Saturday, July 19, 2008
Here, without comment, are four Canadian tracks from the 80s and 90s.
54-40, Baby Ran
Me, Mom, and Morgentaler, No More Nervous Breakdown
Doug and the Slugs, Real Enough
Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Original Grin
Sticky Fingers Roundup
1. "Brown Sugar" – 3:50
2. "Sway" – 3:52
3. "Wild Horses" – 5:44
4. "Can't You Hear Me Knocking" – 7:15
5. "You Gotta Move" (Fred McDowell/Rev. Gary Davis) – 2:34
6. "Bitch" – 3:37
7. "I Got the Blues" – 3:54
8. "Sister Morphine" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards/Marianne Faithfull) – 5:34
9. "Dead Flowers" – 4:05
10. "Moonlight Mile" – 5:56
The Stones are really on a roll: Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and now Sticky Fingers. The biggest change came with the addition of Mick Taylor – finally the band had a world class lead guitar player, and as "Knocking" and "Moonlight Mile" proved, he had some interesting rhythm ideas as well.
The album is unusual in that it features only three rockers – the rest of the songs are mostly mellow, if not contemplative.
Some background info from Wikipedia:
Although sessions for Sticky Fingers began in earnest in March 1970, they had done some early recording at Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama in December 1969 and "Sister Morphine", cut during Let It Bleed's sessions earlier in March of that year, would be held over for this release. Much of the recording for Sticky Fingers was effected with The Rolling Stones' mobile studio unit in Stargroves during the summer and fall months in 1970. Early versions of songs that would appear on Exile on Main St. were also routined during these sessions.
With the end of their Decca/London association at hand, The Rolling Stones would finally be free to release their albums (cover art and all) as they pleased. However, soon-to-be-ex-manager Allen Klein (who took over the reins from Andrew Loog Oldham in 1965 so that Oldham could concentrate on producing the band), dealt the group a major blow when they discovered - to their horror - that they had inadvertently signed over their entire 1960s copyrights to Klein and his company ABKCO, which is how all of their material from 1963's "Come On" to Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert has since come to be released by ABKCO Records. The band would remain incensed with Klein for decades over the swindle.
When Decca informed The Rolling Stones that they were owed one more single, they cheekily submitted a track called "Cocksucker Blues" - which was guaranteed to be refused. Instead, Decca released the two-year-old Beggars Banquet track "Street Fighting Man" while Allen Klein would have dual copyright ownership - with The Rolling Stones - of "Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses".
Sticky Fingers may just be the band's most drug-drenched album, as well over half of the songs mention drug use, while the rest merely allude to it. Some final overdubbing and mixing in January 1971, found the album complete and preceded by "Brown Sugar" that March, which reached #1 in the US and #2 in the UK. Appearing in April on their new Rolling Stones label (with distribution by WEA Music), Sticky Fingers was rapturously-received and hit #1 worldwide, beginning an uninterrupted string of eight consecutive chart-topping US studio albums. "Wild Horses", covered by Keith Richard's friend Gram Parsons with The Flying Burrito Brothers, was the second single in the US only, making the Top 30.
"Moonlight Mile" – 5:56
The story goes that Mick Taylor's first major contributions were on "Sway" and "Moonlight Mile", two songs the Stones had already recorded rudimentary demos of. Taylor came in and, with Jagger, finished the songs off, playing all the guitars as well as arranging the songs (including adding the string sections). Taylor later said that he quit the band because of Jagger and Richard's refusal to grant him songwriting credits.
Keith does not play on "Moonlight Mile", and although the lead acoustic riff is frequently credited to Jagger, it is pretty clearly Taylor's work. Here, we get an idea of what the Stones would have sounded like without Keith – it turns out they would have sounded exactly like the Beatles, complete with a double-tracked lead vocal.
The lyrics fall into the whiny "being a rock star is so hard!" genre that Mick dipped into on occaiasion. They do have a particular grace and facility on "Moonlight Mile", suggestive of Lennon:
Made a rag pile of my shiny clothes.
Gonna warm my bones, gonna warm my bones.
I got silence on my radio.
Let the air waves flow, let the air waves flow.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
"Dead Flowers" – 4:05
You all know this one. A classical midtempo country groove, some tasteful string bending, a catchy melody. That's the way you write a drug song: you make it too good to ignore.
Steve Earle liked the song too:
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
"Sister Morphine" (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards/Marianne Faithfull) – 5:34
As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Oh, wait. That's a different song. Sorry.
"Sister Morphine" was written (or co-written – the record is a little unclear) by Marianne Faithfull, who was a famous junkie in the sixties. She also apparently had a sideline as a singer/songwriter. Given that description, you won't be surprised to learn that I haven't heard her version of the song, nor have any desire to hear it ever (I'll put it down at the end of this post). The Stones' version of "Sister Morphine" is a drag, slow and blue, simulating, I suppose, the experience of junkyism in musical form.
Listen: I am a 37 year old middle class white guy with a house, job, and a dog. I'll go out on weekends and knock back a few pints with friends. I give money to homeless people in an attempt to curb my innate liberal guilt. I watch sports on TV. I don't want to hear songs about how some famous rich cunt in the sixties ruined her own fucking life, okay? I just don't give a shit.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
"I Got the Blues" – 3:54
I'd forgotten that Sticky Fingers was such a ballad oriented album – "Sway", "Wild Horses", and now "I Got the Blues".
I'd also forgotten what a great song this is – a letter-perfect ripoff of an Otis Redding soul balled, complete with a Steve Cropper arpeggio into, B3 solo (by Billy Preston, moonlighting from his gig over at Abbey Road Studios), and Otis horns (by the previously dissed – regretfully, may I add – Bobby Keys and Jim Price). In an earlier entry I wrote that there comes a point when commitment turns into caricature, when homage turns into parody. It's easy to understand how someone could think that "I Got the Blues" maybe crossed the line, but I'm inclined to give the Stones a break here. Unlike some of their other attempts to mimic their heroes and influences, this track is notable for how well it is executed – not only did they manage to write a song Otis could have sung, they played it pretty much exactly the way he would have recorded it.
Here they are performing the song live at the Marquee Club in London on March 26, 1971. Otis had been dead for three years.
"Bitch" – 3:37
Unlike many other canonical rock bands, the Stones didn't really go in for single-string riff rock. Whereas Zeppelin had dozens of songs in that style (eg "Heartbreaker", "Whole Lotta Love", "Good Times, Bad Times", "Black Dog"), "Bitch" is the only Stones song I can think of off the top of my head.
It's not a particularly good song, although the riff itself has a kind of satisfying inevitability to it. One of the things that's always bugged me about the track is the horns: they sound like shit. I don't know why that is. Maybe I'm just used to the contemporaneous horn charts of Stax and Muscle Shoals and on all the R&B/Soul recordings of the era, which represent the pinnacle of horns on pop/rock recordings. Compare, say, Aretha's version of "The Weight", recorded the year before the Stones recorded "Bitch" (the horns kick in on the second verse):
Hear the difference? The horn charts on "The Weight" act as a counterpoint to the melody, and take off at odd angles, rhythmically and harmonically. The three horns on "Bitch" (sax by Bobby Keys, Jim Price on trumpet and trombone) play in unison with each other and with the main guitar riff. I've never liked the sound of unison horns, which sound totally artificial to my ears. (Don't the "Bitch" horns sound exactly like the early digital synthesised horns of the 80s?) I think that's what's always bugged me about this song.
Anyway, here's a great live recording of "Bitch", from a concert in Houston, Texas, June 25 1972.