The Rolling Stones: Their Satanic Majesties Request 50th Anniversary Edition Page 2

Landi said she wasn't being vague about the tapes for any reason other than that she and ABKCO (like every other label on earth) have been taken to task in online forums about sound issues. And just about everything else, for that matter. It's a subject near and dear to audiophiles, or at least those who participate in the Internet scrums over gear, music, you name it. I tried to counsel her that savoring unkind forum posts is a sort of art form in its own right. She smiled.

"I get a headache when I look at the forums. There's some guy on one of the forums yelling about the opening of 'She Said Yeah' [the opening track on the US edition of December's Children (and Everybody's)] and how it's a chewed-up tape. It's not a chewed-up tape! I see these things and I'm like, 'Dude, have you ever listened to the original record?' It sounds the same.

"I'll give you a for-instance—and you've probably heard it. On the 2002 remastering of Beggars Banquet, you can hear, in 'Stray Cat Blues,' in 'Salt of the Earth,' and I believe 'Street Fighting Man': Right at the tail end of them all, you hear a bunch of wavering. So to combat that, you have to transfer it, and then you have to go back and transfer that tail-end section and try to do the best that you can with it."

In 2002, Landi and Ludwig digitally remastered the Stones' ABKCO catalog for hybrid SACD/CD release. Direct Metal Mastering (DMM) LPs were produced that same year. Files from the 2002 remastering were used in 2011 for lossless, high-resolution (88.2 and 176.4kHz) digital files downloadable from HDtracks. When sets of mono CDs and LPs of the ABKCO albums were released in 2016, their sound quality was not uncontroversial (footnote 1).

The lacquers for the new vinyl reissue of Satanic Majesties were cut by Sean Magee at Abbey Road Studios. While there was talk of making 45rpm editions of the new LPs, ABKCO ultimately decided to go with 331/3. "I'm not a fan of breaking up sides, because it was the intention of the artist to have the sequence play through," Landi said. "Also, the Satanic sides almost work like suites, in a way. I'd miss the snoring going straight into "2000 Man," because that is where I'd have to break up side 1!"


Landi is aware that to remaster an old Stones record is to tread some of rock's most hallowed ground, and feels that any improvements made in the sound should be guided by a healthy respect for the original. "I cringe sometimes when I hear some mastering work. With the loudness wars, they really change the way things sound. We want to try and remain as authentic as possible to the original recordings—keeping in the character of the original recordings, but dealing with some kind of middle ground with modern mastering levels.

"With that said, you wanna take that original master and master it. You don't want it to just sound like the flat tape—it needs a little help. In 2002, when we did the SACDs, we were keeping that in mind: remaining true to what it sounds like, and trying to find a middle ground. With Satanic Majesties, we went a little beyond that. I think you're going to hear a big difference on the low end, and the low mids as well. It's going to sound a little meatier. Some people think that making things meatier just means louder, but no. It's an EQ quality. What you're going to notice is the difference not in level, but in fullness.

"Thank god all this was mixed in the same place, so it's not like trying to take an album like December's Children, or even The Rolling Stones No.2 [US title: The Rolling Stones, Now!]—recordings that were made at two or three different studios—and try to make them all sound cohesive. Whereas with Aftermath, it was all recorded and mixed at one studio. Satanic Majesties is marvelously consistent as far as the mixing is concerned."

As was the original LP, ABKCO's new packaging for of Satanic Majesties is the most elaborate of all the Stones reissues yet attempted. An LP-sized foldout package holds the two SACDs and the two 180gm LPs, the latter pressed at GZ Media, in the Czech Republic. In a nice touch, the SACDs replicate the colors of the original mono (red) and stereo (dark blue) US LP labels while the LPs use the original color scheme of the original UK mono (light blue) and stereo (green) labels. Those who aren't fans of the music will still say that all the fancy packaging was/is needed to cover up the album's many deficiencies. Landi sees it differently, especially when it comes to the lenticular cover, which is reproduced in all its 3D glory.

"We wanted to celebrate the 50th anniversary with a dynamite LP/SACD audiophile package. And, of course, there was also the idea of restoring the lenticular, and how else are you going to do that best but in an LP format? I had always wondered if the Satanic Majesties lenticular had anything to do with Vari-Vue, the lenticular buttons. There was a famous one for [John F.] Kennedy. I have a bunch that I had when I was a kid. Well, it does. Vari-Vue buttons were done by Pictorial Productions, of Mount Vernon, New York. And now Pictorial Productions did the entire packaging for this new reissue."

Sitting in Landi's studio, running A/B/C comparisons of the original stereo LP, the new SACDs, and the new LP confirmed her predictions of what I'd hear. The sound wasn't louder but fuller, rounder, richer—very similar to the 2009 remastering of the Beatles catalog. Musically, I have always thought that while there's some less-than top shelf material on Satanic Majesties, songs like "Citadel" and "She's a Rainbow" can stand with the best Jagger/Richards originals. Will it be enough to convince listeners that this album isn't the unworthy runt of the Stones catalog? The new package includes quotes old and new hinting at what the band themselves thought of the album. While Richards, in 2010, still called it a "put-on" relative to Sgt. Pepper's, the late Brian Jones got the last word when he said, in appropriately iridescent language, "Entertainment is boring, communication is everything."

