The week The Rolling Stones released Aftermath in the US, the band touched down in New York for a month-long tour starting in the industrial city of Lynn, Massachusetts. They were measurably famous now: chart success, big advances, new cars, country houses. As it rained, the fans in Lynn were tear-gassed by cops as they rushed the stage. When asked at a press conference a couple of days earlier what the difference was between the Beatles and the Stones, an irritated Mick Jagger said that one band had five people and the other had four, but the scene in Lynn—replicated a handful of times throughout the tour—pointed towards a fundamental difference: The Beatles talked about revolution, and the Stones seemed to revel in personifying it.
Like The Beatles’ Revolver, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (all released in mid-1966), Aftermath was an evolutionary step not only in the band’s development, but in the vocabulary of rock music in general. Brian Jones had all but given up on the guitar, turning instead to exoticisms like the dulcimer, marimba, koto and sitar—textures that gave the band’s sound a new dimension, sublimating the physicality of rock and blues for something tenser and more introspective, as on “Paint It Black” and “I Am Waiting”.
And where The Beatles and contemporaries like The Kinks invoked their Britishness as something chipper and quaint, the Stones of Aftermath took on an almost gothic cast, projecting castellated worlds where moody princes stared out their windows to “Under My Thumb” and “Lady Jane”, stewing in their juices. In the absence of love, the bitter man turns to power. Before 1965, the band was, in some ways, just a new branch on an old tree. With Aftermath, they put down roots.