Monday, 3 August 2015
The Rolling Stones "No 2" (1964)
Everybody Needs Somebody To Love/Down-Home Girl/You Can't Catch Me/Time Is On My Side/What A Shame/Grown-Up Wrong//Down The Road Apiece/Under The Boardwalk/I Can't Be Satisfied/Pain In My Heart/Off The Hook/Suzie Q
"This is the Alan's Album Archives, new review within. You really don't need to cast deep in your pocket to read our groovy and fancy words. If you don't have the bread, don't knock that blind man on the head and steal his loot, give him some peace and understanding and all of your spare change because music is so much more important than merely money and you're getting this for free/dirt cheap anyway (well, cheaper than a Rolling Stones t-shirt costs these days anyway - have you seen the price of some of that merchandise?) And even if we rather put in the boot to this LP at times, that's still another album story told"
I'm Alan's Album Archives mascot Max The Singing The Dog and I'm so pleased to be here tonight because I just want to tell you all about having an album to love. No not that this one - that would be silly when there are so many other great Rolling Stones albums to choose from - but everybody needs somebody to love, love, love, music that will stay with you through all the times, music that can lift you up and bring you right down, music that gets you in the groove, makes you wanna move, makes you wanna swagger, makes you wanna singalong and pretend you're Mick Jagger, and I believe every man and woman and every dog should listen to this here music y'all and it will save the whole wide world! Yes everybody....
The Rolling Stones second album is by far the most ignored of the band's 1960s canon. At least records like 'Satanic Majesties' get (unfairly in our view) mocked and dismissed for being 'weird' - the Stones' sequel doesn't even get that short shrift. On the one hand it's not hard to see why: the formula is much like the first album (lots of outside African-American songs 'whitened' for a new younger audience and with a swinging backbeat) but not quite as good, with The Stones choosing material that's both less suitable to their own arrangements and that are a lot more 'obvious' than the comparatively rarer grooves from the first LP. As early as the second album The Stones seem in danger of 'selling out' and already sound dog-tired at times after years of endless touring. The first real crop of Jagger-Richards songs are also a long way from the glory days to come, with the pair choosing to imitate drippy Western ballads rather than the rock and R and B that turns them on and sets their spirits free - The Stones have never sounded drippier than they do on the worst of this album and never have they sounded less like the band they will become with their natural air of cool that even drug busts, murders and band deaths can't displace. However while 'no 2' is undoubtedly an inconsistent album, it's highs are still about as high as any other band around in 1964 and a handful of the performances are actually better than the debut, with The Stones so much more self-assured in the studio. Like many a sequel, you do spend half your time wishing the band had tried something else instead of a lesser replicate of the first album - but equally this record deserves more respect than the 'least interesting Stones record' tag with which it usually gets branded.
This is worth looking into in a bit more detail because this is, you see, a softer Stones concoction than usual even though it isn't if you see what I mean, as if the band haven't quite realised just what a monster they've unleashed with their earlier recordings and are content to play it 'safe' - a word that won't be associated with the Stones again for at least another decade. The simultaneously most interesting and disappointing aspect of the record is the branching out away from the band's R and B roots into the Motown covers lesser contemporaries covered as a 'safer' option to the likes of Muddy Waters and Arthur Alexander and that much closer to the European ideal of 'pop'. The Stones are hilariously mis-cast for this role and Jagger - who usually sounds good singing any style when given half the chance - sounds hopeless trying to act the role of Otis Redding on 'Pain In My Heart' (the fellow AAA soul giant's debut single, which he sings like it's the most important thing in the world and which Jagger drawls somewhere between a music hall turn and a bored housewife reading aloud her shopping list) and The Drifters' 'Under The Boardwalk', which turns a song of mystery and romance into the musical equivalent of a painting by numbers set - everything is replicated as close as the band can get to the originals but along the way they've lost the 'feel' somehow. Even this record's regular 'Chuck Berry' slot is the weakest of the bunch, with 'You Can't Catch Me' rattled off with all the enthusiasm of a band enjoying a dentists' appointment, not celebrating the fact that they can do what they were born to do. Throw in a couple of dippy originals (the mock-depression 'What A Shame' that doesn't even have the decency to sound, you know, depressed and 'Off The Hook' which must be the most 60s pop song ever about a girl not answering Jagger's calls) and you can see why fans re-acted to this album not so much with horror (as greeted the debut, before it turned to secret delight) but feigned indifference. You can almost hear R and B purist Brian Jones' teeth gnashing from here as The Stones move ever further and further away from the raw and dangerous beginnings.
