The Rolling Stones define rock music. They took the blues, twisted it and stamped it with their drug-fuelled, womanising ways. Named in honour of the legendary Muddy Waters track, the Stones were conceived in 1962 and built a strong following across London. Their first recordings were soon to follow, although their song writing ability was yet to blossom. Their self-titled 1964 debut was heavy on covers, but they honed their skills over the next five years through Aftermath (1966) and the less impressive, acid-soaked Their Satanic Majesty’s Request (1967). Psychedelia was an misjudged distraction for the Stones but they returned better than ever in 1968 with their first truly seminal album.
Beggars Banquet saw a return to the music the Stones loved. Released on Decca and produced by Jimmy Miller, the blues pulsed through the needle-pricked veins of this album. Jagger and co hit the ground running, opening with the epic Sympathy for the Devil, inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s satirical novel, The Master and Margarita. Despite leading with such a strong track, the album doesn’t fade away.
The lonely musings and slide guitar of No Expectations, the gutsy blues of Parachute Woman and the fired-up aggression of Street Fighting Man, ensure Beggars Banquet stays strong throughout. The album winds down with Factory Girl, featuring a then unknown Ry Cooder on mandolin, and closes with Salt of the Earth. Featuring backing vocals from the Watts Street Gospel Choir, the finale was ahead of its times and proved the Stones weren’t afraid to step out and try something new.
Beggars Banquet saw the Rolling Stones reach full speed. They’d matured, found their style and weren’t going to back down. Combined with the follow ups – Let it Bleed (1969) and Sticky Fingers (1971) – this classic album helped cement their place as bona fide rock legends.