Aftermath is a studio album by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. The group recorded the album at RCA Studios in California in December 1965 and March 1966, during breaks between their international tours. It was released in the United Kingdom on 15 April 1966 by Decca Records and in the United States on 2 July by London Records. It is the band's fourth British and sixth American studio album, and closely follows a series of international hit singles that helped bring the Stones newfound wealth and fame rivalling that of their contemporaries the Beatles.
Aftermath is considered by music scholars to be an artistic breakthrough for the Rolling Stones. It is their first album to consist entirely of original compositions, all of which were credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Brian Jones emerged as a key contributor and experimented with instruments not usually associated with popular music, including the sitar, Appalachian dulcimer, Japanese koto and marimbas, as well as guitar and harmonica. Along with Jones' instrumental textures, the Stones incorporated a wider range of chords and stylistic elements beyond their Chicago blues and R&B influences, such as pop, folk, country, psychedelia, Baroque and Middle Eastern music. Influenced by intense love affairs and a demanding touring itinerary, Jagger and Richards wrote the album around psychodramatic themes of love, sex, desire, power and dominance, hate, obsession, modern society and rock stardom. Women feature as prominent characters in their often dark, sarcastic, casually offensive lyrics.
The album's release was briefly delayed by controversy over the original packaging idea and title – Could You Walk on the Water? – due to the London label's fear of offending Christians in the US with its allusion to Jesus walking on water. In response to the lack of creative control, and without another idea for the title, the Stones bitterly settled on Aftermath, and two different photos of the band were used for the cover to each edition of the album. The UK release featured a run-time of more than 52 minutes, the longest for a popular music LP up to that point. The American edition was issued with a shorter track listing, substituting the single "Paint It Black" in place of four of the British version's songs, in keeping with the industry preference for shorter LPs in the US market at the time.
Aftermath was an immediate commercial success in both the UK and the US, topping the British albums chart for eight consecutive weeks and eventually achieving platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. An inaugural release of the album era and a rival to the contemporaneous impact of the Beatles' Rubber Soul (1965), it reflected the youth culture and values of 1960s Swinging London and the burgeoning counterculture while attracting thousands of new fans to the Rolling Stones. The album was also highly successful with critics, although some listeners were offended by the derisive attitudes towards female characters in certain songs. Its subversive music solidified the band's rebellious rock image while pioneering the darker psychological and social content that glam rock and British punk rock would explore in the 1970s. Aftermath has since been considered the most important of the Stones' early, formative music and their first classic album, frequently ranking on professional lists of the greatest albums.