December 6-13, 1972: Dynamic Sound Studios, Kingston, Jamaica
July 24, 1973: Ron Wood's home studio (The Wick), Richmond, Surrey, England
November 13-24, 1973: Musicland Studios, Munich, West Germany
February 20-March 3, 1974: Musicland Studios, Munich, West Germany
April 12-May 2, 1974: Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, Mick Jagger's home (Stargroves), Newbury, England
May 4-27, 1974: Island Studios, London, England
Chief engineers: Keith Harwood & Andy Johns
Mixer: Keith Harwood
Released: October 1974
Original label: Rolling Stones Records (on WEA)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Mick Taylor, Ian Stewart, Nicky Hopkins, Billy Preston, Ray Cooper, Kenny Jones, Charlie Jolly Kunjappu, Willie Weeks, Blue Magic, Ron Wood, Ed Leach.
If You Can't Rock Me
Ain't Too Proud to Beg
It's Only Rock 'n Roll (But I Like It)
Till the Next Goodbye
Time Waits for No One
Dance Little Sister
If You Really Want to Be My Friend
Short and Curlies
It's something you can really get into, because at first it just looks as though all of those women are adoring the Rolling Stones, but then you notice that the people on the top left are into these chicks on the right and there are other chicks who're completely into a different bag, the ones who've seen it all. I mean, I see Bill Wyman in drag all over the place.
Bowie's Diamond Dogs cover got banned, didn't it? Well, ours is really cherubic and naïve by comparison. Not a genital in sight.
Rock & roll can't be planned or prepared. You can have a few basic structures though. I wrote maybe three of the songs in the studio just warming up before the rest of the guys arrived and Mick had a couple that he had ready... and that's the way it goes.
We were really hot (off the road) and ready just to play some new material. We booked a couple of weeks, went in and cut about half the album with Billy Preston on keyboards. Then we split and came back again after Christmas for another two weeks, this time with Nicky Hopkins on piano, and by the end of those two weeks we'd cut enough tracks for the album plus half again. Then we had to choose which ones we were going to work on vocal-wise. So we made a short list of about 12 or 13 tracks and then in April, I came over to England with Mick and we finished off writing those that hadn't been completed lyric-wise, because a lot of them had been written in a very loose framework to start with - maybe just a chorus, a hookline or something.
(The band shared the same hotel in Munich.) Everyone used to take their old ladies with them everywhere in those days. I'm not saying it was like a hippie thing back then. But when you were doing a project like that, it's not like it is now; there was a lot more sense of family and community and we're all in this together kind of a thing.
I did have a falling out with Mick Jagger over some songs I should have been credited with co-writing on It's Only Rock 'n Roll. We were quite close friends and co-operated quite closely on getting that album made. By that time Mick and Keith weren't really working together as a team so I'd spend a lot of time in the studio.
I think we'd come to a point with Jimmy (Miller) where the contribution level had dropped because it'd got to be a habit, a way of life, for Jimmy to do one Stones album a year. He'd got over the initial sort of excitement which you can feel on Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. Also, Mick and I felt that we wanted to try and do it ourselves because we really felt we knew much more about techniques and recording and had our own ideas of how we wanted things to go. Goats Head Soup hadn't turned out as we wanted to - not blaming Jimmy or anything like that, because there's no one to blame. But it was obvious that it was time for a change in that particular part of the process of making records.
Then we got on and did the vocals and I left Mick for a couple of weeks to do his solo vocals, because he often comes up with his best stuff alone in the studio with just an engineer. Then he doesn't feel like he's hanging anybody up. While Mick was doing this I got a call from Ronnie Wood. I really got involved and Mick was calling up saying, I've finished my vocals. Come and help me out... do some harmonies and do some vocals. I had to say, Hang on, I've just written a couple of songs down here for Woody and I want to get 'em down! - which I did, pretty quickly.
Actually, we didn't take any more time doing this record than any other, it's just that there were a lot of gaps between, is all. In the old days we used to put albums out within six months of each other - but that's when albums used to take two weeks to a month to make.
I don't know that Mick Taylor ever really fit in... (One time Keith turned to Mick Taylor and said) Fuck you! You play too loud. You're really good live, but you're no good in the studio. So you can play later... (Taylor) was whining and moaning: I never get to do what I want, and I don't think I'm going to be able to do this much longer. And I'm going, What? Are you crazy? You're going to quit the Stones? You're out of your fucking mind!
We recorded about three albums with the same people we're using now. Like Let It Bleed... And Mick (Taylor) was in on only half of the last sessions in Munich, for It's Only Rock 'n Roll, because he was in the hospital. We had two sessions and he didn't come to the first one. So it's not really any great difficulty (continuing without him).
(The album's) a step forward - not just marking time... I like (Goats Head Soup) in many ways but I don't think it has the freshness that this one has.
