Monday 9 January 2017

Graham Nash "Innocent Eyes" (1986)

Available to buy now in ebook form 'Change Partners - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of CSNY' by clicking here!

'The trick is trying to balance all the pleasure and the pains' or 'Check the Stills - that's when they caught me!' or 'I'm not opposed to making lots of money - but how much does it take?'

Losing one band seems like carelessness - two seems like recklessness. Back in 1971 Graham had the luxury of recorded anything he wanted in any permutation of CSN while making idiosyncratic solo albums on the side while, if he'd ever wanted to, his old band The Hollies might have welcomed him back too if he'd played his cards right. Fifteen years later CSN are disbanded with Crosby in prison, a surprise Hollies reunion in 1983 has fallen apart (Nash's quote: 'After rejoining The Hollies I realised why I'd left in the first place!') and now Graham's only shot at a solo career was to deliver a solo album that had to sell, sell, sell. The Graham Nash that appears on 'Innocent Eyes' isn't in charge of his career anymore - and it shows, with the least CSN-like of all the CSN solo albums. There's a famous tale that Nash had a lot of letters from fans the week after release complaining that the record company had printed up the wrong record in the sleeve and wouldn't accept their money back and would he please do something about it? Graham, being Graham, was thrilled that people were being able to see a different side of him and that he'd escaped the part that threatened to trap him forever - but the worst of 'Innocent Eyes' is that it doesn't sound like a future either. Instead it's a rather unremarkable collection of pop songs that sound specific to this month, maybe even this particular week, in the 1980s  as for the first and last time a member of CSN delivers a record that sounds just like everyone else at the times did. Ignored by pop pickers, ridiculed by old fans, savaged by critics, 'Innocent Eyes' is one of those albums that nobody seems to have a good word to say about.

I have a few though. Not many, admittedly - even if 'Innocent Eyes' was a collection of top-notch songs (which it isn't, what with four cover songs and only six originals) this production would prevent you from hearing them in any case. However, hidden away under all that surface noise is an actually pretty open and daring confessional from an artist that's scared, lonely and depressed. In many ways it's 'This Path Tonight' part one, but with a defensive and oddly vulnerable Graham so stuck in a life that's falling apart that he can't see any paths out of here. Songs like 'Glass and Steel' (an achingly sad song about the decline of Crosby) and 'Sad Eyes' (easily Nash's best love song for wife Susan) are every bit as good as anything that came before, even more so in the case of album outtake 'Lonely Man' (released for the first time on Graham's 2009 box set 'Reflections'). However, this being 1986 - the age of money, glitz and glamour - and CSN being less fashionable than at anytime in their lengthy history, that's not what this album sounds like. Instead it sounds like every over-synthesised pop album out that year, anonymous and artificial and even this album's better moments don't have a warm enough heart to break through all that ice. In a sense it's the sister album to Stills' 'Right By You', another album that's actually a lot more thoughtful and emotional than it was ever allowed to be surrounded by synths and powerboats, but Stills being Stills he was still in charge of what went there on that album and somehow crafted a coat of sympathetic production shine over everything - sometimes, anyway, usually when the guest stars turned up to sing harmony (Nash included). Graham, always happiest dictating what goes where to others, doesn't approach this album the same way and instead directs a cast of thousands who are professional and slick but care nothing for the real heart beating away in this music. The result is an album where nothing ever engages with the listener, where we're always an overdub away from the 'real' Graham. Musically, it's 'Trans' - the robotic Neil Young album of 1982 that hid autobiography behind surface noise so you had to dig your way to the heart of it - but without the same big concept behind it. No wonder so many people actively hate this album then - the whole point of CSN, along with the politics and tales of their love lives and making us feel as if the world is going to be a better place eventually, is that warm emotional connection and those harmonies. Even when CSN are picking holes in each other and tearing them and the world to shreds, they've never been cold or calculated before and that's just what 'Innocent Eyes' is. The songs, however, deserve better - just check out the 'remix' job on 'Sad Eyes' on the 'Reflections' box to hear how great and emotional this album could surely have been.

The reason this album turned out this way is a combination of record company pressure from Atlantic who are demanding a hit if Graham wants to keep his contract with them (a far cry from the days when Ahmet Ertegun let CSNY get away with anything, including breaking up every five minutes!) and the circle of friends and pals Graham was now keeping. Hollies reunion album 'What Goes Around...', released in 1983, suffers from similar production problems - but then it's meant to. A collection of pop songs, with no actual originals, it's a band remembering when they used to be a covers band who sounded like every other outfit of the day going back to covering people's songs and sounding like they belong with the sudden influx of bands, even if very few bands from 1983 actually have anything in common with the magnificent Hollie sound. The band instead relied on a new whizz-kid named Paul Bliss who'd ever so nearly had his own career and whom the Hollies, talent pickers extraordinaire, had asked to work for them (almost all the best material on that album is by him and he provides most of the synth work too). Graham cheekily hired Paul when he left the band, asking him to work with him over in the States as a solo star and effectively stalled the careers of three people in the process - The Hollies (who now had to look elsewhere for their talent), Nash (who really didn't suit any of Bliss' songs as a solo act and in the end only recorded one) and Bliss himself, who'll end up sitting out the rest of the decade quietly before becoming third hired keyboardist with The Moody Blues (a waste of his talents, even as a big Moodies fan). As it happens the title track of 'Innocent Eyes' (Bliss' only track for the album) isn't a patch on 'Casualty' or 'Someone Else's Eyes', his better songs from the Hollies reunion project and while the video isn't quite as cringe-inducing as Stills' for 'Stranger' with the infamous power-boat, it is every bit as desperate.

CSN used to be dictating what happened in music circles, not slavishly following them and if you're sitting through these albums in chronological order (poor you!) then it's hard not to feel that watching Crosby in prison, Stills truing to look cool and Nash desperate to look trendy is some form of punishment for the amount of CSNY splits that meant that we were robbed of what music could have been. The future, dreamed of as recently as Nash on his 'Earth and Sky' album with the track 'In The '80s', should have been a world where bands got laughed at if they didn't speak from the heart, wrote about Government stupidity in all its forms and made us feel better. Instead we got the 1980s, a world where you're worth was measured through the size of your shoulder pads and how many synths you could afford. To some extent I have sympathy for both 'Innocent Eyes' and 'Right By You' - a CSN album was never gonna happen with Crosby either out of it or out the way in prison and better that the duo make something and try to engage with this new brave world, even if it's not what their true fans - then or now - really wanted to hear. The worry is that from now on this kind of thing becomes 'normal' - we're about to have a whole run of these production 'values' on reunion projects like 'American Dream' and 'Live It Up' that really didn't need to be there. 'Innocent Eyes' is easily the 1980s at its most intrusive on a record though: the first thing that hits you is the barrage of artificial tinny drums that sound like being hit over the head with a blunt object several times per song; it's quickly followed by the banks of keyboards so numerous they're in danger of being nationalised. Only then do you hear the ugly synth bass that claws aimlessly at the bottom end of the picture. With all that going on there's precious little space left and poor Graham is left shouting more often than he sings, competing not with all this extraneous noise (the drums and synths are mixed to 'win' any battle there) but extras like guitar and 'proper' keyboards. Nash actually sounds quite annoyed at some stages: 'I don't want to hear it!' he groans in the unusually angry cover of 'Keep Away From Me'. You and me both.

In fact Graham is a touch grumpy throughout. 'Innocent Eyes' is very much the album I was afraid the rather gentler and more hopeful 'This Path Tonight' be like, looking for a fight with anyone and angrily turning on 'us', the fans, for believing albums or 'bothering' our star when he wants to be left alone. Traditionally Graham is the member of CSNY always happiest at mingling with 'his' public, while Crosby is asleep, Stills is talking for hours or ignoring everyone on a whim and Young is leaping out the window to make the quickest exit (this has changed since twitter of course, where Crosby's feed beats everyone else's hollow and is a must-follow if you haven't already). But not here: if there's an album theme then it's one of running away. Nash starts off in Czecheslovakia, in a tale of spies and sex from the pen of Ritchie Zito (who helped craft Grace Slick's best solo album 'Dreams' in 1980 - and totally ruins her noisy 'Welcome To The Wrecking Ball' album the following year). Next he's demanding we keep our distance because 'I don't want to hear it!' on 'Keep Away From Me', even though he admits on the first verse trying to court our interest and attention. 'Innocent Eyes' sounds like a cute little pop song and is the lightest moment on the album, but it's another bitter tale of betrayal as Nash reads 'between the lines' about his lover having an affair (Bliss almost certainly wrote this as a 'Hollie' - it's 'Dear Eloise' sped up, especially the lines about line-reading).'Chippin' Away' was later turned into a joyous song when CSN happened to be one of the first bands on the scene as The Berlin Wall fell (they were quicker than Roger Waters, who insisted part of the wall be built up again to make his Pink Floyd concept album 'work'!) but the original is at least as much overwhelmed at the scale of a disaster as hopeful of being able to get through it. 'Over The Wall' is Nash's take on the same idea, as Graham builds a full song around Stills' favourite technique of using 'walls' as a metaphor. He still sounds as if it's too much of a challenge to cope with, though. 'Don't Listen To The Rumours' has Nash slagging off the people that are slagging him off. 'Newday' is meant to be about the bright new tomorrow, but it feels burdened with the weight of some ugly past. 'Glass and Steel' is sweeter but even more bleak than 'Into The Darkness' as a song about what Nash thinks is going to happen to Crosby, admitting he's 'sick and tired and tired of sick of playing all these games' with the sighing chorus 'It's hard' perhaps the saddest Graham ever wrote. Finally, 'We Got A Rock' is a nursery rhyme for the future when that might be all we get to sing, with the devastating consequences of a nuclear war played out to the point where what was once fought with bombs turn into rocks and nobody's learnt anything. It's not exactly 'Everybody We Love You' or 'Love Is Coming To Us All' is it?! While making a 'pop' album doesn't necessarily mean you have to be optimistic and bouncy, that is the usual par for the course if you want to make a hit pop record, so it's interesting that Nash should spend so long down in the dumps, especially as he's gone to so much trouble to make this sound like a pop record of the day.

There's an interesting under-current, though, that this isn't really the 'true' Nash - and that this isn't the 'true' humanity he sees around him in a decade spiralling out of control in favour of greed and avarice. There are lots of references to 'eyes' on this record, from the title on down. Eyes are, so they say, the 'windows of the soul' - the one part of our body we can't 'act' with, as - set further back in our heads and nearer out inner consciousnesses, they give away how we feel with a particular look or sometimes tears. That's what make their sudden use in pop songs so striking when they're used properly, because we subconsciously know everything about pop songs is an 'act' designed to make us feel something (usually happiness) and when we see somebody do something that can't be faked (or when we'd know if it was) it confuses us. This is, almost, the era of Sinead O'Connor crying a tear to 'Nothing Compares 2 U' (which she understood a lot better than its own writer Prince, who left it as a B-side) and new wave band 'Naked Eyes', who were meant to be a more 'emotional' kind of band (and would have been had they not been to the same synthesiser shop as everyone else around at the time). You could throw Stephen Stills into the mix here too, though 'Grey To Green' chickens out of his usual array of mood-swing lovers by having her change her eye colour lots; I'm still convinced this started off life as a 'deeper' song though - and Nash sings harmony on it, so it might have sat in his subconscious a little while. 'Innocent Eyes' is about the narrator realising his wife is lying because he can see it in her eyes and they say more than her denying words ever could. 'Sad Eyes' too has Nash finally giving up the pretence that he's a happy-go-lucky popstar, even if it's actually a rather beautiful song about not having to be sad anymore. And in 'Glass and Steel' it's watching Crosby's eyes glued to the TV in his prison cell, never looking Nash in the eye, that really gets to him and not the visit per se. Our eyes give us away across this album, but fittingly they're 'hidden' in this album - just as Graham's real feelings are hidden behind synthesisers and production values that make Michael Jackson look subtle.

