Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's Not Easy

Aftermath (USA version)
Side 2, Track 3
"It's Not Easy" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:56

A Chuck Berry-style rocker, the kind the Stones had mostly left behind by this point. A decent enough effort by the band, nothing memorable except for Mick's phrasing in the chorus. You know the part:

That is hysterical.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Elvis Costello Primer (nonstones)

I love the AV Club Primer series of introductions to artists. I'll probably post a link to every one they do for someone I've heard of, first the Stones and now Elvis Costello. Check it out.

Bruce Springsteen
The Kinks

High and Dry

Aftermath (USA version)
Side 2, Track 2
"High and Dry" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:08

Something a little different from the Stones – a countrified ditty in double-time, with just a couple of acoustic guitars, a high hat, upright, and harp accompaniment. Mick's nasal delivery is hilariously over the top, but not in a bad way. It reminds me of his solo releases from the 80s, when he stopped singing and decided that merely being Mick in the recording studio should be enough for anybody. This time, however, the song is actually half decent. Consider me charmed.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Flight 505

Aftermath (USA version)
Side 2, Track 1
"Flight 505" – 3:27

I'm going to quote the entry from, a great Stones resource:

19 Seconds into this track, Ian Stewart plays the riff of Satisfaction on piano, before the rest of the band launch into the song.

Brian Jones plays Cembalo. Odd choice, being the Rolling Stones™' attempt to match the version of Rock and Roll Music (Berry) by The Beatles. You can distinguish his Cembalo playing by listening for a crisp sounded piano sound popping up from time to time, especially during the lead breaks. But you can hear two guitar players. And both must have been played by Keith, because they sound too similar in context to each other, than being the ideas of two different brains. In fact the guitar riff Keith played on Flight 505 would 7 years later turn up as the guitar riff of Star Star.

A track with lot of bass. The third bass, right, was Bill Wyman doing the Paint-It-Black-trick: hammering (with his fists) at the organ (bass) pedals. This was Bill's fetish during the recordings in 1966. And don't forget his bass slides. At 3:00 an organ starts to play in the right channel. Probably Bill during the same overdub as the pedals.

Second song Mick Jagger mentions the digits 505. The first time was during the song You Can't Catch Me. Both had something to do with altitude!

De La Soul - Eye Know (nonstones)

De La Soul
3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
"Eye Know" (P. Huston, K. Mercer, D. Jolicoeur, V. Mason) – 4:13

God I love this song. I remember thinking this was the first time I'd heard a sample that sounded better than it did on the original. (In fact, I can't even remember where that guitar sample came from – some forgettable Stax single, I think.) The Otis whistle was a clever touch. The whole 3 Feet High and Rising album was great, but I'd forgotten all about it until a chance encounter with "Eye Know" this morning on my ipod. Back in the rotation you go, guys.

Also from the album:

"Me, Myself, and I"
"Say No Go"
Also: 3 Feet High Press Kit.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Aftermath (USA version)
Side 1, Track 6
"Think" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 3:09

When I saw "Think" on the track list for Aftermath, I started licking my chops. Would it be a cover of "Think", the James Brown R&B number? Or maybe (hope against hope) Aretha Franklin's feminist anthem "Think"[*], a cover which would rank just behind Rod Stewart's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Man" in the Register of Bad Ideas?

Alas. You can imagine my disappointment when I found the Stones' "Think" to be merely an original composition. And a dull one at that. That's no fun. It's hard to work up any emotion over such a limp recording, especially when the possibilities were so promising.

(Okay, those possibilities existed only in my head, but wouldn't it have been fun to hear Mick try to wrap his voice around lines like

Think about the sacrifices that I made for you.
Think about the good things I done for you.
Now think of all the bad things I tried not to do baby baby.
Think of all the wrong things you did to me too.
The possibilities for snark are nearly endless.)

[* I was unable to locate online a clip of the Aretha Now version of "Think" – the internet, however, is filled to the brim with clips of her performing the song in that Blues Brothers movie. I think that really depresses me or something.]

