Monday, 16 January 2017

The Rolling Stones: Live/Solo/Compilation/American Edition EPs and Albums Part One 1963-1974




"The Rolling Stones" (E.P.)

(Decca, January 1964)

You Better Move On/Poison Ivy//Bye Bye Johnnie/Money (That's What I Want)

"It'll really do you in if you et it get under your skin"

Back in the early 1960s when there was a sudden influx of bands, the most cost effective way of testing out a new band was to get them to record a few singles and then make an EP as the next stage. An 'Extended Play' record that ran for twice as long as a single, they generally cost twice the money and proved how loyal a band's fans were. This debut EP - the first of three to contain exclusive material - made #1 in the EP charts and stayed somewhere near there for most of the year and a month (!) it spent there. Even more than their first two singles, it was the success of this first EP that proved the band's worth. Sadly, though, the sudden decline of the EP by the mid 1960s (when music became so essential to teenagers they all began to buy albums and America, where money was generally more plentiful, never took to the EP as a format) means that this selection of key songs gets rather overlooked in the modern Stones collection, difficult and expensive to track down on CD (it's currently available on CD complete only as part of the hideously costly 'Singles 1963-1965' box set, though we'll draw your attention to some other CD appearances for individual tracks).

That's a pity because despite being four covers of songs every other bands was doing back in this early period, the Stones' versions already have a particular anarchic spirit that makes them stand out. More confident than any of the three earlier sessions that resulted in the first two singles and the aborted 'Fortune Teller' recording meant to go in the middle, it's a sign of a band in transition, growing in confidence and edging ever closer towards rock than R and B and blues. Released just after Christmas so as to avoid competing against 'With The Beatles' (starting a near decade long trend), it's very much a product of 1963 rather than 1964, with messy but ear-catching and very English covers of American classics performed at speed. It doesn't perhaps stand up even to the Stones' first album release, but it's a crucial stepping 'stone' for the Stones who have spent most of 1963 casting round for a sound that will sell - and now have very much found it. A sign of how early this still is for the Stones though can be seen on the cover where all five are smartly dressed and look like office workers rather than rock stars - they won't be this smart en masse ever again.

[  ] 'You Better Move On' is easily the best of the four covers, a soulful lyrical ballad by the late, great Arthur Alexander that the Stones pack with a world-weary passion that makes it the better of every other period version (even The Hollies' and I say that as a fan). Mick sings with a purity he'll rarely match later, while the lack of plugged in power gives you a chance to hear the subtleties in the Stones' natty playing, especially Bill's busy bass and Charlie's jazzy drum parts. Even the tricky but oh so Alexander shift from major to minor key in the middle eight is handled well. Only a slightly clumsy series of backing vocals from Brian and Keith together, heavily treated with echo, gets in the way: it's probably no coincidence that Phil Spector will be hanging around the Stones a lot in the next set of sessions for the first LP...The song was chosen for release on the American album 'December's Children (And Everybody's) in 1965 where it sounded very out of place and the 'More Hot Rock's compilation of 1972.

 Leiber/Stoller's comedy [  ] 'Poison Ivy' is great fun, another song the Stones had been beaten to by The Hollies. Brian's croaking frog guitar and grungy backing vocals are the highlight of a cover that slightly slows down the main riff to something less jovial and slightly more menacing. It is, after all, a song about obsession - a future Stones theme regular - and was probably written to suggest a sexually transmitted disease to those in the know ('You'll be scratching like a hound the minute you start to mess around!') Just light enough to be funny and dark enough to sound unlike anybody else's version, 'Poison Ivy' is another success, ending with a triumphant improvised drum roll from Charlie that sounds as if he really felt the band nailed that one. Perhaps he was remembering the first abortive sessions for the song, held many months earlier, when the band were considering it for their second single and got told by producer Michael Barkley it wasn't good enough? The song was re-issued on the CD-only edition of 'More Hot Rocks' in 2002.

[  ] 'Bye Bye Johnnie' is perhaps the closest yet to the Stones' signature sound and not at all coincidentally their second Chuck Berry cover. A sequel to 'Johnny B Goode' taken at a fast lick and with a great guitar riff at its heart, it's a much more suitable choice of cover than the faintly depressing 'Come On' and the band seem to instinctively understand how to mould this song to their own ends. Tellingly, it's a song about longing for stardom and going through short term heartbreak (as Johnny waves his mum goodbye at the train station) for long term gain (he comes back a rock star millionaire, repaying the cost of his first guitar - and buying a mansion for his family in the process. The first 'normal' guitar break on a Stones record is also a thing of beauty, Keith utterly on target for aping his hero while adding a little something extra of his own swagger. Shame Mick has such a creaky voice (had he just had a cold?) but even that adds to the theatricality of the performance. Included on the 1972 compilation 'More Hot Rocks'.


Finally, the performance of Barrett Strong's [  ] 'Money' is interesting, slowed down into a blues song without the blunt rock edges of either the original or The Beatles' better known cover. Though the song should suit the Stones like a glove (especially in Andrew Loog Oldham's era of publicity overdrive), this is the one track of the EP where the Stones sound a little bit lost, playing at the song without really meaning it. Certainly Mick's tongue-in-cheek delivery is no match for John Lennon's, while the inclusion of gravelly backing vocals and a repetitive tambourine part soften the blow of the song's urgency and obsession. It's a real shame the Stones never went back to this song actually - it would have suited the 'Satisfaction' era Stones well, but frankly the band at this early stage haven't quite grasped what an important and multi-edged sword this song is yet, treating it as a cute song about pocket money rather than life or death. Also included on 'More Hot Rocks' in 1972.

"Rolling Stones - England's Newest Hitmakers"

(London Records, May 1964)

Not Fade Away/Route 66/I Just Want To Make Love To You/Honest I Do/Now I've Got A Witness/Little By Little//I'm A King Bee/Carol/Tell Me/Can I Get A Witness?/You Can Make It If You Try/Walkin' The Dog


"I try not to bear a grudge, 'cause a girl's got to hitch a ride..."
Almost all the British 1960s bands, from The Beatles down, had their music re-assembled and messed around with for the American market and the Stones were no exception. This first American release is effectively the first British album 'The Rolling Stones' and came impressively hot on the heels of the UK version though (after only a month gap, which is quick off the mark by 1960s standards). Apart from the title, the big differences come from the album cover (which prints the band and album name over the same picture as the wordless English album cover) and the inclusion of their most recent American hit 'Not Fade Away', which replaced 'Mona' on the original UK release (that track will appear on the third US album 'Now!') Given the band's swift rise through the charts across the next year, this remains the only Stones album of new material in the States to never make the top five of the American charts, with a peak of #11. The band were already popular enough to send the UK equivalent of this album to #1 at home.

"5 x 5" (E.P.)

(Decca, June 1964)

If You Need Me/Empty Heart//2120 South Michigan Avenue/Confessin' The Blues/Around and Around

"Reeling and a rocking, what a crazy sound, and they never stopped rocking till the moon went down"

Five Stones recording five songs in the 'home' of those recordings (Chess Records in Chicago) fresh from the debut album sessions - five stars are surely guaranteed! Nearly, anyway, with the band clearly in confident form as they make the most of the speed of their success and their chance to record in the American land they'd been hearing about for so long. The Stones probably made the EP as much to have as souvenir of a crazy time that would surely never come round again as much as a career move and there is a slight sense of standing still compared to the first LP, with three fairly safe cover songs and two even safer original compositions. The band do sound as if they've got to grasp with their sound and what to do with it a little bit more though, appearing on the cover in an interesting array of styles9with Keith's pink check shirt in the front for once). This release also sets a number of other 'traditions' - the American market, not sure what to do with EPs, titled the band's second album around it (losing the whole point of the title pun in the process), while Andrew Loog Oldham got carried away with the sleevenotes ('The band's debut has spent 30 weeks at #1' - actually it had only been 30 weeks since it was released and it was actually more like twelve), not for the last time.

In retrospect the EP is less essential to the Stones' growth as the first, but it's remarkable as an audio document of the band's time in America, bravely taking their own adapted American sound back to the country that inspired them. This is arguably the point where the Stones become a 'brand' and a 'global' phenomenon rather than high flying Brits and they've had to adopt these changes at high speed - higher even than The Beatles who had some eighteen months of success at home before breaking it big in the States. Recorded in two days, in the middle of a year when the Stones never stopped performing in concerts and on TV and radio shows, it's the sound of a band who can suddenly do no wrong and wants to keep the momentum running. Sadly it's also the band's last EP of all-new studio material (though there's a curious live EP to go), the sales of the albums having largely made these EPs redundant by 1965. The Stones' year in training is now over and they're ready to mix it with the big boys from their next release on. Alas this EP is harder to get hold of even than the first one, included complete in the digital age only on the 'Complete Singles 1963-1965' box, though you can buy the '12 x 5' American album containing all five songs since its release on CD in 2003.

The soulful [  ] 'If You Need Me' is a Wilson Pickett song the Stones may well have learnt from Solomon's Burke cover - their cover is certainly closer to his soulful growly feel. A million miles away from the band's usual image, this is a sweet song of support, Mick vowing to be available at any time day or night when his girl needs him. He's having a good day, owning the middle eight patter that like most spoken word passages feels very corny on the original, twisting the words with a mixture of sincerity and a sneer. Brian is the next most comfortable Stone, turning in some lovely guitar work over Keith's more rhythmical playing and adding some gruff vocal harmonies that add a touch of 'realness' in contrast to Mick's showmanship lead. Stu gets his most audible part on a Stones track yet too on the organ, though it's not much of a replacement for the horns of the original.

The best song on the EP is surely [  ] 'Empty Heart', the best Stones original yet and still early enough to be credited to band pseudonym 'Nanker/Phelge' rather than 'Jagger/Richards'. A great ragged Chuck Berry riff from Keith is the perfect platform for Mick to stretch out on a song that lyrically comes off like a Motown track but musically is pure aggressive rock and roll. Mick's narrator is heartbroken, having - unusually - been dumped and he despairs that both his heart and his mind are empty. It's an early lesson in Stones contrasts, though, because Mick's confidence/arrogance and the gritty, rough performance is anything but empty, the sound of a man doing everything in his power to keep the darkness at bay.