So unloved is this record that it was, I think, the last of the pre-CD age CSN-related albums to make it into the digital world in the UK - it was one of the first to be released on CD in America, but few people had the right equipment in 1986 and even fewer were keen to buy up solo Nash oddities when they had the likes of the first CSN album and 'Déjà Vu' to buy in decent sound for the first time. The rest of the world only ever saw it in CD in 2008 when Rhino bought up the rights to a load of albums Atlantic didn't want to shift on the cheap and released them simply at a bargain £5 price. Even then the shops didn't have them long, making this a - relative - rarity nowadays. 'Innocent Eyes' desperately needs another go, especially a 'deluxe edition' this time round that strips the album back to the basics (the way 'Sad Eyes' was on the box set) and throws in superb outtake 'Lonely Man' too. Heard like that I suspect 'Innocent Eyes' would be a surprise to many fans who have never bothered playing it again after getting a headache about ten seconds into their first listen to side one.

However, we can't review that LP  just the one we have here and the sad result is that 'Innocent Eyes' is one of the least likeable records in the CSN discography. A combination of that production noise, Nash's continuous shouting and some really lame songs ('We Got A Rock' is a nice idea, but in practice it just sounds like Nash is having a breakdown, while none of the cover songs are up to his own work) make 'Innocent Eyes' a tough listening experience as it exists right now. A more sympathetic listen with less innocent ears is what this album desperately needs, as Nash opens up on 'Glass and Steel' and 'Sad Eyes' in a way we haven't heard since the Joni Mitchell days. But to be honest that feel like hard work for an album that tries a little too hard to throw us off the scent and make us think that there's really nothing very much of interest here. This time there aren't any harmonies around to compensate either, with no special guests as per the recent Stills album unless you count an inaudible James Taylor on 'Sad Eyes'. Given that Nash was fighting for his career at the time - with the Hollies unlikely to invite him back and CSN apparently dead - this really wasn't the best way to go about it, with a short running album (only 34 minutes) that by Nash standards is low on ideas, low on inspiration and low on quality material. 'Trans' used it's cold alien synthesised sound to keep us at a distance so Neil could come to terms with a family illness he didn't want to reveal to the public yet; but Nash is more coy and thus less interesting for once - is he mad at Crosby, The Hollies, himself, his wife or everyone? We never find out and that's a shame, because it does feel as if there's a mystery here behind the oh so generic production values, oh so simple songs and oh so derivative sleeve (of the planet Earth in digital focus). It feels like our innocent eyes (and ears) are telling us lies and making a fool of us, but without the solution we never quite find out what the deception is really all about.

Talking of deception, 'See You In Prague' is kind of an update to 'Wild Tales', but with Nash the instigator this time, a spy travelling to Berlin with a 'vault key'. He's too busy being distracted by 'Stills' (presumably the photographic type, but it did make me wonder for a minute there!) though and gets knocked out by a female enemy agent who leaves a note saying 'better luck next time'. This happens twice more in different locations as the female spy keeps leaving clues in her notes that lead Nash to Prague where he awaits nervously., wondering about his fate. Richie Zito and Davitt Sigersen's song is certainly busy, packed with more sudden explosions and bursts of noise than the James Bond franchise it tries to ape, but somehow the song never amounts to much. The chorus line has the female spy disappearing 'into the fog' and that's pretty much what we get here, with a smokescreen of synthesisers covering all traces of emotion across this song. While Graham is clearly having fun singing a piece so far away from his usual singer-songwriter confessional mode, he's just hanging on by his fingertips to this snappy fast rocker, he doesn't inject the song with any feeling - is the spy pleased to be secretly seduced by a rival or mad as hell? Nash said in interviews of the time that this was a 'Marrakesh Express for 1986, with a few spies thrown in, but while 'Marrakesh' has a flavour of the place Nash visits (and by association a time and a place when being on the Marrakesh Express was the most perfect thing any self-respecting hippie could be doing on their holidays),  this song is one of those airports built to the same model that makes every place feel the same. Noisy in other-words: this is a terribly rowdy song that's hard to get a handle on, with only Zito's own swirling guitar really catching the ear.

By the time the synth-drum heavy 'Keep Away From Me' follows you either have a headache like me or a very impermeable head. Nash was inspired to write the song after a tour promoter kept trying to get in contact and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. In a sign of how clueless the promoter was he expecting CSN to reform in 1986 (even though Crosby was in prison) and to play segregated concerts in South Africa, a clear no-no to n unprejudiced and politically minded band like the trio! It feels like Nash started this song as a comedy piece, adding some 'silly' drum patterns (like '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover') and a slight reggae lilt that sounds like a waddling duck. However somewhere along the way the song changed, perhaps because Nash was in a really foul mood the day he came to finish this track off. Suddenly the song shifts somewhere around the end of the verse, as a guitar snarl and some surprisingly tough keyboards weigh in while Nash screams over and over 'keep away from me!' Nash seems possessed by the ending, snapping 'I don't want to see you.. I don't want to hear you!' While it wasn't unheard of for Nash to start being aggressive over people he saw as making money ('Take The Money and Run' is an obvious example), this song has too much venom inside it to simply be about a tour that he didn't want to do. The lyrics too often have a personal touch - the person in the song knows Nash well enough to show him his 'family photos' and talk about his 'latest journey', which sounds like an odd thing for a tour promoter to do. So is this song closer to home? Some fans have wondered over the years if in fact this song is about somebody closer to home - and given the hurt on one of the other album tracks whether it's about Crosby. Admittedly Croz wasn't exactly getting out the family albums in prison either, but Nash sounds mortally wounded and betrayed in a way he would never be from just some silly promoter whose calls you simply ignore and CSN do have history writing about themselves. We know from both the Crosby and Nash autobiographies that, after speaking up on David's behalf at the trial, Graham largely backed away - is this a song warning an old friend who thinks old wounds are healed not to get too close? Or is that just looking at this song through the eyes of 2016 where Nash released similar songs on his angriest album 'This Pat Tonight'? (Though it's a quiet brooding anger, not the madness of this song). On the plus side at least this song has some emotion about it, unlike much of the album, and there's a singalong reggae tune in there that's rather good too. But even Nash's past rows like 'Frozen Smiles' used to be more tuneful than this and a second noisy song needs to calm down a bit.

'Innocent Eyes' doesn't pretend to be anything other than singalong pop. It's good singalong pop too, with far more of a 'Hollie' flavour than anything on the 1983 reunion album (it's clearly written for Allan Clarke to sing too, given how high Nash sings at times). Paul Bliss' song returns to his favourite theme of 'eyes' showing betrayal (see 'Someone Else's Eyes' on 'What Goes Around...') as he realises that a love of his life is over not because of what his partner says but the look that she gives him. Not so very long ago her eyes were 'innocent', but now the narrator realises the 'disguise' and she's been seeing other people on the side. That's a simple idea for a song but then, like Paul's tracks for The Hollies, this song doesn't pretend to be anything more. After The Hollies broke up Paul submitted the song to Air Supply who didn't record it either - Nash, who'd heard that Bliss had an extra batch of songs, asked to hear them for his record and chose this track. He even bought the demo that Bliss had put together, simply adding his own vocal on top alongside a harmony part by Kenny Loggins that's better than Graham's lead actually (Loggins' partner was Jim Messina, once of Buffalo Springfield so after years of working with Stills, Graham probably had a great deal of sympathy!) Nash though characteristically adds more to this track than you sense The Hollies ever would, adding more and more synths and some extra Zito guitar so that a song that's really quite simple sounds complex and elaborate. It's not unlikeable, but if he'd tried Nash could have written a better song on similar lines himself and his vocal lacks the pure hurt and raw anger of the best of this album, as if in his head he knows this is only a pop song. Even so, this song is catchier than a cold and deserved to do a lot better in the charts than it did.

'Chippin' Away' would be the album's most forgettable song if not for two things that make it kinda cute. One is the reggae rhythm which is used far better here than on 'Keep Away From Me' and which suits both Nash's rather good Bob Marley impression and the lyrics about taking away barriers between us. The second is that Nash still remembered this song well enough to urge Crosby and Stills to sing it with him in 1989 when CSN happened to be on tour in Germany when news of the Berlin Wall came through, giving the trio the perfect song to mark the occasion. This is, after all, a song about overcoming obstacles, even walls, one piece at a time 'a little bit day by day' until they're not here anymore - hence why Nash's patois (which would have been patronising on most other songs) fits in a world where we're all the same (well, ish). Unfortunately there's a few more barriers to overcome in this Tom Fedora cover, the biggest of which is the mass of ugly keyboards that shimmer rather than groove and an irritating 'tap tap tap' from the drumsticks that keeps appearing every chorus (and believe you me, that chorus comes round again a lot!) As per usual with this album there's so much going on that chippin' through it all is going to take way more than a day and it isn't always worth your time.Tom Fedora, of the band Reverbnation, probably wasn't thinking about the Berlin Wall specifically when he wrote this song - the wall is actually more symbolic in this song, the way it is in Stills' work. However...

Proof that Nash was already thinking about the Berlin Wall for the song comes with his own sequel 'Over The Wall', a song inspired by a visit to West Berlin where Graham saw the wall up close. The vibe didn't fit with his summer holidays at all - 'grey and dirty, filled with barbed wire...covered in graffiti', it was the ugliest thing Nash had seen for years. Speaking to the press about this album Nash commented 'It's a preposterous piece of architecture and an affront to human dignity and I'd like to tear it down myself, brick by brick!' This was the closest he came. In the lyrics Nash worries, typically, not so much for the people who were separated by it years ago and who have learnt to live their lives across the next forty years or so but the children who grow up around it and think that this is 'normal' and think that we always have to segregate ourselves and some are more deserving than others (the wall was, of course, particularly cruel because it was controlled by superpowers from a distance afraid of it falling into each other's hands; it's not as if half of Berlin were at war with each other and they'd already paid dearly for Germany losing World War Two). Nash worries about why some humans 'have to learn to cry before they can crawl' and in true hippie fashion imagines humanity overcoming all these petty obstacles by going 'over the wall' to freedom. There's a sly reference to 'Immigration Man' in the lyrics as 'Passport policeman' decide who goes where on a whim, though this time the song is darker and angrier - this isn't a rock-star being inconvenienced simply because of his nationality but people threatened by machine guns and dogs if they disobey a stupid instruction. Exactly the sort of thing a member of CSN should have been doing during the mid 1980s when the cold war was at its hottest, it's a shame the trio didn't sing this song at the fall of the wall in 1989 too. Then again, it's quite a complex song as this album goes, full of sudden changes of direction and the song's pace is urgent and fast, even though this time it comes from the guitar stabs rather than just the keyboards. Graham turns in one of his better vocals across the album on this one too, double-tracking it for added weight, with an extra-long note on 'walllllll' that, very aptly, sounds like a real effort for him to make. You just wish there'd been a few extra blocks in this one - like much of the album it's so busy your ears can't rest on one thing for a second, even if the song's heart is very much in the right place.