I'm Going Down

The Rolling Stones
"I'm Going Down" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:52

By request. "I'm Going Down" is a track off Metamorphosis, that odds and sods compilation with the wacky Kafka cover released in 1975. I'm having trouble tracking down information on this particular song, but wikipedia says it dates to the Sticky Fingers sessions in 1970. It sounds like a half-formed studio jam – Mick seems to be improvising throughout, and there isn't really a melody to speak of – the chorus is especially limp.

In fact, the track sounds exactly like something that would have appeared on Keith's other solo album (the one I can't remember the name of – not Talk is Cheap, the one with "Eileen"): you've got your classic classic-era Stones midtempo groove, you've got your monster Keith open G riffing, and you have your undercomposed, underproduced vocal out front. Add in your hotshot session musicians (Bobby Keys on the sax, the improbably named Rocky Dijon on the congas) and you're good to go.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Doncha Bother Me

Aftermath (USA version)
Side 1, Track 5
"Doncha Bother Me" – 2:41

Yet another blues shuffle, this time featuring a supremely annoying slide figure that repeats just often enough to make me reach for the fast forward button.

Yes, that is an anachronism.

I have to get this out of the way: a friend challenged my objectivity, claiming that I liked maybe four or five of the 91 Stones songs I have gone through. It has to be more than that – I've liked every chuck Berry number, and the Stones have at least five of those alone, right? But more to the point, I would like a lot more of the Stones' material if they avoided these pointless blues exercises. I suppose a case could be made that they served a higher purpose once – i.e. bringing the music of rural black American musicians to jaded white hipsters – but blues music today (certainly blues music performed by white British musicians) is merely a cliche, and I am not inclined to cut these people any slack, even retroactively.

Now edited for grammer and spleling. Note to self: CTRL-P = Post, CTRL-D = Draft.

Under My Thumb

Aftermath (USA version)
Side 1, Track 4
"Under My Thumb" – 3:41

I'm sensing a theme on this album. The misogyny of "Under My Thumb" is certainly uglier than "Stupid Girl", but at least the band had a go at making some interesting music. It's been a long time since I heard this track, but I remembered the marimba clearly – I had forgotten about the fuzz bass (played by Keith?) which sounds great on this song. Some clever chord changes as well. A memorable track.

Lady Jane

Aftermath (USA Version)
Side 1, Track 3
"Lady Jane" – 3:09

What the fuck? Really: What. The. Fuck.

My Sweet Lady Jane, when I see you again.
Your servant am I, and will humbly remain.
Just heed this plea my love, on bended knees my love.
I pledge myself to Lady Jane.
What the fuck is this shit?

UPDATE 11:53 AM: No, really, what the christ is this horrifying shit? I've thought about nothing else for the last half hour, and I still can't come up with an answer. In what universe is "Your servant am I, and will humbly remain" a good song idea? Is this an English thing? How the holy hell do you go from "She's the sickest thing in this world, look at that stupid girl" directly into "Wedlock is nigh my love, her stations right my love – Life is secure with Lady Jane"? I demand answers.

Stupid Girl

Aftermath (USA Version)
Side 1, Track 2
"Stupid Girl" – 2:55

Ah, misogyny. In time, the Stones would become synonymous with the term, but I think this is the first overt instance on their recordings. "Stupid Girl" is almost unimaginably dull – maybe Mick thought he'd rather be offensive than entertaining? Who knows. But listen to this bridge:

God, they must have spent 5 whole minutes composing that masterpiece. Not a good start to this album.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Paint It, Black

Aftermath (USA Version)
Side 1, Track 1
"Paint It, Black" – 3:45

One of the rules I set myself for this project was that I would approach each song not only as if I'd never heard it before, but also as if I had no knowledge of their future releases. I've already violated that rule a few times, but I still think it's a worthwhile goal.

It's going to be hard to apply the rule for "Paint It, Black", a song that has somehow become closely identified with the Vietnam War through its inclusion in movies and television, even though the lyrics and music seem to have no connection to it.

