Revolutions: Rolling Stones "Beggars Banquet"
Released 50 years ago,
Inductees Rolling Stones album Beggars Banquet signaled a new era for the band -- one brimming with musical confidence and a sophisticated worldview, and with lyrics reckoned with politics and social upheaval. Dive into the record in our latest Revolutions episode presented by Klipsch Audio.
Released in December 1968, Beggars Banquet signaled a new era for the Rolling Stones—one brimming with musical confidence and a sophisticated worldview.
A departure from 1967's psychedelic Their Satanic Majesties Request, the album boasts a heady mix of freewheeling roots-rock and rough-hewn R&B.
Beggars Banquet was recorded at London's Olympic Studios and at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles. The band worked with a new producer, Jimmy Miller, and a familiar associate: engineer Glyn Johns.
The resulting music exudes a front porch-jam loose vibe. "Dear Doctor" is a country-folk song with lazy harmonica, swinging piano and Mick Jagger affecting an exaggerated Southern accent.
"Prodigal Son" is a faithful cover of a blues standard; "Salt of the Earth" features a rousing gospel choir; and "Jig-Saw Puzzle" is a soul-twang strut.
Opening track "Sympathy For The Devil," in contrast, oozes menace—courtesy of bustling percussion, a forked-lightning guitar solo and Jagger's wild-child-preacher vocals.
Despite the new sounds, Beggars Banquet was also the end of an era: It was the last Rolling Stones album to feature major contributions from founding member Brian Jones.
His sitar and tambura on "Street Fighting Man" tint the hip-shaking rocker with a psychedelic hue. On the elegiac "No Expectations," he contributes melancholy slide guitar.
Glyn Johns later called Beggars Banquet "the Rolling Stones' coming of age," an astute observation.
In particular, the album's lyrics reckoned with the political and social upheaval raging at the time.
Jagger took inspiration from French writers such as Baudelaire for "Sympathy For The Devil"—a samba starring a raconteur-like devil who scoffs at human folly.
"Jig-Saw Puzzle" features sly observations about who society perceives to be outcasts or outlaws, while "Salt of the Earth" celebrates a working class oppressed by crooked leaders.
And "Street Fighting Man" captures the deep frustration felt in France, where demonstrations roiled the country in 1968, as well as the anger expressed by Vietnam War protesters.
Beggars Banquet peaked near the top of the charts in the U.K. and U.S., and kicked off a formidable creative streak for the Stones.
In the coming years, the band would release a string of classics—including Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St.
Beggars Banquet was the sound of the Rolling Stones finding their groove, a self-assured confluence of musical swagger and artistic inspiration.