However when the band return to the formula of the first album - African-American R and B cover songs that add a rockier drum pattern and a whole load more energy that the originals never had - they actually manage a higher strike than they did on 'Rolling Stones'. The opening 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' by the late, great Solomon Burke is extraordinary for many reasons: the lengthy five minute running time (John Lennon, asked his comments on the album, said The Beatles would never dare bore their audience with a song this long - a comment that will come back to bite him in a few short years!); Jagger's extraordinary vocal delivery which is relentless but in a good way, prodding and poking the listener into being swept up in his energy; the audacity of a band that takes a sound that alien to middle-class white pop fans largely from Europe still (gospel churches and spirituals) and makes it sound that good and yet still that close to the 'real' thing. It's all one hell of a lot more convincing than 'All You Need Is Love', coming with much the same message three years early. 'Down The Road Apiece', featuring the late, great Stone founder Ian Stewart on some great bluesy piano, is one of the band's most unfairly overlooked cover songs with one of the greatest Charlie Watts-Keith Richards interactions of the band's half century together. The slower, bluesier 'Down Home Girl' by Jerry Leiber (without Mike Stoller for once and with Arthur Butler instead) is less immediate than either and yet may well be the best thing on the album with Jagger purring his way through one of the Stones' sexiest cover songs as he tells a down-trodden girl she's perfect all the same (this song also includes the album's single greatest line: 'Every time I kiss you, girl, you taste like pork 'n' beans!') No other band would ever think of recording material like this, more less make the most of such unlikely styles - the trouble with 'no 2' isn't that the band have lost the plot entirely but that they just aren't comfortable enough with their own 'natural' sound for a whole LP.
While the Stones were losing their confidence, their manager Andrew Loog Oldham had never felt more positive. This is arguably the moment where the Rolling Stones stood out from the pack of R and B wannabes and became the 'band to fear' - not because of the music (which if anything is less revolutionary song-by-song than what The Animals were doing in this time) but because of the publicity they got for this record. All those 'would you let your daughter go with a Rolling Stone?' headlines start in earnest here, helped along by Oldham blowing up a minor incident in a garage (where, when Bill Wyman was refused entry to the bathroom open to the public but not 'long haired weirdoes' the band decided to all go on the garage forecourt - amazingly the Stones got the fine in court despite having a case for 'discrimination'!), a horrific appearance on a Dean Martin TV Show (where the past-it crooner laughed at the band's haircuts and even claimed that their parents must have considered suicide when they were born - the Katie Hopkins of his generation?), a growing sense of excitement and danger than often led to rioting at shows (something that happened to most 60s bands, even the ones with a more 'gentlemanly' reputation like The Hollies and Moody Blues).
The difference with Oldham - a half or even a whole generation younger than most of the other managers of the day - was that he didn't pay money to bury incidents like these in the national press; on the contrary he paid money to promote it. While it's 'wrong' to say The Stones were 'manipulated' by the creation of this image (they both knew and approved of most of what Oldham was up to) the Stones image of them as demented unstoppable rebels in league with the devil starts here and it starts principally because of the manager not the band. Oldham's position within the band will take a bit of a knock at this point, however, mainly because of the unspeakably wicked album sleeve notes he wrote to go with the American version of this album ('The Rolling Stones Now!' The record has seven of the same tracks but swaps a few for UK outtake 'Surprise Surprise', the song 'Mona' left over from the American debut album, a preview of 'Oh Baby' from next album 'Out Of Our Heads' and recent singles 'Heart of Stone' and 'Little Red Rooster'. It's even more of a rollercoaster ride in quality terms than this LP!) The original text of the back cover - parodied in our opening lines - actually consisted of the words 'See that blind man? Knock him on the head, steal his wallet and low and behold you have the loot - if you put the boot in then good, another one sold!' Equating the Stones with 50s hoodlums out to destroy everyone (rather than tough R and B rebels who do things their way) seems deeply uncomfortable and 'wrong' even today, establishing an image the Stones would never quite shake off. The wording was even raised in the House of Lords by peer Tom Dreiburg, who further labelled the band 'complete morons who always wear filthy clothes' (actually the Stones cared greatly for their appearance - Brian Jones spent hours washing his hair!) To be fair Oldham probably thought he was being 'intellectual', paraphrasing sarcastically from the Anthony Burgess novel and film 'A Clockwork Orange' (which is all spoken in similar 'hip' speak and first glorifies and then attacks the source of violence within humanity) - but try explaining that to a group of irate parents of teenyboppers who have pictures of Brian on their wall because he looks 'cute'. Oldham's gradual separation from the band seems to begin right here.
