Awesome Totally Awesome - Rolling Stones - Some Girls

“Some Girls” – The Rolling Stones Return to the Top

By 1978, the Rolling Stones’ star was waning in the U.S.

Disco was taking the States by fire and punk rock was making its move in England.

But then the Stones released Some Girls, 39 years ago on June 9, and boom, they were back. Big time.

The record went to No. 1 on Billboard, becoming the Stones’ best selling album in the U.S. thanks to hits like “Miss You” and “Beast of Burden”.

It was the first record with Ronnie Wood as a full-time Stone after he replaced uber-talented guitarist Mick Taylor in 1975.

But what’s really interesting about Some Girls and 1977-78 for the Stones, was that Mick Jagger had basically become the engine of the band in a big way. Keith Richards had been busted for heroin possession in Toronto in February, 1977 after cops found an ounce of smack in his hotel room. They charged him with possession and intent to sell, even though the human riff noted his his autobiography, Life, that it was all for his personal use.

The scary part about the charge for Richards and the band was he could be facing a life sentence in jail under Canadian law. In an effort to show remorse, Richards immediately went into rehab and underwent neuroelectric acupuncture (Eric Clapton’s recommendation).

Then, on Oct. 24, 1978, Richards plead guilty to possession after a plea bargain to drop the trafficking charge. Even though the possession charge could have meant seven years in the slammer, Judge Lloyd Grayburn gave Richards a year of probation with a one-year suspended sentence. He must have been a Stones fan. Grayburn also ordered the Stones to play a benefit gig for the blind.

Awesome Totally Awesome - Rolling Stones at work in 1978

Meanwhile Jagger was writing songs for the new album (he wrote many of the tracks on Some Girls, which was recorded from Oct. 1977–Dec.1977 and Jan. 5–March 2, 1978 in Paris. Richards took part in the recording sessions, contributing “Before They Make Me Run”, which he’d written while being held up in Canada. That song is about his heroin bust and unapologetic lifestyle choices. There’s also a clear reference to friends he’s lost to drugs, particularly his good buddy Gram Parsons, who overdosed in 1973.

“That song was a cry from the heart,” said Richards in his autobiography. “It came out of what I had been going through and was still going through with the Canadians. I was telling them what to do. Let me walk out of this goddamn case. When you get a lenient sentence, they say, oh, let him walk.”

It took five days to record Richards’s signature song, and Richards recalled it was without a wink of sleep.

While Richards took the helm for “Before They Make Me Run”, Jagger was clearly driving the bus.

Richards Didn’t Want to be a Beast of Burden

And part of the major friction that would turn into the huge feud between Jagger and Richards, really started around the Some Girls sessions.

The bottom line is Jagger had control and Richards felt like he wasn’t being heard. At the time, he notes Jagger and himself “went off on almost perfect 180s”.

When he wrote the basic track for “Beast of Burden”, Richards said he came to realize it was a thank you to Jagger: “When I returned to the fold after closing down the laboratory (a reference to his heroin addiction), I came back into the studio with Mick… to say, ‘Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden’ – that’s why I wrote “Beast of Burden” for him, I realise in retrospect.”

Jagger said he’d have taken “Beast of Burden” off the record, since he wanted it to generally be a faster record: “I wanted the new album to be a dance record with mostly fast stuff on it. And there were other songs we cut out that I would have preferred on the album. I wanted to take “Beast of Burden” off – that would have depressed you – you know what I mean?”

But the control Jagger enjoyed while Richards was out of it and going through legal issues would become the catalyst for their mega-feud down the road (but that’s another Stones story).

One of the most unheralded Stones tracks is the first song on Side 2 of the original vinyl – “Far Away Eyes”, which sees the Stones returning to country music, something they hadn’t done since “Exile”. It’s got some fantastic pedal steel guitar from Wood, while the harmony on the chorus with Jagger, Richards and Wood is perfect.

There’s certainly an eclectic mix of songs on Some Girls with a nod to punk music in “When the Whip Comes Down”, and a hint of rap in the New York-inspired “Shattered”.

While the record overall is certainly not as revered as Sticky Fingers or Exile on Main St., one could argue it is the last truly great Stones album (with a nod to Tattoo Youwith it’s songs dating back to 1972 and up to the Some Girls sessions).

Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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