Also problematic is the fact that we know the Stones will within a few years go on to become THE iconic rock and roll band, exemplifying straight-ahead, no-nonsense rocking, but are heard on "Paint It, Black" to be embracing 60s psychedelia with some unsettling enthusiasm, what with that guitar melody and the sitar and everything (not to mention the weird random comma in the title). I think Chuck Berry said it once, there is nothing less rock and roll than a sitar.

Then there is my personal history with the song, which inspired some pretentious philosophising back in my high school days. I can't be the only person who had that experience or something similar, but that doesn't make the memory any less cringe-worthy.

So can I get away with saying absolutely nothing substantive about "Paint It, Black"? I think I just did.

PS: Did you know the word was "substantive", not "substansive"? Until this very moment, I did not. I've been saying substansive my whole life, and not only has no one every corrected me, but I have never heard any one ever say the correct form, or at least I never noticed.

PPS: I should probably say something about the weird bass on the recording. Numerous sources claim that Bill Wyman not only recorded a standard electric bass track, but duplicated that by playing it on organ bass pedals (presumably a Hammond B3). I'll admit that I can't really hear the pedals because my mp3 rip is pretty muddy, but there is something there besides the bass. Also, there is that crazy slidey bass thing played at the end during the outro – that sounds like another overdub. This is what I'm talking about:

December's Children (And Everybody's) Roundup

December's Children (And Everybody's) Roundup

Side 1
1. "She Said Yeah" (Sonny Christy/Roddy Jackson) – 1:34
2. "Talkin' about You" (Chuck Berry) – 2:31
3. "You Better Move On" (Arthur Alexander) – 2:39
4. "Look What You've Done" (McKinley Morganfield) – 2:16
5. "The Singer Not the Song" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:22
6. "Route 66" (live) (Bobby Troup) – 2:39

Side 2
1. "Get off of My Cloud" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:55
2. "I'm Free" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:23
3. "As Tears Go By" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards/Andrew Loog Oldham) – 2:45
4. "Gotta Get Away" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:07
5. "Blue Turns to Grey" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) – 2:29
6. "I'm Moving On" (live) (Hank Snow) – 2:14

From Wikipedia:

December's Children (And Everybody's) is the fifth US album by The Rolling Stones, released in late 1965. Drawn largely from two days of sessions recorded in September to finish the UK Out of Our Heads album and to record their new single, "Get Off Of My Cloud", December's Children (And Everybody's) also included tracks recorded from as early as 1963.

The majority of the songs appearing on the album were written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, as they penned strong album cuts like "I'm Free" and "The Singer Not the Song" as well as such major hits as "As Tears Go By" and "Get off of My Cloud".

December's Children (And Everybody's) reached #4 in the US and went gold.

In August 2002 December's Children (And Everybody's) was reissued in a new remastered CD and SACD digipak by ABKCO Records.

I'm Moving On (live)

December's Children (And Everybody's)
Side 2, Track 6
"I'm Moving On" (live) (Hank Snow) – 2:14

Another one of those "live" recordings that sounds anything but. Like "Route 66", "I'm Moving On" is a serious piece of rock and roll, an almost shocking change of pace following the lame pop numbers "Gotta Get Away" and "Blue Turns to Grey". It's hard to make anything out beyond the solid slab of audience screaming (all the better to cover some sloppiness in the rhythm section, presumably), but Mick sounds great out front.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blue Turns to Grey

December's Children (And Everybody's)
Side 2, Track 5
"Blue Turns to Grey" – (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) 2:29

What the hell? I thought "Gotta Get Away" was as "pop" as the Stones would ever get, but "Blue Turns to Grey" sounds like one of Spinal Tap's early 60s numbers – that is, a parody of a Beatles single. This is the strangest Stones song I have ever heard. Even though this was a period in their career when they had no established identity (ie post-crappy blues band, but pre-iconic rock and roll combo) this song is so utterly at odds with their strengths that I wonder where it came from. Something this bizarre almost has to be the idea of a studio executive.

Gotta Get Away

December's Children (And Everybody's)
Side 2, Track 4
"Gotta Get Away" – (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards) 2:07
 says this song has never been performed on stage. It's easy to hear why
– "Gotta Get Away" is an utterly generic exercise in pop songwriting, undistinguished in composition and performance.