However if Oldham is the album's biggest villain then he's also the record's biggest hero. He was the one who heard worth in the early Jagger-Richards partnership when goodness knows no one else did and encouraged the pair to write and record their material come what may. Strange as it may seem now, the re-action of most fans at the time to the band's own material was 'oh no - this sounds like Peter and Gordon, where did the R and B go?' not 'wow these boys are songwriting geniuses!' (something that won't change until they come up trumps with 'The Last Time' later in the year, ironically given the title the start of their break-through moment as writers). Jagger and Richards were amenable, mainly because of the extra money they made, but were still deeply reluctant writers - Oldham had to physically shut them in a room to make them write, only unlocking the door when they came up with something good. Sometimes the pair didn't find anything, stuttering their way into becoming songwriters in contrast to Lennon and McCartney (who started writing when they were no bigger than their guitars). Sometimes they came up with dross as per this album - the sound of a band spending too much time looking over at its shoulders at what's a-selling, instead of the passion inside their head that's a yelling. 'Off The Hook' is a terribly dumb song, even in an era famous for its high quota of dumb songs ('Maybe she's sleeping? Maybe she's ill? Her phone's disconnected - unpaid bill?') and 'What A Shame' isn't a lot better, the pair of wannabe writers all too obviously looking around for a formula to steal and not even borrowing a 'good' one ('Hey, uhh, Keith, what shall we, like, write about?' 'Hey man, I'm just like the umm, ah, guitar player around here - just make up some like wacky stuff about making a chick upset or something, right?') Only 'Grown Up Wrong' shows promise and even that's in a 'well, it was 1964 when everyone wrote like this!' way rather than being a long lost classic. However Oldham kept prodding, allowing the Stones the luxury of releasing their songs no matter how bad and encouraging them to write through the rubbish while they slowly found their own voice. Who listening to these two songs would have guessed that 'Satisfaction' was just a year away?
That sums up the album as a whole, really. Though rather underwhelming as an album in its own right, 'no 2' is something of a necessary stepping stone towards greater things, cementing the strong work the band had already done, while proving to them what they shouldn't under any circumstances ever do again. Even the album cover is a rip-off of the debut, the band now in a semi-circle instead of a line and copying the same revolutionary idea of not having the band name or title printed anywhere except the spine (note though how short the band's haircuts still are in this period - though The Stones invariably got the flack for it other band's hairdos were longer - and how smartly dressed everyone seems to be!) What's odd it that The Stones didn't simply ape their predecessor further as the album had become a very high seller (it was the only non-Beatles album of the 'British Invasion' records to hit #1 in the UK across 1964 - this album also made #1 so people can't have disliked or been indifferent to it all that much at the time) and the sea of R and B songs to roll a stone sound over was virtually endless (the band could have released a record of twelve songs twice a year every year till now and they'd still be mining undiscovered gems that record buyers deserved to hear). The Stones clearly had a passion for this music and an ability to pass that passion on to their audience - so why not use that more instead of going for the sort of contemporary covers every band was doing (and often doing better?) Perhaps the answer is how 'rushed' this record was (though no more rushed than other record of the period) with the band taking the easy way out during exhausting tours that separated the band from both their beloved record collections and their home studios ('no 2' was recorded in London, Hollywood and Chicago, with the latter recordings sounding the best). Back in the days before downloads, CDs, mp3s, ebay and when ordering something from a catalogue took weeks not hours, chances are the Stones just decided to learn their arrangements from the records at hand on their US tour - most of which, naturally, happened to be charting songs. How much better might this record have been, then, if it had all been recorded 'back home' with as much time given over to arranging as recording?
