This Day in Music, December 5: Beggar's Banquet

By , Contributor

On this day in 1968, the release of The Rolling Stones’ new album Beggar’s Banquet was celebrated at a party in London. A food fight with custard pies was the highlight of the event that went on without an ill Keith Richards. The original cover for the LP was in the form of a plain white invitation, but was later changed.

Beggars Banquet, the seventh studio album by The Stones, marked a return to the band's R&B roots. Following the long sessions for the previous album in 1967 and the departure of producer and manager Andrew Loog Oldham, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards hired producer Jimmy Miller, who had produced the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. The partnership would prove to be a success and Miller would work with the band until 1973.

One of the first tracks cut during the sessions was "Jumpin' Jack Flash", which was released only as a single in May, 1968. Like The Beatles and other acts in the '60s, it was common practice to release a new song as a single as a taster to a new album, on which the single wouldn’t be included. A brave move indeed, but one that proved to work time and time again. Look at The Beatles “Strawberry Fields” which was recorded during the Sgt. Pepper sessions but was not included on the album.

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" became a major hit (reaching #1 in the UK and #3 in the US) and one of the group's most popular and recognisable songs. Richards has stated that he and Jagger wrote the lyrics while staying at Richards' country house, where they were awakened one morning by the sound of gardener Jack Dyer walking past the window. When Jagger asked what the noise was, Richards responded, "Oh, that's Jack - that's jumpin' Jack."

Beggar's Banquet was founding member Brian Jones' last full effort with the Rolling Stones, which included the two-standout tracks, the opening track "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man".

"Sympathy" provoked media rumours and fears among some religious groups that The Rolling Stones were devil-worshippers and a corrupting influence on youth. The lyrics' focus, however, is on atrocities in the history of mankind, including the trial and death of Jesus Christ where "Pilate washed his hands and sealed his fate". The hypnotic groove and structure of the six-minute song has since been much copied - especially the backup vocal, "woo woos", which occur as the song reaches it climax.

“Street Fighting Man” was originally titled and recorded as "Did Everyone Pay Their Dues?" Jagger allegedly wrote it about Tariq Ali after Jagger attended a March 1968 anti-war rally at London's US embassy, during which mounted police attempted to control a crowd of 25,000.

“Street Fighting Man” was released as Beggar's Banquet's lead single on August 31, 1968 in the US, but was kept out of the Top 40 (reaching #48) of the US charts in response to many radio stations refusal to play the song based on what were perceived as subversive lyrics.

When Beggar's Banquet was completed both Decca Records in England and London Records in the US rejected the planned cover design - a graffiti-covered lavatory wall. The band initially refused to change the cover, resulting in several months' delay in the release of the album. By November, however, the Rolling Stones gave in, allowing the album to be released in December with a simple white cover imitating an invitation card, complete with an RSVP.

The Stones held a rambunctious release party for the album at the elegant and historic Gore Hotel in London. Initially, the band wanted to launch the album with a party at the Tower of London but with that historic venue unavailable they opted to go the Elizabethan room of the hotel. The band, dressed as beggars, and their VIP media guests sat down in candlelight to be served a seven-course dinner by a coterie of corset-busting serving wenches.

At some point during dessert, a visibly jolly Jagger decided to revel in a little slapstick and kicked off a huge food fight by smacking Jones in the face with a custard pie.

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A former musician, Neil was in the 80's group The Cheaters who were once signed to EMI's Parlophone label, and released three albums. He was also a radio presenter and is still a regular music pundit on various BBC stations. Neil is the founder of the award winning web site This Day in Music which is…

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