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Music / Beggars Banquet

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"Please allow me to introduce myself / I'm a man of wealth and taste..."
Click here to see the "toilet" cover originally intended for the album, rejected by Decca and used on post- 1986 reissues. 

Beggars Banquet is the seventh studio album (ninth American album) by The Rolling Stones, released in December 1968 on Decca Records in most of the world and its subsidiary London Records in the US and Canada. It is considered a return to their old rebellious and subversive roots, compared to their previous albums, the psychedelic Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request, both from 1967. Beggars Banquet is best remembered for such tracks as "Sympathy for the Devil", "Stray Cat Blues", and the hit single "Street Fighting Man", and is ranked among the band's best albums.

Brian Jones, who halfheartedly showed up to the recording sessions, was playing a far lesser role in the band by this point and had his judgment marred considerably through drug abuse. While Jones contributed a few minor instrumentals, most notably the slide guitar on "No Expectations" and sitar on "Street Fighting Man", Mick Jagger and Keith Richards largely conceived of an album which would return to a Blues-inspired, Country sound heavily associated with the working conditions of the poor. Achieving unity in structure even while exploring such diverse topics as underage groupies, chaotic riots, and religious symbolism, the Stones sought to reconcile these complex ideas to represent the political restlessness of the era through a more simplistic sound.

The album's release was delayed considerably due to the ongoing conflict between the Stones and their record label, which despised the original "toilet" cover art and forced its replacement. While the original cover was eventually reinstated on reissues, this conflict speaks to the band's rapidly shifting role from a group of talented musicians to a mouthpiece for a generation. From the introductory track, which is the Trope Namer to Sympathy for the Devil and Man of Wealth and Taste, to the largely Self-Deprecating indictment of debauchery of their lifestyle, the songs both implicate society and defend the people largely undercut by privilege. Fitting for an album heavily influenced by the violence and politics of the 1960s, the cover and the album's themes are now viewed as a celebration of cultural rebels and impoverished people disenfranchised by society.

In any case, the influential recording sessions to some songs of this album were filmed in Jean-Luc Godard's One Plus One/Sympathy for the Devil from 1968. A documentary about the creative process behind the making of this album can be seen in the Classic Albums TV documentary series.

In December 1968, the Stones made the TV special The Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus to promote this album, though the special did not see the light of day till 1995.


Side One

  1. "Sympathy for the Devil" (6:18)
  2. "No Expectations" (3:56)
  3. "Dear Doctor" (3:28)
  4. "Parachute Woman" (2:20)
  5. "Jig-Saw Puzzle" (6:06)

Side Two

  1. "Street Fighting Man" (3:16)
  2. "Prodigal Son" (2:51)
  3. "Stray Cat Blues" (4:38)
  4. "Factory Girl" (2:09)
  5. "Salt of the Earth" (4:48)

Principal Members:

  • Mick Jagger - lead vocals, harmonica, percussion
  • Brian Jones - guitar, harmonica, mellotron, sitar, tamboura, vocals
  • Keith Richards - guitar, backing and co-lead vocals, bass
  • Charlie Watts - drums, percussion, vocals, cowbell, clave, tabla
  • Bill Wyman - bass, vocals, maracas

Please allow us to introduce these tropes...

