Figuring he would dig it.
Boy, was I wrong.
From the August 1978 issue of (The Magazine Formerly Known as) Stereo Review:
After the collage of fluff that was Black and Blue, I thought that nothing could get me interested in the Stones again, but I just had to review Some Girls. Hearing "Miss You" and "Far Away Eyes" on the radio, I marveled at how these guys could actually manage to fit so much contempt for so many -- Stones fans, disco fans, Latin women, country audiences -- onto one little single. The album cover of this one, with its take-off on Frederick's of Hollywood drag-queen sleaze, shows quite explicitly not only what the Stones think of women, but also what they think of themselves; they consider both to be cheap, tawdry trash, good only for a quick transient kick. It's fitting that they should end this way (and though it's protracted beyond belief, the end is certainly coming) because anyone who heaps as much contempt on as many people as the Stones have these past few years must inevitably come to an even greater contempt for themselves. Some Girls is supremely indicative of what "decadence" is really about; passivity and boredom.I should add that I totally disagreed with Lester's take on the album at the time -- and still do -- but that I was tickled pink to run such a scabrous review in the pages of SR, for all sorts of reasons.
Almost all the songs here are supposedly about women or the Stones' feelings towards them, yet not one depicts a real relationship or any genuine emotion other than greed. What, for instance, is "Miss You" about? Where is the expression of true longing, the lineaments of true love? Mick seems to be singing from some indifferent twilight, occasionally emerging just long enough to embarrass himself with a limp display of heavy vocal calisthenics: "People think I'm craaaaazzzzzy...."
The title track is perhaps the most disgusting song of all in its attitude towards women -- or perhaps toward other humans in general. If empathy is too much to expect, one might at least ask for some insight, and "Some girls take the shirt off my back/And leave me with a lethal dose" just doesn't quite fill the bill. What it really comes down to is a matter of what portion of humanity can be bought and sold.
Money is a crucial factor in "Beast of Burden," which may be why what might have been a worthwhile song about the difficulties of love degenerates so quickly into cliché: "You can put me out on the street/Put me out with no shoes upon my feet." And are those imitation Bee Gees falsetto chirpings that we hear in the bridge? The Stones have always followed the trends of the day, but once they took them up as a challenge. Now they just tag along after them meekly, melding them with those Same Old Stones Riffs and occasional bits looted from other (usually black) sources. "Respectable," for instance, is "All Down the Line"/"Silver Train" stapled to an old Isley Brothers cop. It's almost fun, except that you've heard it all before. Meanwhile, Keith Richards and Ron Wood play guitar solos. They play a lot of guitar solos on this album, on all kinds of guitars. I'm told that between the two of them, they own hundreds, and I think that's very nice for them. But why do they play with such faraway hands?
"Just My Imagination" is just inferior, though comparing it with the Temptations original does remind you of what, besides true gut-bucket kick, has been missing from the Stones music for a long time; heart. Even those who would say that the Stones never had much heart in the first place (which I don't believe) would have to give the band that used to stand inside these shells credit for honesty. And there are two songs here that sound like they might be about halfway honest. Keith's "Before They Make Me Run" suggests that he might have a future in drugged out country-rock. This is the only song on the album that's about an instantly recognizable real-life situation -- Keith's recent Canadian drug bust. There's a similar sort of tentative tiptoe towards self-recognition, on Mick's part this time, in "Shattered," but any real soul-searching is averted through pretentious quasi-sociological jottings: "Rats on the West Side, bedbugs uptown...." Like "When the Whip Comes Down," "Shattered" could be in part about a male hustler, but seen without compassion (something even male hustlers, perhaps especially male hustlers, deserve) or even understanding.
Supposedly the Stones selected the ten tracks here from about eighty recorded in Paris at the same time. A guitarist friend remarked cynically the other day that now they can just sit back and keep releasing the rest for the next five years. If these are really the best of the bunch, I would invite you to join me in responding to such a gesture of contempt in kind; by sitting back and not buying any more of this drivel, for who has really bought it this time is the Stones themselves.-- Lester Bangs
I should also add that it almost didn't run at all, because my bosses thought it was just too negative. Also actionable -- one of the lines I was forced to cut (over my strenuous objection) was Lester's description of Jagger as "a jaded old catamite."
In any case, I much preferred the review by living secular saint Greil Marcus in the Village Voice. Particularly these paragraphs.
When one returns to 12 X 5, or December's Children or The Rolling Stones Now, the flaws are obvious; guitars are out of tune, Mick is flat, the lyrics are often corny, tempos are blown. By any sensible standard, "The Singer Not the Song" is a ludicrous performance; a cliched and clumsy guitar line, hopelessly strained singing on the choruses. And yet, it can still move a listener deeply -- maybe even more deeply -- than it ever did. That, after all, is why you can't turn rock-and-roll into sheet music. It may be that some years from now, when the novelty has worn off, the Stones' "Just My Imagination" will seem as shoddy as some people already think it is; it may be that it will still be breaking hearts.
As for the concept of Some Girls -- what it all means, how it makes culture out of music or history out of those who hear it -- the concept of Some Girls is the idea of the Rolling Stones, fifteen years after they came to our attention with hot new versions of songs by Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly, making an album as surprising as any they have put their name on.
Seriously -- the Stones version of "Imagination" has been breaking my tiny heart for more than three decades now. And I think Lester would have come around to it eventually.