Over on side two '2210 South Michigan Avenue' is another band original, an instrumental homage to the address of Chess Studios. It's surely unique in the Stones canon for being an R and B groove song, closer to the feel of Booker T and the MGs than the band's previous slurred blurred take on the blues as heard on 'Stoned'. It's also the only entirely instrumental song in the band's oeuvre - surprising, really, for a band who styled themselves so much on instrumental acts. If in truth it loses its way long before the two minutes are up, it's fun to hear Stu as the lead instrument for once and Keith's desperate attempts to keep up with him on some stabbing guitar, while Mick randomly attacks a tambourine and Brian plays some sublime harmonica. You're kind of glad this is only a one-off but at the same time it's sad that this is as close as we ever really got to Brian's original idea of the band as R and B performers.

[  ] 'Confessin' The Blues' is an old war number that started life as a piano honky tonk blues before Chuck Berry saw the worth in the song and rocked it up for a 1960 single release. It was one of his smaller hits but the Stones clearly found a lot to admire in it, with a gritty Jagger lead and more on-the-money piano playing from Stu up against an early example of the Stones 'art of guitar weaving', with Brian playing a chunky lead and Keith playing some weird fills over the top. A little too slow to truly come off, it's probably the weakest of the five songs here but played with such ear-catching confidence the performance nearly makes up for the arrangement.

The EP ends with its most famous moment, the concert regular [  ] 'Around and Around'. The most overt rock and roll song of the sessions, you wonder what the Chess engineers made of this so English rendition of an American classic, with Keith having clearly spent far too many hours working out how to play the song just so. It's Stu, though, who adds something a little extra to the song, vamping away in a style closer to future pianist Nicky Hopkins than his usual honky tonk style, adding momentum to a song that just keeps coming back for more. Charlie is the quiet star of the song, though, piling in faster and louder with every verse and causing even Mick to give his all to keep up by the end of the song. One of the band's better covers, certainly from this early period. This is also significant as the first Stones song to break the 'three minute barrier', supposedly the longest length that anyone could listen to rock and roll without getting bored, or so said traditionalists anyway; The Beatles were the first to break this with 'You Really Got A Hold On Me' at the end of the year before, but 'Around and Around' is more of a pure rock and roll track.




"12 x 5"

(London Records, October 1964)

Around and Around/Confessin' The Blues/Empty Heart/Time Is On My Side/Good Times Bad Times/It's All Over Now//2120 South Michigan Avenue/Under The Boardwalk/Congratulations/Grown Up Wrong/If You Need Me/Susie Q

"You've grown up all wrong, you came on too strong...but you've grown up on me"

The second American Stones album is , if you hadn't guessed from the title, an extension of the British '5 x 5' LP, which without the joke of the five Stones singing five songs seems rather pointless in its new form but there you go. The American market never understood the early 60s obsession with EPs: their teenagers didn't have the same problem with lack of funds that meant they could only afford full albums at Christmas or Birthdays (which was a problem back in the days when bands released three albums a year and you loved more than one band) and often changed them into full LPs - The Beatles' 'Magical Mystery Tour' being the most famous example. To fill out space American Decca added both sides of the singles 'It's All Over Now' and the American only 'Time Is On My Side' and also offered three songs that were hot off the press and will later be included on the 'No 2' LP a full three months later: 'Under The Boardwalk' 'Grown Up Wrong' and 'Suzie Q'. Just to confuse matters, the front cover is the same as the British 'no 2' album, while the American album featuring the bulk of the 'no 2' album sports a unique cover, a fact which has confused fans then and now. As you'd expect, this album was eagerly sought after by European fans from their pen friends when new got it, though the album became rather redundant once 'no 2' was out officially. The result is an album that hangs together rather better than might be expected given the various sources, with most Stones releases of the period sounding roughly the same and fitting together rather well. It does seem odd, though, that America - who were late to the Stones party by nearly two full years - should be ahead of their UK counterpart in terms of full albums. 


"The Rolling Stones Now!"

(London Records, February 1965)

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Down Home Girl/You Can't Catch Me/Heart Of Stone/What A Shame!/Mona//Down The Road Apiece/Off The Hook/Pain In My Heart/Oh Baby (W e've Got A Good Thing Goin')/Little Red Rooster/Surprise Surprise

"Now if you wanna hear some boogie you can get your fill and shove and sting like an old steam drill!"

The third Stones LP Stateside is the most curious assembly yet. Half of it a straight transfer from 'Rolling Stones no 2' but the rest is a real jumble: 'Mona' (a song left over from the debut LP, 'Heart Of Stone' a recent UK B-side/US A-side, earlier A side 'Little Red Rooster', a preview of 'Oh Baby' which the European markets won't get for another seven months when it will finally appear on 'Out Of Our Heads' and the American exclusive 'Surprise Surprise', an original song intended for the second LP but abandoned (Lulu did it instead). That's not all either: for some reason known only to London Records, 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' is edited down to about half the size in a version exclusive to this set. The packaging is new too, full of the 'collages' that the American market liked so much, with lots of black and white shots of the band trying to look cool (apart from Charlie, weirdly, whose grinning his head off). The back is just a straight transfer of the original 'no 2' cover (you can even see where the number has been whitewashed out on first pressings), while the Loog Oldham 'Hey! You! Beat uppa that tramp!' sleevenote caused even more of an outcry and was promptly removed after only a handful of copies had been sold. In a sign of how little care was taken over this album, Stu keeps his credit for playing organ on 'Time Is On My Side', something which must have confused the heck out of American fans because that song isn't here and they won't get it for another few months yet. More by luck than skill the album holds together well, though - arguably better than the 'real' no 2' - and the 'new' closing trilogy makes for quite a pleasing run of songs, the hypnotic grove of 'Oh Baby' 'Rooster' and 'Surprise' working far better than 'Suzie Q' and 'Off The Hook'. Like the other Americanised albums, this was released on CD in 2003.

"Got LIVE! If You Want It" (E.P.)

(Decca, June 1965)

We Want The Stones/Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Pain In My Heart/Route 66//I'm Moving On/I'm Alright

"If you ever plan to travel West, Liverpool and Manchester they're the best, get your kicks on the M6!"

A concert so badly recorded only an EP's worth of music could be salvaged (with plenty more still left in the vaults, apparently), named for an excruciating pun based on the name of a song that isn't even on the EP (Slim Harpo's 'Got Love Is You Want It', a track the Stones did play live but were beaten to putting down on record by The Kinks) and almost impossible to hear for longer than thirty seconds at a time, the band's first go at 'Got LIVE! If You Want It' is every bit as tacky as the name suggests. It was the last of the Stones' EPs made up of original material and comes along curiously late for the period - most bands had given up on the idea by Christmas 1964  and this feels very much like a bonus stocking filler/'thanks for the holiday money granny I'll spend it wisely, honest I will' type release more suited to mid-summer. The Americans, who never understood the concept of EPs but liked the idea anyway, decided to commission their own full-length LP using the same name but a completely different set of shows. This is where it gets confusing, so bear with us: this EP is taken from concerts in Liverpool on March 5th 1965 and Manchester on March 7th 1965; the LP comes from later shows taped either in September or October 1966; only 'I'm Alright' is played at both gigs and the two performances are very different. The LP version has been released on CD a couple of times, though frustratingly nobody's done the obvious thing and tacked the EP on the end as a 'bonus' - instead the only way of buying the EP in the digital era is to track down the pricey 'Complete Singles 1963-1966' box which also contains all the band's EPs. Beware though - you may not want to.

You see, rock and roll live recording was in its infancy - there won't be a decent sounding live LP until the Stones' own 'Get Yer Ya Yas Out!' breaks the mould in 1970 and until this EP the closest thing to a bona fide live rock and roll record had been 'The Beach Boys' Concert', which back in the days when the band were still newbies didn't feature quite as much screaming. Infamously this EP was said to be recorded by engineer Glyn Johns as simply as possible, by slinging one microphone over the walls to the front left of the auditorium and one to the front right - evidence doesn't quite bear this out ('I'm Moving On' features a harmonica overdub, which would have been impossible to place so well) but it's close enough to the truth it seems - this is one hell of a rowdy concert. To be honest if this was a bootleg you'd take it back over issues with the sound quality and the release of this record at peak 'Rolling Stones bad boy' time must have really added to their image, with panicked parents everywhere wondering what all the screams were. 

In a sign of how seriously this set was being taken the opening 'track' (which is all of fifteen seconds long) doesn't even feature the Stones but the crowd chanting [  ] 'We Want The Stones'  -the band, in a sign of things to come, credit themselves with the 'song' anyway under the group name 'Nanker Phelge' and pocket the ensuing royalties. Given that this EP sold well by EP standards, it's probably not exaggerating much to say that Mick and Keith got a swimming pool or perhaps a small car each simply because a crowd of scousers chanted 'We want the Stones' twice near to a microphone, while Bill probably bought a new suit, Charlie a new set of jazz records and Brian a month's worth of hair products. This, I'm sorry to say, is how rock and roll works sometimes.

After that opening chant we get a bare minute of a slowed down buzz-saw groove version of [  ] 'Everybody Got Somebody To Love' before the song segues unconvincingly into [  ] 'Pain In My Heart', with Mick full of his best pleas as he gets down on his bended knees and no doubt skis and has fleas in his attempts to woo every pretty girl in the front row. The band play noisily and unconvincingly for such a pretty ballad, but then so probably would I if faced with all that noise! [  ] 'Route 66' is scrappier but the song suits the feel of this chaotic listening experience rather better. Keith is just gone, man, gone on the Chuck Berry groove as he twists and turns, the rest of the band trying to keep up with the little bit of the song they can hear.

After four songs in various degrees of completeness, side two features two tracks complete, both of which are exclusive to this set (or at any rate the 'Got LIVE If You Want It!' franchise). Hank Snow's [  ] 'I'm Moving On' is particularly interesting. The backbeat is similar to 'Route 66' but Brian's virtuoso bottleneck and Mick's harmonica playing means the band sound more like they would have done back in their early days. Mick drops his yelled pop voice to a low growl that seem to have an even wilder effect on the crowd and this 1950 country rocker really suits the cat-and-mouse rock game the Stones are playing with the audience. Though the song suits the manic circumstances, it's a shame they didn't record this in the studio as well as it sounds like one of their better 1965 rockers - from the little you can hear at least.

