At a casual glance, the Rolling Stones’ 7th or 9th studio album (depending on whether you live in the UK or US) seems to have performed like most of their previous albums – all of which charted in the top 5 on either country’s album charts.
But when you drill down into the actual musical content of those records, it becomes clear that “Beggar’s Banquet” was a turning point in the Stones’ career.
The band’s previous two LPs (“Between the Buttons” and “Their Satanic Majesties Request”) had seen the band attempt to follow the Beatles’ forays in psychedelia with decidedly uneven results, with both of those albums hitting the budget bins before the decade was over.
“Beggar’s Banquet” saw the Stones return to their raw, basic, R&B-flavored roots while simultaneously demonstrating they could infuse their music with new influences to produce an album that worked as an organic whole.
Tellingly, there were no hit singles from the album, but “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Street Fighting Man” quickly became heavily played favorites on the emerging FM rock stations around the US.
This was also the final full album that founding member Brian Jones contributed to. Yet, because of his increasing drug usage and decreasing mental stability, his contributions were slight. Instead, Keith Richards stepped up, providing virtually all of the guitar parts – rhythm and lead – for the album.
With Jones leaving the picture (most forget he was actually fired by the band shortly before his untimely death), Mick Jagger and Richards completed their takeover of the band’s creative process. This would begin a string of 4 albums that all stand as some of the greatest rock albums ever released: “Beggar’s Banquet,” “Let It Bleed,” “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street.”
As the Stones went on their creative hot streak, the Beatles were dissolving leaving no one to challenge the Stones for rock supremacy.
But that rise to the top of the rockpile really began with the release of “Beggar’s Banquet.”