How the hell do you follow up an album like “Exile on Main Street?”
The 1972 critically acclaimed Exile was and is still today considered The Stones at their finest.
So, no big surprise most critics were to say the least, slightly disappointed with the follow up “Goat’s Head Soup.”
Released in 1973, Goats Head was a more polished production than the raw and ragged Exile.
It reflected the resurgence of soul-pop and the rise of funk, while maintaining the Stones’ distinctive rock sound. It spawned the hit single “Angie”, possibly its best known track, and topped the charts in both the US and the UK.
At the time of release, Jagger said, “I really feel close to this album, and I really put all I had into it… I guess it comes across that I’m more into songs. It wasn’t as vague as the last album which kind of went on so long that I didn’t like some of the things. There’s more thought to this one. It was recorded all over the place over about two or three months. The tracks are much more varied than the last one. I didn’t want it to be just a bunch of rock songs.”
Preceded by “Angie” as the lead single, which sailed to #1 in the US and became a worldwide hit, Goats Head Soup was released in late August 1973 and also shot to #1 worldwide. The Rolling Stones’ autumn 1973 European Tour followed soon after, in which three slots in the set list were given to the new material. (The popular bootleg recording Brussels Affair would result from this tour.)
Critical reaction to the album was varied at the time. Bud Scoppa called the album “one of the year’s richest musical experiences” in Rolling Stone, while Lester Bangs derided the effort in Creem, saying, “There is a sadness about the Stones now, because they amount to such an enormous ‘So what?’ The sadness comes when you measure not just one album, but the whole sense they’re putting across now against what they once meant…”
Goats Head Soup is now generally considered to have marked the end of the Stones’ “golden age”, with Stephen Thomas Erlewine saying, “Sliding out of perhaps the greatest winning streak in rock history, the Stones slipped into decadence and rock star excess with Goats Head Soup… This is where the Stones’ image began to eclipse their accomplishments, as Mick ascended to jet-setting celebrity and Keith slowly sunk deeper into addiction, and it’s possible hearing them moving in both directions on Goats Head Soup, at times in the same song.” While it is generally considered to lack the energy and spark of their previous few releases, Goats Head Soup has endured as a popular seller and has gone triple platinum in the US.
The album cover was designed and photographed by David Bailey, a friend of Jagger’s who had worked with The Rolling Stones since 1964. The portrait of Jagger on the front cover was approximately life size in the original 12 inch LP format.
The sessions for Goats Head Soup were abundant with outtakes. Two of these – “Tops” and “Waiting on a Friend” – would surface on Tattoo You in 1981, and feature Mick Taylor on guitar; “Through the Lonely Nights” became the B-side to the “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)” single and was released on CD for the first time on the 2005 compilation Rarities 1971–2003.
The super rare “Goat’s Head Soup” store display.
This rare promotional sweater can be seen in Bill Wyman’s book “Rolling with The Stones.”