∗

Everytime a Stones album comes out I guess I ask myself why [I like it]. What it is that sets their stuff apart, makes it so special that even after all those years of familiarity you're still prepared to head for the nearest record store with the money clinking in your pocket….

In purely musical terms The Stones ain't that hot. It doesn't really matter. For a rock and roll band they possess those elusive qualities of vitality and charisma that lift them high above any other outfit that has ever stepped out and trod the boards. And on top of that, though their material has been very uneven in quality, some of it is the best rock ever recorded because it represents a synthesis of these qualities with strong imagery, both of a musical and lyrical nature.

That's why a song like "Sister Morphine" on ["Sticky Fingers"] is so classic. In explicit terms it is the story of an addict dying in a hospital bed, but its overtones are much more disturbing than that crude synopsis. It sets the dangerous but attractive romanticism of drug associations ("sweet cousin cocaine, lay your cool, cool hands on my head") to a mournful and evocative tune, which Jagger interprets in highly ambiguous fashion (are we meant to identify with the longing, rather than the plight of the addict?)….

There are one or two things that don't quite make it on "Sticky Fingers," but there is nothing that is dross. On the contrary, there are so many good cuts that they're hard to chronicle, from "Wild Horses" with its sense of sweet exhaustion, and the quasi-Chinese feel of "Moonlight Mile" (about being on the road) to the tough worksong "You Gotta Move."

"Bands Come and Go—but the Stones Keep Rolling On," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), April 24, 1971, p. 27.∗

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