Ultimately it's another of those AAA albums that got away. The better stuff is great, full of the power, energy and crackle of the early Stones at their best. While the material and means of singing it isn't quite up there with the best of the debut, the overall 'sound' of the record very much is. Bill Wyman's bass will never sound quite as big or as intrinsic to the band sound again. Keith's finally worked out how to do the Chuck Berry riff 'his' way instead of just copying the records in everything he does. Brian's adding texture and colour, often in Keith's shadow for now but as usual the musical moments you take away from this record are all his - the swanky slide on 'Down Home Girl', the gulping stinging lead on 'What A Shame', and the deep fuzz part on 'Pain In My Heart' among them. Jagger's swagger comes and goes but at its best is sultry and seductive and thrillingly daring and his harmonica puffing is thankfully all over this record, one of the best places to hear one of the best practitioners of one of rock and roll's most colourful and evocative instruments. Just imagine being sixteen and owning a song as 'adult' and 'sinful' as 'Down Home Girl' without quite understanding what it means yet knowing your parents do only too well ('Every time you move like that I gotta go to Sunday mass!') As for Charlie, he's particularly good here tonight inne? There's just about enough worth here to keep the Rolling Stones ship safely afloat so they can ride out another marking-time album in 'Out Of Our Heads' before the band find their way again with their own material and to suggest that 'no 2' ought to be a lot more loved than it currently is. However, at the same time, this record remains a disappointment compared to not only what the band had done before and will go on to do but also to the changing musical world around them, which sounds very different to this record already (for instance, the countrified confessional 'Beatles For Sale' beat it to the shops by a few weeks, with the more varied 'Kink Kontroversy' following soon after). Time was, it seems, not on the album's side after all - but half a century on the record remains an under-rated period piece, more interesting and entertaining than it perhaps sounded at the time.
'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love' is perhaps the bravest moment on the record. Hardly anybody was breaking the three-minute barrier back in 1964 (some radio stations refused to play The Animals' 'House Of The Rising Sun' because it lasted for - shock horror - 4:29) so this epic five minute version is perhaps the single most inventive thing the Stones will do until writing 'The Last Time'. What's more, this isn't a song big on variety anyway, it's a sped up chugging blues with the same hypnotic riff played throughout, hopping about from one foot to the other in sheer excitement. However this song is never boring - Mick is on such great form that he really nails the part of a Westernised gospel preacher so overtaken with the impact of love in his life that he wants to tell everyone else about it. While there aren't many words to this song considering its length (it's a track very much based around repetition) Mick makes the most out of all of them with one of his all-time greatest performances as he drives on a backing choir of Keith and Brian onto embracing love. While many 50s legends looked down on the Stones and co covering their records (famously Bo Diddley told The Animals they were 'the biggest rubbish I ever heard in my life!' while others like Chuck Berry said they enjoyed the money it brought them more than the music!) Solomon Burke was an early Stones supporter - he knew how out of line with most 50s records this song was and indeed for all his success in his own career few artists ever covered Burke's material across the 1960s and praised Jagger for his portrayal. 'Somebody To Love' was then a brand new untested song too - Burke's version beating the Stones' into the shops by weeks, not a decade as per most of their cover songs. It's a shame, then, that The Stones never recorded any of his other songs as they clearly had a 'feel' for the material. Recorded in Hollywood at the start of the album sessions, it's an explosive start to the recording sessions, though some fans at the time admitting to being underwhelmed by the lengthy way this song is stretched out; however compared to the eleven minute ramble that will be 'Goin' Home' in 1966 this song is compact and keeps up the interest well. Beware, though, that the American copy of this song (released as part of 'Rolling Stones Now!') includes a shortened three minute version of the song which while not losing anything specifically important loses much of the tracks' overall bombast and build.
