The Most Important Album of 1968 Wasn’t The White Album. It Was Beggars Banquet.
Well, that’s a whopper of a pronouncement. Jack Hamilton in Slate has published a very interesting article. He posits the importance of Beggars Banquet to the Rolling Stones far outweighed The White Album (The Beatles).
Of course, The Beatles versus the Stones argument is a rock perennial, but I wanted to try to give this a good think-through. I mentioned I might want to write about this, and got a reply from Adrienne:
As I think on the Stones, that shitty band that opened for Clinton was the end result. Crotch rock. That's not their fault, but I don't think it is a blueprint for anything as expansive as the White Album.
I tend to agree with Adrienne on almost everything musical. But think about what could have happened to The Beatles if somehow they had stuck together. Let It Be, for example, was their attempt to document rehearsals before a BIG live event. They were going to play live again. Instead, since it never happened (just on the Apple Corps roof) we get the good looking, band-died-young corpse. They didn’t stick together, or live long enough to play the US Festival or for whatever global corporate hack that needed “All You Need Is Love.”
The Stones never quit touring; this reality informed them and still does. They never faced the madness that The Beatles did when they toured No one before or since faced that craziness, and you can’t really blame The Beatles for quitting the road.Then again, if they had toured again in 1970, there would have been real PA’s, security, etc.
Hamilton’s points, as far as I can tell, tend to really be more about The Stones than Beggars Banquet versus The Beatles. The Stones were demoralized, having recorded the failed Their Satanic Majesties Request in 1967. Brian Jones, the one-time leader of the band, was drugged out and falling apart. Beggars Banquet is the sound of The Rolling Stones growing up, reinventing themselves, with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger truly leading the charge.
Everyone knows I’m a Beatles guy, but listening again to Beggars Banquet, there is no denying it is an astounding record. It OPENS with ‘Sympathy For The Devil,” one of the most essential songs in the Stones canon. The LP is informed by country and bluegrass and Mississippi blues in the same way The Beatles is informed by Arthur Alexander, Bob Dylan, and Little Richard. As with The White Album, I hear a thousand bands directly reflecting songs like “No Expectations,” “Dear Doctor,” or “Factory Girl.” The down and dirty blues of “Parachute Woman” is the real deal, and i’m surprised at how the wordplay in “Jigsaw Puzzle’ reminds me of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” Add to this, the amazing “Street Fighting Man,” a very controversial single in 1968. The original cover reminds me of a Clash or Dead Kennedys single;