  • Abhorrent Admirer: In "Dear Doctor", the narrator laments that "the gal I'm to marry is a bow-legged sow".
  • Alliterative Title: Beggar's Banquet, "Dear Doctor".
  • Alternate Album Cover: The Bathroom Stall Graffiti cover was meant to be the original artwork, but was replaced with the "R.S.V.P" cover at Decca's insistence. The bathroom cover now appears on most reissues.
  • Answer Cut: "Sympathy for the Devil".
    I shouted out: "Who killed the Kennedys?"
    When after all it was you and me.
  • Badass Boast: Most of "Sympathy for the Devil" is a badass boast by someone we could assume to be an Unreliable Narrator.
    • "I laid traps for troubadours/Who get killed before they reach Bombay" has caused much debate over to what it refers; the dominant explanation is the hippie trail, navigated by hippies to India, who were robbed in Afghanistan or Pakistan by drug-smugglers.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: "Sympathy for the Devil"
    I watched with glee as your kings and queens
    Fought for ten decades for the gods they made
  • Big Rock Ending: After the last verse, "Salt of the Earth" slows down for acoustic guitar strumming, then a drum fill signals the band to start up again, joined by the background singers repeating "Let's take a drink for the salt of the earth" over and over, then the tempo speeds up and they jam all the way to the fade, with the piano (played by Nicky Hopkins) dominating.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: "Salt Of The Earth" is sung from the perspective of affluent liberals who lionize the working class as compliant underclasses who they have never have to interact or deal with personally.
  • The Coup: "Street Fighting Man".
    Hey! I think the time is right for a palace revolution
    But where I live the game to play is compromise solution
  • Cover Version: "Prodigal Son" (best known for the line "that's no way to get along"), a cover of blues artist Robert Wilkins.
  • Darker and Edgier: This album was a return to their more sleazy, raunchy sound from the earlier days.
  • Dirty Old Man: "Stray Cat Blues", featuring a man lusting after a 15 year old groupie, reasoning "it's no hanging matter/ it's no capital crime".
  • Disgusting Public Toilet: Shown on the original cover, with the credits rendered as Bathroom Stall Graffiti.
  • Drunken Song: "Salt of the Earth" sounds a lot like a barroom shanty, even though it wasn't necessarily intended that way. A lot of critics have stated that the song sounds patronizing for this reason, though its intent may derive from the classic view of "salt of the earth" types enjoying a drink at the end of a hard day.
  • Epic Rocking: "Sympathy for the Devil" and "Street Fighting Man".
  • Faceless Masses: "Salt of the Earth"
    And when I search a faceless crowd
    A swirling mass of gray and black and white
    They don't look real to me
    In fact they look so strange
  • Genre Shift: "Sympathy for the Devil", while now among the Stones' proverbial anthems, is quite different from their usual fare (then and now) of angsty blues songs. Namely for the fact that the lyrics are fairly literary filled with historical allusions. Indeed Mick Jagger noted that it was more suited to Bob Dylan's style than the Stones. The song itself drew on the influences of The Master and Margarita (recommended by Marianne Faithfull) and the poetry of Charles Baudelaire. Jagger states that while it's a Ballad, the unusual Samba rhythms and African beats stopped it from departing too much from their style:
    Mick Jagger: It becomes less pretentious because it is a very unpretentious groove. If it had been done as a ballad, it wouldn't have been as good.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: The message of "Sympathy for the Devil" ultimately boils down to saying that every human has the capacity for good and evil, and that morality is not black-and-white as we've all been led to believe. This is illustrated by having the Devil sarcastically take credit for the worst atrocities humans have committed to each other.
    Just as every cop is a criminal
    And all the sinners saints
    As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer
    Cause I'm in need of some restraint
  • Heavy Meta: "Jig-Saw Puzzle"
    Oh the singer, he looks angry
    At being thrown to the lions
    And the bass player, he looks nervous
    About the girls outside
    And the drummer, he was shattered
    Trying to keep up time
    And the guitar players look damaged
    They've been outcasts all their lives
  • Historical Rap Sheet: "Sympathy for the Devil" lists many atrocities that the titular Devil has been part of, such as being a German General during World War II, being accomplice of the assassination of John and Robert Kennedy, and the French and Russian Revolutions.
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    • "Sympathy for the Devil" basically has the Devil wonder why he is considered evil if humans have been equally horrid over the centuries.
      I watched with glee as your kings and queens
      Fought for ten decades for the gods they made
    • "Salt of the Earth"
      Let's think of the wavering millions
      Who need leaders but get gamblers instead
      Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
      His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
      And a parade of the grey suited grafters
  • Intercourse with You: "Stray Cat Blues", and "Parachute Woman" too:
    Parachute woman, will you blow me out?
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Trope Namer in "Sympathy for the Devil".
    Please allow me to introduce myself
    I'm a man of wealth and taste
  • New Sound Album: A huge departure from the psychedelia of their previous albums, though there are still some elements of it on this album. The album is mostly acoustic, containing elements of blues, folk, and country music.
  • Noodle Incident: While most of "Sympathy for the Devil" alludes to obvious historical moments that the Devil claims to have played a part in, to this day no one knows what "I laid traps for your troubadours/Who get killed before they reach Bombay" means.