Johnny Palermo released two hard to find singles in 1978 and 1979 before disappearing as a singer, though he continued to write for other people. Goodness knows where Nash heard his song 'Don't Listen To The Rumours' as no one seems to have recorded it before him and it's not an obvious candidate for a CSN song (but then, 'Innocent Eyes' isn't a very CSN style album). Like 'Keep Away From Me' it's unusually aggressive, with Nash's usual sweet voice battle-hardened and weary as he fights yet another battle. The bank of keyboards, a whole ker-plunk set of synth-drums (scattering in all directions randomly) and even a set of panpipes all give him plenty to battle musically. However lyrically Nash said later that this song appealed to him because of all the press reports of what had happened to CSN. This was a dark and difficult time in the band's history, but it was made more so by reviewers who couldn't understand why Stills and Nash didn't just work as a duo and overdub old song's of David's, like most bands would with a member in prison. CSN, though, didn't work like most bands - they all spent time apart and without Crosby the spirit of CSN had gone in any case. Nash, though, was being grilled over Crosby's state and how it got like that (it wasn't through lack of trying on his bandmates' part), whether he'd fallen out with Stills and just how badly things had been in the Hollies camp (actually Nash had walked out at the first possible opportunity after the record and short American tour were over, while uncharacteristically trying to keep his mouth shut!) Nash was tired of responding to stories that simply weren't true and latched onto this song's impassioned plea that everyone has got their facts wrong and he's quite happy, thankyou. How much better would it have been, though, if Nash had put his feelings to work crafting one of his own songs - or borrowing a better one than this rather boring and generic song to cover? (The Who's 'It's Not True' from 1965 would have been great!)

Thankfully 'Sad Eyes' is a song that sounds much like the older Nash we know and love. It's one of his better love songs in which he manages to be as vulnerable as on 'Songs For Beginners' and as calm as 'Wild Tales', with a dash of the family life on 'Earth and Sky'. A beautiful melody is warm and rounded and the lyrics are worthy too, as Graham plucks up the courage to tell wife Susan what she mean to him - only by the time he does so he finds her fast asleep! So he tells her anyway, in song, about what she's brought to his life. She's opened his eyes, shown him warmth and kindness and allowed him to see the world differently, with the 'sad eyes' he used to have after the split with Joni Mitchell and the death of Amy Gossage now a thing of the past. Like 'Sleep Song' Graham gazes in admiration at her body, wondering how he got this lucky and how he came this far, remembering how he used to be, 'dragging myself way down' and how he feels like 'the better man I am' with the love of someone he admires. Of all the songs in the Nash catalogue, except perhaps the special case of 'Song For Susan', this is the hardest one to hear after Graham and Susan's split as their love is literally the only good thing happening to Graham on this troubled album. Unfortunately the album mix takes a simple song by a self-confessed simple man and makes it way too complex - this a pretty song that doesn't need dressing, never mind the eighteen layers of synth satin robes it's given to wear and both Graham's lovely lead and James Taylor's supportive harmony part are ducked way too low in the mix. A remix on the 'Reflections' box set shows that under all that mess is a truly lovely song and one of Graham's finest, with 'Lonely Man' (about how Susan prevented him from being lonely too) an obvious pairing that really should have been on the album.

'Newday', however, is a Nash song co-written with Craig Doerge (at this point in time more usually Crosby's writing partner) that suggests he didn't really have a lot burning  in his soul to say. The most un-Nash like track on his most un-Nash like album, it sounds more like U2 or The Pet Shop Boys - irritatingly poppy in a synth kinda way with a guitar that doesn't so much play as flicker across the whole thing. There's a 'woah'  chorus that's the poppiest Graham has written since the early Hollies days but only the hard-to-hear lyric sounds at all like what we're used to. 'Where will I be tomorrow?' sings Nash's restless personality. 'I hope it's where I've never been before!' Which is a better lyric than what we get in the third and final verse: 'I'm gonna look for the light, you're all I need to make it right!' Unfortunately Graham was so keen to join a 'new day' and do things differently that he seems to have rather overlooked all the things he used to do well in the past. The result is a curiously lifeless song where nobody seems to be playing or singing with the same enthusiasm heard in the words and where the synths playing this ugly melody don't really have any emotion at all but if they did it would be more reflective than this. Probably the album's weakest song.

'Glass and Steel' is, like 'Sad Eyes' a pretty and revealing song that sounds out of place here so it's been covered up with numerous synth sound effects to make it fit - even though it would have sounded much better as the 'odd one out' on the record anyway. Nash can't relate to an old friend he used to know so well. Either he or they (the verses are vague) stare sightlessly at a TV trying to block out the world around them and it's so different to the full-of-life character Nash used to know - as in fact is he now that their relationship seems broken and he feels lifeless. The title recalls John Lennon's 1974 track 'Steel and Glass', a diatribe against ex-manager Allen Klein which could just have easily have been about himself; it's about how the pair came together because of their similarities though five years on after the Beatles split Lennon felt very different to his old friend. I wonder if Nash also recognises something of himself in his friend, about how he'd allowed the years to get on top of him and drift. Especially if, as people have long assumed, this song is really about Crosby. Nash sings that it's 'hard' for his comrade locked inside a prison cell; it's hard for him too on the outside having lost many of their mutual friends who don't call round any more and reaching out for drugs too to numb the pain (note that he's sitting in front of the TV 'getting spacier'). Note too the lines about his worry for a 'rock and roll refugee' - it's the lifestyle Nash blames more than his friend, but he's not over giving sermons perhaps adding that he took as many drugs in the beginning and as the most stable member in an unstable band (relatively speaking anyway) he didn't fall into the same traps ('The trick is learning how to balance all the pleasure and the pain'). This song is kinder than 'Into The Darkness' though, which was Nash's attempt to shock Crosby back into seeing what he'd become. This song sympathises instead, adding that he wish he knew where his friend had gone and that coming down 'can't be much fun' for Crosby but that he knows his friend 'will find the strength to carry on'. I'd love to know when exactly this song was written: it could have been any time since 1982's 'Daylight Again' LP (as this track didn't exactly fit on the Hollies reunion LP). At the time of recording Crosby was a lot better, having survived the first few months without drugs. This track could have been written in 1982-1984 when Crosby was trying to escape prison - literally on one occasion when he quit a rehab clinic to flee on his yacht 'The Mayan'. But something tells me it was written soon after Crosby went inside and sounds like Nash paid his friend one last visit. He's been coy about how often he saw his old friend, telling reporters that prison was a 'scary business but music saved his ass' by giving Crosby respect inside. This suggests he did visit once. I wonder too if Crosby, who'd have been at his lowest ebb, ever even noticed or whether he simply stared at the 'tube' inside his prison cell, leaving Nash to go home upset and do exactly the same to his TV. The sound of an old friend caring about another old friend, along with 'Sad Eyes' it's sad indeed to see what has been lost since the Crosby-Nash falling out of 2016. Though the melody could have been stronger and the artificial synths could have gone on holiday on this track of all tracks there's a great and moving song here and Nash's vocal is good too when you can actually hear it, caught right in the middle between hope and hopelessness.

'Innocent Eyes' has to go out with a bang though - it's that kind of album - so instead of the perfect finale we get a final noisy track to bookend the album. 'I've Got A Rock' is, oddly, the closest any of CSN came to singing about nuclear warfare (as opposed to nuclear power). Nash wrote later that he made this song to 'strip away' war to its primal basics - a nice idea on paper, but what it means in actuality is Nash singing 'I got a rock, you got a rock, we got a rock they got a rock' over and over before moving on to try the same trick with a stick and a gun. By the end everyone involved in these humanity-long wars realise that the difference between haves and have-nots isn't worth it; that we have wives, a family, a county - and want a future. This isn't sung so much as narrated over a funky synth-bass part that sounds remarkably like the ones Eric Haydock used to play on old Hollies tracks (from 'I can't Let Go' on down). If they ever make another film about Armageddon (and please don't, that isn't a request!) then this song will be the perfect signature tune/trail what with its brittle tough lyrics about what's at stake and a feeling of powerlessness. However, as a song, there's very little to go on and it's another case of this album having a nice idea to experiment and going way too far with it. Nash seems to have been inspired by Neil Young's 'Trans' LP with his vocodered robotic voice but if so he missed the point. That album came out four years earlier when such sounds were new - everyone had done the idea to death  by 1986. Plus 'Trans' was a conceptual work that wouldn't have worked without the robots there - Nash just sounds as if he's auditioning for Darth Vader in the next Star Wars film, badly (assuming they give him a Mancunian accent anyway: 'Don't mither me Luke, I'm yer dad and that can't be fettled now!') An unfortunate one-note end to an album that had sparks of genius but still begins and ends with nursery rhymes.

'Innocent Eyes' is, then, arguably Nash's weakest solo LP. It didn't manage to do what it set out to do - establish a new life away from CSN when both that band and The Hollies looked like dead-ends for the time being. It doesn't build on Nash's strengths as a songwriter too often (with only six new songs, the lowest on a Nash project by far), allow him to stretch himself as a singer and Nash plays notably little music himself across the whole album (a bit of keyboard here and there and no guitar or harmonica). The album's poor sales put an end to his time on Atlantic (a couple of future CSN reunions aside) and all but killed off Nash's songwriting momentum, with only a handful of songs on 1988 CSNY album 'American Dream' that aren't much more inspired than this album's. However what 'Innocent Eyes' does prove is that, even at his worst and most misguided, Nash always has something extra to offer. Two songs here, 'Sad Eyes' and 'Glass and Steel' (a third with 'Lonely Man' which really should have made the album!) show that Graham still had it when he was content to be himself instead of playing at being a spy, a pop singer or a glittery trivial 1980s pop artist (that Hollies album really went to his head, although it was far better than this one! Just check out that popstar grin on the back cover - Nash hasn't shown his teeth off this much since 1964!) Not many artists would put their careers on the line trying to be quite this contemporary either - though Nash always kept an eye on what was happening in the musical world he never rolled around in it quite as much as he does here (which is difficult for our modern ears to take, now the world has moved on from synths and synth-drums, but made sense in 1986). You have to applaud Graham's bravery and the better couple of songs here, but the rest? Put it down to experience and a mid-life, possibly career-ending crisis in which Nash had lost his band and his best friend all at the same time and leave it for another time when your headache's gone!

A Now Complete List Of CSN/Y and Solo Articles Available To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

'Crosby, Stills and Nash' (1969)

'Deja Vu' (CSNY) (1970)

‘Stephen Stills’ (1970)

'If Only I Could Remember My Name' (Crosby) (1971)

'Songs For Beginners' (Nash) (1971)

'Stephen Stills II' (1971)
‘Graham Nash, David Crosby’ (1972)

'Stephen Stills-Manassas'  (1972)

'Wild Tales' (Nash) (1973)
'Down The Road' (Stephen Stills/Manassas) (1973)

'Stills' (1975)

'Wind On The Water' (Crosby-Nash) (1975)
'Illegal Stills' (Stills) (1976)
'Whistling Down The Wire' (Crosby-Nash) (1976)

'Long May You Run' (Stills-Young) (1976)

'CSN' (1977)
'Thoroughfare Gap' (Stills) (1978)
'Earth and Sky' (Nash) (1980)

'Daylight Again' (CSN) (1982)
'Right By You' (Stills) (1984)
'Innocent Eyes' (Nash) (1986)
'American Dream' (CSNY) (1988)

'Oh Yes I Can!' (Crosby) (1989)

'Live It Up!' (CSN)  (1989)

'Stephen Stills Alone' (1991)

'CPR' (Crosby Band) (1998)

‘So Like Gravity (CPR, 2001)

‘Songs For Survivors’ (2002)

'Deja Vu Live' (CD) (2008)

'Deja Vu Live' (DVD) (2008)

'Reflections' (Graham Nash Box Set) (2009)

'Demos' (CSN) (2009)

'Manassas: Pieces' (2010)

‘Carry On’ (Stephen Stills Box Set) (2013)

'Croz' (Crosby) (2014)
'CSNY 74' (Recorded 1974 Released 2014)

'This Path Tonight' (Nash) (2016)

‘Here If You Listen’ (Crosby)

The Best Unreleased CSNY Recordings
Surviving TV Appearances (1969-2009)
Non-Album Recordings (1962-2009)
Live/Compilation/Rarities Albums Part One (1964-1980)
Live/Compilations/Rarities Albums Part Two (1982-2012)
Essay: The Superest Of Super Groups?
Five Landmark Concerts and Three Key Cover Versions

The Rolling Stones: Non-Album Songs Part Two 1970-2012


You can now buy 'Yesterday's Papers - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Rolling Stones' in e-book form by clicking here!