Leiber and Butler's 'Down Home Girl' is the album's other highlight, a slow and sultry blues song not unlike 'Little Red Rooster' though played in a much louder, aggressive manner. Jagger's vocal is delicious, sly and sultry as he goes from blues holler to crooning to pop in the space of a few bars. The Alvin Robinson original is pure blues, sung with irony and despair as the poverty-stricken narrator finds love in his equally poverty-stricken girlfriend, not caring if he smells like turnips and tastes like pork and beans because he probably does too a bit. His 'monkeychild' nickname for her sounds more affectionate than rude. Jagger's vocals turn this song into sarcasm, as he leers at his girl for being poor and effectively sounding as if he's being kind by loving her despite her down-trodden ways (the band will return to this theme on their original song 'Backstreet Girl' on 'Between The Buttons', the 'I love you girl but I'm not going to make any effort to keep you and you'll do as you're told' formula). As for the 'monkeychild' insult Mick just sneers his way through the line, as if putting the girl firmly in her place. Jagger's passion is still in evidence though, especially from his echo-drenched harmonica puffing which is terrific across the song, pointing towards the real feelings of love he will never express himnself. He's ably backed by an interesting backing track that features Ian 'Stu' Stewart back temporarily as the band's piano player who sounds great, a sombre Bill Wyman part that adds plenty of murk and depth and an interesting early example of Keith and Brian's weaving style, as Richards' slashing style prodes and pokes Jones for a response which comes in the form of an occasional 'Bom! Bom! Bom!' riff. All in all this is one of the Stones' better cover versions, re-working an original that was already pretty good into something entirely new.
You'd have thought The Stones could have made it three gems in a row by tackling their beloved Chuck Berry, but despite being on safer territory the band don't seem anything as like about their abilities tackling a song by a songwriter they loved so much,. Compared to the blistering cover of 'Carol' on the debut and the infectious 'Talkin' Bout You' from a recent EP, this version just has no life about it, slower than Berry's fast-talking jive original without enough of a sense of world-weary weight with which the band are clearly aiming for. This is, after all, a song that's effectively about freedom - the narrator takes off in his new car he nicknames 'Mabelline' with his girlfriend where their only worry is running out of gas. However by Berry's standards there's something slightly troubled about this song, which spends far longer than normal trapped in the 'minor key' verse before the happy release of the chorus and the title alone suggests being chased by something (even though it turns out to be a Beach Boys style declaration to 'shut down' any other driver who thinks he can match the narrator for speed). Keith does a good impression of his hero on guitar, but it's the sort of 'copy' that comes from hours of listening to the record and trying to get the 'feel' right rather than a copy of the 'essence' of the song. Once again The Stones prove to be the juniors to the Berry master and are further away from 'getting' this song than ever before.
'Time Is On My Side' is something of a breakthrough cover and generally lauded as the best moment on the album. However I wouldn't quite go that far - while The Stones were again brave in their choice of song (A ballad! The Stones?!) their sloppy performance shows why they hadn't been brave enough to try this sort of thing before. The song was first performed by trombonist Kai Winding as a jazz B-side, though Irma Thomas had the first hit with the song and the song's composer is our old AAA friend Jerry Ragavoy who'll go on to become particularly close to Janis Joplin, under his early writing pseudonym 'Norman Meader' (wrongly credited on the original album as 'Norman and Meade'). Cleverly the song stretches out the word 'ti-i-i-i-ime' so that it sounds like the longest word ever, as Jagger plays one of his more uncharacteristic roles as a patient boyfriend ready to wait until his girlfriend is ready to do what he wants (the original version hints at 'marriage; the bark in Mick's voice suggests he's thinking more about 'sex'). Jagger sounds corny on the spoken word middle eight and rather out of tune on the chorus, messing up the start of Keith's guitar solo as he screams 'go ahead, uh.....yeah go ahead!' when he realises he's gone wrong. The rest of the band sound deeply flat-footed too, the slowness of the tempo and the lack of sheer oomph showing up the cracks in their playing which their usual speed and aggression covers up. The result is a song that only a fan could love, though many of them do with this song requested at many a band show in the future and a track with one of the longest runs in the Stones' live set of them all. Poor as it is, there is a certain charm about the sloppy intimacy of the track, which is actually a re-recording of an even sloppier version recorded much earlier (May 1964 in London, as opposed to the album cut recorded in November in Chicago) with a much more prominent organ part from 'Stu'.
