Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jumpin' Jack Flash

"Jumpin' Jack Flash" – 3:43

Despite my stated intention to blog the songs on every album in order, I am sneaking "Jumpin' Jack Flash" in here before Beggars Banquet because it does not appear on a Stones album until the 1969 greatest hits comp Through the Past, Darkly, and I didn't want to wait that long. Besides, it was recorded during the Beggars Banquet sessions, and it pretty clearly fits in with what they were doing on that album.

What were they doing? Why, creating the purest distillation of raw rock and roll ever heard, that's what. Everything I read says that the Stones, after dallying with psychedelic exoticism on their previous two albums (Between the Buttons and especially Their Satanic Majesties Request), "returned to their blues roots" for the Beggars Banquet sessions. To me, that undersells their achievement, especially on this track. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" was about much more than returning to their blues roots.

The song opens with one of the greatest intros in history. When Keith's guitar comes in, you know you're in for something special. An acoustic guitar, played through the mic of a crappy cassette recorder to get that tinny distortion, with a capo high on the neck adding to the "thinness" of the sound. An electric doubles the opening riff, along with a bass. Charlie Watts's drums come in – you're hooked now. (Notice how he doesn't hit the cymbals here. In fact, apart from the high hat he doesn't hit the cymbals at all during the song.)

That guitar sound, more than the riff itself, drives the song. Because Keith couldn't duplicate that sound on stage, "Jumpin' Jack Flash" never sounds as good live as it did in the studio. Here, check out the version from Rock and Roll Circus:

Of course, that is a famously bad Stones performance, but the most striking bit, for me anyway, is that missing guitar part. Check out this one, from the recent Shine a Light:


Anyway, I could take for hours about this song – I didn't even get to the lyrics or the weird instrumentation or anything. But I'll stop here, and get back to this song at some point in the future.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this. We don't need to talk about it.

Rheostatics & Bourbon Tabernacle Choir - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (nonstones)

Rheostatics & Bourbon Tabernacle Choir
Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute to Neil Young
"Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" (Neil Young) – 3:52

1994 saw the release of Borrowed Tunes: A Tribute to Neil Young, a 2 CD set featuring several dozen mostly alternative Canadian acts of the era. Most of the artists were probably unknown to anyone but fans of the Canadian college circuit (some you may have heard of: Jeff Healey, Blue Rodeo, Cowboy Junkies). But the best performance came from a collaboration between two of the bigger Canadian club acts of the day, the Rheostatics and the Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, performing "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere", that weird little tune with the great title from Neil Young's second album.

These two bands made up a big part of my musical life during the 90s, particularly the Bourbons (who will probably get their own post at some point), and a chance mention of this track by a friend today unleashed a flood of nostalgia for the days when I dressed exclusively in jeans and white t-shirts and went to clubs three times a week to check out new bands. I cannot count how many times I saw the Rheostatics at Lee's Palace or the Horseshoe, or checked out the Bourbons at the El Macombo or Clinton's. Good times.

I am not a fan of nostalgia, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this recording doesn't need the crutch of making you remember the good old days – it stands up very nicely on its own. I am also not a fan of Neil Young, and am not afraid to say that this recording leaves his in the dust. I am particularly fond of the banjo interlude, which leads to Kate Fenner's husky contralto.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Flowers Roundup

Flowers Roundup


Flowers is the eighth U.S. studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1967. The album is a mishmash of previously recorded tracks. The songs either appeared as singles, had been omitted from the American versions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons, were collected from studio sessions dating back several years, or are simply reissues of songs recently released on other albums.

Three tracks had never been released. "My Girl" from the Out of Our Heads and Between the Buttons sessions, and "Ride On, Baby" and "Sittin' On A Fence" from the Aftermath sessions.
1. "Ruby Tuesday" – 3:17
A January 1967 single release also featured on the US edition of Between the Buttons. See my post for the Between the Buttons version.
2. "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" – 2:34
A September 1966 single release.
3. "Let's Spend the Night Together" – 3:36
A January 1967 single release also featured on the US edition of Between the Buttons. See my post for the Between the Buttons version.
4. "Lady Jane" – 3:08
Originally released on Aftermath in 1966. See my post for the Aftermath version.
5. "Out of Time" – 3:41
An abridged edit of the version originally released on the UK edition of Aftermath in 1966.
6. "My Girl" (Smokey Robinson/Ronald White) – 2:38
Previously unreleased. Recorded in 1965
7. "Back Street Girl" – 3:26
Originally released on the UK edition of Between the Buttons.
8. "Please Go Home" – 3:17
Originally released on the UK edition of Between the Buttons.
9. "Mother's Little Helper" – 2:46
Originally released on the UK edition of Aftermath.
10. "Take It or Leave It" – 2:46
Originally released on the UK edition of Aftermath.
11. "Ride On, Baby" – 2:52
Previously unreleased. Recorded in 1965.
12. "Sittin' On A Fence" – 3:03
Previously unreleased. Recorded in 1965.