There isn't even a pause before Keith is strumming the bow-legged Bo Diddley riff from [  ] 'It's Alright!', a song born for the stage. Had the band recorded this one for a record it would have sounded silly: 'It's alright all night long and all day too!' is about the total of the lyrics, while like many Diddley songs the track never moves off past that opening hypnotic waddle. With Brian's rhythm and Charlie's drums slashing all over the place, though, this song builds up to a nicely intense groove that has the crowd in hysterics. You had to be there maybe, but a little of the magic of the early 1960s package tours comes over in this time capsule of a recording.

"Out Of Our Heads" (American Edition)

(London Records, July 1965)

Mercy Mercy/Hitch-Hike/The Last Time/That's How Strong My Love Is/Good Times/I'm Alright//(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/Cry To Me/The Under Assistant West Coast Promotions Man/Play With Fire/The Spider and The Fly/One More Try

"I'm the necessary talent behind every rock and roll band!"

Bear with us because this gets complicated. The American edition of 'Out Of Our Heads' was released two months before the European version. It features the cover of the British 'Rolling Stones No 2', while the cover for 'Out Of Our Heads' will be held back for next US-only record 'December's Children', which features almost as many songs from this album anyway. Only six songs - half the album - are taken from the same album, the rest coming from both sides of the band's first two 1965 singles 'The Last Time' and 'Satisfaction', plus the live EP track 'I'm Alright!' and an oddity in 'One More Try' that won't be released in the rest of the world until 1971 and the 'Stone Age' compilation. It's all a bit of a jumble to be honest, though an endearing jumble with the Stones caught on the cusp between skilled cover merchants and the even more glorious creators of original songs that will one day replace them. The record became the biggest seller the Stones had Stateside in the 1960s, thanks almost certainly to the success of 'Satisfaction'. Though it's messy and scrappy and inconsistent, you can kind of see why this record did so well.  

"December's Children (And Everybody's)"

 (London Records, December 1965)

She Said Yeah!/Talkin' 'Bout You/You Better Move On/Look What You've Done/The Singer Not The Song/Route 66//Get Off My Cloud/I'm Free/As Tears Go By/Gotta Get Away/Blue Turns To Grey/I'm Moving On

"The same old places, the same old songs, we've been going there for much too long"

There have, to date, been several dozen American-made versions of British AAA albums from the 1960s in our books. The majority of them simply name play around with the originals a bit, swap a few singles around or miss tracks out, while most of the others come with typical record marketing names like 'Now!' or 'Hear!' Or 'It's!' 'December's Children', though, is in a whole new league of bonkers. The Stones had nothing to do with the name - which is Andrew Loog Oldham's idea of hip poetry (to be fair it's a better name than 'Out Of Our Heads')  - or the track listing, which takes songs from three separate years. The States are now on their fifth album, while British fans have only just got their third, and London Records (the American Decca) have got a bit of a problem. They've only got four new songs - only enough for an EP - but if they wait any longer fans will get cross that European fans have something they don't and, hey, rock and roll is ephemeral so the Stones won't be here next year anyway right? (An argument that was looking more flimsy with every passing year, but people said it anyway). Even adding both sides of the 'Get Off My Cloud' and the US-only 'As Tears Go By' singles is only two-thirds of the way there. Decca have, however, passed over a few early songs as not fit for purpose: tracks like 'You Better Move On' (from the Stones' eponymous first LP), the live versions of 'Route 66' and 'I'm Moving on' (from the UK-only EP version of 'Got LIVE! If You Want It'), a demo of 'Blue Turns To Grey' which was given away to Dick and Dee Dee and The Mighty Avengers (both acts had flops with it) and won't be released in Europe until the 'Stone Age' set in 1971 and an outtake not released in Europe until the American albums started appearing over here on CD: Muddy Waters' 'Look What You've Done' (odd it wasn't on 'Metamorphosis' too).This makes 'December's Children' a deeply uneven, though entertaining, listen and the two 'exclusive' tracks made this record much sought after by European fans who usually gave the American Stones albums short shrift. Songs you know backwards, songs you barely know at all, typical Stones tracks from 1963, 1964 and 1965, that hip poetry title...'December's Children' is a candidate for the American market's weirdest Stones set, or in fact everybody's.


"Big Hits (High Tide, Green Grass)"

(London Records/Abkco, March 1966 USA, November 1966 UK)

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/The Last Time/As Tears Go By/Time Is On My Side/It's All Over Now/Tell Me//19th Nervous Breakdown/Heart Of Stone/Get Off My Cloud/Not Fade Away/Good Times Bad Times/Play With Fire

The European edition substitutes 'Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?' 'Paint It, Black' and 'Lady Jane' for 'Tell Me' 'Good Times, Bad Times' and 'Play With Fire'

"Remember the good times we had together? Don't you want them back again?"

Three albums in seems a bit early for a best-of, but then back in the mid-1960s most record companies couldn't believe their luck that rock and roll was still a 'thing'. To give credit to Decca, though, their Stones compilations - certainly while the band were still an active part of their label - were rather good. The first version, out in America in March, recycles the cover originally intended for 'Out Of Our Heads' back when it was titled 'Could YOU Walk On Water?' and features three fairly rare flipsides to go with a complete run of singles from 'Not Fade Away' up to the present day (with the curious exception of 'Little Red Rooster', forever doomed to be shunned by compilations despite being of the band's biggest sellers). The European version, released in November to go toe-to-toe with EMI's Beatles set 'A Collection Of Oldies But Mouldies' (not it's real name, but that's what everyone - band included - has always called it), is less of a boon for collectors but does offer the three extra classic singles released across 1966. For some reason this album cover is different, with a fish-eye lens view of a rather dapper looking be-suited Stones which also happens to be the only official merchandise-wise shot of the band with Bill at the front rather than the back (perhaps because he's the one who looks most comfortable being smartly dressed - Brian's scowl suggests he can't wait till the photo session is over and he can rip the thing off). Both editions also feature a nice gatefold sleeve full of many pictures of the Stones at work and play back in the days when they were naturally photogenic and could make a shot work just by frowning (in fact, am I right in thinking this is rock and roll's first ever gatefold sleeve? I can't find an earlier one. It's good practice for Decca who'll be doing this sort of thing all the time once The Moody Blues get going circa 1968). It's a shame both records aren't longer, that 'C'mon' and 'I Wanna Be Your Man' aren't here (the two singles hardest to track down if you were a collector back in 1966) and that this set really is about 'Big Hits' not the best album tracks. Even so, this compilation has more class than might be expected if you've come to the Stones through one of Decca's later cash-ins and from the clever poetic title (probably Andrew Loog Oldham's suggestion) down to the generous packaging has more class than most 1960s compilations too. 

"Aftermath" (American Edition)
(London Records, June 1966)
Paint It, Black/Stupid Girl/Lady Jane/Under My Thumb/Doncha Bother Me/Think//Flight 505/High and Dry/It's Not Easy/I Am Waiting/Goin' Home
"It's down to me! The West Coast Under Assistant Promotions Man! The way the album is dressed, though I haven't a clue what I've done - this band are under my thumb!"
Two months after 'Aftermath' in Britain we get the American 'Aftermath' (no jokes about world wars please) with the usual array of changes made by the American branch of Decca. Several of the album songs had already been premiered on 'December's Children' anyway, which cut the track listing down to just ten of the British album's fourteen songs. London then added period single 'Paint It, Black' at the beginning - a rather uncomfortable addition given that the song's twinges of psychedelia owe little similarities to the rest of this rock and pop and sometimes folk rock set of songs. As usual though there are some slight improvements more because of luck than skill: 'Goin' Home' works better at the end of side two than it did at the end of side one and the absence of some of the weaker songs like 'Take It And Leave It' make the second side much more palatable. The album cover is a unique shot of the band dressed in suits and shot in colour, but with the camera given a 'blurred' effect suggesting movement, To be honest it's probably the after-effects of American record-buyers using the set as a frisbee when they discover how badly their favourite band have been messed around with yet again.

"Got LIVE! If You Want It" (L.P.)

 (Decca, December 1966)

Under My Thumb/Get Off My Cloud/Lady Jane/Not Fade Away/I've Been Loving You Too Long/Fortune Teller//The Last Time/19th Nervous Breakdown/Time Is On My Side/I'm Alright/Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

"Paint It Black You Devils!"

The Brits release an EP as a cash-in; the American go the whole hog and commission a full LP of screams with a few snatches of the Stones playing somewhere in there, honest.  ‘Got Live If You Want It’ is one of those LPs like The Beatles’ ‘Hollywood Bowl’, The Beach Boys’ ‘Concert’ and The Kinks’ ‘Kelvin Hall’ that’s of huge interest to the collector but will sound like absolute rubbish to everybody else. The recording techniques to record this album were primitive in the extreme, with the audience far louder than the band and the whole album smacks of money-making desperation. This one more than most: the band played such a short set that even the American market would have complained so infamously, this album also features two outtakes dubbed with crowd ‘noise’ to sound like they are live. Sadly 'Fortune Teller' (the band's aborted second single back in 1963, reviewed earlier now that we can hear it without the screams) and yet another Mick does Otis Redding outtake  'I've Been Loving You Too Long' are all too clearly studio tracks recorded on a different day surrounded by the same screams you've heard barely minutes earlier if you're paying enough attention (would it really have been so bad to just have two studio outtakes added to the end?) Decca also physically mangle the tape at the start of 'Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby?', in an attempt to replicate that song's weird sonic chanting  - but which just ends up sounding nothing like that track and more like someone slowing a tape down. The Rolling Stones, who weren't even consulted the gig was being recorded (we're not even sure which one by the way - some sources say The Royal Albert Hall on September 23rd 1966; others that it's two gigs played in Newcastle Upon Tyne on October 1st and Bristol on October 7th that year) were furious and disowned this album as quickly as possible. Absent from the first run of Stones album re-issues on CD, it was half-heartedly added to the second group in the late 1990s - it's first mainstream release in Europe - though the re-mastering improves the sound a lot, more so than the other records released in the same series.

