Monday 2 July 2018

The Rolling Stones: Landmark Concerts and Key Cover Versions

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

I don't know about you, dear reader, but so far this book/website has seemed awfully studio-bound: yes there are the odd live albums dotted round in the discographies but a touring life was usually as important if not more so to our AAA artists. Even we can't go through every gig they ever played however, so what we've decided to do instead is bring you five particularly important gigs with a run-down of what was played, where and when and why we consider these gigs so important. Think of these as a sort of 'highlights' covering from first to last, to whet your appetite and to avoid ignoring a band's live work completely! The Stones may well have played more gigs than any other AAA band. A complete number seems hard to compile (especially now that Bill Wyman isn’t in the band and taking lengthy notes all the time) but it seems to be well in the thousands (3000?) There have been some lengthy gaps between tours sometimes and a long spell between early 1967 and mid 1969 when the need to cover up Brian Jones’ failing health meant the Stones didn’t go out on tour at all. But these are minor spells in a career that has now lasted nearly fifty-six years and has seen the band go from playing one of the smallest clubs in Britain to breaking a record for attendance that had stood for five years (since old rival Paul McCartney, in fact).

1)  Where: Marquee Club, London When: July 12th 1962 Why: First Gig Setlist: ‘Kansas City’ ‘Confessin’ The Blues’ ‘Bright Lights Big City’ [38] Down The Road Apiece ‘Dust My Broom’ ‘Baby What’s Wrong?’ ‘Bad Boy’ ‘I Ain’t Got You’ ‘Honey Hush’ ‘Ride ‘Em On Down’ ‘Back In The USA’ ‘Kind Of Lonesome’ ‘Big Boss Man’ ‘Blues Before Sunrise’ ‘Don’t Stay Out All Night’ ‘Tell Me That You Love Me’ ‘Happy Home’

Back in March 1962 two rival bands met up at London’s Ealing Jazz Club owned by blues legend Alexis Korner and made friends. In one corner playing R and B were ‘The Blue Boys’, starring Mick and Keef with guitarist Dick Taylor (later of The Pretty Things). Other in the other corner wailing the blues were ‘Blues Incorporated’ starring Brian Jones and Ian Stewart. Jones had been looking for new members and found a ready made half group all ready for him – in turn the ‘Blue Boys’ were impressed by the extra authenticity Brian was already using in his music. The new band rehearsed in private for four months at the memorably titled ‘Bricklayer’s Arms Pub’ in London. This period was punctuated by bust-ups over whether Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley counted as ‘blues’ and with the loss of several members: guitarist Geoff Bradford, lead singer Brian Knight and drummer Tony Chapman. The band really needed a break, but nobody would give them one – even their old pal Alexis Korner had no spots available at his Marquee Club and would only shake his head when Brian asked him for work. And then, on July 12th 1962 the band got lucky: Alexis’ band ‘Blues Incorporated’ were asked to play a radio gig on the day they would normally be headlining at their club and the broadcasts were live in those days. All the band shiggled up one on the bill and it left an opening for the Stones at the bottom of the bill. Needing a name in a hurry so Jazz Weekly could include it on the regular adverts for the venue, Brian is said to have got ‘The Rollin’ Stones’ from his own record collection, noticing the Muddy Waters track of the same name. They were, though, still only half a band made up of a singer, two guitarists and a pianist; old pal Dick Taylor agreed to fill in on bass to help them out and a series of auditions resulted in Mick Avory, future Kinks drummer. Inevitably nobody thought to take pictures or record the sound of what was only yet another new blues band on the bottom of the bill and nobody bothered to review the band’s first gig, but against all odds Stu kept his diary for that year with some scribbled notes as to what the band played on their first appearance – this might have changed between rehearsal room and stage but it makes for interesting reading. Still caught halfway between R and B and blues, it features Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry alongside several Elmore James songs and even a Billy Fury tune (‘Honey What’s Wrong?’) I would have loved to have heard some of this material: I bet Jimmy Reed’s cackling song of rebellion ‘Big Boss Man’ sounded great in the Stones’ hands for instance with Brian Jones harmonica! The Stones barely played any of these songs on their later records interestingly: [38] ‘Down The Road Apiece’ is the only exception to this as re-cut for their second album in 1965. Even the other two Chuck Berry songs played that night are different! (‘Back In The USA’ and ‘Confessin’ The Blues’, perhaps a sop to Brian as its Chuck’s bluesiest song!) The band didn’t exactly take the world by storm and Alexis Korner never did give the band a full-time job as they hoped, but somebody must have liked it as sixteen days later they were back at the bigger Ealing Jazz Club down the road apiece where the band had first met up.

