Aftermath was a move in a different direction for The Rolling Stones, the kind of movement that other bands were also embracing. The Beatles' Rubber Soul had signalled something of a change and Revolver, released in August 1966 was an even more significant shift. In America The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds had been recorded and it came out shortly after the UK version of Aftermath and just before the album’s release in the US.
Aftermath entered the Billboard chart on 9 July at No.117, the highest new entry of the week, and 4 places ahead of The Beatles, Yesterday and Today. Six weeks later Aftermath had climbed to No.2 on the charts, one place behind The Beatles.
The Rolling Stones’ 7th US album release on London Records was different to the UK album released by Decca in the UK back in April of 1966. But like it’s UK counterpart of the same name the Aftermath (US) was a milestone for the band in that Mick and Keith wrote ever song. It was also the culmination of the adrenalin rush that had been their first three years as a professional band: Mick and Keith’s song writing with attitude, an attitude that has carried them through their entire career.
The US version differs from the UK LP in one major way, it only has 11 tracks whereas its transatlantic counterpart had 14. It was reduced in length at the insistence of the band’s American label to conform to the normal standards of the day – eleven tracks was enough for any fan in the view of London Records.
It also has one very significant track difference as it opens with ‘Paint It Black’ that had topped the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1966 for two weeks, and it was this that provided the perfect springboard to launch the LP into the best seller list.
The cohesion and overall sound and feel of the album was made so much better by the inclusion of the band’s third American No.1 in less than a year. ‘Paint It Black’ was recorded at the same March 1966 session in Hollywood as much of the rest of the album. Bill Wyman plays the bass pedals of a Hammond B3 organ by pummelling them with his fists and Brian plays sitar, both of which add to the unique sound of this standout track. As Keith said at the time, “What made Paint It Black was Bill Wyman on the organ, because it didn’t sound anything like the finished record until Bill said ‘You go like this.’”
It is one of those albums that pushed pop in the direction of rock, and no more so than the closing track of side 2, ‘Goin’ Home’, which at over 11 minutes was signalling what was to come. As the band’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham said, “Goin’ Home' was praised by fans, critics and peers alike as a standout event on the recording. In 1965 only Dylan and the Stones had defied the three-minute law—and kicked open the doors to the future.” It was also a blues inspired track, so for the Stones and rock this was a back to the future moment.
According to Keith, “No one sat down to make an 11-minute track. I mean 'Goin' Home', the song was written just the first 2 and a half minutes. We just happened to keep the tape rolling, me on guitar, Brian on harp, Bill, Charlie and Mick. If there's a piano, it's Stu.”
Other standout cuts are ‘Lady Jane’ one of the band’s greatest ballads and b-side of their follow-up to 'Paint It Black', 'Mother's Little Helper' (on the UK version of Aftermath, but not in the US), the clever, ‘Under My Thumb’ that has remained one of the band’s most popular songs from the era, despite never being released as a single in either the US or UK. There’s also the original version of ‘Out of Time’ with Brian playing Marimbas, that was shortly after covered by Chris Farlowe and taken to No,1 on the UK singles chart.
As Loog Oldham told a British music paper in April 1966, “Mick and Keith write about things that are happening. Everyday things. Their songs reflect the world about them. I think it's better than anything they've done before.” And it was impossible to disagree.
Both the US and UK versions of Aftermath are included in the soon to be released The Rolling Stones in Mono box set