Yet despite everything working against it, this album is probably my favourite live Stones LP with a charisma and attitude missing from the later sets and some fine, rare material with Brian Jones back to his proper place as the semi-leader of the Stones. A year on from the LP the microphones have improved a tiny bit, Mick has grown into his role as the swaggering voice of debauchery for a generation and Bill and Charlie have learnt to give up on subtle and simply nail a heavy groove. 'Under My Thumb' has a menacing leer that the 'Aftermath' cut was missing (though no marimbas), 'Get Off My Cloud' sounds properly angry rather than playful with Keith's guitar solo-ing nearly punk, 'Not Fade Away' hits a fine hypnotic groove, '19th Nervous Breakdown' is primal anguish, 'I'm Alright' is fatter and fuller than the EP take, 'Satisfaction' is suitably aggressive and angsty with one of the best drum breaks of Watts' career and most surprisingly of all 'Lady Jane' still manages to be hauntingly beautiful. In truth only a slightly wonky 'The Last Time' and the two mangled studio-now-live tracks don't gain a new dimension from being treated with the sheer power and spectacle of a Stones concert. Yes you wish the crowd would shut up from time to time and the Stones lose a lot of the subtleties they'd been working so hard on across 1965 and 1966. But the band's one live album from the 1960s, when they were named the greatest rock and roll band in the world, is more 'real' than any of the successive going-through-the-motions live records with audience and band caring with a passion and screaming their lungs out (even when it's manufactured, weirdly). Rather sweetly the audience cry of 'paint it black you devils!' heard on this record - and sadly not reciprocated - will reappear on many a future live Stones set as a 'homage'. Suddenly this crude and tacky cash-in, again named for an excruciatingly bad pun over s dong that isn't even on the record, seems more essential than anyone working on it at the time would have guessed.

A quick run down through the only song that's currently unavailable in any other form. [  ] 'I've Been Loving You Too Long' is the third in a trilogy of Otis Redding soul covers, a better song than either 'Pain In My Heart' or even 'That's How Strong My Love Is' but not really given justice here. Mick sounds more like a soul wannabe than ever, though to be fair he'd have probably had another go at this vocal had he known it was being considered for release, while for some reason the fake crowd noises are more off-putting here than they were on 'Fortune Teller'. An odd organ sound, not a patch on Booker T's part on the original, is a new sound for the Stones but not a particularly good one. 

"Between The Buttons" (American Edition)

(London Records, February 1967)

Let's Spend The Night Together/Yesterday's Papers/Ruby Tuesday/Connection/She Smiled Sweetly/Cool Calm and Collected//All Sold Out/My Obsession/Whose Been Sleeping Here?/Complicated/Miss Amanda Jones/Something Happened To Me Yesterday

"You can't dodge it, simple logic, though it's not my cup of tea and I wanted you to be mine - exclusively"

The last of the Americanised Stones albums (which will fall in line with European editions from 'satanic Majesties' onwards), 'Between The Button' also features the simplest and most obvious alterations. Period single 'Let's Spend The Night Together' and 'Ruby Tuesday'  were substituted for album tracks 'Backstreet Girl' and 'Please Go Home', both of which appear on the final American set 'Flowers' released a mere four months later. The 'newcomers' arrive at the beginning which shunts the tracks down so that  'My Obsession' now appears ion side two. The packaging is otherwise the same as the standard British version, complete with demented Charlie Watts poem. As with the earlier American Stones sets, the American market got 'their' edition of the album on CD in 2003, though without the 'missing' tracks as bonus selections this time.

"Flowers"

(London Records, June 1967)

Ruby Tuesday/Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?/Let's Spend The Night Together/Lady Jane/Out Of Time/My Girl//Backstreet Girl/Please Go Home/Mother's Little Helper/Take It Or Leave It/Ride On Baby/Sittin' On A Fence

"You reach a state of mind where it's madness to look and to find  your false affections so kind..."

The last of the 'Americanised' Stones albums was so successful as a compilation of odds and ends not included on the 'Aftermath' and 'Buttons' albums that Europe got into the act too and the album was released in most countries. By chance more than design it ends up becoming the folkiest Stones album, a 'soft stones' album if you will, heavy on pretty ballads and showing off the newer subtler Jagger-Richards writing skills of their most productive period off particularly well. Interestingly, despite the most hippy Stones title of them all, this isn't really the psychedelic album it was marketed as, with the flowers of the title more creeping ivy, giant knotweed and weeping willow than the usual hippie love and flowers variety. Some of the songs here, though far quieter, as damning and abrasive as any the pair of Stones writers ever came up with: 'Take It and Leave It' and 'Mother' Little Helper', left off the American 'Aftermath', are amongst the pair's best put downs while 'Backstreet Girl' and 'Please Go Home', left off the American 'Between The Buttons' are simultaneously sweet and cruel. The highlights are of course the singles, with the whole of the impressive run from 'Have You Seen Your Mother?' through to 'Ruby Tuesday', though sadly 'We Love You and 'Dandelion' just missed the cut to make this album truly legendary. 

The biggest draw for collectors are the first ever official Stones 'outtakes', albeit ones that had only been abandoned as recently as 1965, two during the early sessions for 'Aftermath'.  'My Girl' is a standard Mick-does-Motown cover that would have sounded hilariously dated had it come out at 'Satisfaction' time and probably best ;left in the vaults, especially the yukky choir added on top (to be fair the Stones probably only meant it as a demo for someone else to do - probably poor Chris Farlowe again). 'Ride On Baby' is much more fascinating, a Beatly ballad with a heavy beat that has a catchy chorus and would have been perfect for the band had they come up with it a year earlier, though the lyrics about a pretty girl with a dirty mind are pure Stones. 'Sitting On A Fence' points towards the Stones country parodies of future years, a curious folk-with-fiddles piece with curious lyrics about passive-aggression odd for the band as Mick's narrator and Keith's sweet harmony decide not to get involved in a debate. The lyrics about their friends 'mortgaging up their lives' and 'getting married because there's nothing else to do' suggest where the narrator's instincts lie, however.

The overall effect is a nice album that serves as a fine best-of-with-extras if you're a casual collector and thanks to the three 'new' tracks is more interesting than you might expect if you're the kind of collector who has to own everything. It's not very Stones-like, with the same folk-bordering-on-psychedelia feel of 'Between The Buttons', but as you'll all know by now that's the Stones' cleverest, most consistent and under-rated masterpiece in the opinion of this site so that's actually high praise indeed. Yes the garden would have been better with a bit of weeding, with 'Out Of Time' sounding awfully out of place here (albeit in a slightly different mix another boon for collectors), but any record that contains 'Lady Jane' and 'Mother's Little Helper' in particular gets high marks from me. For the record, I'm convinced that I've seen different editions of this album down the years with different track listings (possibly for different countries) but I can't find any evidence out there so perhaps it's just a case of collector's fog and what comes of reviewing too many Bill Wyman solo albums in too short a time. 

"The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus"

(ABCKO, Recorded December 1968, Released October 1996)

Entry Of The Gladiators (Circus Cast)/Song For Jeffrey (Jethro Tull)/A Quick One While He's Away (The Who)/Over The Waves (Circus Cast)/Ain't That A Lot Of Love? (Taj Mahal)/Something Better (Marianne Faithfull)/Yer Blues (Dirty Mac)/Whole Lotta Yoko (Dirty Mac)/Jumpin' Jack Flash/Parachute Woman/No Expectations/You Can't Always Get What You Want/Sympathy For The Devil/Salt Of The Earth

"We'll be offering you marvels to delight your eyes and ears and you'll be able to see the first of these in a few moments"

Legend has it that The Rolling Stones never allowed their equivalent of 'Magical Mystery Tour' to be screened for thirty years because they were appalled by their own sloppy performance, anxious over how a falling-apart Brian Jones came over on screen and were resolutely blown off the stage by their guests The Who. Only the third of those is true (The Who raising their game deliberately to match their hosts): in actual fact this may well be the best live album the Stones have yet released, albeit with their set only lasting for twenty minutes of this set. The Stones Circus was largely Mick's idea, inspired by his love of the daring promo films he and Michael Lindsay-Hogg had been making for the Stones singles 'We Love You' and 'Jumpin' Jack Flash'. The Stones had never had the TV mainstream crossover appeal of some of their rivals and it seemed a natural thing to do in the wake of 'Magical Mystery Tour'. Rather than be stuck on a coach with the odd song, though, the music was central to this gig with several guests playing in between genuine circus acts, all performed in a micked-up, mocked-up big top stage. Though many have since laughed at the concept, we at the AAA consider it to be rather a good one and one we've wondered about replicating ourselves ('Throw balls at the Spice Girls and knock their heads off! One spin only!') - after all what could sum up the twin period feelings of psychedelic bright colours and a love for Edwardian gear better than circus? And what better 'excuse' for offering loads of acts? While who couldn't resist a dip in the dressing up box?!

Unfortunately, the hour long special was mired by problems almost from the start. In the time it took to go from planning to performance Brian Jones' health went down as his drug habit went up, with the band's founder's last filmed performance showing a troubled zombified guitarist who more often than not didn't even his guitar plugged in (not that Brian ever noticed). Opening act Jethro Tull, at the time a hot new act who only had the one single out, looked so 'weird' they were stopped at customs and nobody believed them that they had a gig with the Rolling Stones - their contribution to the circus was filmed later, away from everyone else (they had also just lost founding member Mick Abrahams, whose replaced for one gig only by young unknown guitarist Tony Iommi, making his first filmed appearance years before he becomes a star with Black Sabbath). There were reported personality clashes backstage, with guest violinist Stephane Grapelli not at all amused when Yoko Ono decided to join in a hip and happening jam with her new husband John Lennon, while pianist Julius Katchen had his two performances edited out of the show intended for broadcast - to his annoyance, reputedly. The day put aside to film the entire show was, at best, optimistic: delays with the cameras and set moving and locating partying musicians meant that it was 2 AM by the time the Stones hit the stage for their finale - and they'd been up and busy filming links since 8 AM. In many ways it was a recipe for disaster.

However, there's something compelling about the footage, which was finally broadcast for the first time thirty years on. The Stones could have had a second career as talent spotters because both of their choice of relative unknowns (Taj Mahal and Jethro Tull) are superb. The Who are extraordinary as, given just one song to make their mark, they make it count with a full eight minute version of Pete Townshend's first finished 'suite' 'A Quick One While He's Away'. Two years after its appearance on record, it's now a lean, mean fighting machine delivered with panache by a band at the peak of their powers, with Keith Moon splashing water everywhere from his drumkit (this footage was also the first from the show to ever be released, as part of their rockumentary film 'The Kids Are Alright' in 1979, the positive feedback from which started the slow wheels of releasing the full show in motion). Marianne Faithful makes an inevitable appearance and is ok. There's also a new supergroup named 'The Dirty Mac' by special guest John Lennon, whose joined by Eric Clapton, the Hendrix Experience's Mitch Mitchell and Keith Richards, so desperate to join in on the act that he booted poor Bill off the bass spot (McCartney, tickled, names his 'fake' band for the 1980 'Coming Up' video 'The Plastic Macs' in tribute). They murder minor Beatles classic 'Yer Blues' by playing too heavy and get weird on Grapelli jam nicknamed by bootleggers 'A Whole Lotta Yoko', but who cares? It's the closest we ever get to seeing the Beatles and the Stones playing together.