2)  Where: Crawdaddy Club, Richmond When: April 14th 1963 Why: Beatles Meet Stones Setlist: ‘Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby?’ ‘Bright Lights Big City’ ‘Close Together’ ‘Soon Forgotten’ ‘Shame Shame Shame’ ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout You’ ‘Memphis Tennessee’ ‘I Just Want To Make Love To You’ ‘I Want You To Know I’m Bad’ ‘Like Jesse James’ ‘Little Egypt’ ‘I’m Alright’ ‘Pretty Thing’ ‘Crawdaddy’

By now the Stones’ line-up has stabilised, with Bill joining the band in December 1962 (due to the size of his amplifier!) and Charlie in January 1963 (due to old friendships with the band). So have the songs, which are a more mainstream-friendly take on a still pretty bluesy collection of material and interestingly already completely different selection of songs by much the same writers (with Jimmy Reed now clearly their favourite). Technically we don’t know what the Stones played this night either, but we do know what they were playing ten days later at the same club, by the way, so it seems a reliable guess: the band have now added crowd-pleaser ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You’ and Bo Diddley’s tribute song to the much bigger venue they are now playing also named ‘Crawdaddy’. What the Stones haven’t had yet is a chance at the big time, but that arrives tonight when four very tired Beatles want to make the most of a rare night out in London’s capital (they were in town to appear on TV show ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’). Not yet big enough to be mobbed in the street but wary of drawing attention to themselves even so they decide to check out what London’s club scene is like and how it compares to Liverpool’s. The Stones haven’t got a clue who they were (aside from Brian, who is said to have asked Lennon exactly what instrument he was playing on ‘Love Me Do’), but The Beatles made an impression all the same thanks to the long suede coats they were wearing as bought in Hamburg. The band were instantly impressed: the Stones sounded just the way they had about six months earlier and the two bands discovered by chance that their managers were friends (Giorgio Gomelsky was working for the Stones at the time). They also shared much of the same material. The Beatles were always being asked back in 1963 what music they listened to and so they championed the Stones by telling the world ‘guys there’s this really great group…’ Dick Rowe, who once turned down The Beatles for Decca Records on January 1st 1962 also happened to choose now to get in touch and tell the fab four that he regretted it and hoped there were no hard feelings. ‘Is there any other act I should be looking out for, so they don’t pass through my fingers either?’ he’s meant to have asked. ‘The Rolling Stones are pretty good’ said Paul, ‘I think I’ve got their number somewhere…’ The Stones’ big break had come at last.

3)  Where: Apostolous Nikolaidais Stadium, Greece When: April 17th 1967 Why: Last Gig With Brian Jones Setlist: [59] The Last Time [69] Lady Jane [82] 19th Nervous Breakdown [111] Ruby Tuesday [110] Let’s Spend The Night Together [72] Goin’ Home [61] (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Much is made of the free gig the Stones played in Hyde Park in 1969 which as well as ushering in Brian’s replacement Mick Taylor ended up as a tribute to the fallen Stone. However rather than tell you about something you already know I’ve always wondered…what was the last gig the Stones played with their ‘original’ line-up? The answer is a low-key gig in Greece at the end of a tiring European tour.  The Stones didn’t know at the time it would be the end, but they probably had a feeling: Brian had been getting slower and more strung out and rivals The Beatles had abandoned touring in August 1966 out of frustration at not being able to play their more sophisticated songs on stage above the screaming. The Stones had reluctantly turned down the chance to play at the Monterey Pop Festival in June that year for fear they’d be blown off the stage and would damage their reputation (but they also felt loyal to Brian and didn’t want to kick him out the band). Circumstances rather took over the decision for them anyway when Mick and Keef ended up being arrested for drug possession at a party in the middle of the year and Brian too ended up in trouble for a separate incident. The Greece show is a good summary of their live set at the time, as heard on 1966’s ‘Got LIVE! If You Want It’ and has notably taken Brian’s role in the band down to a minimum (some nights his guitar wasn’t even plugged in, though he still played a lovely dulcimer part on ‘Lady Jane’). The Stones are also padding out their now substantially longer set with a mammoth improvisation based around ‘Goin’ Home’ as previously featured on ‘Aftermath’ the year before. Though a recording of this show doesn’t exist, one for Paris four days earlier does and features a rough and struggling band trying to play very heavy versions of some of their lighter songs to get through the noise. It seems apt somehow that this chapter in Stones history ends with the pained scream of ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’! The Move and The Easybeats were the Stones’ support act on this tour.

