Unlike Sgt. Pepper’s embracement and fascination with the psychedelic world, Their Satanic Majesties Request is a bit more skeptical about it. With songs like 2000 Light Years from Home, we get a glimpse into the inner isolation aspect of the hallucinogenic drugs as opposed to the communal sharing; which we know is a documented path. In fact, it’s a direct precursor to songs like Space Oddity or Rocket Man dealing with the same subject; the difference being that the Stones foresaw that the summer-of-love thing would not last forever while they were right in the midst of it. Likewise, the imagery of In Another Land fools us into thinking it’s gonna be yet another by-the-numbers psychedelic song until the chorus arrives: “Then I awoke / Was this some kind of joke?”
The reason why I’m stating all this is to bust the myth that The Stones’ infamous psychedelic album is a mere copy or parody of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Yes, there are things in common such as On with the Show closing the album and giving it a feeling similar to what the title track did on Pepper. And The Beatles’ faces buried in the colorful landscape of the cover art is definitely a direct nod. But on the whole Satanic is essentially The Stones’ take on psychedelia – much more dark and rocking (Citadel, anyone?) that The Beatles’ take. There are reasons for both to co-exist, in the same way that Norwegian Wood coming before Paint It, Black does not make the latter redundant. Plus, who wasn’t influenced by Sgt. Pepper back then?
That’s not to say that Satanic is perfect. Like many other albums of 1967, it is a tad overreaching – things like Sing This All Together (See What Happens) just shout excess. It came from an era where pop artists suddenly realized they can do anything, that all boundaries have been removed; and that’s great but in retrospect that does not automatically mean that every idea they had was a good one. And when it comes to influence and innovation, Satanic definitely loses to subsequent Stones albums such as the back-to-the-roots Beggars Banquet and the genre-bending Exile on Main St.
All in all, this may not be the best Stones album, but it’s definitely another intriguing chapter in the discography of one of the most diverse bands to ever walk on this Earth. Forget the naysayers and definitely get this is you’re a fan of The Rolling Stones (especially the Brian Jones era) or just psychedelic rock in general. I know I was reluctant to listen to it for the longest time, and negative quotes from the band members certainly didn’t help, but its unique charm won me over right from the start, enough to assure a heartily thumbs up.
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