Most people claim that the Stones' blurry performance is pathetic by comparison as a sleepy band go on auto-pilot to get through the show. Keith, certainly, seems to be nodding off and poor Brian looks half a day past his bedtime, but actually the tiredness brings out the band's sloppier, more inhibited side which suits the carefully chosen material well. Mick is never better than here, realising early on that the band are struggling and raising his game, spotting the main camera and out-staring it throughout the show. 'Jack Flash' is more wild-eyed and dangerous than most clinically compact versions, turning into a furious jam by the end and there are few more memorable sights in the Stones pantheon of images than Mick and an audience of clowns pogo-ing on the spot ten years before that's even a word. A groovy 'Parachute Woman' hits a nice heavy groove and sounds better than on the 'Beggar's Banquet' record, with a fuller bass-heavy performance with Bill on particularly strong form and some great harmonica from Jagger. Brian wakes up long enough to play some gorgeously sad slide guitar on a gripping 'No Expectations', the late night working wonders on one of the Stones' most overlooked classics.  A sneak preview of 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' - already hailed instantly by the audience as a classic - loses the horns and the choir but gains from a blistering Jagger vocal that's absolutely on the money as he out-sings and out-stares the crowd, leaping into them and building up to an epic climax with a roaring other-worldly scream. It's by far the best live version of the much-performed song out there with a danger even the 'Let It Bleed' version (not yet recorded) doesn't have. A slowed down percussion-heavy groove version of 'Sympathy For The Devil' is stunning, Mick taunting the crowd with the just-out song that must have been so powerful for a crowd who'd only just lived through the deaths of Robert Kennedy a few weeks before, Mick whipping off his shirt to reveal a devil tattoo on his chest (a great idea, that sadly loses impact as some sixteen hours of sweat have rubbed the edges off). Only the closing 'Salt Of The Earth', sung by Mick and Keith to a taped backing and a touch too heavy on the sneers fails to impress, although the crowd seem to be enjoying it, with Pete Townshend and Keith Moon dressed in funny capes destroying the furniture between them. Though perhaps a touch more enjoyable in 1997 as a long lost treasure trove better than its reputation suggested than it maybe would have been in the post-Mystery Tour backlash world of 1968, the Stones Circus is a special set and a fond farewell to the Jones era of the band  where a splendid time is guaranteed for all, more or less. High-wire daring, with only a couple of tracks worth feeding to the lions.

"Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Joujouka"

(Rolling Stones Records, Recorded 1968 Released 1971)

55/War Song-Standing and One Half/Take Me With You Darling/Your Eyes Are Like A Cup Of tea/I Am Calling Out/Your Eyes Are Like A Cup OF Tea (Reprise)

(Note - these songs titles come from the CD release; the original vinyl listed no track names and played as one unbroken track)

"Pan, the Father of the Skins, dances through the moonlight nights in his village, Joujouka, to the wailing of his hundred master musicians. Down in the town, far away by the seaside, you can hear the wild whimper of oboe-like raitas; a faint breath of panic borne on the wind"

There's a case to be made that Brian's drug-fuelled fall from grace from the Stones and his dismissal from the band might yet have been the making of him had he not drowned so tragically young in his own swimming pool in July 1969. Though the Stones kept an eye on Brian, fearing the worst one day, he actually rallied to some extent that final year and had found a way of bringing what he brought to the Stones (a love of exotic sounds and knowledge of different cultures) to the masses. Though Brian was never a writer, he had a gift for embellishing the work of others with just what they needed and he could have grown into a marvellous ambassador for world music years before Paul Simon made it fashionable in the 1980s. All he needed was a 'new' sound that no one else had discovered yet and a record company self-indulgent enough to try his recordings: back in 1968 it seemed like he'd found both.

Brian had been fascinated with the idea of the master musicians of Joujouka in Morocco ever since coming across a book by American journalist Paul Bowles in 1950 about a tribe who celebrated forgotten feast days with haunting original music that sounded like nothing the Western world could match. Visiting the area on holiday, Brian sought out and became friends with painter Brion Gysin who'd also been a member of that original trip and asked if they'd be willing to present their music to the wider world. Taking the trip, drug free by most accounts, he and a small team lugged a portable tape recorder to the tribe and showed them how they sounded on recorded tape - the first time the musicians had ever heard themselves. It's a measure of Jones charisma even in this late stage that he manage to win over a tribe who had little really to gain from the recording - they didn't want money and they dreaded intrusions on their way of life but there was something about Brian's passion for their music and their beliefs that inspired them to agree. Jones was particularly awestruck by the fact that the musicians could not write down or 'keep' anything - that their parts had been handed down, generation to generation, across thousands of years - with tribes like the Joujouka one dying out he felt it his duty to capture a record for them so their music would not be lost forever. Brian arranged to be there for their next big festival Aid El Kbir, a celebration  of the God pan that was meant to keep the village 'safe', with a young boy playing the role of a lad who dressed as a goat king and runs around the village in terror while the musicians get more and more out of control. It probably reminded Brian of some of his wilder parties back home. Either way Brian returned at the appointed time along with girlfriend Suki Potier, engineer George Chkiantz and Moroccan guide and interpreter Mohamed Hamri. The music was caught in three stages: early 'warnings' that featured vocal chantings, wilder music played mainly on flute and drums and a chaotic ending meant to rid the village of evil that featured the entire band. Returning back to London, Brian tried to get Decca interested to predictably unenthusiastic results but heard tell that his old colleagues in the Stones were preparing to break away from their old paymasters and create a record label of their own sometime round 1970. Blackmailing them sweetly into considering its release, Brian sat back and waited patiently for his new career to arrive.

Sadly, it never did. Brian died in July 1969 around a year after making the trip to record this album, the album mixed and ready to go but still nowhere close to getting a release date, unsure if it would ever see the light of day. Brian had even tried to interest the Stones in adding some Joujouka style rhythms, though the closest they came was the unusual percussive beat Charlie adds to 'Sympathy For The Devil', a song that's the polar opposite of the 'cleansing' ritual this album represents. Though the Stones were never the loyalest of bands they did their old guitarist one last favour and released the record posthumously on their own label in 1971, in exactly the way Brian would have wanted. Few people bought it, though the few that did raved about it: it's probably not exaggerating too much to say that 'Joujouka' is as influential in its own small humble way as 'Beggar's Banquet' or 'Exile On main Street'. Suddenly ears were open to the idea of world music and protecting sounds in danger of dying out and the movement will grow and grow until the point where this sort of music doesn't sound quite so odd at all by the 1980s and 1990s. No less a figure jazz sax player Ornette Coleman claims this album as an inspiration for his own playing. In fact the Stones themselves will pay a second tribute to Brian by hiring the next generation of master musicians to play on 'Continental Drift', a track from their 1989 comeback album 'Steel Wheels', where many of the elders in the tribe still remembered Brian with affection and even had a song for him (which involved a very Rollers pun on the word 'stoned', showing that humour really is the universal language along with music). Re-released for the CD age again in 1995, with Brian now credited as 'producer' rather than 'presenter', it suddenly seemed more in vogue with the times than anything the Stones had been up to in the same period.

Brian had the last laugh, then, though it's worth pointing out that this remains a fascinatingly psychedelic listen, full of spacey floaty formless music that's meant to drift over the listener in contrast to modern songs that are all about the beat. 'Joujouka' is not easy listening by any means - the primitive horns are often shrill, Brian's recording techniques primitive and at times you wish that Brian had been present for a quieter, more musical Joujouka festival that didn't involve so much anarchy and noise. But even if you don't play this often, it's an album you're pleased to have with the track that runs through the entire second side particularly beautiful and other-worldly and there's enough here of magic and mystery and historical significance to prove Brian right in his obsession with capturing this music on tape. This should have been the start of a whole new thread weaves throughout this book of Brian discovering and preserving for future generations the sound of a passing moment in civilisation. A musical ambassador for the western world, Brian could have done so much good with his part in the Stones a footnote to an even more extraordinary career. Alas it was not to be but at least we had a glimpse of what Brian might have gone on to do and, like the God Pan whose antics provide the basis for the album, he remains forever young and locked in time, keeping his beloved tribe's music safe for a little while longer. 


Various Artists "Jamming With Edward"

(Rolling Stones Records, Recorded April 1969, Released January 1972)

The Boudoir Stomp/It Hurts Me Too/Edward's Thumbs Up//Blow With Ry/Interlude A La El Hoppo (Featuring The Loveliest Night Of The Year)/Highland Fling

"Say no Nicky, just say no!"

Though the credits mainly name (blame?) pianist Nicky Hopkins as the main participant, 'Jamming With Edward' is effectively a Stones jam session minus Keith. Perhaps the most oddball album of the band's career (and yes that does include 'The Pan Pipes Of Joujouka'!) it's the sort of thing bands can only get away with if they own their own record labels. Actually the Stones were still in the process of setting theirs up when this set was recorded early on in the 'Let It Bleed' sessions of 1969 in the same sort of 'end of term holidays coming' mood of their other end-of-Decca recordings. Somehow they managed to smuggle the tapes past their old record company, though chances are even the old enemy would have considered it a step too far to release this most un-Stones like collection of piano-based improvisations.  The set is most interesting to hear because of Ry Cooder's role as a guitarist , back in the days when he was being auditioned to replace Brian, and he copes well with what must have been quite a pressurised situation (though Keith clearly didn't think so, this jam being recorded after he'd stormed off in a huff!)
In a burst of typical Stones humour, none of the band were called Edward (although the nickname stuck to Nicky for a little while after the album's half-hearted release, Quicksilver Messenger Service picking up on the name for their own Hopkins-guesting tribute 'Edward The Mad Shirt Grinder' ) and a most quirky little cartoon was drawn by Nicky himself (in Charlie's 'Between The Buttons' style) for the album's sleeve whereby Edward listens back to the album...and his head falls off. To be honest I know the feeling: though interesting in parts this really isn't an album made for repeated or necessarily enjoyable listening. Hopkins and Cooder are however both great foils for the usual band sound ('Blow With Ry' is terrific - no wonder Keith got jealous!), while this is also a welcome chance to hear Jagger blow some bluesy harmonica, part of the band rather than taking the spotlight as the vocalist. Oddly, though, neither Mick nor Bill get any co-credits along with the rest of the 'band' despite having as much if not more to do with the sound than Charlie. Opening song 'The Boudoir Stomp' sounds suspiciously like the middle section of 'Midnight Rambler' - a song recorded for the 'Let It Bleed' album later in the sessions - while Mick sounds rather good on his one and only vocal, the Elmore James blues 'It Hurts Me Too' (did he perhaps have his just-sacked blue-loving rhythm guitarist in mind when he sang this sad song of regret and mourning?) Too good to live out it's days in obscurity, without quite being worthy enough to be part of the Stones re-issue series, it got its own surprise one-off release on Virgin in 1994 which is itself almost as rare as the original vinyl nowadays. Buy and listen to it with caution, but a Rolling Stones collector gathers no moss - there's more to learn from this short collection of improvisations than you might think.



