The aural equivalent of a Stones t-shirt? Maybe, but this short single-disc live outing, recorded during the band’s 1981 American tour, was released in time for the European leg when the Stones were enjoying a second life in popularity, touring the now canonised Tattoo You.
Still Life sashays exuberantly through the decades, opening with a scintillating ‘Under My Thumb‘, then moving onto Stones staples like ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ and a blistering ‘Shattered’ where the weaving guitars of Ron and Keith are at their brilliant best, as Charlie effortlessly keeps it all together, and pre-departure Bill Wyman is faultless as always on bass – although Bobby Keys, still on the outer with Mick, is sadly absent.
The rhythm section and band interplay is exemplary. A concert movie was also released to accompany the album and Mick’s banter after the opener is priceless:
“Welcome to everyone watching on TV, hoping everyone’s having a good time, sinking a few beers, smoking a few joints…alright!”
They don’t make them like this anymore. The album is heavy on covers: ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ and ‘Going to a Go-Go’, both blues classics, are all garish mannerisms from Mick as he runs from one side of the stage to the other in his spray on tights as Ron and Keith smile and nod at each other with their perennial cigarettes.
There’s occasional vocals from Keith where it sounds like “Return of the Living Dead the Musical”, before they launch into a pacey ska version of Emotional Rescue’s ‘Let Me Go’. It’s delivered at break-neck speed, before Keith unleashes the trippy tones of his MXR Phase 100, a signature sound for this era, for the marvellous ‘Time Is On My Side’. Keith’s guitar treatments are subtle and as always sublime and his plaintive riff ringing out across the crowd is even more bittersweet.
We have room for another cover, Some Girls‘ Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), a show stopper as Mick, Keith, and Ronnie sing together at the mic – a fine middle-era Stones moment. Then the high octane ‘Start Me Up’ and a super-fast ‘Satisfaction’ are exhausting just listening to them as they close out the album all too soon.
It does finish rather abruptly. I was having a lot of fun but it was brought to a sudden close and the outro ‘Star Spangled Banner’ (the Jimi Hendrix recording) chimes in as the Stones depart stage left.
Despite the album seemingly truncated, super-ultra-brief and probably released as a cash grab as a tour promo, it’s an amazingly enjoyable short burst of Stones live frivolity bringing back some great summer memories.
While it doesn’t document the overall performance of the ’81 shows, it is representative of who the Rolling Stones were at the time: a great live rock ‘n roll band. The album cover, a painting by Japanese artist Kazuhide Yamazaki whose work inspired the tour’s extravagant stage design, is very much of its time.
- Under My Thumb
- Let’s Spend the Night Together
- Twenty Flight Rock
- Going to a Go-Go
- Let Me Go
- Time is On My Side
- Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
- Start Me Up
Released: 1 June 1982
Recorded: 5–6 November 1981, 25 November 1981, 8-9 December 1981, 13 December 1981, 18–19 December 1981, Overdubs: March–April 1982
Produced by the Glimmer Twins. Mixed by Bob Clearmountain at Power Station Studios.