 Non-Album Recordings #8: 1970

Oddly the Stones never recorded one of their favourite Chuck Berry jamming songs, [141] 'Little Queenie', in the studio. A regular part of their live set, the song eventually turned up on 'Get Yer Ya Yas Out!' in 1970 as well as a number of period archive recordings (the 'Live At Leeds' version included on the 'Sticky Fingers' deluxe set is about the best). A double 'A' side with 'Almost grown' release in 1959, the original is a typical Berry pop song about underage fantasies, about a girl who 'looks like a model from a magazine whose too lovely to be more than seventeen!' Slowed down to a 'Stray Cat Blues' style strut, the Stones' version is more menacing and demonic, hinting at a debauched time rather than innocent fun, though Keith's glorious note-perfect guitar solo adds just enough of the spirit of the original to make the new arrangement work. Still not a patch on 'Carol', though. Find it on: 'Get Yer Ya Yas Out!' (1970)

Non-Album Recordings #9: 1971

Released as an 'extra' B-side to go alongside 'Bitch' on the back of 'Brown Sugar',  [152] 'Let It Rock! is yet another Chuck Berry cover, this one an album track from 1960. Set, like so many Berry songs, in 'Sunny Alabama', this is a tale of teenage railroad worker whose nearly killed when a train comes smashing past the blocks further down the road and clearly doesn't know it's a new piece of track. They survive, Mick ruefully reflecting that you have to let something that big 'roll right along', on a lyric that's something of an oddity for Berry. The riff is very much the usual sort of thing, though, while the title and the slurred words of the original has inspired many groups to write their own 'hymn' songs to music using the exact same chord structure:  The Who's 'Long Live Rock' for one. It's an ok B-side for the Stones which worked better in live performance with the added grunt of Taylor's guitar working in tandem with Keith's for once. Find it on: the original version is sadly only available on the pricey 'Singles Collection Volume Two', though you can hear a cracking live version from Leeds University on the 'Sticky Fingers' deluxe set. 

   Non-Album Recordings #10: 1972

A rare chance to hear a Stones classic at the halfway stage, the slower more emotional [161b] 'Loving Cup' included on the 'Exile' re-release is clearly less finished but also far more natural than the finished version. You can actually hear the words on this version without the 'blurry' edges and what fab words they are, with Mick offering up a rare humble confessional narrator (though he's not past going back to his sarcastic voice at times) and the interplay between him and Keith is delicious, the two friends revelling in the sheer silliness of their lustful, loved-up song. Charlie is on top form, driving the pair on to their obsession, while Mick Taylor's swirling pretty lead gives the song just the right amount of love too. There's something infectious about hearing Mick adding 'bee' sound effects after the line 'what a beautiful buzz' or the old friends trying to out-do each other on the drunken fade ('justgimmealittledrinkah!') Fab! Doing a bit of digging I discovered that this take is actually a hybrid of two separate ones: the first dates back to 1969 and ends after two minutes, spliced into an alternate 'bigger' take from 1972. Unsure where to place it, I've bunged it here with the other session songs. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

The alte rnate version of [  ] 'Soul Survivor' is less thrilling despite being just as different. Keith is lead vocalist here on a different set of lyrics that sounds more like a leftover from 'Loving Cup': 'I'm just playing, but every time my feet's on the ground I just can't stand up with this loving cup, I just run around every time she walks by!' Keith doesn't suit the song as well while the lyrics are clearly 'blocking' the words out without the drama or desperation of being the sole survivor left behind to get on with his life. However the track does what a good outtake does: it reveals something new about the finished version and makes you love it all the more.Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

An oddly 'together' track from the blurry Exile sessions, [171] 'Pass The Wine (Sophia Loren)' is at times all too obviously sporting a 'new' Jagger vocal in his later strained voice and possibly a bit of the elder Charlie drum shuffle too. It's an oddball little song that seem more at one with the story songs of 'Emotional Rescue' than 'Exile', Jagger playing the part of a man whose 'glad to be alive and kicking' however tough life is, while noting how depressed the people around him seem to be. The music, however, offers no peaks and troughs - just a stable backing that doesn't really change groove. The backing singers sound probably better here than they ever have on any previous Stones recording, though, bringing Mick out of himself and offering up some hope. Neither of the album's two titles are used in the lyrics, the second of them being a complete mystery: actress Sophia Loren had just announced in 1970 she was slowing down her acting career to become a mum and so could be feeling more depressed, though the link is slight. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

[172] 'Plundered My Soul', though, does find Mick being depressed, a loser in love whose 'indiscretions have made a bad impression' but eager to prove to us that he's just 'misunderstood'. Mick's feeling betrayed, which dates this song to the end of his time with Marianne Faithful, acknowledging that he half knew that his girl was after his loving or his wallet but shocked to find that she's 'plundered my soul'. Refusing to quit, Mick looks around for where she might be to say goodbye, going through the phone directories for alcoholics anonymous just to rub it in (sadly he doesn't sing 'AA' or I could have convinced myself he meant the 'AAA' and I could 'plunder' this bit for an advert...curse you Mick!) However compared to most Stones 'goodbye' songs this one is adult and in places quite tender: Mick admits that he's going to miss 'your quick repartee and the smile that lights up your face'. Keith's melody isn't quite as inspired and sticks rather carefully to it's one tight groove, but it does the job. This song should have made 'Exile' easily and made it a decent length for a double album. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

Alas [173] 'I'm Not Signifying' probably shouldn't have made the outtakes disc, never mind the original record. A slow ugly blues, presumably with Stu on piano, it features Mick doing rather too good an impression of a drunken narrator realising that he and a loved one are parting ways. She's always off in her 'graveyard world' and 'staring at the ceiling', strung out, while he's longingly looking at the door to escape. The song finally takes off thanks to a fiery harmonica solo, which might have been added for the CD release in 2010 but proves Mick has lost none of his power, blowing the cobwebs off the rest of the song. Mick Taylor too turns in a terrific angsty solo, mixed ridiculously low. It would have been interesting to hear how this blurry song might have sounded with the same blurred edges of the 'Exile' record mix. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

Though the Stones may lack the quantity and quality of outtakes shared by their competitors (The Beach Boys and Neil Young to name two), they too had some real gems that sit alongside the best songs they ever released. A case in point is [  ] 'Following The River', which not only should have made the 'Exile On Main Street' album, but would have been a candidate for greatest track on what many think is their greatest album. Even allowing for the fact that a lot of overdubbing has gone on (most of Mick's miraculous lead vocal - his best in a decade - seems to have been added later) and the fact that the Stones have had the better part of thirty-five years to work out what to do with the song, it still packs a punch that defies the passing years. Like many of Mick's best lyrics its humble and sad, the narrator bidding 'goodbye' in a way that's far kinder and more adult than 'Yesterday's Papers'. Sadly realising that their paths are no longer heading in the same direction, Mick sighs that 'I just don't see a future here for me and you', but makes sure that he's being kind: he compliments his partner, admits to his wrongdoing ('There've been some other sin this room with me - really quite a crowd') and longs for the day when the pair will accidentally bump into each other again, on friendly terms. In turn, he praises her for 'always seeing the best in me', Mick leaving partly because he's fed up of letting her down and doesn't feel he can live up to her ideal of him - a thought a million light years away from his usual strutting lothario image. The timing of the song here suggests that it's a fond farewell to Marianne Faithful, perhaps with shade of Jerry given the timing of the actual vocal, though the lines about 'always saw the best in me' suggest it's more about Chrissie, perhaps inspired by a recent chance meeting (She's since revealed that Mick would turn up out the blue at her flat years after he'd left with Marianne). Perhaps this isn't a song about one person though: it sounds deeper than that, more an amalgam of human nature as Mick realises that perhaps there aren't more fish in the sea in the river he's following that can give him what he hasn't already had, but needing to leave anyway. A gorgeous gospel lilt from multiple piano/keyboard/organ parts and a group of female backing singers ought to make this song clichéd and ponderous, but instead it adds to the scope of the song - this isn't a spur of the moment piece, it's one that's clearly been practised, rehearsed and built up for days, perhaps years before the narrator picks his moment to say it. The lovely melody is one of the band's finest too, more rounded and less riff based than usual (suggesting it's Mick's not Keith's) and inspires a first-class vocal from Jagger, whose at his best on the songs where he gets to play vulnerable. Except this doesn't sound like 'playing' - you can count the straight-up, no joking Jagger vocals on the fingers of a pop duo and this is one of the ones that sounds most 'real', a vocal fans who'd 'always seen the best' in Jagger's potential had been longing for for years. All in all, this is superb: how dare 'Exile' only last for 67 minutes when it had such tracks as this one a mere lead vocal overdub away from perfection! Worth buying the 'Exile' deluxe set for alone. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

Poppier than most of the 'Exile' tracks, with country-ish overtones,  [175] 'Dancing In The Light' isn't in the same league but would have enlivened Exile's second half up no end. Offering to be Captain Bligh to his missus' Mr Christian, Jagger's narrator feels major pangs of jealousy as his girlfriend's career takes off and wants to gatecrash it, partly to be together but also to stay more famous. He's fuming because he dated the girl when she was ugly, but now she's paid for a nose job she's prettier than he is and everyone is taking pity on her for being with him. Worst of all, though, is that he's afraid of losing her to someone prettier, younger and more handsome and after years of feeling he could get away with anything because she'd be mad to leave. The 'old' Stones would have had Mick seeking revenge or ruining her name, but the best this narrator can do is mutter 'If I was your new boyfriend, I'd get stage fright' given how much they'd have to live up to. For once Mick's narrator is on the losing end and he doesn't like it one bit, with a wild and slightly drunken air on a song that keeps coming back for more just when it feels like it's finished, as if it's a drunk in the bar adding '...and another thing!' Had this been the mid-1960s a track like this would have gone down well with its catchy chorus and slinky rhythms and some of the rhymes are brilliantly clever ('I got that sinking feeling - whose potatoes are you peeling?!') In the context of 1972, though, it's a little bit lightweight but, hey, not every song has to be dark and heavy and brooding. This is another song that should have made the album. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

Another 'Exile' outtake that trumps most of the album, the paranoid and turbulent [176] 'So Divine (Aladdin Story)' is a real development for the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnership. A slow variation on Keith's usual Chuck Berry riffing sounds as if it's playing backwards (it's the opening to 'Paint It, Black' too, funnily enough, a similar song about obsession) while Mick's poetic, fragmentary lyrics suggests a song being pulled inside out. Like 'Between The Buttons' nothing is what it once seemed: he thought he was putting her under his spell, but it was the other way round and now he's obsessed just at the point where he's discovered what an evil so and so his girl is. It's tempting to see this song as the final break between Mick and Marianne in the style of the songs that signalled the first blossoming of their romance. Mick vows to 'vote with my feet' and make his way out the door, leaving forever, but that hypnotic riff - now taken up by Bobby Keyes on sax - has covered the song so much he can't find his way out, his manic attempts to escape well matched by Charlie's manic drumming and the spooky ambient effects on his voice. By the end you fear that there's no way out. Another strong performance helps make a promising song sound terrific - this track would have suited the blurry, nervy sound of 'Exile' only too well. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