"Through The Past Darkly (Big Hits Volume Two)

(Decca/London Records, September 1969)

Jumpin' Jack Flash/Mother's Little Helper/2000 Light Years From Home/Let's Spend The Night Together/You Better Move On/We Love You//Street Fighting Man/She's A Rainbow/Ruby Tuesday/Dandelion/Sittin' On A Fence/Honky Tonk Women

"Colours in the air, everywhere, see the sky in front of you..."

I'll say something for Decca - their artist compilations may not have been the most thorough, well-timed or comprehensive, but they sure knew how to pick a decent title. The Stones get to their second compilation long before rivals like The Beatles or Kinks or Hollies and there's a certain air of finality about it from the title through the timing at the end of the sixties to this being the last official Stones release to feature Brian on the cover for many long years. Brian had died just two months before the album's release, which makes this collection of his last work from late 1967-1969 with a few really random oddities from earlier thrown in, terribly poignant. Brian may have been phased out of this band more and more but it's so often his contributions that catch his ear even so: the other-worldly  sea of instruments on the lost and isolated '2000 Light Years From Home', the cheery recorder that turns 'Ruby Tuesday' from a cute song into a classic or that glorious out-of-sync mellotron finale that transforms 'We Love You' from a knowing chuckle to a desperate ride to hell and back. There is, in fact, a quotation chosen by Brian (for the then-unreleased 'Pan Pipes Of Joujouka album, so we think) that ends up a fitting memorial for him and shows a touch of sensitivity rare for the Stones camp: 'When you see this, remember me and bear me in your mind - let all the world say of me speak of me as you find' (though un-credited on the album sleeve, it seems to have been the last words of a convicted murderer sentences to life in the colonies in Australia and which was for a limited time featured on the back of their coins in the `19th century: trust Brian to find solace in an outsider). As for the album title, that's a lift from the Bible of all places, specifically Corinthians I, also used by Ingmar Bergman as the title of a cult Swedish film the Stones would surely have seen (perhaps fittingly, given some posthumous reports about Brian's state of mind, it's a film about schizophrenia and the rift it causes within a tight-knit but dysfunctional family who don't know how to cope with it).

Though the packaging is very new - we haven't even mentioned the hexagonal box yet, which had a real habit of rolling off shelves unaided in the middle of the night I seem to remember before I banished mine to a different pile, or the cover which is gloriously Stones, as they all pull 'nanker' faces like schoolboys while dressed like upper class dandies - the music is well known. Well, most of it: few fans buying this set in 1969 would have bought up everything the Stones did from the very beginning so the half-hearted cover of the great Arthur Alexander's 'You Better Move On' would have comes as a shock. So too probably would have been 'Sittin' On The Fence', a track bizarrely not considered good enough for release a mere couple of years earlier but now sitting here larger than life on a best-of. It seems odd that Decca didn't wait a couple of singles longer as they knew their biggest money earner's time with them was coming to an end (can you imagine how highly this album would have rated with 'Gimme Shelter' and 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' as these two song's replacements?) Full marks for including the charming B-side 'Dandelion', though, which along with the best of the 1967 singles makes for perhaps the Stones' most overtly psychedelic album outside 'Satanic Majesties'. Though there are less 'big hits' here than on the first volume 'High Tides', this may well be an even better set and - against all odds - a second Decca greatest hits that offers both value for money and added character, nothing less than Brian deserved in tribute. The American version differed from the European version again, adding the absentee 'Have You Seen Your Mother?' missed from 'their' 'Big Hits, High Tide' in place of 'Sittin' On The Fence' and 'You Better Move On', a move that was probably sensible. As far as I know only the British version is out on CD, though. 


"Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!"

(Decca, September 1970)

Jumpin' Jack Flash/Carol/Stray Cat Blues/Love In Vain/Midnight Rambler//Sympathy For The Devil/Live With Me/Little Queenie/Honky Tonk Women/Street Fighting Man
Deluxe Edition Bonus Tracks (2009): Prodigal Son/You Gotta Move/Under My Thumb/I'm Free/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

"Charlie's good tonight inne?"

Given that the Stones had been touring under the moniker 'the greatest rock and roll band in the world' for years by 1970, there felt like there was a lot resting on the band's second live album - and their first from the days when concerts could actually be turned into listenable records. 'Get Yer Ya Yas Out!' is regularly trotted out on 'best live albums...ever!' polls if for no other reason than it was one of the first to sound like this, with power and grunt and Ya Ya's greatest claim is that it's pretty much the first rock and roll concert that feels like you're there, while still able to hear everything. Gloriously messy, with new boy Mick Taylor barely given any rehearsal time, it's a completely different experience to the studio records and back in 1970 when the messy-for-other-reasons 'Got LIVE! If You Want It' was the norm not the exception must have blown minds. Taken from the best of three similar gigs played at Madison Square Gardens in New York across November 1969, it's a snapshot in time featuring the early days of the line-up many consider the Stones' best.

However, I've never really bought the claim that 'Ya Yas' is still the ultimate rock and roll powerhouse album. By future and - from some bootlegs - past standards, The Stones are having a rough night, with a combination of their new band member and their own three year touring hiatus leading to stiff fingers, never mind sticky ones. Even using a mobile recording unit amongst the very best money could buy, the record features the same Decca muddy sound as the studio albums which sounds wretched when played back to back with, say, The Who's 'Live At Leeds' from the same period which beats it in every way. The Rolling Stones don't really sound like the world's greatest rock and roll band here - not least because the only real rock and roll they play is the most scatterbrained of all their 'Jumpin' Jack Flashes' down the years and two Chuck Berry covers (one of them, 'Little Queenie', exclusive to this set and fun but hardly essential listening). Instead the band mess around with achingly slow country ('Love In Vain'), purring blues ('Stray Cat Blues') and honky tonk ('Women') none of which quite feel as if they suit the stage. Only an energetic 'Live With Me' that knocks spots off the 'Let It Bleed' version and the over-rated rapist tale 'Midnight Rambler' (which works better in concert but still seems woefully misconceived) come close to matching this record's reputation.

Containing all the Stones' most controversial and dated songs in one handy place ('Midnight Rambler' 'Stray Cat Blues' which is about sex with an underage groupie; a so-so noisy 'Street Fighting Man' was still under a daft radio ban for 'inciting violence' and a woeful too-slow and primitive 'Sympathy For The Devil') you can see why this album got the reputation it did for danger and darkness. But the Stones often sound as if they're going through the motions or holding on grimly to songs that are trying to buck and get away from them, most notable in the end for their newest and inexperienced member finding new ways to make solos from old songs shine. Had we never been given access to other later, greater Stones live sets (the run of official archive sets from the 1970s, the bootleg set from this same 1969 tour 'Liver Than You'll Ever Be', even the infamous 'Altamont' gig from December where the Stones play better whatever's going on off-stage) 'Ya Yas' may well have held it's crown. But that's the problem with billing yourself as 'the greatest rock and roll band in the world': that's too good a claim for people not to break and the Stones are here too new and unrehearsed to live up to that billing. It remains, however, a most important set musically, the first live album ever to make the UK #1 albums spot (James Brown's 'Apollo' set having beaten the Stones in the States by eight years). Though Charlie, of all people, does his best to look 'excited' in a cover specially shot for the album in February 1970 (after an aborted period shoot went wrong), the fed-up donkey over-laden with instruments has an expression probably closer to the truth (apparently the band were thinking of Dylan's song 'Visions Of Johanna' and the line 'Jewels and binoculars hang from the head of her mule but these visions make it all seem so cruel'). As for the weird album title, it's a song by Blind Boy Fuller ('Get Yer Ya Yas Out The Door!') which oddly the Stones never covered - it would have fitted their early 60s set lists well - and full of just the right cheeky subversive double-entendres for a live Stones set.

The 40th anniversary set is slightly more palatable featuring as it does five extra songs that really should have been on the original album. This is one of the better 'Satisfaction' s, turned into a demented rave-up singalong that just keeps on going , while 'I'm Free' rocks with a lot more certainty than it ever did in the studio as a B-side. The Rev Gary Davis' 'You Gotta Move' is still near-unlistenable, however. Oddly all five songs ended up on the 'Guitar Hero' game as a bit of cross-over promotion (though none of the original album songs were), while the live 'Under My Thumb' appears on 'Band Hero', Nintendo's copycat version. A tie-in release of the 'Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus' (complete with hats) would have been much more fun! An additional CD contained the sets by support acts B B King and Ike and Tina Turner - both are worthy of release for collectors of these acts (and Tina sounds strong on 'Son Of A Preacher Man', which suits her more than it ever did Dusty Springfield), but both seemed odd choices for supporting the world's greatest rock and roll band anyway. Better is to follow. 

"Stone Age"

(Decca, March 1971)

Look What You've Done/It's All Over Now/Confessin' The Blues/One More Try/As Tears Go By/The Spider and The Fly//My Girl/Paint It, Black/If You Need Me/The Last Time/Blue Turns To Grey/Around and Around

"I saw you last night, moving around your new turf...but now it's gone so see what I've done"

The Rolling Stones' fallout with their old record label Decca was quite spectacular and full of bluff and double bluff on both sides. The Stones, their contract at an end by the start of 1971, simply refused to release anything in 1970 except the hastily made 'Ya Yas' concert album, though most of 'Sticky Fingers' was recorded in Decca's studios using their time and money in 'secret'. The band had partly made their own record label to escape the clutches of new and hated manager Allen Klien, who even before he was making The Beatles' life a misery was taking extra percentages and profits from deals cut for the Rolling Stones (Mick reportedly tried to warn Lennon off from signing with him in 1968, but got 'leaned on' and gave up in the face of John's enthusiasm). However Klein realised that the Stones were his biggest money spinners during his new life at the Decca subsidiary company Abcko and effectively conned the band into signing away the rights to their old mastertapes which weren't technically the label's to give away. The end result was a stalemate, with both sides glaring at each other, but the Stones were hopeful that once they'd escaped they'd be alright. They were wrong.

