Around ’86 or ’87, The Rolling Stones kinda sorta unofficially broke up over disappointing sales of Dirty Work and so that Mick Jagger could be free to do some comically awful solo work. It didn’t help that Mick and Keith Richards had spent the previous five years trying to poison each other, setting bear traps in one another’s homes, and in one underreported incident, taking control of a pair of nuclear-tipped ICBMs in what can only be described as the world’s most macabre attempt at a murder-suicide.
OK, I might have made up all that murder stuff, but the Glimmer Twins had stopped being quite so glimmery.
Sure enough though they got back together to record Steel Wheels in 1989, probably because Mick wised up after Keith’s solo album (1988’s Talk Is Cheap) turned out to be pretty frickin’ awesome in exactly the way Mick’s hadn’t been. The album and the supporting tour both went on to be monster successes. That’s not to say Steel Wheels ranks among the best of the Stones — far from it. But “pretty good” Stones is still better than most bands’ best work.
I was DJing at KXGO in northern California when the album came out, and the station dutifully played the four single releases. “Mixed Emotions” made it to #5 and is still a really solid cut; it’s on the regular rotation here at Casa Verde. The next release was “Rock and a Hard Place,” formulaic and mostly forgettable. But the two final songs are just good old rock and roll. “Almost Hear You Sigh” is one of those rare ballads that manages to combine sadness with just a touch of bitter. It’s a really good cut.
But Wheels wouldn’t be a Stones album if it didn’t contain at least one song of preening sexual braggadocio — and so I present you with “Terrifying.”
Is it great Stones? No, but it’s still pretty dang good — and this was probably their last outing when Mick could still get away with this stuff.