Editors’ Notes If 1972’s Exile on Main St. pushed the band to the brink, 1973’s Goats Head Soup found The Rolling Stones pulling back and regrouping. The sound was mellower or more composed—“less freaky,” as Mick Jagger had put it on release. You could hear the shift from chaos to clarity in the dance inflections of “100 Years Ago” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).” The ballads—once smeary and broken down—sound polished and refined (“Angie,” “Coming Down Again”), “Angie” in particular a prescient forecast of the soft rock that would dominate radio in the coming years.

No, Goats Head Soup wasn’t Exile, or even Sticky Fingers or Beggars Banquet or Let It Bleed. Not that it would’ve been better for it. But in 1973, the culture didn’t have a blueprint for rock bands that lived past their tenth birthday, let alone for how a sound so combustible and youthful might grow up without losing its spark. Alongside the following year’s It’s Only Rock ’N’ Roll, Goats Head Soup charted a way for the Stones to move through the shifting musical developments of the ’70s without severing ties to the sound or feel of what they had accomplished the decade before.

In 2020, the album was rereleased with three previously unreleased tracks: “All the Rage,” “Criss Cross,” and the Jimmy Page-featuring “Scarlet,” alongside a 1973 live bootleg previously known as Brussels Affair. Keith Richards later said that the trouble with live albums was that the band was always aware that they were recording and turned the stage into the studio; the perk of Brussels Affair was that they were playing uninhibited—a spirit you can hear in blinding takes on “Rip This Joint” and “Street Fighting Man,” and the sprawl of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which runs on for 11 opulent minutes.

Goats Head Soup coincided with a moment in which the band went from being famous musicians to genuine celebrities, living shorthand for the myth and promise of rock ’n’ roll. In the months before the sessions started, they toured the States, playing for 40,000 people in Washington, D.C., on Independence Day and later beaming into middle America for an interview with Dick Cavett. “Can you picture yourself at age 60 doing what you do now?” Cavett asks Jagger.

“Easily, yeah,” he says. Both men laugh, though only one seems to think it’s a joke.

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