1969 birthed two of the darker elements of the Stones legend – Brian Jones’ death and Altamont – but as a chart-topping hit “Honky Tonk Women” interrupts a run of strange, doom-laden records with three minutes of party music. A louche, slightly dangerous party to be sure, debauched even, but not directly menacing. This isn’t the Stones as satanic threats, or as avatars of chaotic times, but as a band settling into being “the greatest rock n roll band in the world” (a band as a brand, in other words, where you know what you’re going to get). It’s a relaxed record, whose appeal is its tease of instability – Jagger’s vocal with its words often trailing off in exhausted gasps, leaning on the reeling guitars while Bill and Charlie keep the whole operation upright and the party going for one more round. Or for thirty more years.
(YouTube video – live with subtitles from Nov 69!)