On December 3-5, the Stones played Sacramento, San Jose, San Diego, and L.A., then went into RCA Studios in Hollywood to record through December 8. Rubber Soul and The Who Sing My Generation were released on the third of the month, the Byrds’ Turn! Turn! Turn! album released on the sixth. Ken Kesey had given Richards and Jones acid after their San Jose gig. Some girls the band knew from Phoenix showed up, and Wyman encouraged them to walk into the studio naked to surprise the band. Oldham took one into the control room and had sex with her in front of everyone.[i]
“19th Nervous Breakdown” was a further rewrite of “Play with Fire” mixed with “Like a Rolling Stone.” A socialite whose mother owes a million dollars in taxes has been emotionally damaged by her ex. But when Jagger tries to help her on an acid trip, he realizes she’s actually disarranging his mind.
“Mother’s Little Helper” was a preemptive reply to the charge that the Stones were leading kids to drug abuse. A portrait of a stressed-out housewife addicted to Valium, Jagger warns the frazzled mother that she’ll get an overdose if she doesn’t dial it back with the pills. Richards imitates the sitar of “Norwegian Wood” with his electric twelve-string.
The image of married life didn’t seem appealing, and Jagger’s own relationship with Chrissie Shrimpton (model Jean Shrimpton’s sister) often degenerated into screaming matches. Once, she kicked him down the stairs.[ii] She was one of a number of his girlfriends who would attempt or succeed in suicide. In “Sitting on a Fence,” Jagger watches his friends from school settle down and get a mortgage because they can’t think of anything else to do. Then they realize the choice wasn’t right and go out and don’t come back at night. Richards accompanies him in the Appalachian style of folk guitarist Burt Jansch. Jones joins in on harpsichord at the end.
Jones was back on the harpsichord for “Ride On Baby,” a breakthrough to the Stones’ next formula: Jagger savaging women with misogynistic lyrics while Jones plays catchy pop on a cornucopia of exotic instruments. A young lady walks up to Jagger and, despite her bloodshot eyes, tries to act shy, but Jagger’s already seen her before in a “trashy magazine.” When they get together, she smiles vacantly but looks through him. He kicks her out and condenses “Like a Rolling Stone” into one line, saying she’ll look 65 when she turns 30 and won’t have any friends left. In the New Year, Jagger would turn his venom on Chrissie Shrimpton with songs like “Stupid Girl,” “Under My Thumb,” and “Out of Time.”
When the Stones were in the studio a few months earlier, Jones had been frustrated. Closed out of the songwriting partnership, he felt he’d lost hold of what had once been his band. He could be the most handsome and striking Stone, but his life of excess and cruelty was catching up to him, and he sometimes appeared to be in a trance, with bags under his eyes like a degenerate moorlock from London After Midnight.
But then on September 14 in Munich, he met the darkly alluring model Anita Pallenberg. “I got backstage with a photographer, I told [Brian] I just wanted to meet him. I had some Amyl Nitrate and a piece of hash. I asked Brian if he wanted a joint, and he said yes, so he asked me back to his hotel, and he cried all night. He was so upset about Mick and Keith still, saying they had teamed up on him. I felt so sorry for him.”[iii]
The support of a hip and intelligent beauty revitalized him. To “Ride On Baby” he piled on the marimbas, Autoharp, congas, twelve-string Rickenbacker, and koto, and began his quest to fuse Delta blues with Elizabethan lute music.
Since the group had recorded “Play with Fire” last January, chamber pop had gathered steam: the Beatles’ “Yesterday” and “In My Life,” the Beach Boys’ Today, the Yardbirds’ Gregorian chants in “Still I’m Sad” and Spanish scales in “Evil Hearted You,” the Purcell influence on the Who’s “Kids Are Alright,” the flute solo in “California Dreamin’,” the harpsichord in Simon and Garfunkel’s “Leaves That Are Green.” The Zombies’ minor-key electric piano in “Tell Her No” inspired five New York teens to form the Left Banke. The group began recording their first album Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina in December; the title track featured both harpsichord and string quartet. With the Stones, Jones would be one of the major forces in baroque pop. Even if he wasn’t writing the songs, they would be unimaginable without his instrumental embellishments. Playing exotic instruments also earned him more camera time. Briefly, Jones was back.
Oldham originally wanted to call the album Could You Walk on the Water, with a shot of the Stones in a reservoir up to their necks. The label put the kibosh on that. But no doubt they were floating a little in their minds the day Jagger, Oldham, and publicist Tony Calder cruised along the Pacific Coast Highway in a red Ford Mustang. Each time they hit the radio button to change the station, “Satisfaction” was playing.[iv] They must have felt like the B-side of “Get Off of My Cloud,” “I’m Free.” In the song, Richards’ tremoloed guitar was a hybrid of folk-rock and Motown, matched with Jones’ organ and the group’s harmonies, halcyon like the cloudless blue.
[i] Wyman, Stone Alone, 359.
[ii] Norman, Mick Jagger, Google eBook.
[iii] Tony Sanchez, Up and Down With The Rolling Stones, Google eBook.
[iv] Norman, Mick Jagger, Google eBook.