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‘BEGGARS BANQUET’ released 53 years ago today

Dec. 6, 1968: Release of BEGGARS BANQUET (Decca SKL 4955), the Stones’ 7th British and 9th American studio album.
SIDE A: 1. Sympathy For The Devil/ 2. No Expectations/ 3. Dear Doctor/ 4. Parachute Woman/ 5. Jig-Saw Puzzle
SIDE B: 1. Street Fighting Man/ 2. Prodigal Son/ 3. Stray Cat Blues/ 4. Factory Girl/ 5. Salt Of The Earth

SOME FACTS ABOUT ‘BEGGARS BANQUET”, released 53 years ago today
FACT #1: The album, recorded at Olympic Sound Studios, London and Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles from March 17 to July 25 1968, and produced by Jimmy Miller, included songs like “Street Fighting Man”, and “Sympathy for the Devil”, which led many people to consider BEGGARS BANQUET the launching of the Stones’ most iconic and prolific period.

FACT #2: BEGGARS BANQUET was a deliberate return to the Stones’ music roots after the band’s psychedelic album THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST, released the previous year. It also marked the last album of the band released while Brian Jones was alive (he played on two songs on the band’s next album, LET IT BLEED), which came out after his death. Brian played beautiful slide guitar on “No Expectations” and “Jigsaw Puzzle”, sitar and tampura on “Street Fighting Man”, acoustic guitar and harmonica on “Parachute Woman”, harmonica on “Dear Doctor” and “Prodigal Son”, and mellotron on “Jigsaw Puzzle” and “Stray Cat Blues”.


FACT #3: The basic track of “Street Fighting Man” was recorded using an early Philips cassette deck found at Olympic Sound Studios. Keith played a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic guitar, while Charlie used an antique, portable practice drum kit, which ended up giving the song its trademark rough sound. “I was fascinated by the possibilities of playing an acoustic guitar through a cassette recorder, using it as a pick-up”, said Keith.


FACT #4: As great as the album is (considered by many the best album the Stones’ ever did), it could have still been even better, had it included “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, also cut during the album’s recording sessions.


FACT #5: After Robert Kennedy’s assasination, Mick changed one of most famous lines in “Sympathy for the Devil” to ‘the Kennedys’ (“I shouted out “Who killed the Kennedys?”) rather than ‘Kennedy’, as it was originally written.

FACT #6: Guest musicians in BEGGARS BANQUET included Ric Grech (fiddle on “Factory Girl”), Nicky Hopkins (piano on “Sympathy for the Devil”, “No Expectations”, “Dear Doctor”, “Jigsaw Puzzle”, “Street Fighting Man”, “Stray Cat Blues” and “Salt of the Earth”), Rocky Dijon (congas on “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Stray Cat Blues” and “Factory Girl”), Dave Mason (shehnai on “Street Fighting Man”, mellotron on “Factory Girl”), Jimmy Miller (backing vocals on “Sympathy for the Devil”), Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg and Suki Poitier (backing vocals on “Sympathy for the Devil”) and the Watts Street Gospel Choir (backing vocals on “Salt of the Earth”)

FACT #7: Originally planned for release in June-July of ’68, the album’s original cover (which was shot at a Porsche repair shop in Los Angeles and featured a bathroom wall covered with graffiti) led to controversy and was rejected by Decca Records, the Stones’ recording company at the time, then pushing the release of BEGGARS BANQUET until December. It finally came out in a plain white cover imitating an invitation card, complete with an RSVP. Later on, the original album cover art was finally featured on most of the album reissues on CD. “We really have tried to keep the album within the bounds of good taste,” Mick said at the time. “I mean, we haven’t shown the whole lavatory. That would have been rude. We’ve only shown the top half. Two people at the record company have told us that the sleeve is terribly offensive … We’ll get this album distributed somehow, even if I have to go down the end of Greek Street and Carlisle Street at two o’clock on Saturday morning and sell them myself.”


FACT #8: The original idea was producing an all-star TV special to promote the album, which led to inviting John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, the Who, Marianne Faithfull, Taj Mahal, Ivry Gitlis and Jethro Tull (which included Black Sabbath’s future guitarist Tony Iommi’s only date with the band) to ‘The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus’ extravaganza. This also marked Brian Jones’ final “live” appearance.


FACT #9: Some of the early song working titles included “Did Everybody Pay Their Dues?” “PayYour Dues” and “Primo Grande” (“Street Fighting Man”), “Title 5” (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”), “Silver Blanket” (“Salt of the Earth”), “That´s No Way to Get Along” (“Prodigal Son”), and “The Devil Is My Name” (“Sympathy for the Devil”)


FACT #10: Some unreleased song titles from the BEGGARS BANQUET recording sessions are “I’ll Be Coming Home” (traditional), Jimmy Reed’s “Shoot My Baby”, “Hold On I’m Coming” (Hayes/Porter), “Rock Me Baby” (King/Josea/James/Taub), “Downtown Suzie” (also known as “Downtown Lucie”, later featured on the METAMORPHOSIS album), “Hamburger to Go” (a.k.a. “Stuck Out All Alone”), “Family” (also later part of the METAMORPHOSIS album), “Sister Morphine” (which later saw the light on the STICKY FINGERS album), “Blood Red Wine”, “Lady” (also known as “London Jam”), Muddy Waters’ “Still A Fool” (aka “Two Trains Running” or “Two Train Blues”) and “Highway Child” (aka “The Vulture”)

FACT #11: The album kept its original English title all over the world but in Argentina (released under the name “Banquete de Pordioseros”), Chile (“El Banquete de los Mendigos) and Brazil (“O Banquete dos Mendigos”)

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