The Rolling Stones - Out of Our Heads
Dec 8, 2020
The History of the Albums – n°266

[I invite you to read my previous review on the Stones' first album, in order to better understand their debut and this one]. Out of Our Head is certainly not the album that you first think of when you talk about the Stones, it's not a must-have album, yet I have reason to believe that it's necessary to talk about it in HOTA for several good reasons. The first reason is simple: it is simply what it represented at that time. To put it in context, in 1964/1965 there are the "good guys" Beatles and the "bad guys" Rolling Stones. Even if this is far from the truth, it is in any case all that was put in place by the management and production team who wanted to create this contrast. Besides, even if the Stones were friends with the Beatles, they played that to get themselves noticed and thus compete with them despite their differences in levels at that time. I'll even quote a funny and slightly caricatured phrase that my father told me about it: "parents wanted their daughters to marry a Beatles, certainly not a Stones". I think that sums up the situation very well, even if you have to understand the nuance of it. If from the very beginning the goal of creating a false war between them was already a will, this one is accentuated on Out Of Our Heads when they all made their sounds dirty, borderline vulgar and deliberately aggressive. It was a bit like the blues and English version of the Sonics. But let's pick up where I left off

Immediately after the release in April 1964 of their eponymous debut album, the Stones set off on a U.S. tour that was to prove a failure overall. Let us recall that at this precise moment, it was thus in full first wave of the British Invasion, however they will meet an important number of difficulties. They had at that moment only one single that made it to the top of the US charts, and a lot of important media figures and a lot of American listeners didn't like the Stones. This is not to remind also the complication that the Beatles had to impose themselves there too, even if it was in different ways. In the end, neither the group nor the production team will give up trying to impose themselves in the United States, which will help to change things. They will notably release a few singles Tell Me, the covers It's All Over Now and Time Is on My Side will end up making great places in the US charts, while offering their first number 1 in the UK. It's not going to stop there, in parallel the production team of Andrew Loog Oldham and the Stones will focus on the albums US versions in order to gain market share and popularity, which will give birth to 12x5 which is in others an enlarged version of their last EP with some unreleased tracks. Just the fact that 12x5 is a success shows that little by little they are succeeding in their own conquest of America.

I would also say on the other hand that this race to conquer America and the fact that they are gaining popularity at home in order to remain one of the trendiest bands of the moment is also a reason why the Stones' first albums are not considered "indispensable" until Out of Our Heads (even if we can push them as far as Aftermath). So certainly, it is necessary to know that the Stones are at the base of the rather amateur musician who started from far away, while taking into account that they didn't write many original songs and especially that they were constantly in concert or on tour which didn't leave them much time, however it is totally understandable to ignore the first albums, where it is a little bit different with the Beatles or the Kinks. If we have to sum up a large part of the Stones' year 1965, I would say that we have to mention the 2 albums released (a UK and US version) which were to be an unprecedented success for the band, which shows that their perseverance and commercial/marketing tactics worked, of course countless concerts and tours, finally cult original songs and not to forget their first international hit. The day of glory will come.

It is essential, even criminal, not to talk primarily about 2 songs from the album that have become classics of Pop Rock music . The first one, The Last Time, is a wonderful half-mod / half-blues song so punchy that I can still hear it resonating in my head hours after listening to it. It's the first time for me that an original Stones song has reached this level. Of course, it will be followed by their first international hit I Can't Get No Satisfaction, which will definitely put the Stones as strong competitors in songwriting. This cult classic shows once again a perfect mastery of the Mod, articulated with structures and a Garage Rock aesthetic. Because yes, these 2 hits underline precisely that the Stones who were not very used to strutting on the paths of the Mod, that it allowed him to find the magic formula. By the way, if you study more closely the album Out of Our Heads (US version, because in my opinion clearly the best one), you'll realize that these 2 songs are actually UFOs. The rest of the album is still very accessible on their dirty Blues sound and a wilder English Rhythms and Blues that we already knew, which is not a reproach either. I'm always amazed to see that this album still offers a nice variety of the Stones' palette, without you really having time to get bored. If you take into account the deliberately ramshackle production, the Blues and R&B ballads, a crazy complementary live song, and everything else I've told you about before, you have a complete and really enjoyable album to listen to. In the introduction of my review, I mentioned to you that they had good reason to analyze this album in depth, there's obviously the whole context, what they were at that time, the competition with the Beatles, how they managed their British invasion and finally made it to the United States, the fact that they finally managed to release 2 songs of very high level while achieving a significant commercial success, and then I explained to you why I thought this album was good. But there is still one fundamental reason missing: writing their own songs. Out of Our Heads is the first Stones' album to include as many original songs as covers and it changes everything. It's also well known that the Stones started releasing excellent albums from the moment they started writing, whether it was under the duo Jagger/Richard or under the pseudonym Nanker Phelge.
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