Monday, October 29, 2007

No. 211: Tattoo You

Band: The Rolling Stones
Album: Tattoo You
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Considered by some to be the Stones' best album, "Tattoo You" opens with one of the band's most popular songs and ends with one of the band's best. Because of its prolonged recording history (most of the songs came from pre-1980 sessions and were simply augmented during the recording), the album doesn't reflect the disco era from which it came.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: This is album no. eight of theirs on this list, so I've run out of ways to say that the Rolling Stones don't excite me.
Best song: "Waiting On A Friend" is surprisingly mature for a Stones record.
Worst song: People like "Slave," but it doesn't appear to be more than some chanting, a riff and a sax solo.
Is it awesome?: Nope.

"Tattoo You" is both interesting and boring at the same time. It's interesting in that the album is almost a housecleaning effort. Only two of the songs come from sessions in 1980, when the album was put together (our good friend Wikipedia has the details). The other eight were all leftover songs that were written and bare-bones recorded in the early-mid 1970s. The band spent the proper "Tattoo You" sessions overdubbing. In fact, "Waiting On A Friend" had no Ron Wood guitar in it at all. That song's guitar is all Briant Taylor, who was no longer in the band by 1980. He continues to get royalties for the album.

It's boring because it isn't really anything different from previous and future Stones efforts. Sure, there's the dance-tinged "Start Me Up," but the rest of the record is standard Stones fare. There's the fast-paced blues "Neighbors," the cop of "Hoochie Coochie Man" on "Black Limousine," the "Can't You Hear Me Knockin'" cop on "Slave" and balladry of "Tops." It even has the requisite sexist song in the Richards-sung "Little T&A."

"Waiting On A Friend" is introspective -- something to laud, surely -- and a good song to boot, but it isn't really anything more than a slower blues rock song. It's doesn't depart from the script, musically.

At the time of "Tattoo You," the Stones were at the top of their "best band in rock and roll" nonsense. I imagine some of the praise heaped on it is due to this claim of greatness. More of the praise is surely based on the love of "Start Me Up," however misguided that may be. Nevertheless, I'm not a fan.

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