"I love this record," Landi said. "I've always loved it, even before it might have been cool to like it. I had a friend who, years ago, said, 'Take out "Gomper" and the second "Sing This All Together," throw in "We Love You," "Dandelion," and "Child of the Moon," and you've got the record.' But it wouldn't work, because those three tracks sound so different than everything else that is on here."

Landi brings up what may ultimately be the most intriguing thing about Satanic Majesties: the notion that, for perhaps the only time in their discography, the Stones ventured out of their comfort zone of blues, rock, pop. The album's songs, silly and seemingly unfinished as some of them are, suggest many musical roads not taken. They never again tried anything this experimental, and quickly retreated to what they knew in their next albums, Beggars Banquet (1968) and Let It Bleed (1969).

"They always arranged their music, but this was a marvelous step further, because now they were dealing with so many instruments," Landi suggests. I'm sure there are instruments on this album that even the Stones can't name anymore. They went into some kind of brave new world with this."

Footnote 1: For more detailed information about the Stones' early catalog, an excellent reference is

Allen Fant's picture

Excellent review- RB.
I am a Beatles, Stones and Who fan to be sure. Both The Who and The Rolling Stones chased The Beatles through the 60's. The Beatles were always (at least) one step ahead of the pack.

The Stones seemed to be the closest competitor and finally caught up in 1969 with "Let It Bleed". I am looking forward to the 50th Edition of that release!

DH's picture

Listened to the remaster. Still don't like the album. Just isn't very good.
The 2002 remasters sound excellent. Love them.

2_channel_ears's picture

Is this a total new remaster from the tapes or a mashup from the 2002 files?

I agree with Teri Landi, I love the record. Not the greatest Stones music but what a concept!

dalethorn's picture


2_channel_ears's picture

What I am really asking is as to the source for the material. Hoping that Robert Baird might clarify. He talks with the engineer about difficulties with the tape and mentions the use of files from 2002 used in 2011 release, but never mentions the source for this "new" reissue. If I'm going to shell out $35 USD for I'd rather get the benefit of new production start to finish than files transferred digitally via 15+ year technology.

dalethorn's picture

I'll add this: I bought several of the Rolling Stones high-res downloads from HDTracks a few years ago, which came from the previous remaster to this one. I can hear tape dropouts clearly in some of these tracks, and having used some good tape recorders myself over the years, I know what I'm hearing. So I wouldn't be optimistic that this new remaster is any closer to perfect, and it could even be less perfect in terms of dropouts and glitches, but given who worked on it, I'd be happy to buy it** knowing that it has a better equalization than previous versions.

**Unfortunately, until I can buy the $18 96 khz version with the stereo tracks only, I'll not be giving these people the $35 minimum price they're demanding now.

dalethorn's picture

While my friends in '64 were loving the Beatles, Herman's Hermits, Chad and Jeremy et al, I was loving the Rolling Stones and other r&b British groups, who I believed were not only following in the footsteps of real rock-n-roll (i.e. created by and large by Black artists), but in the Stones' case would eventually become the dominant band for that reason.

Majesties wasn't just unique for the sound, the original title chosen by the Stones ("Her Satanic Majesty Requests") would have been one of the most amazing protests of the 1960s, but of course that could never happen. The Beatles (and later the Sex Pistols) may well have scooped everyone on protests though, the mainstream media especially, by releasing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - blatantly about LSD, and then vigorously denying it to that media.

Then again, the Stones may have had the last laugh, hiring Hells Angels to police a concert where they sang about having sympathy for the Devil, diddling 13-year-olds (Stray Cat Blues), and sticking a knife right down someone's throat (Midnight Rambler).

So 1967 being such a hugely transformative year, what with Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and the Monterey festival, and myself at Ft. Ord in the Monterey area, this Satanic Majesties album is a great indulgence, if not a musical masterpiece.

dalethorn's picture

It appears that we audiophiles and classic rock fans haven't been screwed and bled enough by the record companies or their distributors with all the versions of this stuff we've bought over the years - now the MINIMUM price for this download is $35 USD, as customers are forced to buy a full set of throwaway (i.e. "album filler") mono tracks with the original stereo tracks.



dalethorn's picture

I find it interesting how much social sensitivity I see expressed on this forum, and then how little of that sensitivity is extended to the struggling young audiophile who doesn't need the $35 double disc (where one is wasted for him or her), and can't afford it. I was in that position for some years, and I still feel the crunch through friends who are struggling.

Quark's picture

Not sure if this is a pressing issue, (and I must say the stereo has the greatest improvement). Kind of weird, I find myself switching to the Mono for Side 2 to get more heft, which is a shame because I think 2000 Light Years From Home should be heard in stereo. What I do like is the increased level of detail, I don't think the vinyl has ever had but someone with a first press may be able to compare.

I'm with the minority here in saying this is my favorite Stones album, I''m a devotee of this first flush of psychedelic whimsy and the child-like innocence and wonder, that was soon lost as things degenerated. (I also really like Black & Blue, but thats one I grew up with, so the hooks are firmly imbedded.)

deckeda's picture

It's well earned, when “modern mastering levels” exist.

And there it is, the normalization (no pun intended) of the loudness wars’ legacy.