Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones song that seems “like a different band”

“What a drag it is getting old” – and we’re off. The opening track of Aftermath still stands out as something new and punchy, giving listeners not even a second to sink in or a moment’s context. As the sitar starts up and Mick Jagger’s youthful drawl draws you in, The Rolling Stones welcome you to their strangest little trip with ‘Mothers Little Helper’.

You could argue that this is merely one of their many interactions with drugs. Throughout their career, the Stones’ history is inextricably linked to narcotics. Drugs stole their founder as Brian Jones turned on, tuned in and dropped too far out. They almost stole Keith Richards, too, as the guitar player faced up to death on several occasions. Drugs could even have stolen the entire band as their relationships were ripped apart by addictions on several occasions.

So it’s no wonder that the topic ended up in their songs. But as the band turned their songs into twisted, tripping tales, their approach was always somewhat twofold. On one hand, their stories helped hide the drug references to protect radio plays. Instead, they regularly adopted characters and new voices, rarely providing any real insight into their own lives as their lyrics remained mysterious in their stacked meanings. On the other, the more drugs the band took, the more spiralling their creative mind got.

In this sense, ‘Mothers Little Helper’, much like the sound of the song itself, feels like a sharp push off the edge and into that world. As one of their first interactions with the topic, this track is the most outright. Whereas sometimes the stories of the songs are made to conceal the meaning, this track is all about the tale as Jagger dives deep into the world of narcotics but starts right at the beginning.

When you think of drugs, you’re probably more likely to think of the 1960s before the 1940s or ‘50s. The Rolling Stones were another band riding on the trippy wave of the hippie era’s love affair with pills, powder and squares of paper. But drugs were around long before then, as housewives popped valium to deal with their boredom and plights. As Jagger put it, the pills were to “help you through the night, help to minimize your plight,” secretly propping up domestic bliss by being doped.

Throughout the entire song, Jagger lends his voice to this topic without any hiding or double meanings to disguise it. It’s their most outright track on the topic, standing on a precipice before the band themselves dived deep into the world of narcotics and began burying the topic in other implications.

“There is a sort of naivety, but there’s also a lot of humour in those songs,” Jagger said, reflecting on ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ and early works. “They’re a lot based on humour. It was almost like a different band, a different world, a different view when we wrote them.”

Whether he means it or not, there’s a slight sadness to the comment. When they wrote ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, the band were spritely young things, less marred by tragedy or the trials that their drug habits would later bring round. Back in 1966, they could write about the topic with a distinct silliness before any severity took hold. So when you hit play and that hand pushes you into the spiralling, trippy world of the track, just make sure you stop before you hit rock bottom.

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