Barging Ken Dodd out of the way, snapping one of his tickling sticks and giving him the finger… It’s The Rolling Stones!
Get Off Of My Cloud, by The Rolling Stones (their 5th of eight #1s)
3 weeks, from 4th – 25th November 1965
They’re still angry, still dissatisfied with modern life, with complaining neighbours and, once again, detergent. What did Mick and Keith have against detergent…? Like ‘Satisfaction’, which was at #1 just six weeks before this, ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ tells an anti-hero’s story in three verses, against a frantic drumbeat and another scuzzily insistent riff.
It’s clearly another response to their new-found fame, their new-found position as The Beatles’ one true rivals to the throne. But all they want to do is be left alone. In each verse, Mick tries to escape the world around him: I sit at home looking out the window, Imagining the world has stopped… and I was sick and tired of this, Decided to take a drive downtown… It’s a response to, and another symptom of, their fame. This was a #1 in both the UK and the US, as well as Canada and Germany, and no other band could have taken a record as raw and aggressive as this to the top of the charts around the world.
It’s also a very hard song to sing. There are several points where I have no idea what is being sung, Charlie Watt’s drums and the guitars being so prominent in the mix, with Jagger’s vocals submerged under them. My favourite bit is when he almost starts rapping the phone-call from his neighbour, asking him and his friends to shut up because it’s 3 a.m. The telephone is ringing I say ‘Hi, it’s me, who’s there on the line? A voice says ‘Hi, hello, how are you?’ Well I guess I’m doin’ fine…
In the end, though, he finds some solace. He takes a drive downtown, where it’s nice and peaceful, and falls asleep. Whether or not he’s under the influence of something isn’t established… He wakes up to parking tickets, but I don’t think he cares – he’s Mick Jagger and he’s rich as piss. How the tickets look like flags, I don’t know. And I have no idea who the guy dressed up like a Union Jack is meant to be.
It’s a weird song. A scrappy, messy, glorious song. Apparently Keith Richards doesn’t look back on it too fondly, what with it being rushed out in order to capitalise on ‘Satisfaction’s success. And yes, the sound is a bit off, and the mix a bit bass heavy, and the lyrics pretty much cover the same ground as ‘Satisfaction’, but that’s part of this record’s charm. It really does sound like it was recorded in a garage, in one take, and while the sound is far removed from their bluesy roots, this is in keeping with The Stones as a rough and ready rock ‘n’ roll band.
But if that doesn’t convince you, at least you can’t deny the hook. Hey! – hey – You! – you – Get off of my cloud! Who hasn’t wanted to yell that at someone who’s been bringing them down, when you just want a bit of peace and quiet. Don’t hang around cos two’s a crowd…
Looking back at The Stones three #1s from this year, we have three masterpieces of attitude and anger. Gone are the blues covers, in comes ‘The Last Time’ with its disparaging swagger, ‘Satisfaction’ with that riff and it’s dissatisfaction with fame and modern living, and now this… more dissatisfaction with fame, modern living and the whole bloody world. And, taking these three discs and standing them side by side next to The Beatles three 1965 chart-toppers – ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘Help!’ and ‘Day Tripper’, which is coming up in a couple of posts time… I’m going to go out on a limb and say The Stones’ output – solely talking about the chart-toppers, here – was, for the moment, trumping the Fab Four’s.
Not that it would last… But that’s a story for another day.
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