The only outtake that doesn't quite work is [157b] 'Good Time Woman', which had to go through an awful lot of changes to sound half-palatable as 'Tumbling Dice'. A simple 12 bar honky tonk groove that sounds like a Chuck Berry record played at the wrong speed, this sounds the sort of thing other bar-room swigging rock bands who lack the Stones' poise and imagination would try (Ronnie Wood's old band The Faces for one). The lyrics are set in the same casino setting as the final product and you can tell that they might have started life here, but these songs about losing a bet to a girl's charms and the chorus 'good time women love to party all night' only work on one level, not several as per the finished version. A shame, though, that a total re-recording meant we lost a glorious Mick Taylor guitar solo that's amongst his most virtuoso and spell-binding, somehow pointing towards a hidden emotion that isn't even in the song yet. Otherwise, though, there's a heck of a lot of work to be done - which is, of course, the glory of outtakes sometimes in showing how clever the band were by the end after such rum beginnings. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Exile On Main Street'

   Non-Album Recordings #11: 1974

Considering the context - the first non-album Stones flipside in three years, from album sessions that were the most depressingly average to date - [198] 'Through The Lonely Nights' isn't actually that bad. A country ballad about loss, I'm tempted to see this as Keith's 'farewell' song to Gram Parsons, who'd died in September the previous year. 'Why did you take it? What's wrong with you?' sings Keith about the drug overdose that killed him, before realising that actually he knows it's the same drive that has him addicted too, sighing 'I don't know why I do it but I do' in the same haunted way as 'Coming Down Again' from 'Goat's Head Soup'. Though I doubt Gram ever wore 'cherry dresses' he certainly wore 'shiny shoes' and (presumably) Keith's words about worrying about joining him soon sound heartfelt. While Mick was busy trying to become more upper class than ever before, you can hear the 'real' Keith in this song as he's sleeping in a doorway, crying bitter tears to his Lord for not taking him too. Unfortunately this affecting lyrics is rather undone by a forgettably bland tune and the sort of sloppy performance the Stones seem to reserve for their country pastiches. The lyric deserved better. Shockingly, this was unavailable on album until as late as 2005. Find it on: 'Rarities 1971-2003' (2005)

Non-Album Recordings #12: 1977

I've been listening to versions of versions of Muddy Waters' [  ] 'Mannish Boy' (Dur-dur-dur-dee-doo) since the age of five (dur dur dur dee doo) and somehow down the decades (dur dur dur dur dee doo) the song has lost all sense of being alive (due dur dur dee doo) but against the odds the Stones in a club setting (dur dur dur dee doo) remember how to play this song (dur dur dur dee doo) even though they hand't played it for years (dur dur dur dee doo) since they made twenty-one (dur dur dur dee doo) It's one of the few times (dur dur dur dee doo) they cover a song by the man who gave them their name (dur dur dur dee doo) and there's something extra special about it (dur dur dur dee doo) compared to the versions that nearly always sound the same (dur dur dur dee doo) It's by far the greatest thing (dur dur dur dee doo) on the concert set 'Love You Live' (dur dur dur dee doo) with Mick whipping a harmonica out his pocket (dur dur dur dee doo) and the Stones keeping the blues very much alive (dur dur dur dee doo) woah yeah! Find it on: 'Love You Live' (1977)

The 'Love You Live' tracks recorded at the La Hacomba Club are definitely the best things on the album, with a looseness and fun the band hadn't enjoyed in years. Alongside a revived 'Little Red Rooster'  and the old warhorse 'Around and Around' the band also had a go at Bo Diddley's [  ] 'Crackin' Up'. Revives with a distinct Caribbean influence rather than the pure R and B of the original, it's a fun version that's more inventive than most Stones versions and one that all the band put their hearty into. The guitar weaving is fabulous, Charlie sticks to a heavy repetitive drum beat and Mick is reinventing everything we thought he could do. Why isn't the whole of this concert out on CD? And why is every other Stones live recording so bad - comparatively anyway? Find it on: 'Love You Live' (1977)

   Non-Album Recordings #13: 1978

Initially the concept for 'Some Girls' centred on naughty real-life girls rather than the more abstract concepts that made the record. [238] 'Claudine' was, then, an obvious choice for a Stones song in part of a case that makes Oscar Pistorious look like a health and safety officer. Claudine Longet was the French pop star wife of a world-famous skier, they were one of the golden couples of the 1970s. Following her husband Spider Sabich into the shower, Claudine 'accidentally' fired a gun into his abdomen and he bled to death in her arms while their children, having heard the sound, watched. The event was ruled to be an 'accident' during a lengthy court case - a verdict the Stones clearly don't agree with according to their sly take on the fatal accident. Mick has great fun on the vocals, ad libbing lines about 'itchy trigger fingers' and 'don't point that thing at me!' and song has the, err, 'killer' chorus line: 'Only Spider knows for sure - and he ain't talkin' 'bout it anymore...' Mick also urges everyone at home to leave the safety catch on their guns just in case their wives ever feel like taking revenge in a similar manner! Worried about possible court cases, the Stones' new masters at EMI brought the lawyers in, who got trigger happy themselves over idea of libel and made the band drop the song, which is one of the reasons why 'Some Girls' runs so short. Musically it wouldn't really have fitted anyway, being a retro 50s Jerry Lee Lewis plays Chuck Berry stomp, but it would surely have made a less damaging album inclusion than 'Far Away Eyes' court case or no... Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

[217] 'So Young' is one of those songs that, Stones fan that I am, makes me slightly uncomfortable. We know by now that if you're the sort of fan whose easily offended by rock songs then this might not necessarily be the best musical fit you can have in your musical life, but sometimes the Stones push the envelope to shock without enough of a reason to go there. 'So Young' is, like 'Stray Cat Blues', a song about underage sex, but this time round the narrator seems to have been actively searching for young victims rather than the oops-but-while-you're-here-you-might-as-well...wink of 1968. Mick's narrator is actively hanging round the arcade to pick up someone like her and picks her up with 'broken French' rather than her coming on to him. 'Come share my popcorn' he slurs, 'It's not a federal offense' - even though, this time at least, it is with the girl admitting already that she's fourteen. Even though the narrator bids a 'quick retreat' before he can get anywhere that's not the point - of all the Jagger sympathetic narrators this is easily the least sympathetic to today's ears and comes embarrassingly late in the band's career at an age when they really ought to know better. Unfortunately the lyric is thrown away on a cooking backing track that features one of the best solos Ronnie ever played with the band and a glorious finale that's a fine example of the Stones art of guitar weaving. This track doesn't sound like it would have fitted into 'Some Girls' either though and was probably best left in the vaults. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

Oddly disciplined and laidback compared to the rest of the 'Some Girls' sessions, [218] 'Do You Think I Really Care?' features an excellent catchy melody that sounds a little Motownish, but suffers from the period's slightly dodgy lyrics. Mick is obsessed by a girl he hardly gets to see anymore and imagines everything she's up to without him. Unfortunately that adds up to a long list of places: subways, trains, cafes, highways, even a 'Giants' baseball game in a mark of just how America-orientated the band were now becoming. The result is a mess - a great sounding mess perhaps, with Keith finding new ways to stretch out one of his favourite riffs - but a mess nonetheless. Interestingly Ronnie gets a rare co-credit, despite the fact that his guitar work, took, is barely there and this doesn't sound much like his natural style. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

[219] 'When You're Gone' is a 12 bar blues treated with all sorts of effects that sounds like a dry run for the lesser tracks on 'Voodoo Lounge'. Presumably a song about the impending split with Bianca, Mick sounds in a nasty mood as he speaks about wanting to get through the last moments of amicability quickly because he can't stand being in the same room as an ex anymore. His harmonica puffing is impressive, haunted in a way his 'comedy' voice can never be, while Keith backs him up all the way with a desperate and dirty riff. There's a hint though that this isn't a mere 'relationship' song but one about the band, Mick haunted by old tunes he over-hears accidentally on the radio and equating 'these old melodies with leprosy' (Traditionally the rift between him and Keith won't start until the mid-1980s, or is this the exception with hints of things to come?) 'I want to cut out all the pain!' Mick wails, but for all that he sounds oddly unconvincing on a song where only the music sounds 'real'. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

[220] 'No Spare Parts' is a 'Fool To Cry' style ballad, a weepy song about a mixed-age marriage where Mick is the older partner, worried that he's coming over as a 'father' figure. The rest of the song is even more strange, with Mick admitting that if he wants something bad enough 'I always find a way to get through', wrapped up with a travelogue in which he drives over to her house for thanksgiving and tales of his alcoholic dad dying at age thirty-nine. Declaring that his heart can't break because he's too lonely to withstand the hurt, this sounds most unlike our usual Jagger character and the track is sung in the usual cod-Americanisms that seem to be short-hand for Jagger cyphers. Not that the melody is any better - this is a weak man's 'Wild Horses' set in the same tempo but without any of the grace or majesty. The vocal was added years later especially for the re-issue, but to be honest it sounded better on bootleg as an instrumental. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

[221] 'Don't Be A Stranger' is 'Some Girls' odd calypso/reggae song - every Stones album seems to have one it somewhere. A plea to an old flame to stay in contact, this is an oddly warm band for this band in perhaps their coldest period, suggesting Mick had been in touch with either Chrissie or Marianne. 'I thought you'd disappeared!' sings Mick, shocked not just at seeing someone from the old days but his excitement at seeing someone he thought he'd got over. 'I never go to bed till five!' quips Mick, telling his 'friend' where the spare key is kept before, confusingly, telling her to knock on his door anytime. The truth is slipped in somewhere near the end, during the run of compliments: 'I need your lovin' like never before!' Slight, but a whole load better than other similar Stones songs in the same style, the whole band sound like they're having fun trying something different, especially Charlie who fairly pulversises a steel drum during the making of this track. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

Perhaps the best of the 'Some Girls' outtakes is a rare Keith vocal, with the sleepy ballad [222] 'We Had It All' a million light years away from 'Before They Make Me Run'. Only his high, keening, pure vocal gives away the fact this isn't one of his 90/00s deep-throated growls. Remembering a partnership every time he hears the call of the 'lonesome pine', Keith seems to be remembering a lost friend - perhaps Brian, perhaps Gram Parsons again, given the heavy country influence and steel guitar on this track. We don't often hear Keith in nostalgic mood, but here he salutes a time that was 'all worthwhile' when 'you and me we had it all' and paying tribute that 'you're the best thing in my life'. A lovely empathetic harmonica part from Mick really enhances this lovely song which feels as if it has the ring of truth to it, but there are so few specifics here Keith could be singing about any old ghost from the past. Once again, these outtakes from 'Some Girls' sound like they belong on an entirely different album - more disciplined and less aggressive - while it seems hard to believe that the vault-raids that resulted in both 'Emotional Rescue' and 'Tattoo You' passed by this excellent track.  Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

Freddy Cannon's 1950s hit [223] 'Tallahassee Lassie' seems an odd track for the Stones to cover - this lassie is a good time girl, but also a good girl who belongs in the world of first dates and cute carnivals. She's not a 'Some Girl' to compare to the great lost on the album and the Stones haven't revived a 1950s track since they did 'Let It Rock' back in 1971. It's not altogether a success, with Mick's vocal stretched past breaking point, though Keith turns in a fine vocal and Charlie plays hard and fast. At first I wondered if this was a band warm-up rather than a serious take, but too much time seems to have been spent on the arrangement for that, with Keith and Ronnie passing over thr guitar solos like a hot potato. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

