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THE ROLLING STONES: Their Satanic Majesties Request (LP, Decca TXS 103, 1967)

The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties RequestThis isn’t the original release, as it doesn’t have the amazing 3D sleeve that so blew my mind when I saw a copy some years ago – although that was, mainly, because the three-dimensionality was of a similar low quality to the novelty measuring rulers that I used to have at school in the mid-1980s – so I guess this may not have actually been released in 1967. The labels on the record suggest by their design that this release may have been from the 1970s or later? Not sure.

I love the creative excesses of the late 1960s – layer upon layer of pushing the envelope and booting open the doors of perception:

  • Let’s have a picture of us on the sleeve, but let’s have it in three dimensions.
  • Let’s not just have a picture of us looking like any other band – why don’t we dress up as psychedelic wizards and place ourselves in an opulent Toytown setting?
  • That’s good, but we need more – let’s not have Side A and Side B, but call them instead Frontside and Backside. Why not, indeed?
  • Loving that, but we need yet more – let’s have a gatefold sleeve. Every band and their dog has a gatefold sleeve these days.
  • Gatefold it is. But let’s make sure that the gatefold contains one of the most complex, faux-Renaissance-through-a-futuristic-mind’s-eye illustrations anybody has ever seen. Yeah?
  • Yeah. But let’s also make sure that the illustration also includes a giant maze, with ‘It’s Here’ in trippy lettering at its centre.

And so it went. All of these conversations probably taking place before the music was actually even written.

Aleister Crowley and Satanism in general had a surprisingly large influence on some of the more out-there musicians of the late 1960s. The Beast 666 is in the crowd on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper sleeve, the Stones got wound up in the whole magick/Kenneth Anger scene, Black Sabbath pretty much constructed their entire early career around the suggestion that they were actually evil demons, and so on. Yet, all of these bands were simultaneously being extraordinarily famous, and listened to by housewives and schoolkids around the world. Funny how things go, isn’t it? If similar things were to happen these days – mainstream artists hooking up with Satan and underground film-makers, whilst quaffing endless amounts of hallucinogens, I don’t think culture could take it. The resulting implosion with the Daily Mail offices at its core would probably swallow civilisation.