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42 Years Ago: The Rolling Stones Come Down on ‘Goats Head Soup’

Nineteen-seventy-two was big for the Rolling Stones. They launched one of their biggest tours and somehow managed to cut through a drug- and booze-fueled haze and release the double album Exile on Main St., one of their greatest and most defining works. But going into 1973, the band was lost, burned out and barely functioning as a unit. The wooziness was reflected on Goats Head Soup, which was released Aug. 31, 1973.

The sessions for Goats Head Soup started in late 1972 in Jamaica, and they came together relatively easy, considering the state of the band. Keith Richards was entering his zombie stage, functioning but running on autopilot. Mick Jagger, now a world-class celebrity embraced by the planet’s rich and famous, had his head elsewhere. And the other Stones were along for the bumpy ride, whether they wanted to be or not.

The songs recorded at the sessions — which were completed in the spring — pulled from the same dark sources that had inspired the band’s best work since the late ’60s. But the nasty bite to many of the album’s cuts sounded weary and bloated; it was as if the Stones had other, more important things to do than make another record.

The songs that manage to cut through ‘Goats Head Soup”s murk — “Dancing With Mr. D,” “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” “Star Star” – smooth out Exile‘s harsh edges with muddy production that softens the album’s few piercing notes (like Mick Taylor‘s stinging guitar on “Winter”). Through it all, the Stones sound like they’re coming down from the ’60s, their long string of great records and whatever work they used to put into their music.

With Goats Head Soup, the Stones entered another stage of their career: the one where their rock-star excesses mattered more than the music. Not that fans seemed to mind much: The album reached No. 1, as did its lead single, the ballad “Angie.” But it was the end of the Stones’ classic era, with two more increasingly careless albums following until the band got back on track five years later with Some Girls.

See the Rolling Stones and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’80s

See Keith Richards: Year by Year, 1963-2015

Next: Top 100 Rolling Stones Songs

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