4)  Where: Altamont Speedway, Carolina When: December 6th 1969 Why: Most Controversial Gig Setlist: [124] Jumpin’ Jack Flash [15] Carol [114] Sympathy For The Devil ‘The Sun Is Shining’[121]  Stray Cat Blues [129] Love In Vain [70] Under My Thumb [142] Brown Sugar [133] Midnight Rambler [133] Live With Me [128] Gimme Shelter [141] Little Queenie [61] (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction [130a] Honky Tonk Women [119] Street Fighting Man

The Altamont gig has been called so many things: just four months from Woodstock it was greeted as the ‘anti Woodstock’, the ‘end of the 1960s’ and the ‘death of the hippie dream’. Some have wondered if the Stones, who loved surrounding themselves with black magic symbols, even arranged it to be that way. But at the time it was planned it was just another free gig for fans at a festival with The Stones eager to jump on the bandwagon big that year (this was a pr stunt to make up for complaints about high ticket prices that was hurting the band’s reputation), as suggested by Airplaners Jorma and Spencer (with The Stones the biggest band then still touring in rock and roll). The Stones may have taken over but thought they had planned everything the right way: they hired popular San Franciscan acts Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, CSNY and Byrds spin-off band The Flying Burrito Brothers. They had the perfect venue booked: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. They even had an agreement from biker club The Hell’s Angels in the hope that they would provide ‘friendlier’ security than the police would have been. And then it all went wrong: the authorities baulked at the idea of a free concert after Woodstock and refused to provide the venue , leading the band to move to a much uglier concrete stadium named ‘Altamont Speedway’ several miles away in California. And it made sense to get a different set of local Hell’s Angels – only nobody told the Stones that the Californian bikers were a much tougher and more brutal set than the hippiefied San Franciscan bikers. The result was a dark day when nothing went right: 300,000 people crammed into a much smaller area than originally planned. The stage had been built to be on a hill; the new venue was so low on the ground that nobody could see it and it was too late in the day to be changed. The Hell’s Angels were surly, seeing their brief as keeping fans back from the stage by any means possible – which they did with some alacrity. The Burritos played a nervy set interrupted by audience noise. CSNY break away from theirs several times to plead with the audience to quieten down and sit down so everyone can see. The Airplane’s Marty Balin is the hero of the hour, physically intervening when the Hell’s Angels began beating up two girls who have been pushed towards the stage, only to get smashed in the head by a pool cue. The Grateful Dead, seeing what is happening, reuse to play or even get out of their helicopter. And then, several hours late (Bill missed the helicopter), The Stones finally appear and play a set high on their nasty songs and high on drama. It’s certainly a dark and shadowy setlist: satanic prayers (‘Sympathy For The Devil’), domestic abuse (‘Under Your Thumb’), glamorising a rapist  (‘Midnight Rambler’), a slave owner (‘Brown Sugar’) and under-age sex (‘Stray-Cat Blues’): other Stones gigs will feature these songs too but, perhaps deliberately after this one, hardly ever on the same night. Almost every song is interrupted by a relentless tug-of-war between bikers and audience member leading to Mick stopping several songs to plead with them ‘why are we fighting? Brothers and sisters, get it together!’ And then it happens: a girl gets pushed towards an Angel, he threatens her with grievous bodily harm and her boyfriend, a black kid named Meredith Hunter dressed in a snazzy green suit, flashes a knife. The biker hurls himself into the crowd to exact revenge and in the kerfuffle he gets stabbed through the heart, dying in his sobbing girlfriend’s arms (the use of this in the film of the event, released as ‘Gimme Shelter’, has lead to the impression that the band were playing ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ at the time; actually it was ‘Under My Thumb’ which is almost as nasty). Nobody quite knows what to do (this didn’t happen at Woodstock!); nobody thinks to call an ambulance for ages and when somebody does it can’t get through the throngs of people in time. The Stones don’t have a clue what’s going on so they carry on playing, the boy dying to the strains of ‘Brown Sugar’ right by his ear. The event comes to an uncertain halt with the strains of the Stones’ call for a revolution that is never going to happen on ‘Street Fighting Man’ but they were wrong; Altamont was a pr disaster for the hippie movement who had got along so well across the year and the symbolism of this gig taking place just a few days before the end of the 1960s was an irony that was picked up on by many people. Sadly people miss what should have been the big news of the day: an exclusive Elmore James cover ‘The Sun Is Still Shining’ which they never did record and hardly ever played in front of people. The Stones never quite recovered (Mick and Charlie look deeply profoundly shocked watching back the event caught on camera in the documentary film) and the hippie era certainly didn’t: going into the 1970s the world was suddenly a scarier, darker place where all the love in the world couldn’t solve the basic human problems of violence. The Dead, perhaps the band most affected of all, retreated back to San Francisco with a new song about the event and the sudden change in the air(‘New Speedway Boogie’): ‘One way or another, this darkness got to give…’