Stones original 'What A Shame' features some great slide guitar and a classic Charlie Watts thumped drum part (simple yet not simple, in a way that only Watts could manage, as if he's a player you know is capable of so much more yet 'chooses' to play things basically because that's the best way). The song goes downhill quickly when the vocals come in though, with Mick having an off day on a lyric that even on a good one he'd struggle to perform: 'What a shame! Nothing seems to be going right!' The lyric goes on to discuss suicide with the dark line 'You might wake in the morning and find your poor self dead!', although the way Mick sings the line it's easy to miss and sounds more like he's having a lovely time. Jagger and Richards were clearly aiming at writing their own blues song and the track could have worked slowed down a la 'Little Red Rooster'. They've made the mistake of speeding the track up with a rock feel, however, because that's what they always 'do', without the benefit of the knowing wink to the audience who know the original and can see what they've done to it. Jagger sounds slightly mad as he sings to a fast-paced backing which forces a smile onto his face how 'nothing seems to be going right' and that the thought of losing his girl 'scares me so I could sleep in the shelter all night!' (a rare World War reference there - Londoners growing up in the 50s like the Stones did often had their bomb shelters intact at the bottom of their gardens, although they were probably at more risk there than inside a brick building). Not until Steps sing The Bee Gees 'Tragedy' with pearly white teeth while a track sound this 'wrong' in terms of performance mood. The tune is a bit basic too, a quick stepping riff that Keith seems to be having an awful lot of trouble with considering he wrote it. However Mick's harmonica instrumental is pure class, the interaction between Stu and the others is spot-on and Charlie finally has lots of space that needs filling and fills it the best way he can.
'Grown Up Wrong' is the pair's second original on the album, given a 'sneak preview' in America on the '12 x 5' LP exclusive to the States. It's not a song so much as a curious slide guitar riff and a chorus that comes and goes at random across the verse. The lyrics to this one are better at least - this is the start of a run of Stones songs that put down girls but this one has more reasons to complain than most: the girl has 'grown up mean' and has 'grown up too fast', demanding that the narrator take more responsibility than he wants. An off key Jones slide part, some bluesy Mick harmonica and a clunky Charlie Watts thud-thud-thud-KA-BLOOM! drum part are all fine in their individual ways, but together they make for rather an unholy racket and sound like the narrator running away and tripping over his own feet. It appears that the band have tried to be too clever for their own good, aping the blues style of irregular time signatures without quite understanding how to do this in a rock environment (which depends on a regular beat much more than blues does) - the resulting bars of 4/4, 4/4, 4/4, 7/8 doesn't end up sounding clever so much as that your record player keeps skipping a groove by accident. I'd get out of there quick if I were you Mick...
Side two starts in explosive style with an old 1940s Don Raye song that would have been well known to the parents of teenage Stones fans (and reflecting more than any other Stones cover the music they'd have been listening to in their teenage years) that's been revved up with a Chuck Berry-style riff and solo and a very sixties rhythm track into something completely new (Berry himself covered the song in an arrangement very similar to this one, which is presumably where the band learnt it). Though Keith messes up the final twirl of his guitar solo, it's one of his best till then, driving and exciting as if hurling itself at the sides of the track trying to break free and party! Mick 'introduces' the band in a 'Sultans Of Swing' style verse where the band have different names (Charlie Watts for instance is now 'Charlie McCoy', 'that rubber-legged boy') and Jagger offers to sing some 'boogie' though he clearly meant to say 'rock and roll', sounding as if he's having the greatest fun of his life. Meanwhile Stu has gone slightly mad with a noisy decorative piano part more like the sort session musician Nicky Hopkins will play on later Stones records and there is no Brian Jones to be heard, the band now effectively a power-quartet-with-singer. The band were probably interested in this song because of the similarities to 'Route 66', the similar song from their first album which was particularly well received - however this song is arguably better, played with a bigger sense of wild abandon that keeps up the energy levels right to the end. It's another album highlight and one of the band's better covers from their early years. Berry even paid the band a rare compliment when he turned up to a session to watch the band record an earlier take of this song: 'Wow you guys are sure getting it on!' They sure are Chuck, they sure are.