Under Klein's guidance, Decca prepared to release a new compilation every time the Stones had a new album out, something that will run until 'Black and Blue' and will rear its head again when the band's mega-publicity drive for their 'Steel Wheels' comeback in 1989. Though most of the compilations are cheap and shoddy, thrown together at speed, the music of course is excellent and remained a useful way for fans to pick up sons that had never appeared on a full-length album, traditionally hardier than the 45 rpm singles that tended to get scratched or wear out more easily. 'Stone Age' is the first of these and probably the worst, a clever title off-set by a pretty awful front cover (which, to add insult to injury, borrowed the 'graffiti' idea the Stones had had rejected for 'Beggar's Banquet') and a most peculiar jumble of A sides, B sides and album tracks. Most of these cover the early years and the Jagger-Richards songwriting team's first stuttering attempts at pop singles - hence the compilation name - and must have been hugely embarrassing for a band currently promoting themselves as 'the world's great rock and roll band'. Then again for collectors in Europe it was a useful way of getting hold of some of the songs that had only ever appeared in the States before: songs like the charming 'Blue Turns To Grey' and the bluesy 'Look What You've Done' )(both taken from the American-only album 'December's Children').

The Stones hated this compilation so much that they even took the unprecedented step of taking out a full page advert in both the Record Mirror and the NME, pleading with their fans not to buy it ('in our opinion it is below the standard we try to keep up, both in choice of content and cover design' - a bit rich from the band who'll release 'Black and Blue' in another five years but there you go). However not many fans listened and the album sold enough copies to reach #4 in the UK charts, not that many places away in the charts from the #1 of 'Sticky Fingers' (which, if my calculations are right, marks the first time the band had had two albums in the top ten at the same time since 1965). Perhaps understandably, it's currently missing on CD though all the tracks are available on different albums now - buy the 'London Singles Collection' and 'December's Children' and they cover all the songs between them - but there's a fondness from this set by the fans who spent their pocket money discovering their heroes' past that just won't go away. A regular at record fairs, 'Stone Age' it seems will never become extinct no matter how much the Stones try to make us forget about it. 

"Milestones"

(Decca, February 1972)

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/She's A Rainbow/Under My Thumb/I Just Want To Make Love To You/Yesterday's Papers/I Wanna Be Your Man//Time Is On My Side/Get Off My Cloud/Not Fade Away/Out Of Time/She Said Yeah!/Stray Cat Blues

"Remember, I'll always be around"

A sort of collector's extra to go alongside the more mass market 'Hot Rocks' sets, 'Milestones' is an intriguing compilation of generally rarer material that never gets enough credit. Though the cover shot is of a sweaty Jagger, eyes closed, at the end of several hours of rock star posing, the contents offer more of a comment on the Stones' eclecticism. Few listeners who didn't know, for instance, would have guessed that the soul of 'Out Of Time', the pretty pop of 'She's A Rainbow', the grunt of 'Satisfaction' the R and B of 'Not Fade Away' or the blues of 'I Just Want To Make Love To You' were all made by the same band in the same decade. Most of the songs come from the earlier end of the Stones' discography, with five of the twelve songs cover versions, though 'Stray Cat Blues' from 1968 is an unlikely closing number. I'm not sure 'Milestones' is quite the right word (shouldn't 'Paint It Black' and breakthrough original composition 'The Last Time' be here if that's what the compilation was meant to be collecting?) but it's a nice entry to the Stones' canon, showing off more sides of the band's sound at once than any other 1960s single disc sets and featuring a nice sprinkling of hits, misses and shoulda-beens.

 "Rock 'n' Rolling Stones"

(Decca, October 1972)

Route 66/The Under Assistant West Coast Promotions Man/C'Mon/Talkin' 'Bout You/Bye Bye Johnnie/Down The Road Apiece//I Just Want To  Make Love To You/Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Oh Baby (we Got A Good Thing Goin')/19th Nervous Breakdown/Little Queenie (Live)/Carol (Live)

"That's all in the past, babe"

Yet another odd Decca compilation, this one centred around early rock and roll classics, which beats EMI's 'Beatles Rock 'n' Roll Music' set by four years but is equally pointless. The one person who would have loved this album is Chuck Berry, who gets no less than five writing credits on this twelve track album. Most of the tracks are taken from the first two Stones records with a few B sides thrown in, though oddly only two A sides are here and neither of them are at all obvious choices: the first flop single 'C'mon' and a rather out of place '19th Nervous Breakdown' that's a full two years younger than most of the other items on the album. The set rounds off with the 'Ya Yas' version of 'Carol', though, which makes for a fair closer. Perhaps this album is most remembered though not for the music but for the packaging, with a bizarre and bonkers collage of Mick Jagger's face and a group of motorbikes stuck together to look like a huge Buddhist statue embracing him. I've written more words about the Rolling Stones than most people and I've never ever found the 'motorbike' connection (it was Marianne Faithful who was the 'Girl On A Motorbike') - were Decca trying to sell this album to hells angels in the wake of Altamont? If so, they're playing a worrying game. 

"More Hot Rocks (Big Hits and Fazed Cookies)"

(London/Abcko, December 1972)

Tell Me/Not Fade Away/The Last Time/It's All Over Now/Good Times Bad Times/I'm Free//Out Of Time/Lady Jane/Sittin' On A Fence/Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?/Dandelion/We Love You//She's A Rainbow/2000 Light Years From Home/Child Of The Moon/No Expectations/Let It Bleed//What To Do/Money (That's What I Want)/C'Mon/Fortune Teller/Poison Ivy/Bye Bye Johnnie/I Can't Be Satisfied/Long Long While

"Give me a misty day, pearly grey, silver, silky-faced, wide awake crecent shaped smile!"

With so many gems left to mine in the Decca vaults, this second set picked up where the first began, though in truth it was a late and rather hastily produced compilation released when the labels' original plans for an outtakes set (controversially but Stonesily called 'Necrophilia') was rejected and risked a law suit from the band (most of it turned up on 1975's 'Metamorphosis' anyway). This time the concentration is on the early years, with more of the band's early recordings, though presumably the likes of 'I Wanna Be Your Man' were being held back for a third volume that never turned up. There are some true classics here, possibly even more than the first, with 'Lady Jane' 'No Expectations' '2000 Light Years From Home' 'We Love You' and 'Child Of The Moon' all candidates for the best songs the Stones ever did. They also have the effect, somewhere around the album's middle, of being the Stones' most successfully transcendental LP full of some of the most glorious and inspired other-woldly music the band ever wrote, without falling into the angrier and heavier songs of the psychedelic period (most of them already featured on 'Hot Rocks').  While the high points are even higher than 'Hot Rocks', however, the low points are also more numerous, with dodgy early songwriting attempts like 'Tell Me' and 'Long Long While', oddities like the American-only 'Sittin' On The Fence' and EP tracks interesting more to collectors than the sport of casual fans this set was aimed at and awful later album tracks like 'Let It Bleed' clogging up the album's core. The track listing, too, is completely bonkers - at least the old set features every track within five or six places of where it was meant to be but this set's running order is atrocious, leaping around all over the place, starting in 1964, peaking at 1969 somewhere in the middle and backing off to 1965 at the end. The fuzzy album cover of the band in 'negative' (ie the white bits are black and the black bits white) is terrible too, an unfortunate and unwanted inspiration for the even worse 'thermal' sleeve for 'Emotional Rescue' a decade or so later. Unavailable on CD until 2002, it still remains far better than any second double-album greatest hits set taken from a single decade has any right to be and a neat way of getting most of the key songs in this book assuming you already own the first volume. I still don't know what a 'fazed cookie' is though...

"No Stone Unturned"

(Decca, October 1973)

Poison Ivy/The Singer Not The Song/Surprise Surprise/Child Of The Moon/Stoned/Sad Day//Money (That's What I Want)/Congratulations/I'm Moving On (Live)/2120 South Michigan Avenue/Long Long While/Whose Driving Your Plane?

"The same old places and the sasme old songs - we've been going there for far too long"

A clever name for one of the more interesting cash-in ideas from Decca - a compilation of flipsides. Though rather superfluous now that all of these songs are out on the 'London Singles Collection', it's a welcome chance to hear lots of old classics again that tend to get missed out of the usual compilations. However, it's not quite that simple, with a load of EP tracks thrown in here too - valuable for the collector of the day but it's a little bit odd suddenly going into the jarring screams of 'Got LIVE! If You Want It' or the very early songs from the first eponymous EP.  The compilers have clearly gone for rarity value rather than musical value too, with classics like 'As Tears Go By' 'Play With Fire' and 'Spider And The Fly' missing in favour of slightly lesser moments like 'Sad Day' (released as a single to plug the set, having never appeared in Britain before) 'Congratulations' (another American-only flipside) and 'Long Long While' (chosen over 'our' three perhaps because they were the flipsides of the better selling singles). AQ double set containing all of the Decca B-sides plus EP rarities  and marketed at the collector might have been a better bet. Keith's comments on this release that Decca were scraping the barrel 'and might just as easily be selling baked beans' is sadly accurate. Even so, any compilation that includes 'Child Of The Moon' gets plus points from me and the front cover is clever, re-using the 'rear' shot of the 'Jack Flash' single with the band peering over their shoulders. I'd also rather see the flipsides on a compilation than the A sides yet again any day.

"The Brussels Affair"

(Promotone, Recorded October 1973, Released October 2011)

Brown Sugar/Gimme Shelter/Happy/Tumbling Dice/Star Star/Dancing With Mr D/Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)/Angie/You Can't Always Get What You Want/Midnight Rambler/Honky Tonk Women/All Down The Line/Rip This Joint/Jumpin' Jack Flash/Street Fighting Man

"Are we gonna do Doo Doo Doo Keith?"