5)  Where: Strahov Stadium, Prague When: August 5th 1995 Why: Biggest Audience Setlist: [20] Not Fade Away [157] Tumblin’ Dice [287] You Got Me Rockin’ [21] It’s All Over Now [288] Sparks Will Fly [61] (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction [215] Beast Of Burden [158] Sweet Virginia [182] Angie [302] Like A Rolling Stone [293] Rock and a Hard Place [128] Gimme Shelter [278] I Go Wild [207] Miss You [130a] Honky Tonk Women [92] Connection Slipping Away [114] Sympathy For The Devil [119] Street Fighting Man [328] Start Me Up [190] It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) [142] Brown Sugar [124] Jumpin’ Jack Flash

The 300,000 crowd the Stones played to at Altamont was the biggest they ever played to, but the Guinness World Records don’t accept festivals with multiple acts in their list of attendance records. So instead the Stones’ record-breaking concert rakes place here in Prague where 126,702 people flocked to see them play. This amount broke a record that had been set by Paul McCartney in Brazil in 1990 and had been held ever since CSNY played Wembley Stadium in 1974 (in case you were wondering the record now lies with Vasco Rossi who had 220,000 people see him play in Italy, even though I have to confess I’ve never flipping heard of him!) This was part of the ‘Voodoo Lounge’ tour of 1994-1995 which was itself a record-breaker, the band earning some $320 million, a record that will last until 2005 (when, erm, an act named The Rolling Stones beats it with their even lengthier ‘Bigger Bang’ tour). As captured on the live record ‘No Security’ (every Stones tour since the late 1970s has resulted in a new live album, pretty much) The Stones play a scrappy set filled mostly with oldies and a few songs from the ‘Voodoo’ album that work rather well ([310] ‘Saint Of Me’, oddly not played at this gig tonight, is their best live song in years). There are a few surprises for audience too though, notably the band’s cheeky postmodernist take on Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ and Keith reviving the ‘Between The Buttons’ song ‘Connection’ which the band didn’t play live at the time even and singing it with his voice rather than Mick’s! Otherwise though it’s business as usual and this gig is more or less interchangeable with most other Stones gigs from the past twenty years, though thankfully they left their giant inflatable penis at home for this one!

That passing on of the musical baton works the other way too and there are lots of acts who were in turn inspired by The Stones. Their songs were malleable to be done in so many different ways turning out darker, stranger, cuter. With many Stones songs coming in with a ‘swampy’ blues’ tempo, interpretations have also ranged from speeding them up to become super fast while others have slowed them down to bring out their inner beauty. As you might expect, there have been flipping hundreds of Stones cover albums down the years – the best is ‘Cover You’ (1998) a catch all of previously existing songs by lots of big names including two AAA stars in The Searchers and Otis Redding, while others include ‘A Tribute To The Rolling Stones’ (2002),’We Love You!’ (2003) and the psychedelic ‘Stoned!’ (2016). For our list though we’ve gone for three songs that don’t appear on any of these albums and yet are all fabulous and more than worth Stones fans seeking out; in fact I’ll be so bold as to say in all our thirty AAA articles of cover versions these might well be the pick of the bunch!
1) [   ] Paint It, Black (The Animals, ‘Monterey Pop Festival’ 1967)
Especially this one! The Rolling Stones were on the panel of The Monterey Pop festival and many fans were sad they didn’t turn up – Brian Jones’ declining health put paid to that, though he was the one Stone to turn up in person. I wonder what he would have made of his old rival Eric Burdon’s mind-blowing performance of his band’s song? Almost unrecognisable and really digging into the sheer horror of the depression in the lyrics, this arrangement starts off with a two minute violin solo that sounds as if it’s come from the depths of Hell all drilled on one note, before the song finally turns left into what fans will recognise. But wait a minute: even then this song sounds so very different. Freed of the need to be a compact single the song ends up rising and falling on a superb bass line and Eric goes off on an extended rap completely building on the original that’s just extraordinary as he reaches into the song’s emotions and adds a whole new verse: ‘Since you’ve been gone everything is black I know, don’t turn your back on me because I need you by my side, I only need you looking at me and loving me and having you by my side, I walked down the street I saw some cars, they should have been blue and green and brown, I saw some people they should have been white and brown and black but they all turned black baby…You know what it’s like in your life when there’s no colours it’s a drag, it’s a bad bad scene, I know because I’ve been there. And you don’t have to tell me that I’m wrong when what I am doing is right, everything is right if everything is wrong, everything is gone, yes it is, shut up, don’t talk, speak!’ Much as I love the original with its mad sitars and its sense of the hangman’s noose around the neck, I really adore this version where the body is swaying and Eric sings the song much more directly without the slight tongue-in-cheekness of Mick’s vocal. Frustratingly, though, The New Animals never did do this one on record and the only one released under their name (‘The BBC Sessions’) is disappointing, compacted to three minutes that stops before it gets going and without the long rap section. The various artists set from Monterey, though, is a must have for every AAA fan and this may well be the best performance on it, so different to the original and yet so in keeping with its original spirit.
2) [  ] Sister Morphine (Marianne Faithfull, B-Side 1969)
Not many fans realize that ‘Sister Morphine’ started life as a Marianne Faithful song. At the time she had, at most, taken drugs once or twice in her life, but her fevered imagination really conjures up well the decay of the drug scene she saw around her and her worry about what was happening to friends Boyfriend Mick heard and liked it, singing on Marianne’s original version alongside playing by Keef, Charlie and Ry Cooder. Decca weren’t so keen – with the Stones insisting her version come out, they managed to block it so that it appeared as the barely noticed flipside to her single ‘Something Better’ (a very odd pairing!) In the end enough press noticed the name and were so shocked given Marianne’s still pretty innocent public persona that they pulled it from the market after only 500 copies had been sold – these, inevitably, became collector’s items (1991 compilation ‘Come My Way’ is an easier and cheaper way to hear it nowadays!) Marianne’s version is less harrowing than the Stones’ re-recording in 1971 and its almost pretty: Marianne sings like she’s in denial with her traditional vibrato vocal a good match for a purring cat. The backing, though, is more aware – Ry Cooder’s darting guitar is close to where Mick Taylor’s will be on the finished product, but Keith’s acoustic is much more desperate and Charlie’s powerful drumming is a revelation, something way too big and massive for this fragile soul to bear. Of course by the time the Stones recorded this song (with Marianne’s co-credit removed after a publishing dispute) Faithfull really was a full-blown addict and she re-recorded the song herself, without any Stones help, in 1979 where it appeared as a B-side again to her comeback single ‘Broken English’. By now Marianne is singing the song without the smug grin she had ten years earlier – she’s lost so many friends and nearly died herself so many times that this is not a game anymore, her vocal demonstrating the ravages of time with a much more dramatic arrangement. The 1969 is still the one to go for though, a chilling document of someone staring the jaws of death in the face before later jumping straight in.
3) [  ] No Expectations (Johnny Cash, ‘Gone Girl’ 1978)
Have you ever wondered what The Stones’ slowest song might sound like if speeded up to become one of the fastest? Johnny Cash was always looking for songs from the rock and pop world that he could do for his country-rock audiences and you can see why ‘No Expectations’ would appeal – it’s at one with The Man In Black’s many tales of trains and journeys and takes of moving on. Cash’s voice, though, was only built for ballads in his later aging years so he speeds the song up, gives it a bouncy ‘boom-chikka’ guitar riff and the Carter Family all chime in on the chorus as if they’re waving him again. There’s an interesting lyric change (‘Come and pour me on that plane!’) and some terrific guitarwork, while Johnny’s vocal is filled with regret and pride. The new arrangement really shows off just what a beautiful melody this song has and how clever the words are, one of the Man In Black’s better ideas of the late 1970s.

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

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