There exists an amusingly prescient clip of The Rolling Stones being interviewed for television in the late 1970s. Asked why the band elected to call their 14th studio album Some Girls guitarist Keith Richards – topless, cross-legged, cradling a cigarette and almost certainly strung out – leans back on the communal couch and tartly retorts, “because we forgot all their fucking names”.
It’s one of several less-than-witty, or civil, responses The Human Riff dealt his Antipodean interlocutor, but as cringe-inducing as the exchange is today, it underlines a certain truth: In 1978 The Rolling Stones were still antagonistic, mouthy mutineers with the ability to shock viewers – still dangerous, even – to parents at least.
A year earlier Richards had been very publicly busted for heroin possession in Canada and, facing seven years jail time, at the time of the embarrassing interview the band’s future hung in the balance. The Stones’ US summer outing was billed a Farewell Tour and it seemed certain Some Girls – which celebrates a 40th anniversary today (June 9) – would be the iconic outfit’s final recording. It was not until October the same year that Richards was dealt a surprise suspended sentence, condemning The Stones to another four decades on the road.
They would never be the same band again, though. By the early 1980s, The Stones had transformed from rock rebels to savvy businessmen, all-but inventing the safe conformity of the modern stadium experience. Raw, ragged and irreverent, Some Girls was their last outlaw stand – greeted at the time as a return to form, it became the band’s best seller stateside, shipping six million copies in the US alone, and is wildly hailed today as The Stones’ last essential release.