By the time of Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'N Roll, people had to contend with Exile for real and that's why I say that Mick Taylor wasn't particularly good for the group. He joined at a time when with any other band he wouldn't have been forced out of England, forced to live that kind of life that was alien to him... He was really an odd man out. There was no way he could feel part of the whole thing as much as the rest of us... Mick Taylor wasn't good for the Stones. It was a sterile period for us 'cause there were things we had to force through. Maybe it's just me. It was a period we had to go through. Also Mick is such a LEAD guitarist, which completely destroyed the whole concept of the Stones, that is, the idea that you don't walk into a guitar store and ask for a lead guitar or a rhythm guitar. You PLAY a fuckin' GUITAR. You are a GUITAR player. If you just want to fuck about with three strings at the top end, well, alright, but that's not what the Stones are about.
Lots of people didn't like (It's Only Rock 'N Roll).... I don't know... I don't really like it that much in parts... I thought some of it, I can't remember the tracks, some of it was good. (Black And Blue) is a better album, in a way.
I think there are some good songs on our last albums, but they probably lacked direction.
I quite like It's Only Rock 'N Roll.
The problem (with the Stones' mid-70s albums), which I was ignorant of for a long time, was studio musicians and sidemen taking over the band. The real problem with those albums was the band was led astray by brilliant players like Billy Preston. We'd start off a typical Stones track and Billy would start playing something so fuckin' good musically that we'd get sidetracked and end up with a compromised track. THAT made the difference.
I mean, everyone was using drugs, Keith particularly. So I think (the mid-70s albums) suffered a bit from all that. General malaise. I think we got a bit carried away with our own popularity and so on. It was a bit of a holiday period (laughs). I mean, we cared, but we didn't care as much as we had. Not really concentrating on the creative process, and we had such money problems. We had been so messed around by Allen Klein and the British Revenue. We were really in a very bad way. So we had to move. And it sort of destabilized us a bit. We flew off all edges... Not only couldn't we stay in England, we couldn't go to America because we had immigration problems. So we were limited. It was a very difficult period.
I doubt whether you'll find an album more eminently rewarding this year. And, yes, you can dance to it.
The Stones have become oblique in their old age, which is just another word for perverse except that perverse is the corniest concept extant as they realized at inception which is more than you can say for Lou Reed who had to go solo to figure it out... Exile was like a sheathed nerve that surfaced in weeks. Soup was friendly and safe. I want the edge and this album doesn't reassure me that I'll get it, what a curious situation to be stuck in, but maybe that's the beauty of the Stones, hah, hah, kid? This album is false. Numb. But it cuts like a dull blade. Are they doing the cutting, or are we?
It's Only Rock 'n Roll is a decadent album because it invites us to dance in the face of its own despair. It's a desperate album that warns at the end of one side that dreams of the nighttime will vanish by dawn, and on the other that a Kafkaesque someone is listening, good night, sleep tight. It's a rock 'n' roll album because it's so goddamn violent. At its simplest level the album deals with the psychosis of being in a rock 'n' roll band and having made it as a star—and it does that better than the Who's opus devoted exclusively to that subject, Quadrophenia. At another level it uses the relationship between a band and its audience as a metaphor for the parasitic relations between a man and a woman. At still another, in the best tradition of rock 'n' roll, it convincingly flaunts its own raunchiness... For me, It's Only Rock 'n Roll is Mick Jagger's show. It seems like any time anyone writes about him it is either to analyze his appeal as a showman or to gossip about his private life. His role as the man who has done the most to define rock-band singing often (and amazingly) goes undiscussed.... Jagger possessed style, control and originality from the beginning... It's Only Rock 'n Roll's consistency comes as a real surprise, especially after the occasional lameness of Goats Head Soup. Jagger justifies the loud mixing of his voice by singing almost everything to perfection and reaches a pinnacle on the title track and If You Really Want to Be My Friend.
The album has its playful moments but its most characteristic instant is Charlie Watts's (sic) first drumbeat on It's Only Rock 'n Roll. It resonates like the sound of a shotgun. That violence - ransmitted through the singing, words and music - makes It's Only Rock 'n Roll one of the most intriguing and mysterious, as well as the darkest, of all Rolling Stones records. Time has become just one more reality to face and to deal with.
Since Altamont, at least, the Stones' history has engulfed each album they've released, so that it took at least three months to suss out Sticky Fingers and Exile and Goat's Head Soup. This will no doubt be the same. I hear enough new hooks and arresting bass runs and audacious jokes to stretch over three ordinary albums, but I also hear rhymes that sound lazy without communicating with Father Time. This is definitely no Exile or Let It Bleed, but they haven't ever made a grade B lp, and there's no reason to pin the rap on this one. I don't think. A-
Back to Main Page.