The most Stonesy of the 'Some Girls' outtakes, [224] 'I Love You Too Much'finds Mick falling in love after being invited by a pretty girl to take shelter out of the rain. However her feelings don't run as deep as his and his obsession ('I never give in!') scares her away, the narrator convinced from the first that this relationship is only going to end in tears. The girl's good deed rather backfires as the narrator admits to a 'morbid fascination' and that 'I can't help it - it's more than a crush!' Mick and Keith may have been inspired by tales of Stones groupies who followed the band about everywhere and who fancied having a go at being the 'stray cat' in their song for once. The song's 'Soul Survivor'ish riff does a good job at mirroring the obsession too, without quite matching the classics of old. This would have been another track that would have sounded deeply out of place on the album though, played at about half the pace and a tenth of the aggression of most of the 'Some Girls' album. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

 A plodding 12 bar again, [225] 'Keep Up Blues' finds Mick strutting like a peacock over a wordier blues than normal. The narrator's doing well in the world for once and wants to rub it in to someone  he used to know to impress here. Doesn't sound as if it's working though to be honest - anyone who protests that much to the opening guitar lick from 'Dancing With Mr D' is clearly not to be trusted. The ending is fun as the song breaks down in stages and Mick postmodernly urging the band to 'keep up...with the times' and ending with a cry of 'that's it!' but this is light fluff to dash off between takes rather than any great long lost relic. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

Hank Williams' [226] 'You Win Again' is one of the worst songs the Spice Girls haven't recorded. It's icky, it's slow and it's insincere - which of course means that it's perfect fodder for The Stones to send up. Except, of course, that in parodying the original they exaggerate everything that was wrong with it without actually putting anything right, with a truly ear-curling Jagger vocal and so much weepie slide guitar the sheet music probably has a small cloud where the solo should be. It's not one of the band's better ideas - and yet it's still preferable to 'Faraway Eyes'! Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

Only 90 seconds long, [227] 'Petrol Blues' is a boogie woogie piano riff, presumably played by Mick although it would have delighted Stu no end. Inspired by the petrol shortage of 1978, it seems odd that two great bands of the 1960s should turn the fact into a rocked-up blues, although the Stones' demo isn't close to The Kinks' 'A Gallon Of Gas' from 1979's 'Low Budget'. Mick gets worked up so much he tries to get the president involved and tries to get Cadillac and Standard Oil to sell him some from their warehouse but to no luck. Next Jagger wants to alter the map 'so we won't have so far to go'. However the joke, funny for a verse, is already running out of gas by the end of this short song so perhaps it's a mercy this was never finished. Find it on: the deluxe edition of 'Some Girls' (2011)

Meanwhile, the first Stone solo release barring Bill's (and leaving Ronnie's half-status out of the equation for the moment) capped off the end of a busy year, with Keith making the most of the band's own record label to release his own tribute to Chuck Berry. Keith's hero was having a difficult time of things. He'd just been sentenced to prison - for the second time - after years of tax evasion; facing his own big battle in court Keith probably felt some solidarity and wanted to offer some festive cheer for the both of them. [  ] 'Run Rudolph Run' is 'Johnny B Goode' with added reindeers, as fierce and rocking a festive song as any you're likely to hear. Not exactly a brilliant Christmas present, it's more of a festive stocking filler from someone not sure if he'll be in the state penitentiary himself by the end of the next year, muddily recorded and unconvincing. Still missing on CD, the song was re-released for the digital age on iTunes in 2007.

The B-side was a cover of another of Keith's main loves of the period, reggae. Jimmy Cliff's  [  ] 'The Harder They Come' is one of the better Stones-related attempts at reggae, though you sense Keith still probably wouldn't win many awards for his wasted and creaky voice. Actually both sides of the single are evidence that Keith was probably being a danger to himself and others, especially his fans, but the ad hoc backing band of friends is a strong one with just the right Jamaican beach feel. First released in 1972 for the film of the same name, this is one of the true classics of the reggae general and is strong enough to stand up to such a dishevelled and clearly rushed recording. This B-side too was re-issued on iTunes in 2007. 

You can also throw into this year's pile of oddities the concert cover of Chuck Berry's [  ] 'Sweet Little Sixteen'. One of Chuck Berry's biggest hits dating back to 1958, it's a wonder the band hadn't performed it before - everyone else had. The early Brian Jones era Stones might have nailed it's slinky groove nicely but here, in 1978, Mick's in sarcastic form on the vocal and the band aren't quite tight enough to nail the stop-start tempo. Still the 'point' the band are making in the middle of their punk-inspired tour - that Chuck Berry was the original punk and rock goes in cycles - is well made and it's good fun to hear Keith and Mick Taylor swapping over, the latter taking the rhythm spot so Richards can show off his encyclopaedic knowledge of Berry riffs. Find it on: 'Some Girls - Live In Texas '78' (Released 2011)

   Non-Album Recordings #14: 1980

Of all the Stones songs I never ever wanted to hear a sequel to, 'Dance' from 'Emotional rescue' would be high on my list. After all, there's only so many places you can take a funk groove and that track had run out of any places worth going past the first verse. Alas, though, here we are with [239] 'If I Was A Dancer (Dance Part Two)' which, perhaps mercifully, only came out on a defunct compilation rather than as a 'proper' album track. It sounds like exactly the same song, although the lyrics are quite different and, actually, rather better the second time round. Instead of a dumb song about dancing, this is a dumb song about being stuck in a rut and jealousy, with poor men longing for money and presidents wishing they had a 'steady wife' who wouldn't be in the papers every week. Mick is near his cheeky best here, declaring 'If I was a woman I'd want a new man every night!' and with a wink to Charlie saying 'If I was a drummer I'd never miss a beat!' The tune is still, well, absent though and the horn overdubs irritating. If I was a reviewer I'd skip this nonsense and move on to the next track and as I've just remembered I am here's me skipping to the next bit...Find it on: 'Sucking In The Seventies' (1975) or 'Rarities 1971-2003' (2005)

Non-Album Recordings #15: 1981

The Stones must really dislike [  ] 'I Think I'm Goin' Mad' as they've done their best to bury it - first as the B-side to relative flop single 'She's So Cold' and again by kicking it off the 'Rarities' CD. While the punks amongst you won't find anything to get too excited about, actually it's amongst the best of the Stones' early 1980s polished material with a really lovely guitar sound, some lovely sax and some nice Nicky Hopkins piano. One of the few 'new' songs taped during the 'Tattoo You' sessions, it's uninspired but perfectly respectable as Mick returns to the theme of 'Time Waits For No One' and sounds shocked at how many years have flown past without him really noticing. 'All the highs and lows don't mean a thing to me - I don't give a damn!' he sings, realising that everything is cyclical and summing up middle age with the line 'for some things I'm too old - and for some I'm still too young'. His hands shaking from the amount of coffee he's taken to make him stay awake, Jagger cuts an uncharacteristically pathetic figure here - perhaps the reason this song was given the boot as it doesn't fit his usual egotistical style - and seems to be talking to the young hotshots trying to take his rock crowd at the end as he warns them, Pete Townshend like, 'I think I've lost my head and I should now be sacrificed!' The fact that the Stones have got pretty good at conjuring up jazz lounge cocktail bar feel after so many similar songs in the past few years rather helps his cause. This plea for help is not unlikeable, though, and the melody is rather lovely, hovering gracefully without the pounce and punch of most period Stones songs. Find it on: A rare Stones track missing on CD, you can only find this one on the original vinyl single for 'She's So Cold'.. 

Non-Album Recordings #16: 1982

'Still Life' worked to much the same rules as 'Love You Live' with a mini-retro concert of oldies the Stones would have played at the beginning of their career but never placed on record, though in more compact form. You can tell somehow, though, that the likes of Eddie Cochran's [  ] 'Twenty Flight Rock' is performed in a massive arena rather than a club with the band going for big wild gestures rather than intimacy. That's a shame because, despite the song's brevity at a mere 100 seconds, it's still quite a fun cover of Eddie Cochran's influential classic performed with more joy and passion than any of Paul McCartney's many revivals of the song the played at his 'Beatles' audition. Jagger sounds genuinely puffed out by the time his narrator has made it up the stairs on this impressively fast-tempoed version, though the Stones sound a little more ready to rock. Still not up to the club dates from the last live album, though. Find it on: 'Still Life' (1982)

What does Mick sing at the start of [ ] 'A Going To A Go-Go'? It sounds like 'alright sugar puffs...' (is he ordering his stage retainer?!) Anyway, The Miracles' 1965 hit is terribly messy and could have done with some more rehearsal time, but it's more interesting than simply hearing the same old tired hits again. Mick has fun paying back the influence from 'Some Girls' in the list-like lyrics ('Doesn't matter if you're flat, doesn't matter if you're white' he ad libs) and Bobby Keyes gets a great saxophone solo in the middle. Audiences, though, must have wondered what on earth was going on when a band with that strong a back catalogue plump for a performance an obscure song most of them had probably forgotten all about long ago by 1982. Find it on: 'Still Life' (1982)

   Non-Album Recordings #17: 1985

To quote where we left off in the last non-album section, I think I must be going mad. There's Mick Jagger wanting to do his bit for Live Aid so who does he call? No not the other Stones, who are being a giggling back-up band to Bob Dylan for the night, but David Bowie to team up for a bizarre single too funny to be taken seriously without ever quite being the novelty charity record we've all come to know and love/hate. No one seems quite sure who approached who first - perhaps organiser Bob Geldof approached them both - but somehow both men agreed to a satellite link-up from their respective homes on the opposite sides of the world, abandoned when it was realised the delay in receiving pictures back then would result in an unworkable half second delay. Undeterred, Mick flew into Abbey Road where Bowie was working on 'Absolute Beginners' and the pair laid down a cover of a song they'd both loved. Martha Reeves and the Vandelas' [  ] 'Dancin' In The Street' managed to avoid the pair being stuck doing one song or another and also allowed them to dance badly for charity in a video shot to accompany the song straight after the session was over. Bowie and Jagger sound rather good together but make rather a meal of the song, Jagger repaying the debt he owed to the track for a line in 'Street Fighting Man' ('The time is right for fighting in the street...') It's all in a good cause, I suppose, though it didn't help matters in the band much - Keith found all that rock-star posing hilarious, while being secretly miffed he didn't get to be a part of it. The B-sides of both the 7" and 11" releases include different mixes of the song - the original is best though. The TV show Family Guy were once so shocked that this event had actually happened that they screened the entire near-four minute video in the middle of the cartoon just to prove that it did; to be honest it's once seen never forgotten, especially the lurid green jacket 'n' blue jogging pants combo Jagger is wearing! To date, not available on CD though the single sold bucket-loads, so keep an eye open in charity shops. 