This, if you're reading the book in order, will be your introduction to the ongoing Rolling Stones archive series, a collection of - so far - eight concerts released to fill in the increasingly long gaps between studio albums. Unusually, it's also the first in the Stones' 'archive' series, although they'll never run in sequence again. After testing the waters with 'The Rolling Stones Circus' in 1997, it became clear that the Stones' large warehouse of tapes could be put to good use. This is, to date, the earliest entry in the series and a rather obvious choice: the album was one of the more famous Stones bootlegs back in the 1970s, after being broadcast on radio as part of the King Biscuit Live Hour and in fact shares the same name with that famous recording (though in slightly better sound). The gig was quite a famous one in it's day - the band had for some reason been refused visas into France, even though that country had effectively become the band's second home in the 'Exile On Main Street' years. To make up for it, the band played this gig in Brussels and got a French radio station to broadcast it (later being broadcast in Britain too) - everything but 'Star Star', which got edited out for 'obscenities'.  It's a rare chance to hear the end of the Mick Taylor years with two concerts recorded in Brussels on back to back nights re-assembled as one complete gig (Mick will play his last show with the band less than a week later in fact).

You can see why the album was never released at the time - the band don't play badly but they sound a little stage-weary, a full seven weeks into an eight week tour, not quite enjoying the intuition and telepathy of their best. But every so often it will spark into life and remind you of why this line-up might well have been the Stones' best, caught between the tinny sound of the 60s touring band and the excess of the later 70s one. Though the hits sounds much the same as ever, what's a surprise is how well the rarer songs in the set sound - especially the ones only played on this 'Goat's Head Soup' tour. 'Star Star' revels in it's impudence and Chuck Berry grooving/ Far from being production-heavy filler 'Dancing With Mr D' is terrific, with Mick and Charlie dancing their way between Taylor and Richards poking at each other with their guitars. 'Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)' turns into soul confessional grunting with less horns and more Jagger and guitar solos, which is a transaction I'd happily take. Elsewhere this set doesn't do so well, with the band already struggling to nail the songs from 'Exile on Main Street' the year before. 'Brussels' was, however, home to the most gorgeous live rendition of 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' on record, with a beautiful trumpet running with Keith's guitar while Mick has never sounded more passive-aggressive or mellow. The overall verdict? It's not quite 'Ya Yas' but it's way better than 'Love You Live', the last great document of the last great Stones era. Erm, interesting cover sleeve too by the way, adopted from the, err, eye-catching tour posters - I'm surprised this, umm, revealing picture hadn't been used by the sand on something official before.

Bill Wyman "Monkey Grip"

(Rolling Stones Records/Atlantic, May 1974)

I Want To Get Me A Woman/Crazy Woman/Pussy/Mighty Fine Time///Monkey Grip Glue/What A Blow/White Lightnin'/I'll Pull You Thru/It's A Wonder

"Just you and me having fun"

Back in 1972 Mick Jagger was asked whether any of the Stones would ever release a solo album. 'I doubt it' he replied, 'but I could see Keith doing a good one some day and I think I might have one in me too'. Never for a moment did he consider that his quiet bassist was already vaguely planning a collection of his own material, Wyman by having now reached the sad conclusion after the rejection of 'Downtown Suzie' that the Stones were never going to allow him a second album track to follow 'In Another Land'. The first of the band to make the most of their new Rolling Stones Records label, 'Monkey Grip' is one of those albums that is the epitome of mid 70s rock star indulgence. Bill would never in a million years have been allowed to make such an idiosyncratic album had the band not had their own label to release this sort of thing and he certainly wouldn't have had the budget to make it a typical 1974 'star extravaganza' record filled with guest stars and more backing singers than 'Exile On Main Street'. You'd never have guessed from hearing any of this album - or the ones that follow - that Bill was one of the best rock and roll bassists of his generation, in one of the best bands with the polish on this record making even the band's next LP 'It's Only Rock and Roll' sound like primitive howling.

That's both a blessing and a curse. Arguably Bill needed to do something to hide the fact that his vocal isn't the greatest in the world and a whole album of 'In Another Land' style electronic treatment might well have becoming wearing soon. Any record that contains Dr John, Leon Russell, Lowell George, Stones auditoonee Wayne Perkins (who'll outshine Ronnie Wood on the 'Black and Blue' record) and half the 'Mighty Jitters' backing group who played on the CSN records of this same period is clearly going to well played and 'Monkey Grip' surprised many by sounding like a decent record, more palatable to general tastes than even the blurry 'Exile On main Street' and boozy 'Goat's Head Soup' had been. But Bill isn't this sort of a big production writer and these aren't those sort of songs. It's easy to miss from the audible fur coats and fancy jewellery everyone is wearing but this is actually quite a damning album, snarling at what rock and roll, the Rolling Stones and Bill himself have turned into. It's closest in feel to the Stones canon to the country parodies the band were always doing, from 'Far Away Eyes' to 'Dear Doctor', but largely played in the spirit of rock (with a bit of country thrown in too for good measure).

Most of the songs involve his sexual appetite - still something of a secret back in 1974 - and Bill gets away with saying all the things even Mick can't say on a Stones record, because it's clearly an OTT party record rather than some big important statement. Though it seems a knee-jerk re-action to call the Stones misogynistic and sexist, the band largely grew out of that phase by 1967 and only occasionally went back there for fun - it's 'Monkey Grip' that spends the most time debating women as objects. That's given the album a rather uncomfortable feel to the modern listener, but even Bill doesn't sound like he's taking himself seriously. Alongside songs about booze, drugs and - well - I'm not sure I even want to think what the double entendre of 'Monkey Grip Glue' is all about, it's as if Bill has written the exact sort of album people have been complaining the Stones have been making for years but haven't: clueless, rule-breaking simple songs that celebrate a lawless lifestyle and have nothing to say. It doesn't come close to the depth of the Stones' own canon and Bill will himself write many better albums featuring his wry take on deeper subjects that will work better with the throwaway composition/elaborate production techniques he favours. But if treated in the right way 'Monkey Grip' is an entertaining listen, a great antidote to the up-itself smugness of the next two Stones albums and just enough prowess to make you realise that the stern, glum Bill of the Stones stage is just an act; secretly he's a bigger party animal and far more reckless than either Mick or Keith. It certainly beats either of Mick or Keith's later solo album debuts. The original album version is quite short by the way, even for the times, but the CD seems to go on forever thanks to multiple new mixes, live recordings and single edits, none of which are particularly any different.

'I Wanna Get Me A Gun' could, if you were in a mischievous mood, be a gentle put down of Bill's lead singer. 'I'll knock ole fancy pants off his feet!' Bill quips before admitting he's only 'having fun' and this lead singer lark is actually harder than he once thought. An oddball honky tonk groove is closest in Stones lore to 'Honky Tonk Woman' but that vocal and those massed sea of backing singers mean this song doesn't even rock that well.

'Crazy Woman' sounds like a Ringo Starr B-side, Bill chasing after a girl whose done him wrong with a gun. Though the lyrics are daft and OTT even by Bill's standards, the retro 50s sound suits him well and there's a nice bass groove across this track that would have made the basis for a fine Stones rocker.

The eye-catching 'Pussy' is a typical bit of Bill mischief - it's really a country hoedown about a cat featuring Manassas fiddle player Byron Berline adding an authentic vibe. 'The last time I stroked pussy...' Bill deadpans with a vocal that goes 'what are you laughing at?'

'Mighty Fine Time' is a nice Beach Boysy style doo wop-with-horns song about how the best things in life are over too quick - booze, drugs and women. A nice groove makes this sound more like a Gilbert O'Sullivan song.

'Monkey Grip Glue' is the biggest joker in the pack - Bill will no doubt tell you this is a song about a monkey in a zoo but it's all ambiguous enough to mean that he's talking about a part of his anatomy that's not unlike a banana. 'Sympathy For The Devil' this isn't, but Bill's only put for laughs not changing the world.

'What A Blow' is another song that seems to exist purely for the eye-winking title. It features Bill's best vocal on the album on a scary track that's growled hammer horror style and a track about being abandoned, which seems a bit of a nerve actually given this album's predilection for free love!

'White Lightnin' might well be the best song on the album, a country song that gets as close as it dares to praising drugs but in the same style every other country song in this style has always praised booze. Bill also speeds up his mule by 'putting liquor in his feed', not something the AAA endorses by the way.

'I'll Pull You Thru' is more OTT stuff with horns and backing singers as Bill admits to not being able to 'handle' someone grumpy in his life. Yeah, Bill, because you're always the epitome of happiness on stage!

The album ends with five minute plodder 'It's A Wonder' which is about another sexual conquest, this time with a prostitute who gives less than a bargain (doesn't she know the price I paid?!') The jokes are beginning to run out by now and the melody sounds suspiciously similar to most already heard on the album, but Bill's really found his mark as a vocalist by now.

All in all, a most unique LP - well except for the other Wyman albums that follow it! Decadent self-indulgent and lazy, full of songs attacking the decadent, self-indulgent and lazy, in many ways it's the ultimate album of the 1970s both enjoying the fruits of and laughing at success, which allows non singing, barely writing bass players to make albums like this. Sadly there's nothing here close to 'In Another Land' or even 'Downtown Suzie' but if you can take the joke then 'Monkey Grip' may yet get a hold on you. Mick and Keith, predictably, hated this LP and though Bill had finally gone mad by releasing it with many fans following suit - but then this is a record that's effectively laughing at all of them and comes uncomfortably close in truth at times ('Brown Sugar' and 'Midnight Rambler' for instance are far more offensive and full of double entendres than anything here). One for the Wyman fans only maybe, but there are more of those than you might suppose.

That's all for more - part two is next week! Other Stones related article from this site you might be interested in reading:


'No 2' (1965) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-rolling-stones-no-2-1965.html
'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' (1974) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-rolling-stones-its-only-rock-and.html
'Black and Blue' (1976) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/the-rolling-stones-black-and-blue-1976.html

'Some Girls' (1978) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/news-views-and-music-issue-30-rolling.html
'Emotional Rescue' (1980) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-rolling-stones-emotional-rescue-1980.html
'Undercover' (1983) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/rolling-stones-undercover-1983-album.html

'Steel Wheels' (1989)http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/news-views-and-music-issue-113-rolling.html
'Bridges To Babylon' (1998) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/the-rolling-stones-bridges-to-babylon.html

Rolling Stones: Unreleased Recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/another-journey-through-past-darkly.html




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