Drugs and The Rolling Stones are intrinsically linked. The connection has been established since the early days of the group, one that caught the attention of the Metropolitan Police, who started a targeted campaign against the band, culminating with the Redlands bust in 1967, making them cartoonish tabloid villains.
Around this same time, The Stones were at the peak of their hedonism and were undoubtedly an easy target. The band were flaunting their abuse of substances publically, and the bust only enhanced their reputation for being lawless rulebreakers — a status in which they revelled. However, to level things out, Mick Jagger did later admit that this period of narcotic abuse did negatively affect their creativity.
Immediately after the bust, the group began work on Their Satanic Majesties Request, and the entire recording process of the album was a convoluted mess from start to finish.
Bill Wyman even penned the song, ‘In Another Land’, as a thinly-veiled attack on the deterioration of his bandmates. He later commented: “Every day at the studio, it was a lottery as to who would turn up and what – if any – positive contribution they would make when they did.”
Adding: “Keith would arrive with anywhere up to ten people, Brian with another half-a-dozen and it was the same for Mick. They were assorted girlfriends and friends. I hated it! Then again, so did Andrew (Oldham) and just gave up on it. There were times when I wish I could have done, too.”
The chaotic circumstances that surrounded the making of Satanic Majesties did provide the album with an incoherent feel. For that reason, it’s a record which Jagger isn’t proud of as a complete entity. “The whole thing, we were on acid,” Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995. “We were on acid doing the cover picture. I always remember doing that. It was like being at school, you know, sticking on the bits of coloured paper and things. It was really silly. But we enjoyed it. Also, we did it to piss Andrew off, because he was such a pain in the neck”.
The Stones accomplished their mission, and Oldham resigned during the creation of the album. Explaining why they deliberately pushed him to the brink, Jagger added: “He didn’t understand it. The more we wanted to unload him, we decided to go on this path to alienate him”.
Looking back, Jagger concludes that there was one simple reason for their erratic behaviour; drugs use. “I probably started to take too many drugs,” he admitted. “Well, it’s not very good. It had interesting things on it, but I don’t think any of the songs are very good. It’s a bit like Between the Buttons. It’s a sound experience, really, rather than a song experience.”
Continuing, he added: “There’s two good songs on it: ‘She’s a Rainbow’, which we didn’t do on the last tour, although we almost did, and ‘2000 Light Years From Home’, which we did do. The rest of them are nonsense.”
Jagger isn’t alone with his thoughts on the album when looking back through sober eyes, and Keith Richards feels similar. Speaking to Esquire in 2015, the guitarist addressed the comparison between the album and Sgt. Pepper’s, which he had no love for either. “If you’re the Beatles in the ’60s, you just get carried away—you forget what it is you wanted to do,” he said. “You’re starting to do Sgt. Pepper. Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish, kind of like Satanic Majesties—’Oh, if you can make a load of shit, so can we.'”
There are flickerings of panache across Their Satanic Majesties Request, which perhaps might have been enabled by the vast substances they consumed, but it also was the reason why the album fell short. Jagger’s damning assessment and the common consensus on Satanic Majesties are a firm disprover of the theory drugs enhance creativity. In fact, they often do the opposite.