ALBUM (1969)

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 April, 2009, 12:00am

The Rolling Stones
Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (Decca Records)

Widely acclaimed as the best live album ever recorded, the Stones' 1969 classic stands as a marker to the end of the 1960s dream.

It's a snapshot of the tour that began with the band's legendary free Hyde Park gig in honour of the recently deceased Brian Jones and ended in the disastrous free concert at Altamont, where Hells Angels beat a fan to death, tearing asunder the decade's mantra of love and peace.

In terms of performance, the swampy, lugubrious canter of their late 60s 'devil music' and blues standards featured on the set, courtesy of an increasingly stoned Keith Richards, stands in counterpoint to the pin-sharp rhythms of Jones' replacement Mick Taylor and remains, musically, the band's finest moment.

The Stones' 1969 tour - the first by any band to take in huge sports stadiums and not theatres - had been much anticipated. Since Richards and singer Mick Jagger's infamous drugs bust in 1967, the band had taken a hiatus from love shows. With court trials and management troubles clogging their diaries, the band began taking it easy after three hectic years of chart hits, endless touring and media disdain.

The Stones were tired and needed to regroup. The boredom took a toll on Jones' mental health, a situation not helped by his copious drug intake. When Jagger and Richards decided the time was right to tour again, Jones' drug record and unpredictable behaviour became an obstacle to the lucrative US market. The answer? He was fired.

Jones took the news badly and descended into a spiral of despair that ended with his sudden death in a swimming-pool accident at his Sussex home shortly before the Hyde Park gig.

The omens had been set. Despite the band having a powerhouse canon to play live, courtesy of their two finest albums recorded in the interim (Let it Bleed and Beggars Banquet), the demons hovered. At Hyde Park, English Hells Angels took it upon themselves to 'police' the event and were a malevolent presence.

Released ostensibly as a means of stemming the sudden surge of bootlegs coming out of the tour, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! attests that the band quickly found their strut in arenas such as Madison Square Gardens.

Intricate numbers such as Sympathy for the Devil and Stray Cat Blues are honed down to their blues backbones, allowing Richards and Taylor to propel them full force into the cavernous halls. Blues standards including Love in Vain are given a swagger that only a band at the top of their game could muster.

But the highlight is the nine-minute tour de force of Midnight Rambler; with its hypnotic bass line and Jagger's brooding harmonica.