   Non-Album Recordings #18: 1989

Though wisely left off the 'Steel Wheels' album - where it would have been the weakest track -  [284] 'Fancy Man Blues' is a good sign in the sense both that the Stones had material to spare after spending most of the 1980s going through the garbage bins and that they'd finally learnt to give warm-up blues recordings like this one short shrift rather than taking up precious running time with them. As low-key cod 12 bar blues recordings where not much happens songs go, this is one of the Stones' better tries with the band on particular bright form. Charlie absolutely socks the simple riff home, Keith stabs at the song's main riff, Bill has fun going for a walk on a song that's suspiciously close to the Rhythm Kings recordings and best of all Jagger turns in one of the longest harmonica breaks of his career. Of course it's no blues classic - the lyrics never get further than 'you're looking good - too bad you're seeing a fancyman on the side' - but for a moment there the Stones finally sound like a band who grew up listening to the blues rather than just pinching it and turning it into rock and roll. Find it on: 'Rarities 1971-2003' (2005)

Released on the back of the single 'Terrifying', [285] 'Wish I'd Never Met You' is an example of what a bad low-key cod 12 bar blues played by the Stones sounds like. Mick wishes he'd never met a girl whose brought him nothing but bad luck and has become notorious for 'all her sexual crimes', while it sounds like Ronnie on the slide this time getting excited. Poor Charlie sounds as if he's still playing the same old rhythm as the last song, as if no one has told him where to stop. Sadly there's no harmonica playing this time around. Find it on: 'Rarities 1971-2003' (2005)

   Non-Album Recordings #19: 1991

Two years wasn't long enough for the Stones to write an entire album, but they were having too much fun on stage to stop, so they decided to compromise by including a pair of studio songs on their next concert LP they could also release as singles to keep themselves in the public eye. Needing to sound as much like their old selves as possible to lure extra sales, nobody was expecting anything special and [  ] 'Highwire' is musically about a template a Stones song as they come: fast but not too fast, expressive but not amazingly so, with  another variation of that old guitar riff (sounding more like 'Start Me Up' than anything else). Lyrically, though, it's the first political Stones song since 'Undercover' and therefore the first really 'matters' on a level above relationships going good or bad. The man who once wrote 'Street Fighting Man' is keen to look behind the jargon of the media and declare that the Gulf War, far from being a terrorist 'plot', is the Western world's fault for selling missiles and weapons at a cheap price without any regard for the consequences. Mick puts his sarcasm to good use here, telling the Far East 'You'll love these toys - now just go and play with your feuds!' and there's a great chorus where the West walks the 'highwire' of diplomacy, putting finance over men and risking people's lives while hoping not enough get 'burnt' to cause a public outcry. The stabbing motif of 'hot guns and cold cold lies' shows that Jagger 'got' the situation in the Far East better than many leading political commentators and he deserves credit for at least trying to do something that deserves to be taken seriously,. History has, after all, largely proved him right here with the Gulf War slowly escalating bit by bit into Isis and 9/11 and all the knock-on effects that happen when you have too much greed and your slightly fragile looking neighbours have too much oil. If only, though, the band had been willing to go the extra mile and make this sound as daring as it really is instead of hiding its intentions away this could have been really something - alas it sounds like just another Stones track, based on just another Chuck Berry riff, featuring words you can't hear very well instead of perhaps the best political debate of the small handful the Stones raise across their career. Good try. Find it on: 'Flashpoint' (1991)

[  ] 'Sexdrive' suffers from the opposite problem. This time Keith has been inspired into finding a way of updating the 'Dance' style groove of former years and embellishing it with horns for a sound that's much contemporary than the band have sounded in years ('Too Much Blood' in '86?!) Few people hearing that opening ringing guitar riff, sampled horns and digital drum loops would have guessed this was the Stones, which given that the band were a year shy of their third decade is impressive indeed. However, Mick's lyrics are Stones auto-pilot, boasting about a 'sex drive that drives me mad' and using the daft metaphor of having a girl in a car seat with the promise 'I can take you fast - or I can take you slow!' Just because the band have found out what fourteen year olds are listening to these days doesn't mean they need to write like them too! Put the two tracks together and you'd have a terrific comeback; heard apart they both appear to offer more than they deliver. Still, braver than most of the songs on 'Steel Wheelsd' or 'Voodoo Lounge', the Stones get marks for trying. Find it on: 'Flashpoint' (1991)

   Non-Album Recordings #20: 1994
Just as 'Voodoo Lounge' took a few more risks than usual for a Stones album, so is true of the B-sides. [301] 'The Storm' is another slow and first similarly unpalatable blues, but this one at least has a touch of class about it. Mick's harmonica playing is sharp, Keith's harmony vocals nicely authentic and the way the song builds bit by bit is a nice touch. Mick's transatlantic accent is put too good use too, treating the line 'must a been foolish' to an enunciation that Brits assumed was American and American assumed was British slang, just like the old days. The lyrics, using the metaphor of a storm for life 'haunting my windowpane like so many days', won't win any awards but is a step above the 1980s B-sides on similar lines at least, not a blues storm exacrtly but certainly a breeze. Released as the flipside to the CD single 'You Got Me Rocking' (in as much as CD singles have flipsides these days), it hasn't been re-issued since and in fact it seems odd that it wasn't included on the 'Rarities' disc of 2005 as it would have been perhaps the second best thing there.

[  ] 'Jump Up On Top Of Me' is similarly inventive compared to recent years. The B-side of 'You Got Me Rocking', it's a curious mix of Dire Straits style rhythm slashing and Ronnie Wood slide guitar, with a lyric that starts off full of sexual innuendo ('Give it to me nice and slow!') and ends up as a fascinating discourse on how time and familiarity deadends relationships. It used to be that a couple sacrificed everything to be together in bed, but now the list of odd jobs and bills has put a distance between them. A clever lyric has Mick reflecting 'When we first met we were both so young we didn't give a damn about how the clock would run' and ends up with the couple vowing to make love like the old days, wearing sunglasses and pulling down the blinds so they have no idea what the time is or whether the sun's up or not. A great band performance, better than most on 'Voodoo', also features some top-notch harmonica riffing. Why this song didn't make the album or even the 'Rarities' set is beyond me.

Alas it's not quite third time lucky as 'Out Of Tears' B-side [  ] 'I'm Gonna Drive' is a Stones song by numbers. A revved up blues, with yet more Wood slide guitar, Mick plays the part of a narrator with 'muddy fingers and itchy feet' driving away from 'fire, disaster and hurricane' and trying not to look back in the rear-view mirror in case he thinks of home. Remembering how bad life can be, full of 'battered suitcases and crying kids', Mick only stops at the end of a desert when he gets out of his car to pray to the burning sun to put things right. Alas we never find out what answer he gets or what it was that literally 'drove' him to breaking point and Keith's surrounding melody is the wrong kind of urgent, with a nagging hook played with something close to nonchalance by the band. It's still way better than more anonymous blues songs though and is another track that deserves a re-issue, being strangely absent from the 'Rarities' compilation.

Not strictly a B-side, [  ] 'Mean Disposition' became the Stones' first ever 'CD-only bonus track, even though by 1994 that was how most people were buying their albums anyway. Another bluesy song given a rocky backbeat in a false attempt to inject some life into it, 'Mean Disposition' never really fitted after the near-perfect end of 'Thru and Thru' and might perhaps have been better left as a B-side. Over a honky tonk backing Mick plays the victim and tells us that his latest girlfriend is mean to him and he wants his revenge. Reflecting 'Undercover', Mick sings about a police-less town where 'in this crazy town of hit and run there ain't no laws here - just a loaded gun' and practices putting his girl 'in my gun sights', willing to risk going to prison in his bloodthirsty need for revenge. There's the feeling, though, that this is all bluster and the narrations merely letting off steam rather than really planning something. At one with Jagger's other stormy lyrics during his break-up with Jade, it's not as inspired as most others but Keith's Chuck Berry-meets-Liberace riff works quite well. 

   Non-Album Recordings #21: 1995

The two 'new' songs recorded for the 'Stripped' live album are, of course, not really new at all. Bob Dylan first wrote and recorded perhaps his most famous song [302] 'Like A Rolling Stone' for 'Highway 61 Revisited' in 1965 in response to the gruelling 'Judas' tour of 1965 when he turned 'electric'. An unusual song for Dylan, it seems to deal with betrayal - a common enough theme for the Stones but unusual for this period of Dylan's writing - and could at a push have been a rock-influences response to their rock-pinnacle tales of debauchery and disillusionment (there are definite shades of 'Satisfaction' about the lyric - and the band's later '2000 Light Years From Home' in the famous 'no direction home' hook). However it seems more likely that the Bobmeister took the song's central idea, like the Stones, at source from Muddy Waters and the idea of a rolling stone shedding all the things it's gathered in it's life to go back to the 'core' self, mossless. Keith naturally assumes the song is about them, though, adding a 'thankyou Bob!' at the end as if the track only existed so the band could record it thirty years later! The Stones had never directly tackled Dylan before though they'd come close on some of their own compositions like 'Whose Been Sleeping Here?' and they cope better than you might expect, dropping the folk influences but keeping the gospel organ and the blues lilt. Jagger sounds a lot happier than he does singing some of his own lyrics in fact and even speeds them up at times in order to take an extra large breath in to punch the 'did you?' hook all the more. Though you get no sense that the Stones ever actually understood the song, it's a nicely postmodern moment and was popular enough to make #12 in the UK singles charts - the Stones' best performance since 1983's 'Undercover'. Find it on: 'Stripped' (1995)

Also appearing on the album was the Willie Dixon song [  ] 'Little Baby', which marks the first time the band had reverted to the blues writer who'd once been their bread and butter since 1964. Another of those revved up blues the Stones do so well, it's marred by a slightly off-kilter Jagger vocal and the heavy thud of the arrangement that's in such sharp contrast to the light-footedness of the original. Mick promises to follow his 'little baby' wherever she goes, quipping 'If you get paid I'll hold the money - I'll be standing right beside you honey!'  Find it on: 'Stripped' (1995)

   Non-Album Recordings #22: 1997

Having jettisoned most of the unusual material in favour of a leaner, meaner and more contemporary sound on 'Bridges To Babylon', there was no way the most experimental song of the sessions was going to make the album. Which is a real shame - the slow jazz shuffle of  [316] 'Anyway You Look At It' is a minor classic, with Mick proving he can really sing soft and tender and passing the lines over to Keith occasionally for a heart-warming fan moment when both of them seem to actually care for each other. Keith and Ronnie get to play flamenco flourishes, a sound that works better together than their electric weaving, while Charlie has fun getting out his brushes. Best of all though, is the poignant string quartet that runs through the song and adds to the feeling or mourning and loss. Though mainly sung by Mick, the song is more in keeping with Keith's natural 'ballad' style of recent years and sounds like one of his love songs for Patti rather than a song about Mick's more, erm, complicated love life. It's unusual to hear Jagger this open, honest and vulnerable without any sarcasm or bitterness and he does a great job as he sings 'anyway you look at it, I'm lucky to be in love with you'. There's a nice lyric about Richards' legendary bluntness too: 'People say I'm cynical, but they never want the truth' - it's about now he gets the idea for writing his autobiography...A most under-rated track and deservedly one of the most recent pieces included in the 'Rarities' set after first appearing as the B-side to 'Saint To Me'. Find it on: Rarities 1971-2003' (2005)

   Non-Album Recordings #23: 1998

I love Taj Mahal. A Bluesman with psychedelic overtones, he was exactly the right sort of person to invite over for the Stones' rock and roll circus in 1968 and he deserves his turn in the sun again the Stones' special guest. However [  ] 'Corinna' is a slow plod of an original song at the best of times and the band give a very flat reading of it here, with neither Mick nor Taj in anything close to top vocal form. A shame, because the central idea - a bird, perhaps symbolising a blues singer, wants to sing but feels there's no point without a love to inspire him - is not too far removed from some of the other Stones songs and Mick's harmonica puffing is purty impressive still. It just feels like no one performing this song really cares, with an anguished 'God, Christ!' blasphemy from Jagger at the end perhaps more revealing than he meant it to be. One of the longest five minutes in the Stones live canon - and boy is that saying something! Find it on: 'No Security' (1998)

   Non-Album Recordings #24: 2002

If you're not going to deliver a full album and instead pad out a best-of with your new material then they have to be good. Unfortunately the four new tracks released on '40 Licks' are a typically modern-era mixed batch, full of flashes of the old brilliance that never quite last enough for a whole song. Bizarrely only one of them is placed at the end of the set where it ought to be. Period single [317] 'Don't Stop' has its moments and had a strong enough production and a catchy enough chorus to lift it to #36 in the UK charts (enough to buy it passage onto the next Stones compilation 'Grrrr!') The lyrics cleverly refer to both the idea of passion between two lovers (very x-rated violent passion, this being the Stones) and the fact that the Stones are back again, refusing to retire or grow old gracefully. That aside, though, there's nothing very inspired here and the same old Chuck Berry riff is really starting to show it's age with less variations here even than normal. The song stands out like a sore plectrum-filled thumb in a sea of bottlenecks on the album where it clearly isn't strong enough to hold its own even on the lesser second disc. Find it on: '40 Licks'.(2003)

