Up and up she goes, our Amanda Jones
I said up and up and up and up
She looks quite delightfully stoned
She’s the darling of the discotheque crowd
Of her lineage, she’s rightfully proud, Miss Amanda Jones
Here’s an LP that I like better than I did a day, or two ago, Rolling Stones Between The Buttons. I picked up an original 1967 copy of this one back in Christmas 1993, a terrifyingly long time ago if I let myself think about it, so I won’t.
I bought it because I loved the cover and wanted to see what happened album-wise before my holy duo of Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed, oh and because I love the cover pic by Gered Mankowitz, the back cover Charlie Watts cartoon and the round button logo. My memories of it were that I freakin’ loved the sexed-up swagger of ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ but the rest was a bit meuurgggh*. Between The Buttons is a better LP than that, but in terms of the Stones best it is firmly in the second rank. By the way I should point out that my copy is (flutters a flag in your general direction) the UK version, not the US version where they cheated by adding on big hitters ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’ and ‘Ruby Tuesday’. I love the way they didn’t put the singles on albums at the time, it seems so sweet and archaic now – basically it was just assumed that you would go out and buy them, some of the B-sides are amazing too**.
As always with an Andrew Loog Oldham production there’s a clever sense of aural chaos lurking around the corner on these tracks and the odd jarring noise, he’s a man I don’t think gets nearly enough credit at times. For great production listen to the slurred, sloppy ‘Please Go Home’ a straight blues number, turned into something altogether more far out by phasing, reverse flanging and echo-osityness, coming on like a space-age ‘Not Fade Away’. It makes me feel pleasantly drunk listening to it. Ditto ‘My Obsession’ which adds some great stoned piano to its Phil Spector girl group beat.
Bill Wyman said^ that Between the Buttons was the first album the Stones ever worked on, or thought of, as an album rather than a collection of tracks and they just weren’t that great at it yet. You can hear the Stones reaching around for adornments to their sound and looking for somewhere else to take their beat and blues on Between The Buttons. Ever-shifting, it was only 11 months later the Stones released Their Satanic Majesties Request*^ and then 12 months later, fuelled by darkness they would stumble across that magic stew of ingredients that would fuel arguably the best 4 album streak ever.
But we weren’t there yet, so we get ‘Yesterday’s Papers’, Jagger’s vain misogynist kiss-off to Jean Shrimpton, a song I’ve always hated and the soul man-isms of ‘She Smiled Sweetly’, which I can’t decide if I like, or not. I don’t react well to English whimsy^ and so ‘Something Happened To Me Yesterday’, with its jaunty stripper trombones and Dixon Of Dock Green impression at the end hurts my soul. I’m also not very sure about the piano on ‘Cool, Calm and Collected’, whether it’s a good thing, or not.
The likes of the churning, beat-ridden ‘Complicated’ and ‘All Sold Out’, with its’ flashes of dissonance and nastiness are much better, but really of interest for historians/completists only. There are some interesting signposts and vapour trails here to show where they would go, but to my mind nothing of any real lasting quality. That said, crank ‘Miss Amanda Jones’ up again and relive the tale of a socialite going bad and revel I the sheer joy and gusto of Keith’s best Chuck Berry impression. So maybe I’m back where I began. As the back cover tells us by the end, ‘the buttons come much nearer / And the Stones you see much clearer’.
Well maybe not, but unconvincing Psychedelic interlude aside, I think this LP did eventually help the Stones see themselves a little clearer, so when Lucifer came calling further down the line they knew exactly where to greet him.
* a technical review term, licensed by the Amalgamated Guild of Review Ogres (AGRO) to platinum members.
**1537 fave ‘Who’s Driving Your Plane?’ comes from the Between the Buttons sessions. If you haven’t got it already I really recommend Singles Collection: The London Years, I’m spoilt, I just taped all my parents ones.
*^I’ll keep my views on this mostly abominable LP to myself for now and stay strictly neutral, like Switzerland.
^in his book Stone Alone which contains a terrifyingly exact count of shows played and shags, even in his own write he really doesn’t come over as the sort of fella you’d want to spend any real time with.
^Welsh whimsy on the other hand is great, yum-yum I can’t get enough of that stuff.