Sittin' On A Fence

Track 12
"Sittin' On A Fence" – 3:03

This is what God GammelDags has to say about this track:

Sittin' On A Fence sounds like Mick Jagger accompanied by studio musicians. It could have been a demo for one of their songs for other artist to record with Mick Jagger on vocal backed by Studio Musicians and later mistakenly reckoned as a Rolling Stones recording by Allen B. Klein and London Records. Most fans liked it, so why bother?

However, there's a reason why these 'new' tracks were kept hidden in the vaults for years. Keith Richards has not ever since come close to playing his acoustics in such a leading manner as this. Jimmy Page in the right channel on acoustic lead guitar?

But compared to the rest of the songs recorded at that time it then sounds very odd. It is rumored that The Glimmer Twins wrote the song during the Scandinavian tour, June 24th - 29th 1965, while in Sweden. You can actually pin point the recording date to the same as Ride On, Baby. Both has a verse arranged for Vocal and Harpsichord. Very typical Aftermath.
He's got a point about the musicianship on this track – it is very definitely not a typical Stones track. I am not sure how things worked back then, so I don't know how likely the theory about studio musicians is.

The critical consensus seems to be that this is a charming trifle, a sweet little piece of throwaway pop music. I am not sure what I think of it, although I know I don't hate it. That sounds kinda shitty written like that, but to be perfectly honest, I have now blogged ten Stones albums, and I have probably lost all perspective when it comes to the band. Luckily, the next album on my plate is a surefire winner.

Ride On, Baby

Track 11
"Ride On, Baby" – 2:52

Wow. This is another one of those songs that sat in the can for almost two years, recorded during the Aftermath sessions, released in 1967 on the USA-only Flowers album. If you take out all the wacky instruments (marimba, harpsichord, dulcimer), this is a song one could easily imagine Them releasing – there is certainly a Van Morrisonesque quality to Mick's phrasing, and a pop sensibility to the melody that is unfortunately out of character for the Stones during this era. I wish I knew about this song before, it's a winner.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Take it or Leave it

Track 10
"Take it or Leave it" – 2:46

Ha ha ha:

Ha ha ha:

God, they weren't even trying at this point, were they?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mother's Little Helper

Track 9
"Mother's Little Helper" – 2:46

A Stones song about someone else's drug abuse? Is this supposed to be ironic or something? I never understood what was going on in this song.

Musically, there was a lot going on. Brian Jones plays that lick after each verse that sounds like a sitar (actually a 12-string played with a slide). Bill Wyman overdubs those same bass slides that he used on "Paint It, Black" over Charlie Watts' double-time beat – some nice acoustic guitar rounds out the rhythm section. A great modulation to the major for the bridge.

Still, what the fuck? I just don't get this song. What is the point of telling me about mom's Valium addiction? Are they trying to tell me that the squares who busted them for drug use were hypocrites? "See, it's not just us, everyone is doing drugs"? If that's it I am going to be sorely disappointed. Is it a "The Darker Side of the Suburbs" slice-of-life observational study? Is it about someone they knew? I wish I knew the point of all this.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Please Go Home

Track 8
"Please Go Home" – 3:17

Yes! Now that's what I'm talking about. The Stones were always at their best extending the work of their 50s rock and roll heroes like Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly, and on "Please Go Home" they can be heard combining their native misogyny with a heavy Bo Diddley rhythm – Brian Jones's guitar sounds especially great. Add in some pseudo-psychedelic touches (that echo that comes in at the end of the chorus; the theremin) and you've got the makings of a great single.

Back Street Girl

Track 7
"Back Street Girl" – 3:26

Well, someone's been listening to "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", eh? Acoustic ballad played in waltz time, studio musician brought in to supplement the sound with an exotic instrument, stoic lyrics barely hiding a mind wracked with melancholy.

Speaking of the lyrics, Mick somehow managed to combine the misogyny of "Stupid Girl" with the faux chivalry of "Lady Jane":

Please don't you call me at home.
Please don't come knocking at night.
Please never ring on the phone.
Your manners are never quite right.
Please take the favors, I grant.
Courtesy, don't you look nonchalantly at me.
Don't want you out in my world.
Just you be my backstreet girl.
Oh, Mick. You are such a charmer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

My Girl

Track 6
"My Girl" (Smokey Robinson/Ronald White) – 2:38

Another one from the "What Were They Thinking?" file. "My Girl" was recorded more than two years before it appeared on Flowers, on the same day they recorded "Satisfaction". Given their previous failed attempts to perform soul songs credibly, it's no wonder the song sat in the can for a couple of years. The real mystery is what possessed them to record it in the first place.