[318] 'Keys To Your Love' is more interesting if only for showing that Jagger can sing falsetto without it distracting or becoming the whole focal point of the song. Nicely catchy and by Stones standards sentimental and sweet, it's about the moment in a relationship where two people know each other inside out and have no secrets from each other anymore. Now every time his loved one tries to hide away or act annoyed with him, the narrator knows exactly what to do to earn her good books, owning 'every permutation, every code and every pin'. The song then twists on a typical Stonesy pun to the point where she's a piano, her 'keys' being played by his fingers on a tune they both know so well. Not bad - this should have been the single. Find it on: '40 Licks'.(2003)

Alas [319] 'Stealing My Heart' is more 'Babylon' style attempts to sound gung-ho and modern. Hearing those familiar retro chords and Watts drum patterns going hand in hand with forgettable period sounds that seem more dated than the 1960s already still seems an odd fit, but the song itself has its moments and is another oddly vulnerable song from two writers famous for their game-playing (in fact Mick even sings 'my cards are on the table and you can see up both my sleeves', with the air of 'Tumbling Dice' about the track). What started as just a one-night affair ('Because luck is expensive and freedom is cheap') has grown to the point where it's the central factor in both halves of the couple's lives. The pair didn't seem likely to stay long together ('You've got no money and I've got no charm!')  and it hasn't turned out the way Jagger expected ('I thought you were dinner - but you were the shark!') but they've found a way to make it work and are now inseparable. Two cute songs in a row? Have the Stones gone soft? Find it on: '40 Licks'.(2003)

Or are they [320] 'Losing My Touch'? Well, not judging by this final track, which is given over to Keith and had the feeling of finality about it, even though the band bounced back only a couple of years later with a full album. Like many a recent Keith ballad, it doesn't have much to do with the Stones' usual style but it's awfully good, with Keith growing into the growl decades of hard living have left him with and finding new ways to connect with his audience in old age. Talking about the Stones, marriage, life or all three, Keith bemoans the fact that things always seem to get becalmed just as they were looking interesting and is worried about entering another period of anxiety, walking round eggshells and watching what he says (is this a song about trying to avoid World War III amongst the band still, even after all these years?!) Keith admits to not being able to keep it up 'long' this time but hopes that it's 'long enough', picking up a passport ready for what might be one last tour. He might as well have added a chorus of 'The Last Time' here as he sighs 'get me out of here!' yet lingers, afraid of letting the last drops of magic slip away. It's very affecting and a far better way of addressing rifts within the band than anything on 'Dirty Work' or the Stones' solo albums, with Mick notable by his absence. A nice bluesy accompaniment that isn't afraid to take things slow and easy, with a jazz feel clearly to Charlie's delight, makes the most of  the best song of the batch. Thankfully we also know that it's a false dawn: the Stones were already making plans for their next LP... Find it on: '40 Licks'.(2003)

   Non-Album Recordings #25: 2004

The track [321] 'Nearness Of You' is a sweet Hoagy Carmichael song that Keith croons along raspily to. Nobody but nobody would have expected them to tackle such a syrupy ballad even 15 years before this, but the song is strangely in keeping with Keith's recent run of mangled love-lorn ballads and both Charlie and the horn section work over-time trying to keep him in time. It's not good enough to make a 'proper' Stones release but as an 'extra' it's quite nice. Find it on: 'Live Licks' (2004)

The old blues standard [322] 'Rock Me Baby' (already covered - twice - in our Jefferson Airplane book) is more typical Stones fare. There's a nice swing that Ronnie and Keith weave away to and Charlie clearly relishes the chance to play simple and powerful. It's Mick who sounds a little off-balance: he should be born for this kind of strutting song about 'how good ya always make me feel'; instead he sounds closer to rocking chair than rock. Again, though, it's more preferable to hearing an 8th straight rendition of the hits again and features a nicely authentic guitar solo. Find it on: 'Live Licks' (2004)

Non-Album Recordings #26: 2005

Only played once in concert, Bob Marley's [  ] 'Get Up, Stand Up' was performed by the Stones as a 'special treat for the audience' (Keith's words) because 'a good band can play anything (so says Mick). Neither fact is strictly true, with the Stones having their usual problems finding a reggae groove because they keep flipping playing it to a rock beat. If the band had a to massacre a Wailers classic than at least this one is fitting, with a 'Before They Make Me Run' style tail of outlaws standing up for their rights, but only Keith's guitar and the horns show any passion for the genre and the result is the usual mess that happens when the Stones start thinking they can plunder other cultures without doing their homework. 'You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all of them all of it...' Find it on: 'Light The Fuse' (2005/2012)

Thankfully the Stones have another present for their big live return and [  ] 'Mr Pitiful' is the third song taken from the Otis Redding songbook as well as the first since the 1960s. By now everything has changed: The Big O is long gone, having passed in a plane crash just shy of having his own verse added to the Stones song of loss 'Sympathy For The Devil' and the Stones have pretty much dropped all semblance of soul from their set. The song, effectively Otis' signature tune after being written in response to a DJ who gave him the nickname after complaining his songs were all so sad, is a good choice with a more uptempo feel than most Redding ballads despite the title. However this is not a good version: the Stones sound 'spaced' out on stage, light years away from each other and Mick is having too much of a good time to mine the song's mixture of happy and sad. Personally, I'd stick with 'Pain In MY Heart' or 'That's How Strong My Love Is'. Find it on: 'Light The Fuse' (2005/2012)

   Non-Album Recordings #27: 2006
[  ] 'Champagne and Reefer' is a rare cover of a song by Muddy Waters, the man who gave the Stones their name. You sense that it's the only moment on the back-slapping, audience-clapping documentary 'Shine A Light' that absent Stones Brian and Stu would have enjoyed, even if Jagger sings with the same throwaway irony that hinders most of the band's post-Jones R and B covers. The Stones turn in the toughest, meanest performance of the record, though., fat and heavy, with special guest Buddy Guy wailing well on harmonica even if he's far too silent on the vocals. This isn't a natural piece for the Stones melodically, too fast to be blues and without groove enough to be R and B, but lyrically it's tale of decadence and lethargy is at one with the hazy feel of 'Exile On Main Street', an album much talked about at the time with a deluxe edition and a documentary in the works. Not one of the band's better covers, it's still better than the nineteenth '19th Nervous Breakdown' or the 50th jump by Jack Flash and proof that the Stones were at least trying a few different things even this late on in their career. Find it on: 'Shine A Light' (2006)

Surely the rarest Rolling Stones song of recent years - certainly rarer than anything actually on 'Rarities' - is [  ] 'Crossfire', a song written more or less on the spot to raise money for the relief fund after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The song, a folky acoustic fragment which features Keith on lead, was sent to fans via email in return for donating money via the band's tour booklet or the links on the giant screens on their tours and is a sweet gesture from a band not known for their philanthropy, although it's fair to say that you're not missing much if you haven't heard it. Interestingly it appears to have been recorded in 2002, long before the disaster, but it makes for a fair comment on the troubles of the time, with a forgotten and neglected town who never quite recovered from the last hurricane and 'hopes it will never happen again'. Chances are only Keith and Ronnie appear on the track, Wood playing some fine slide guitar, but the song never really develops past the initial idea. 

Non-Album Recordings #28: 2012

Seven whole years had gone by without any new recordings - the longest in the Stones' history - punctuated only by solo records, archive sets and compilations of old material. The band decided to break the silence by celebrating their half-century with an update of '40 Licks' that featured two new songs tucked away at the end. The same rules apply: heard on a separate album they might have sounded rather good, but up against even the other 90s and 00s recording they don't exactly cover themselves with glory. [  ] 'Doom and Gloom' was oddly well received, perhaps because it came after such a long gap, even though it's about as close to Stones by numbers as the band has ever got. The band are still going for the same rush of adrenalin heard in most of their modern songs since 'Mixed Emotions' but they're running out of ways to channel it, leaving this song sounding like the pay-off without the set-up. Lyrically it's more interesting and a rare piece of Jagger social commentary (they come about every twenty years or so on average) commenting on the credit crunch and the feeling of misery that seems to be affecting everyone around the world. Mick starts by recounting an ugly dream where he crash-lands a plane containing a load of zombies 'drunk and insane' onto a swamp and asks what it means. It seems pretty clear to me: he's been trying to pilot the Stones ship full of druggies and alcoholics and hangers-on for so long he's stopped caring about what happens to them. It's the second verse, though, that shines with Jagger less dismissive of revolution than on 'Street Fighting Man' though he's as equally damning about his inability to do anything constructive about it: 'Lost all that treasure in an overseas war...bowing to the rich and worrying about the poor, so I put my feet up on the couch and lock all the doors!' The cruel cuts make an ugly squeaking sound here that everyone is trying their best to ignore, while Jagger imagines even his millions gone and his family living 'in dirt, at the side of the road' scratching out a living. A final verse has the world 'fracking deep for oil, but there's nothing in the dump', Mother Earth having finally given up everything she's willing to offer. A concerned Mick again stays at home, getting increasingly drunk while watching the news. As usual there are no solutions offered but that only makes the lyric the more powerful, Jagger for all his fame and wealth and influence as powerless to stop the rot as the rest of us. A shame, then, that Richards doesn't treat the song with the same care, the lame recycled music getting in the way of what's actually quite a tasty and tasteful lyric. Find it on: 'Grrrrr!' (2012)

[  ] 'One More Shot' sounds like the same flipping song, also borrowed heavily from 'Mixed Emotions'. This song has a better chorus, though and Keith sounds more alert on this one, the co-credit to Steve Jordan suggesting the track might have started life during one of his solo album sessions. This track would have sounded at home on 'Main Offender' or 'Talk IS Cheap' in fact, sharing the same desperate desire to sound so archetypal Stonesy that it loses the archetypal experimentation that's the real Stones trademark (at least up till the mid-70s). 'You got me doing something I thought I'd never do!' sings Jagger, perhaps referring to the fact the band are back together again, however briefly, and promising that after being 'in correction, for my own protection' the band will make the most of their comeback. Hmm, not so sure about that somehow with this another slight damp squib at the end of the most comprehensive Stones set yet. Find it on: 'Grrrrr!' (2012)

A Now Complete List Of Rolling Stones and Related Articles To Read At Alan’s Album Archives:

'No 2' (1965)

'Out Of Our Heads' (1965)

‘Aftermath’ (1966)

'Between The Buttons' (1967)

'Their Satanic Majesties Request' (1967)

'Beggar's Banquet' (1968)

‘Let It Bleed’ (1969)

'Sticky Fingers' (1971)

'Exile On Main Street'(1972)

'Goat's Head Soup' (1973)

'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' (1974)

'Black and Blue' (1976)

'Some Girls' (1978)

'Emotional Rescue' (1980)

'Undercover' (1983)

'Dirty Work' (1986)

'Steel Wheels' (1989)

‘Voodoo Lounge’ (1994)

'Bridges To Babylon' (1998)

'A Bigger Bang' (2005)

Ronnie Wood and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings Solo

Rolling Stones: Unreleased Recordings

Surviving TV Clips and Music Videos

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1962-1969

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1970-2014

Live/Solo/Compilations Part One 1963-1974 

Live/Solo/Compilations Part Two 1975-1988