Their Satanic Majesties Request holds a rather dubious place among The Rolling Stones’ vast and varied catalogue. Although the LP has gotten some reappraisals since its original release in 1967, the most common surrounding the album is that it’s a haphazard constructed mess that is a direct stylistic copycat of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
That might seem unfair, and I object for one specific reason: that would be giving the album too much credit. Sgt. Pepper’s, for how twee and overblown it sounds today, was precisely crafted and brimming with imagination. Majesties is chaotic, drug-fueled, and wildly inconsistent. Sgt. Pepper’s is the good trip, and Majesties is the bad trip that lasts far too long.
But Majesties has quite a few redeeming qualities about it, take for example, ‘She’s a Rainbow’ is quite simply one of the best Rolling Stones songs ever written, ‘2000 Light Years From Home’ is an eerie and groovy stomper, and ‘Citadel’ has some solid garage rock power behind it. ‘2000 Man’ would find solid redemption in the hands of Ace Frehley and Kiss (of all people), while the Brian Jonestown Massacre gave the entire album a sequel on Their Satanic Majesties Second Request.
Even the bad songs aren’t completely insulting. ‘Gomper’ is a strange, if somewhat drawn out, raga that clearly takes after ‘Within You Without You’. ‘In Another Land’ is Bill Wyman’s one and only lead vocal for the band, and ‘On With the Show’ is the Stones at their most theatrical. ‘Sing This All Together (See What Happens)’ is a retread of album opener ‘Sing This All Together’, but instead of a jovial singalong the song gets turned into a psychedelic nightmare. Eventually the familiar melody from the original returns in much for muted fashion, and the song ends the first side on a frightfully odd note.
That’s until a hidden track fades in just as ‘Sing This All Together (See What Happens)’ appears to have played its final chord. Some ominous noises once again fill the air, and a strange confluence of sounds that sound like crunching or a malfunctioning computer attempts to relay an alien message that is almost impossible to decode. What’s going on here?
Well, it’s actually not supposed to be ominous at all: it’s (allegedly) Bill Wyman saying: “We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas, and a happy new year!” in a voice that’s slowed down so as to come out unintelligible. Due to the yuletide message, the ending soon became known as ‘Cosmic Christmas’, which was the original title for the album.
Check out the brief ‘Cosmic Christmas’ down below.