It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll is the 12th British and 14th American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1974. It was the last Rolling Stones album for guitarist Mick Taylor and the songwriting and recording of the album’s title track had a connection to Taylor’s eventual replacement, Ronnie Wood. The album also marked the 10th anniversary since the release of the band’s debut album, The Rolling Stones. It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll combines the core blues and rock ‘n’ roll-oriented sound with elements of funk and reggae. It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll reached number one in the United States and number two in the UK.
Though it wasn’t as successful as their prior albums, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll was an important transitional album for the Rolling Stones. Long-time producer Jimmy Miller was out, and the album was self-produced by guitarist Keith Richards and singer Mick Jagger under the pseudonym “The Glimmer Twins”. Guitarist Mick Taylor missed the initial recording sessions with health problems, and ended up quitting the Rolling Stones a few months after the album’s release. The rest of the instrumentation included bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, as well as frequent collaborators Ian Stewart, Nicky Hopkins, and Billy Preston, and featured the first appearance of percussionist Ray Cooper, who would continue to work with the Rolling Stones into the 1980s.
The title track bears special note as it was recorded separately from the rest of the album. The basic rhythm track had been laid down by members of the Faces, including rhythm guitarist Ronnie Wood and drummer Kenney Jones during a jam session with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and bassist Willie Weeks. Jagger liked the song so much, he brought the basic track to Richards, who added some guitar overdubs, and after some polishing, was put on the album as-is. After Taylor left the Rolling Stones at the end of 1974, the band would approach Wood to become a full-time member.
Work began on It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll following the Rolling Stones’ autumn 1973 European tour. Production began in November at Munich, Germany’s Musicland Studios. According to guitarist Keith Richards, “We were really hot (off the road) and ready just to play some new material.” The recording sessions were attended by Belgian painter Guy Peellaert, who Mick Jagger invited to do the album cover after seeing his work in the book Rock Dreams, which featured illustrations of various rock musicians such as the Stones. Peellaert eventually painted the band as “rock deities,” descending a temple staircase, surrounded by young girls and women worshiping them in Grecian clothing. The artist refused to sign a deal of exclusivity, and in 1974 provided the album art for David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs.
The album was at first developed as a half-live, half-studio production with one side of the album featuring live performances from the Stones’ European tour while the other side was to be composed of newly recorded cover versions of the band’s favourite R&B songs. Covers recorded included a take of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away”, Jimmy Reed’s “Shame Shame Shame,” and The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” Soon the band began working off riffs by Richards and new ideas by Mick Jagger and the original concept was scrapped in favour of an album with all-new material. The cover of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” was the only recording to make the cut, while the “Drift Away” cover is a popular bootleg.
It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll marked the Stones’ first effort in the producer’s chair since Their Satanic Majesties Request, and the first for Jagger and Richards under their pseudonym “The Glimmer Twins.” On the choice to produce, Richards said at the time:
“I think we’d come to a point with Jimmy (Miller) where the contribution level had dropped because it’d got to be a habit, a way of life, for Jimmy to do one Stones album a year. He’d got over the initial sort of excitement which you can feel on Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed. Also, Mick and I felt that we wanted to try and do it ourselves because we really felt we knew much more about techniques and recording and had our own ideas of how we wanted things to go. Goats Head Soup hadn’t turned out as we wanted to – not blaming Jimmy or anything like that… But it was obvious that it was time for a change in that particular part of the process of making records.”
Starting with this release, all future Rolling Stones albums would either be produced by themselves or in collaboration with an outside producer.
Most of the album’s backing tracks were recorded first at Musicland; solo vocals were recorded later by Jagger, about whom Richards would say, “he often comes up with his best stuff alone in the studio with just an engineer.”
The song “Luxury” showed the band’s growing interest in reggae music, while “Till the Next Goodbye” and “If You Really Want to Be My Friend” continued their immersion in ballads. Seven of the album’s 10 songs crack the four-minute mark, a feature that would come to be disparaged during the rising punk rock scene of the late 1970s.
