I was recently asked what is my favorite Rolling Stones album and why I feel that way. My answer to that question is the Rolling Stone’s 1968 recording Beggars Banquet. You can smell the street and the factories in their music.
I was raised below the poverty line. I grew up in a city housing project in a rough urban setting. My parents were factory workers. My first job was in a factory. I identified with the life that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote about in the songs on Beggars Banquet.
Beggars Banquet was the last studio recording with the original lineup of the Rolling Stones. It makes me sad when I think of the waning days of Brian Jones and what was be falling him. Internal destruction and alienation by your peers is disheartening.
The year 1968 was full of revolution and change. We saw the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the My Lai massacre and the 1968 choice of Richard Nixon for President(shudders). Beggars Banquet reached our shores on December 6, 1968. I purchased it the first day it was available at my local downtown record store.
I was a devoted reader of Rolling Stone Magazine in those days when it was a newspaper periodical. I read it cover to cover. I recall the Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet album review by Jon Landau. It readied me to seek out the album in the stores. I was enraptured when I first played it on my hi-fi set in my bedroom. I played Beggars Banquet to death in 68-69. I brought it to high school and played it in my art class many days while I painted and drew.
What I love best about Beggars Banquet is the raw acoustic blues, Brain Jones slide guitar expertise on “No Expectations”, Mick Jagger’s slurring, sultry vocals and the piano playing by Nicky Hopkins (the 6th Stone). Nicky Hopkins strident piano is the silver thread that sews the tracks together. He accents my favorite individual track on Beggars Banquet, “Stray Cat Blues” with his classic incendiary fire that draws you in until the very last note.
The Rolling Stones filmed The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus as an effort to promote Beggars Banquet. Too bad it got shelved until 1996 because it’s a marvel to witness.
There was a controversy, well when weren’t the bad boys of rock and roll controversial for that matter, with the album cover. The Rolling Stones wanted a cover that depicted lavatory graffiti on the wall and a dirty toilet. London Records refused their request at the time. Sixteen years later in 1984, the original cover art was released with the initial CD remastering of Beggars Banquet.