Many fans also rate 'Under The Boardwalk' highly, a Drifters song with Mick doing his best soul/Motown impression. However to my ears it's horrid, easily the worst mistake on the album as a sneering Mick tackles a song that should be performed with love and care and which just sounds 'wrong' Stonesified into a new sound it should never have had. Most Stones covers can get away with the changes in sound, partly because of the subject matter and partly from the sheer force of the band's performances, but the ballads have to be performed 'straight' to fill the 'holes' and this band don't sound as if they've forgotten how to do that. The song starts with Bill Wyman not quite getting the 'gaps' between the notes of his solo opening wrong and goes downhill from there, with some false percussion, backing vocals and one of the sloppiest drum performances from Charlie in history. The backing vocals are particularly poor, sounding more like an extract from a horror film than from a romantic movie as they're meant to. Jagger starts off trying to sound authentic but gets bored quickly and - after reaching for a falsetto in the chorus that's hard to find - simply starts sending the song up. Only Brian sounds at home here, with an angry insistent guitar part that manages to be in keeping both with the original and the Stones' style, although it's Keith who gets the solo on an acoustic guitar that sounds out of place. Though The Stones sounding entirely at home rattling down Route 66 in an old jalopy, they sound less comfortable in America's city landscapes and billboards, ultimately sounding as out of place and unauthentic as the boardwalk billboards the song takes place beneath. Recorded the same day as 'Little Red Rooster', it's proof that the Stones didn't always understand their 'sound' and how to apply it and that they come up with as many 'misses' as 'hits'. The song has been surprisingly popular with fans down the years, even making #1 in Australia when released as a single where this re-recording quickly outsold the vastly superior original.
Presumably Muddy Waters fan Brian chose his hero's song 'I Can't Be Satisfied' to cover and he's by far the best thing about the Stones' version. His slide guitar is incredible, one of his best performances on any Stones record, purring and pawing at the song depending on the mood and adding a nice haze of built-up desperation and anxiety over the course of the song. Mick sounds oddly under the weather however, singing under-statedly rather than with his usual bark and he sounds like he doesn't really 'get' this song either. It is perhaps the most authentic blues song the Stones ever covered (as well as the first of their small handful by the blues singer whose song title gave the band their name) and in it you can hear both the strengths and weaknesses of the Stones' sound: it's more memorable than the slower original and the rock backbone makes the song sit up and 'live' rather than feel sorry for itself as per most blues originals. However the blues sung at a fast tempo naturally sounds happy and for once Mick doesn't go the full way and make this song 'angry' - instead he sounds detached, with no emotion at all. This is after all a lyric that contains such lines as 'Well I feel like snapping a pistol in your face!' and 'Going to let some graveyard be your resting place!' The band should be performing it with some passion, even if the strongest emotion in the original is admittedly a world-weariness hard to come across on a rock recording.
Mick Jagger is clearly a rock legend, with a voice able to convey any emotion in a rock setting. Compared to his soul heroes, however, he's just a young skinny middle class early-twenties white kid who doesn't know the full dramas of life and love yet in this period. Just compare 'Pain In My Heart' to Otis Redding's cover from earlier in 1964 (a mere ten months old when this version was taped in November that year): Otis doesn't sing this song he lives it, turning on a coin from hope to anguish to anger and sounding like's having his 19th nervous breakdown singing it. Mick is singing the same lyric but conveys far less emotion, even throwing a 'woah-ho-ho-ho' on the fadeout which is just wrong wrong wrong: this isn't mere pop, it's a matter of life or death and it's odd that as big a music collector as Mick didn't instinctively understand that and either sing the song with a lot more gusto or leave it to another singer to do. That said he's not alone - compared to Booker T and the MGs the Stones don't 'get' this song either, plodding where they should soar. The only really inventive part comes from a wonderfully inventive Bill Wyman part that works in tangent to everything else, bringing a dark shadow across the rest of the musicians. Note, though, that while the album credits Otis for writing the song, that's actually 'wrong' - it was penned by Allen Toussaint under his pseudonym Naomi Neville and had been around a while before Otis sang it (chances are Decca asked the Stones for the label credit and they went 'uh, we don't know - Otis is a writer so it must be him, just put that down!') Interestingly the song sounded much better live, staying in the band's set lists through to the end of the 1965 and grew better with every performance judging by the bootlegs, with the band perhaps 'understanding' the intensity at the 'heart' of this song at last.