Ronnie Wood, a long-time acquaintance of the band, began to get closer to the Rolling Stones during these sessions after he invited Mick Taylor to play on his debut album, I’ve Got My Own Album to Do. Taylor spent some time recording and hanging out at Wood’s house The Wick. By chance, Richards was asked one night by Wood’s wife at the time, Krissy, to join them at the guitarist’s home. While there, Richards recorded some tracks with Wood and quickly developed a close friendship, with Richards going as far as moving into Wood’s guest room. Jagger soon entered the mix and it was here that the album’s lead single and title track, “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)”, was first recorded. Wood worked closely on the track with Jagger, who subsequently took the song and title for their album. The released version of this song features Wood on 12-string acoustic guitar.
It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll was Mick Taylor’s last album with the Rolling Stones, and he played on just seven of the 10 tracks (he did not play on tracks 2, 3 or 6).
Similar to receiving no writing credits on the Stones’ previous album, Goats Head Soup, Taylor reportedly had made songwriting contributions to “Till the Next Goodbye” and “Time Waits for No One,” but on the album jacket, all original songs were credited to Jagger/Richards. Taylor said in 1997:
“I did have a falling out with Mick Jagger over some songs I felt I should have been credited with co-writing on It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll. We were quite close friends and co-operated quite closely on getting that album made. By that time Mick and Keith weren’t really working together as a team so I’d spend a lot of time in the studio.”
Taylor’s statement contradicts Jagger’s earlier comment concerning the album. Jagger stated in a 1995 Rolling Stone interview about “Time Waits for No One” that Taylor “maybe threw in a couple of chords.”
Alongside the usual outside contributors, namely Billy Preston, Nicky Hopkins and unofficial member Ian Stewart, Elton John sideman Ray Cooper acted as percussionist for the album. Several songs were finished songs and overdubs and mixing were performed at Jagger’s home, Stargroves, in the early summer of 1974. (by wikipedia)
It’s uneven, but at times It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll catches fire. The songs and performances are stronger than those on Goats Head Soup; the tossed-off numbers sound effortless, not careless. Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of “If You Can’t Rock Me” and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation of “Luxury,” the aching beauty of “Time Waits for No One,” and the agreeable filler of “Dance Little Sister” and “Short and Curlies” all the more enjoyable. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)
“It’s Only Rock n Roll”, like it’s predecessor “Goats Head Soup” and follow up, ( a couple of years later), “Black and Blue ” are underrated albums. The title track “It’s Only Rock n Roll” and “If You Can’t Rock Me” are the Stones at their swaggering best. “Dance Little Sister” is in the same vein. “Time Waits For No One” is a beautiful song. “Fingerprint File”, a great number. “Luxury” another favorite. “Beggars Banquet”, “Let It Bleed”, Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street” are masterpieces. But the other two mentioned and this one are great albums.”Till the next goodbye” is a lovely song. (by Graham Paterson)
Mick Jagger (vocals, guitar on 04 – 10.) (4)
Keith Richards (guitar, bass on 01., background vocals)
Mick Taylor (guitar, bass on 10.)
Charlie Watts (drums, percussion)
Bill Wyman (bass, synthesizer on 05. + 10.)
Ray Cooper (percussion on 01., 02., 05. + 06.)
Nicky Hopkins (piano on 04. – 06., 08. + 10.)
Charlie Jolly (tabla on 10.)
Ed Leach (cowbell on 02.)
Blue Magic (background vocals on 08.)
Billy Preston (piano on 01., 02. + 10, clavinet on 02. + 10., organ on 08.)
Ian Stewart – piano (3, 7, 9)
Basic track on “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)”:
David Bowie (background vocals)
Kenney Jones (drums)
Willie Weeks (bass)
Ronnie Wood (guitar, background vocals)
01. If You Can’t Rock Me 3.48
02. Ain’t Too Proud To Beg 3.32
03. It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It) 5.06
04. Till The Next Goodbye 4.39
05. Time Waits For No One 6.48
06. Luxury 5.03
07. Dance Little Sister 4.12
08. If You Really Want To Be My Friend 6.19
09. Short And Curlies 2.45
10. Fingerprint File 7.01
All tracks written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards,
except “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” which was written by Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland
Mick Jagger & Uschi Obermaier in the “La Cave” club, Munich/Germany, 1974