What is a gomper? I don’t know anything, except this is the Rolling Stones at their most buzzed-out. Their Satanic Majesties Request wasn’t the easiest record to make, given their majesties’ ongoing legal woes, the widening schism between Brian Jones and the Glimmer Twins, and Jones’s whirlpool of deterioration. Jones still had it together enough to contribute some of his most colorful flourishes, playing sitar on this track. The middle section, thrumming with Afro-rhythms, shows the influence of his fascination with world music and especially the Master Musicians of Joujouka. He’s likely also responsible for the birdlike flute. The main fault with that album is its lack of focus and uncharacteristic meandering. As Bill Wyman later explained:
Every day at the studio it was a lottery as to who would turn up and what — if any — positive contribution they would make when they did. Keith would arrive with anything up to ten people, Brian with another half-a-dozen and it was the same for Mick. They were assorted girlfriends and friends. I hated it! Then again, so did Andrew (Oldham) and just gave up on it. There were times when I wish I could have done, too.
Not having a producer in the driver’s seat was a big problem. Though Oldham had, on the first few recordings, served as producer in name only, leaving any actual production work to studio engineers, the lack hadn’t been so strongly felt. In the first few years the Stones had had plenty of focus to get in, lay down their tracks and get it done with. By ’67 the influence of psychedelic drugs, a new awareness of musical horizons beyond the boundaries of American blues, and a sense of competition with the groundbreaking work of their peers all led to an atmosphere of anything-goes experimentation. The open mindedness was great and yielded many brilliant moments, but it was exactly at such times when a sober-eared producer is most needed. With no one to pull the reins and trim the fat, The Stones ended up filling their ambitious record with too many minutes of tuneless noodling, drunken sing-alongs, and goofy skits. Like the album on the whole, Gomper has this problem, starting out with a pretty tune, changing tempo as it chugs into a Moroccan inspired drum cirlce, but, without a satisfying chorus, never really going anyplace with all its exotic aspirations.