Paint it black, you devils. Aftermath was the first album where the Rolling Stones finally felt confident enough in their shadow-hued palette to not have to venture beyond the Jagger/Richards partnership for songcraft. Previous Stones albums — in England, this was their fourth long-player, while their American company, London, condensed the UK releases and made this the sixth assemblage — had consisted largely of cover versions of R&B tunes. Now, with such hits as "The Last Time," "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown" and the milestone of "Satisfaction (I Can't Get No)" under their rhinestone-studded belts, there was no question Mick and Keith were prepared to finally give the Stones more of an identity than rock and blues aficionados. The spring 1966 release of Aftermath affirmed the group's flair and penchant for experimentation.
This adventurism can be credited to Brian Jones, and the album represents his efforts within the group to break them free from their blues roots. He had once been the purist; but on Aftermath he seemed determined the spin the band into unexplored textural territory. His sonic explorations found him on xylophone ("Under My Thumb"), sitar ("Paint It, Black") and dulcimer ("I Am Waiting") as well as harmonica on "Goin 'Home," ironically coming at a time when his personal problems (and awareness that the axis of power in what was once his group was shifting to Mick and Keith) threatened to overwhelm him.
Recorded in Hollywood with Dave Hassinger engineering (he would put the frequency response of "Paint It, Black" to good use when he later recorded the Electric Prunes), the American release took "Mother's Little Helper" from the lead-off spot and replaced it with the pounding tom-toms (Charlie-Charlies?) of "Paint It, Black," which had just gone to the top spot in the US charts and heralded the Stones 'impending US tour, marked by fan pandemonium, rioting and general hysteria.
It was on this album that Jagger perfected his lascivious leer; there is an abundance of heavy breathing and imperious sexual tension: contrast the courtly "Lady Jane" with its powdered-wig harpsichord ripplings (played by Jack Nietzsche) against the blunt chauvinism of "Stupid Girl" and the dominance fantasy of "Under My Thumb." The album also gives a glimpse into the country-rock pastiches that the Stones would later explore ("High and Dry"), and the stretched eleven-minute plus epic of "Going Home" shows a sinuous interplay between the band as they keep on going and going and going….
They still are, and Aftermath, in breaking them free of the English Invasion, began them on that path to tomorrow.