'Off The Hook' is one of those silly songs no band could get away with past 1965. Arguably it sounded a bit suspect even at the time of this record's release, a daft song about the narrator not being able to get through to his girlfriend. Nowadays we'd say the girlfriend 'had no signal' as her excuse for not answering the narrator's calls, but what we the listener can tell and which he can't is that he's been dumped - she isn't sleeping, she's not ill and she probably has paid her bill, she's just less keen on Mick than he thinks she is. How odd that the 'Glimmer Twins', even this early on in their writing partnerships, should write a song where the girl gets the upper-hand, something that will rarely ever happen to the Stones again. Mick playing a dim-witted narrator who doesn't get that the joke is on him is so out of character that you wonder where on earth it came from - did the pair intend to give this song away to someone else before doing it themselves? As poppy as the Stones ever get, it's all competently played and has a bit of a catchy riff going on at the heart of it all but seems very out of place even on what's arguably the Stones' most pop-driven album. Released as the B-side of 'Little Red Rooster' (and recorded the same day, along with 'Boardwalk') it sounded even more out of place somehow.
'Susie Q' was perhaps the record's most obscure song, a small hit in 1957 for Dale Hawkins. The most rock and roll thing on the record, it's perhaps the best performance on the record as Mick sound bigger and badder than ever singing in front of a hand-clapping band who are all playing at top speed and at their loudest with a classic Keith Richards guitar solo that could strip paint. The narrator is in love with his 'Suzie Q', adored the way she walks and talks and hopes she'll never leave him - it seems an unlikely name (though Suzie Quatro proved it's not altogether unfeasible) but it's the welcome starting point for a whole series of fun rhymes based on her initial. However There's one thing that stops this song from being a classic - it's too flipping short! Even by 1964 standards the running time of 1:50 is laughable and with only three clipped verses this song could have stretched out for oh so much more - a few guitar solos alone would have done!) There's no change in tempo or tone either, which suggest the song could have been a nice bookend to 'Everybody Needs Somebody To Love', stretched out for minute after minute as the lustful riff goes round and round. It's still a good cover of a great song, though and ends the album's rather patchy second side on a strong note.
Overall, then, 'Rolling Stones no 2' has several problems. When the Stones mess things up they mess them up royally - this band have no excuse for singing soul songs without passion, Motown without joy, original pop songs without - well - anything going on that I can see and covering older blues and R and B songs as if they're reading a telephone directory. But that is of course compared to the excitement that we know this band can bring to material that suits them best: the Chuck Berry style 'roots' R and B, the slow and funky blues given a whole new suit of clothes to wear and the gospel songs that sound good the way the Stones do them. 'No 2' is one of the most rollercoaster rides in terms of quality across the entire AAA series, winning a marathon by a thousand laps compared to the competition of 1964 some tracks and then tripping over it's big hairy feet out of the starting blocks at other times. The fragmented recording sessions, interrupted by tours, must have played a factor in the creation of this album while all that bitterness in the media surely played it's part as well - the Stones know now they'll get a career out of this sort of thing but back in 1964 when everybody hated them and they couldn't get through a gig without a riot breaking out it must have been very wearing defending who you were and what you stood for so many times over all day everyday. No wonder that at times the band sound like they'd rather be anywhere than in a recording studio and at times hearing the band struggle through such unsuitable material so badly you'll feel the same. The worst of this record really doesn't sound worth bothering to listen to for free, never mind being worth assaulting a blind beggar for as the sleevenotes as you to do. However there's too much material here to just dismiss this album out of hand and for half the record at least (side one basically, minus a couple of tracks added from side two) are on fine form, having found what they were born to do and doing it superbly.