Music & Musicians

The Rolling Stones hope fans will warm to a deluxe version of 'Their Satanic Majesties Request,' one of their most disparaged albums


The holidays are still a couple of months away, but fans of the Rolling Stones already have something they may want for their stockings.

On Friday, the group reissued a deluxe box set for the 50th anniversary of their 1967 album, "Their Satanic Majesties Request." The Stones are certainly no strangers to re-releasing their most popular albums in sprawling, multi-disc sets – stuffed as they tend to be with previously unreleased music, books, DVDs and other memorabilia.

Yet "Satanic Majesties" seems like a strange choice for this type of treatment. It sold a relatively modest 2 million copies worldwide, well shy of the 11 million units the band's biggest hit, 1978's "Some Girls," moved. Furthermore, it's considered one of their weaker efforts, and not just by fans.

"There's a lot of rubbish on 'Satanic Majesties,'" lead singer Mick Jagger said in the 2003 book, According to The Rolling Stones. "Just too much time on our hands, too many drugs, no producer to tell us, 'Enough already, thank you very much, now can we just get on with this song?'"

Also, the reissued album's content differs from other deluxe versions: It contains no bonus tracks, no DVD and no memorabilia, but has stereo and mono mixes of the album on both vinyl and compact disc. The price tag is a hefty $72.

Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones perform live on stage during the America Latina Ole Tour 2016 at Estadio Nacional on February 03, 2016 in Santiago, Chile. The band has announced a free concert in Havana, Cuba later in March.
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So should the Stones expect to see unsold albums gathering dust on the shelves, a rare commercial misstep in an otherwise business-savvy career?

According to Dan Orkin, Director of Content at music gear marketplace, the commercial potential of this release shouldn't be dismissed. For one thing, the original album's relative lack of popularity may now a selling point, not a drawback.

"Because the album wasn't that popular," the original had fewer copies made, he explained to CNBC. "So for hardcore Rolling Stones fans, this album is harder to find, and original copies with the coveted 'lenticular' can sell for hundreds of dollars," he said, referring to 3D cover art that was abandoned after the first pressings of the album.

The original lenticular will be reproduced for the reissue, and that alone brings value for collectors.

Eric Alper, owner of Eric Alper PR in Toronto, said that in addition to the music and the artwork, the accompanying 20-page booklet – which includes an essay by historian Rob Bowman – also sweetens the deal.

"Rob is one of the best music historians alive, who knows the group almost better than anyone not in the band," Alper said. "I'd pay $72 just to read his notes." He also added that the price tag could be less of a stumbling block than it appears.

"By having it under a hundred dollars, those fans are able to purchase it without thinking," he said. "As vinyl buyers know, a new album will set you back about $30 now, some even higher, so this isn't out of the buying power of those fans."

Bill Furbee, a music specialist at Cincinnati estate sale marketplace Everything but the House, said that 'Satanic Majesties' status as a limited edition package makes it irresistible to collectors. Additionally, Stones fans are already well-known for having expensive tastes.

"The average concert ticket for the band's 2012 50th Anniversary tour cost $624," he said. "The fans filling all of those arenas probably won't balk at spending a little bit more than average for this reissue."

With teenagers and millennials helping to drive resurgent sales in vinyl and other physical media, there may be an audience beyond just Baby Boomers, Furbee said.

"There's a good chance that anyone in their teens or early to mid-20s may have only experienced music as a digital file," he said. "I'm not surprised at all that young adults are building record collections now, as they strive to find a deeper connection with the artists and music they love."