  • One-Woman Song: "Factory Girl" and "Parachute Woman".
  • Outlaw: The gangster in "Jigsaw Puzzle" is described as "an outlaw all his life".
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The alternate cover makes the album look like a classy record, while it is anything but.
  • Perpetual Poverty: The protagonist in "Prodigal Son" is a poor boy who goes out in the world, gets offered a job as a swine herder and returns back home where he reconciles with his father.
  • Protest Song: "Street Fighting Man", which actually doesn't advocate for rebellion as "compromise is solution". "Salt of the Earth" asks for sympathy for the common man.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Street Fighting Man" was released in a very turbulent year, 1968, when globally many college students started rebelling against the system and organizing protest marches in the street. "Sympathy for the Devil" originally only referenced the murder of John F. Kennedy, but as his brother Robert F. Kennedy got assassinated too in the Spring of 1968 Jagger changed the line from "Who killed Kennedy?" to "Who killed the Kennedys?"
  • Rebellious Spirit: "Street Fighting Man", which was banned from some American radio stations for possibly inciting violence.
  • Record Producer: Jimmy Miller, producing the first of five consecutive studio albums for the Stones.
  • Red October: Lucifer in "Sympathy for the Devil" was present during the Russian Revolution:
    I stuck around St. Petersberg
    When I saw it was a time for a change
    Killed the Tsar and his ministers
    Anastasia screamed in vain
  • Refuge in Audacity: Releasing a track named "Sympathy for the Devil" in an era of hippie peace and love, with many parents of Stones fans still active church goers was certainly intentionally audacious!
  • Riches to Rags: "No Expectations"
    Once I was a rich man, now I am so poor
  • Rock Me, Asmodeus!: "Sympathy for the Devil" may be the first explicitly Satanic song, despite the fact that the content is actually more about mankind denying its own obvious evilness than worshiping the devil. Even Jagger himself has acknowledged this, noting that it was the only real song of the Stones that dealt with the Satanic theme and even then it's more a Take That! to humanity in general.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: In "Street Fighting Man" Jagger sings that a poor boy can't do much against street fighting people, or change the system for that matter, except "sing in a rock 'n' roll band". A similar lack of attempt to actually join in to change a dire situation can be heard in "Salt of the Earth".
  • Runaway Bride: In "Dear Doctor", the fiancé is relieved to find a note from his would-be bride:
    It read, "Darlin', I'm sorry to hurt you.
    But I have no courage to speak to your face.
    But I'm down in Virginia with your cousin Lou
    There be no wedding today."
  • Self-Deprecation: Jagger observes street violence in "Street Fighting Man", but decides:
    What can a poor boy do/ except sing in a rock and roll band?.
  • Shot Gun Wedding: The fiancé in "Dear Doctor" is forced to wed.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Among the graffiti on the original toilet cover are "Bob Dylan's Dream" (referencing a song from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) and "Music from Big Brown" (a reference to The Band's Music from Big Pink).
    • "Sympathy for the Devil" informs us that Satan was present when Jesus Christ was being seduced by him, the Russian Revolution, the Blitzkrieg and centuries of bloodshed between kings and queens in name of their religion.
    • The line summer's here and the time is right for fighting in the street in "Street Fighting Man" is borrowed from "Dancing in the Street" by Motown artists Martha and the Vandellas, replacing the word "dancing" with "fighting".
    • The independent UK music label Beggars Banquet Records takes its name from this album.
    • The story collection Beggars Banquet by Ian Rankin took its title from this album.
    • The track "Sympathy for the Parents" on Smells Like Children by Marilyn Manson is a shout-out to "Sympathy for the Devil".
    • In The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car", Satan introduces himself to Bart with the words: "Please allow me to introduce myself", in reference to "Sympathy for the Devil".
  • Something Blues: "Stray Cat Blues".
  • Special Guest: Record producer Jimmy Miller provides backing vocals on "Sympathy for the Devil".
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Keith Richards sings lead on the first verse of "Salt of the Earth".
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Trope Namer. Ironically, the song in question is a subversion of the trope, as the Devil spends the whole song bragging about how evil he is. Or rather, sarcastically confessing how evil and horrible he is, when "after all it was you and me" and that the Devil is nothing more than humanity denying their own capacity for evil. Lucifer also threatens to "lay your soul to waste" if you don't show him sympathy or respect. Yikes.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: It shouldn’t be surprising whose side Lucifer was on during World War II.
    ''I rode a tank, held a General’s rank
    While the Blitzkrieg raged and the bodies stank
  • Villain Song: "Sympathy for the Devil", sung from the viewpoint of Satan himself. As the lyrics progress it turns out that Satan questions why people call him "evil", as they too have accomplices in his crimes over the centuries.
  • Who Shot JFK?: Apparently you and me, according to "Sympathy for the Devil".
    I shouted out: "Who killed the Kennedys?"
    When after all it was you and me
  • Working-Class Hero:
    • "Salt of the Earth"
      Let's drink to the hard working people
      Let's drink to the lowly of birth
    • "Factory Girl".
      Waiting for a girl, she has no money anywhere
  • World Music: Brian Jones plays sitar and tamboura on "Street Fighting Man". Charlie Watts plays tabla on "Factory Girl".