rolling stones family 1968Can You Hear the Music?


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Rolling Stones songs : Family
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Here’s the son, has his legs a-screwed on/ Yeah, they’re screwed on pretty tight/ But his brain is loose and it ain’t no use/ He’s already lost the fight…

Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, May 13-18/June 28, 1968
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano), Jimmy Miller (percussion)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
“Family” is of interest above all for its rather enigmatic words, written in all probability by Mick Jagger, with his caustic, cynical sense of humor. He describes four members of a family who all undergo bizarre adventures. The father has a fatal accident and has had a heart transplant. The daughter dreams of becoming a prostitute and having her father as a customer. The mother has been sucked into a whirlpool, along with her lovers, to see what the colors of death are all about. Finally, the son will soon descend into madness upon learning that he will never play the guitar like E. G. Jim and never write like Saint Augustine. Could it be the incestuous dream of the young heroine that prevented the inclusion of “Family” in Beggars Banquet?

Before achieving its final form—presumably on June 28, 1968, at Olympic Sound Studios—“Family” was worked on the previous month in a more electric rendition. The version on Metamorphosis, by contrast, is mostly acoustic, with Keith providing a strummed rhythm on his Hummingbird. It would seem that “Family” progressed no further than the demo stage. The timing is dubious to say the least (Keith at around 3:12!) and the structure somewhat shaky.

Although the song itself is interesting, some additional work would have been needed to bring the track up to scratch. It seems that Keith’s acoustic guitar has been captured by a second mic and played back through a Leslie speaker in order to create a phasing and rapid vibrato effect. Or else he double-tracked himself using the same technique. He may also have played the bass part on his Fender Precision, to such an extent that the style resembles that of a guitarist rather than that of a bass player.

Charlie provides a rhythm with his brushes, but unfortunately is not strictly in time. Jimmy Miller seems to be on tambourine (with heavy reverb!) and Mick Jagger on maracas. The latter’s vocal is reasonably convincing, and it is interesting to note that between 1966 and 1969 he was eager to let the sensitive side of his personality come through. Brian Jones does not seem to have contributed to the cut. Finally, the characteristic lyrical style of Nicky Hopkins is clearly recognizable in what is a good piano part. Nevertheless, in this form, the song was in no way worthy of a place on Beggars Banquet.