All Access Review: A-
Rolling Stones might as well have been dead for all they cared. As big as they still were in the mid-to-late 1970s, the Stones were in danger of becoming irrelevant, of fading into the background. The black magic of 1972’s Exile on Main Street had long since worn off, and the Stones, with stardom further inflating Mick Jagger’s grandiose ego and drug addiction robbing Keith Richards of his bohemian talent and ambition, foundered. Satisfaction was becoming ever more elusive for the self-proclaimed world’s greatest rock and roll band.
Each succeeding album sunk them ever deeper into a quagmire of mediocrity – at least according to their lofty standards. The crass excess of 1973’s Goats Head Soup obfuscated the nasty sparkle of its brightest diamonds. It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, released a year later, lacked cohesion and consistency, even if it did, more often than not, make the blood run red hot. And while training Ronnie Wood in the ways of the Stones, Mick and Keith messed around with extended, funky grooves and stylistic experimentation on 1976’s Black and Blue and got lost (I know that’s The Eagles’ line and I’m mixing my classic-rock metaphors, but I don’t care).
With their desire to indulge in regrettably long jams and the suspect mixing of incompatible genres out of their system, the Stones, perhaps stung a bit by the criticism leveled at them, sought inspiration from a contemporary music scene dominated by polar opposites. On the one hand, there was the seething fury and cynical anger of punk doling out its own brand of street justice on bloated, fatuous rock stars who had lost touch with what once made them great. And then there was disco, glitzy and lacking anything resembling substance, while also guilty of delivering the kind of hypnotic beats and head-spinning action that compelled its coked-up consumers to lose their inhibitions and get freaky on the dance floor and in the bedroom.
The Stones, up to this point, hadn’t had much to do with any of it. That was about to change with 1978’s Some Girls, an album that lashed out at those ready to write them off as has-beens. Of its time and yet something that couldn’t ever possibly be considered dated, Some Girls was as nasty and mean as the Stones wanted it to be, with sharp, tightly wound tracks like “When The Whip Comes Down,” “Shattered” and “Respectable” all spoiling for a knife fight and not caring a whit for anybody who gets cut. Even the relatively laid-back country charms of “Far Away Eyes” break out into a menacing sneer that has bad intentions behind it, and the nod to disco, “Miss You,” sounds dangerously seductive . The Stones were not going to be pushed around – not by the Sex Pistols and certainly not by Bee Gees.
And so, with Some Girls still brandishing its razor-sharp songwriting and explosive recorded performances at a suddenly reinvigorated fan base, the Stones toured, adopting a lean, stripped-down approach that showed they meant business. On July 18, 1978, they rolled into Fort Worth, Texas, eager to show everybody who came to the Will Rogers Auditorium that night that they’d regained their swagger – something that was apparent to anybody who’d seen them on previous stops, the 1978 tour being one of the Stones’ finest hours. Tickets went fast, even though the band shrouded itself in the mysterious pseudonym “The London Green Shoed Cowboys” that nobody fell for. Onstage, the Stones caught fire, and that rip-roaring performance was filmed for posterity by the Texas outfit Showco. Colorfully packaged and riotously filmed, “The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas ’78,” released in late 2011 by Eagle Vision in three formats – DVD, Blu-Ray, and special edition DVD + CD and Blu-Ray + CD packages – is stunning visual and sonic proof that the Stones could throw down with anybody.
Backed by faithful Ian Stewart on piano and Ian “Mac” McLagan on organ and piano, plus Doug Kershaw on violin, the Stones tear into 17 tracks with fire in their eyes and raw, edgy energy to burn. Following a savory version of “Let It Rock,” a celebratory spin around “All Down the Line” and a predatory “Honky Tonk Women,” Mick and the boys burn and pillage their way through the notorious “Star Star,” otherwise known as “Starf**ker.” Ready again to rumble, after a brief respite, they flex their sinewy rhythmic muscles on “When the Whip Comes Down,” with Mick joining the fray on guitar – he has one in his hands through much of the show – sporting a t-shirt that says “DESTROY,” a yellow coat, a red hat and black leather pants. Feeling their oats, the Stones generate plenty of throbbing, sexual heat in a stretched-out “Miss You,” before turning a bit more innocent and sincere in their fantastic reworking of The Temptations’ “(Just My) Imagination,” one of the true highlights of Some Girls.
Always the showman, Jagger is in rare form, full of bravado while shucking and jiving his way through “Miss You” before grabbing the crowd by the throat with tough, commanding vocals in “Shattered” – the vicious guitars of Keith and Woodie exuding attitude and filled high-wire tension – and spearheading a vigorous run through a snotty “Respectable” that sweats bullets. While clearly sticking it to anybody who would dare question their live prowess or their passion, there’s also a playfulness and unabashed exuberance that shines off the Stones’ gleaming performance and is readily apparent in the almost gleeful, child-like interaction – however naughty these man-children are – between all parties. And make no mistake, this is a party.
Transitioning out of the deliciously boozy, countrified drawl of “Far Away Eyes” and “Love in Vain,” the Stones let it all hang out on “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy” before kicking Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little 16” square in the ass. By the time “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” draw to a close, you are satiated, worn completely out like after the greatest sex of your life but not quite ready to see it end. And if the live portion of “The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live in Texas,” so gloriously restored by Bob Clearmountain from the original multi-track tapes and shot from a variety of visually exciting angles, were all that one had to go on, it alone would be worth the $200 you were going to spend on hookers and drugs to make it through the night, but it doesn’t cost anywhere near that. Throw in a booklet full of memorabilia and detailed, well-written liner notes by James Karnbach and you have an essential piece of musical history.
What weakens the overall package are some of the extras: a throwaway interview with Jagger comprised of nothing but softball questions and bland, pat answers; a dull, poorly written Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Akroyd’s painfully unfunny turn as Tom Snyder doing the “Tomorrow” show with Jagger and the Stones’ subsequent flat SNL performance; and a segment of ABC News “20/20” interviews with the Stones from that era that hold some interest, but ultimately, don’t add much in the way of information or historical perspective. Don’t let that deter you from picking up “Some Girls Live in Texas ’78,” a landmark live DVD that makes for a great drinking buddy for Some Girls the album.
- Peter Lindblad
Official Trailer from Eagle Rock: