Saturday, April 12, 2008

Kick Out the Jams (non-Stones)

The MC5
"Kick Out the Jams"

It's a nice song, too bad the MC5 couldn't drum up any energy for that recording.


Image courtesy of Detroit Artists Workshop.

Surprise, Surprise

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 2, Track 6
"Surprise, Surprise" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:31

Yeah, listen, you don't really have to watch that video.

The band still hasn't learned how to put together a good original rock composition. This is a jaunty little number in double time, with Charlie whacking that ride cymbal like he was trying to wake up the drunk that fell asleep on his couch. There is almost nothing else to this song, and soon I will be done with this craptacular album and be on to better Stonesish things.

Little Red Rooster

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 2, Track 5
"Little Red Rooster" (Willie Dixon) – 3:05

I'll just say it: Mick is the worst blues singer that ever lived. Okay? Got it? Can we move on to something better now, please?

God damn it, I thought I was done with these.

Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 2, Track 4
"Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')" (Barbara Lynn Ozen) – 2:08

The Barbara Lynn number, done as a Chuck Berry-style chunka-chunka-chunka-chunka shuffle. God knows why they bothered – nobody sounds particularly interested.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street (non-Stones)

Stevie Wonder on Sesame Street

God damn the 70s were awesome.

Stevie has a sing-off with Grover:

The Sesame Street Song:

Stevie rocking "Superstition".

That's Life/Out Of Space (live)

Rolling Stones & Billy Preston
"That's Life/Out Of Space" (live)
LA Forum, July 11, 1975

A friend sent me this clip. I am literally speechless. Make sure you watch the dance-off at the 6 minute mark.

Pain In My Heart (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 2, Track 3
"Pain In My Heart" (Naomi Neville) – 2:12

Same as the version on The Rolling Stones No. 2.

Off the Hook (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 2, Track 2
"Off the Hook" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:34

Same as the version on The Rolling Stones No. 2.

Down The Road Apiece (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 2, Track 1
"Down The Road Apiece" (Don Raye) – 2:55

Same as the version on The Rolling Stones No. 2.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mona (I Need You Baby)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 1, Track 6
"Mona (I Need You Baby)" (Ellas McDaniel) – 3:35

The old Bo Diddley number. I've always loved this song, some of Bo's best lyrics. He tries to write a love song, but is unable to get away from that beat, although it sounds slinkier than usual here – appropriate given the subject matter. The Stones don't stray far from Bo's version, which is wise. I agree with this man's opinion:

... this was R & B at it's best. It goes to show that London records never really wanted the blues stuff, but the commercial blasters like Around And Around. Mona (I Need You Baby), was as dark as any black musician could ever hope to sound.
It's true. This is the one thing that Bo Diddley added to the blues lexicon, which bands like the Stones and Them and the Kinks picked up on: that menace and despair made the blues, that you didn't have to rely on those hoary 12-bar shuffles to get it over. The menace here is all in the beat and that great guitar sound – the band sounds approximately 10,000 times more convincing on tracks like these than they do on, say, "Confessin' the Blues".

What A Shame (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 1, Track 5
"What A Shame" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:05

Same as the version on The Rolling Stones No. 2.

Heart of Stone

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 1, Track 4
"Heart of Stone" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:49

Some nice guitar work saves an 0therwise forgettable ballad.

You Can't Catch Me (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 1, Track 3
"You Can't Catch Me" (Chuck Berry) – 3:39

Same as the Rolling Stones No.2 version.

Down Home Girl (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 1, Track 2
"Down Home Girl" (Jerry Leiber/Arthur Butler) – 4:12

Same as the version found on The Rolling Stones No. 2.

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (again)

The Rolling Stones, Now!
Side 1, Track 1
"Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" (Solomon Burke/Bert Russell/Jerry Wexler) – 2:58

What the hell? This isn't the same version of the song found on The Rolling Stones No. 2 – that version wasn't anything special, but at least had some charm. This one is a sloppy mess of a song, featuring the most ridiculously out of tune background vocals of the Stones career to date – quite an accomplishment. I just can't believe someone gave the green light to release this.

By the way, I know The Rolling Stones, Now! came before Out of Our Heads, but for some reason I missed it. I am a details geek, and I have to get Now! out of the way before I can move on to Aftermath/December's Children.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Out of Our Heads (USA version) Roundup

Out of Our Heads (USA version) Roundup

Side 1
1. "Mercy, Mercy" (Don Covay/Ronnie Miller) – 2:45
2. "Hitch Hike" (Marvin Gaye/William Stevenson/Clarence Paul) – 2:25
3. "The Last Time" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:41
4. "That's How Strong My Love Is" (Roosevelt Jamison) – 2:25
5. "Good Times" (Sam Cooke) – 1:58
6. "It's All Right" (Live) (Nanker Phelge) – 2:23

Side 2
1. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:43
2. "Cry to Me" (Bert Russell) – 3:09
3. "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" (Nanker Phelge) – 3:07
4. "Play With Fire" (Nanker Phelge) – 2:14
5. "The Spider and the Fly" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:38
6. "One More Try" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 1:58

I made an error – I went straight to Out of Our Heads after The Rolling Stones No. 2, but it turns out there was another album semi-in between. See, during this period, there were two different versions of the same album released, one in the UK and one in the USA. The USA version of No. 2 (called The Rolling Stones, Now!) is different enough that I want to go back to that before I move on to the next album. Sorry about the confusion.

One More Try

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 2, Track 6
"One More Try" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 1:58

One of the most hilariously bad melodies of all time. I've listened to this song 8 times before writing this – that chorus kills me every time.

The Spider and the Fly

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 2, Track 5
"The Spider and the Fly" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:38

Another dreary blues filler song, with lines like

She was common, flirty, she looked about thirty.
I would have run away but I was on my own.
She told me later she's a machine operator.
She said she liked the way I held the microphone.

This may be the most boring song the Stones have recorded to date.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Live Wire

Warning: Stones-less post.

The Meters
"Live Wire" (Neville, Modeliste, Nocentelli, Porter) – 2:26

A track off the debut album of this seminal New Orleans funk band. Drummer Zig Modeliste is the star here, no question about it. That is simply the sickest hardcore funk groove I have ever heard in my life.

Image courtesy Home of the Groove.

Play With Fire

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 2, Track 4
"Play With Fire" (Nanker Phelge) – 2:14


It was a classic example of the Stones' ability to absorb different types of sound even when the whole band was not playing on the track. Brian, Bill and Charlie didn't play on Play with Fire. They'd all dropped off to sleep. One could have got them up again but one didn't. So it was Phil Spector on tuned-down guitar and Jack Nitzsche on harpsichord in addition to Richards and Jagger. It was at the end of a session with some old guy sweeping up.
– Andrew Oldham

Play with Fire (was made) with Phil Spector on tuned-down electric guitar, me on acoustic, Jack Nitzsche on harpsichord, and Mick on tambourine with echo chamber. It was about 7 o'clock in the morning. Everybody fell asleep.
– Keith Richards, 1971

Play with Fire sounds amazing - when I heard it last. I mean, it's a very in-your-face kind of sound and very clearly done. You can hear all the vocal stuff on it. And I'm playing the tambourine, the vocal line. You know, it's very pretty... Keith and me (wrote that). I mean, it just came out... (I)t was just kind of rich girls' families - society as you saw it. It's painted in this naive way in these songs... I don't know if it was daring. It just hadn't been done.
– Mick Jagger, 1995

Ah, the imagination of teenagers! Well, one always wants to have an affair with one's mother. I mean it's a turn-on.
– Mick Jagger, 1968, on the remark that the song suggests the protagonist is having an affair with the girl's mother

These guys wanted to be the Beatles so bad, to the point of making up wacky mythology behind the recording of B-sides. I guess there's worse aspirations, but I'm glad they went in a different direction.

The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 2, Track 3
"The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" (Nanker Phelge) – 3:07

The last of these Nanker Phelge numbers, and I couldn't be more relieved. Another bit of support for the idea that inside jokes make for terrible song ideas.

Image courtest

Monday, April 7, 2008

Cry to Me

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 2, Track 2
"Cry to Me" (Bert Russell) – 3:09

There comes a point when commitment turns into caricature. That point comes in "Cry to Me" some time between the bridge and the outro, when the band starts playing with such earnestness that the whole thing turns into a parody of a soul ballad instead of the real thing.

This is the third time we've run across Solomon Burke, who had the first hit with "Cry to Me" in 1962. His version was straight 4/4 time, while the Stones performed the song in 12/8 – I'm not sure who's idea that was (Betty Harris had a minor hit with the song between the Burke and Stones recordings, but I've never heard how she did it) but it was a good one.

Bert Berns (AKA Bert Russell) wrote "Cry to Me" in 1962. If you've never heard of Berns, check out his wikipedia page – the guy had a writing or producing credit on some of the best songs of the era: "Twist and Shout", "Here Comes the Night", "Under The Boardwalk", "Baby I'm Yours", and dozens more. Check out the official Bert Berns website for more.

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 2, Track 1
"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:43


No, really, it's just hard to say something about this one that hasn't been said before. Great lyrics, Charlie Watts four on the floor, the tambourine, fuzz guitar lick, the bass line that duplicates it a fourth lower – the ingredients of a pretty good rock and roll single, no?

And as much as I love Exile-era Stones, there's a case to be made for 1965 as their creative peak. "Satisfaction" was released as a single in the middle of one of the greatest three-song runs in rock and roll history, preceded by "The Last Time" and followed by "Get Off My Cloud" – maybe Chuck Berry or Little Richard could top that, but I'm pretty sure no one else could. Of course, after "Get Off My Cloud" came "As Tears Go By", and it was all downhill from there.

It's All Right

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 1, Track 6
"It's All Right" (Live) (Nanker Phelge) – 2:23
Recorded live in March 1965 in England


The song I'm All Right was not recorded live in London in 1965 but probably at CHESS Sound Studios, Chicago, May 1965. The same backing tracks appeared with re-recorded vocals by Mick and Keith on the 1966 live album Got Live If You Want It! By 1966 the song also had changed it's title from I'm All Right to It's Alright. And the song credit changed from Nanker Phelge to Jagger/Richards. Who was to blame?

How could these backing tracks be recorded at Royal Albert Hall 1966, when you clearly hear that they are the same as those recorded in 1965?

According to others sources, The Rolling Stones did only play 6 songs at Royal Albert Hall, due to riots and It's Alright wasn't one of them.

I'm not exactly sure why this song was released on this album – an undercomposed studio jam with a fake live audience superimposed doesn't really fit in with the rest of the tracks. As noted, however, it does rock hard.

The obvious antecedent is the Isley Brother's great 1959 hit "Shout", which shares not only the I-vi chord changes and bass line but the call-and-response vocal feel.

Image courtest of Vertigo Magazine.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Good Times

Out of Our Heads (USA version)
Side 1, Track 5
"Good Times" (Sam Cooke) – 1:58

One of the good things about this project is that for each post I do a little bit of research, and that sometimes leads me to discover cool things. I just ran across this Rolling Stones fan site, which has all kinds of technical information about all Stones recordings. Let me quote his entry for "Good Times":


Sam Cooke


Recorded May 13th 1965 at RCA Sound Studios, Chicago, US
Engineered by Dave Hassinger

Produced by Andrew Loog Oldham

MICK JAGGER: Vocal Background (right)
KEITH RICHARDS: Vocal Background (left - right)
KEITH RICHARDS: Guitar Electric Lead (left)
BRIAN JONES: Guitar Acoustic (left)
BRIAN JONES: Marimba (right)
BILL WYMAN: Bass (left)
BILL WYMAN: Bass (o.d.)(center)
BILL WYMAN: Vocal Background (left)
CHARLIE WATTS: Drums (left)
CHARLIE WATTS: Percussion (o.d. tom-toms)(right)

JACK NITZSCHE: Organ (right)
[Snip lyircs]
This little gem can be found in stereo on certain bootlegs like Necrophilia. And to tell you the truth, it sounds so much better than the official mono version. Have you ever noticed that little blonde haired boy Brian Jones on Marimbas before? Just listen carefully and you'll hear him deep in the mono mix.
At the end of each chorus Charlie Watts plays a drum roll, and in case you didn't know, that's is really an overdub located in the right channel.
Listen for that high-pitched voice of Bill Wyman trying to imitate a negro woman.
The Rolling Stones indeed went to the lengths to get it right in the days back when they still were eager to prove they were equal to the Beatles.
They also recorded Cry To Me on the same session that very day, and Jack play organ on Cry To Me, so I guess he contributed his talents on Good Times too.
You know, I never noticed the marimba before, but that's now all I can hear – thanks God GammelDags! I'm tempted to call the whole Blogging the Stones thing off, this cat has all the bases covered.

One of the things I can do is offer some context. Sam Cooke wrote and recorded "Good Times" in 1963, released it as a single in July 1964, about a year before the Stones cut their version. This is one of those songs that must have sounded like an instant standard, a song that singers just wanted to sing – the song was destined to be covered by dozens of artists over the years.

Now, in addition to being a historic songwriter, Cooke was what CL Franklin would call a stone singer – he sang the shit out of his recording:

You can hear the Stones used Cooke's arrangement without changing much, and while Mick turns in a fairly good, restrained performance, the Stones did not have access to background singers as good as Cooke's – Wikipedia claims Cooke's old gospel group The Soul Stirrers sang on his recording, but I'm not so sure.

Anyway, like I said, the song inspired dozens of covers, some great

.... and some not so great

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.