Monday, September 09, 2013

Music Library: Rolling Stones, Part 1: 1964-67

Between 1971-72, they were the greatest rock band in the world. Now they're a glorified oldies band and, more or less, the greatest Rolling Stones cover band in the world. Top five, at least. I gave up on them when they started sucking in the 70s, but I do really love their rise to Exile. Anyway, this pose covers only the first four years of the Stones' rise to fame (or infamy) and the growth is amazing. Four freakin' years! Or, considering the first album is in May 1964 and the last covered here is December 1967, THREE AND A HALF! Damn, y'all.

England's Newest Hit Makers (May 1964). Through Satanic Majesties, their UK and US record companies put out different versions of the same album. This is the American version of the first UK album The Rolling Stones, and it replaces a cover of Bo Diddley's "Mona" with a cover of Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away." Most of the other songs were covers, too, because that's how the pop business was done in those days. It has two originals, the bluesy "Now I've Got A Witness" and the poppy "Tell Me." The former is credited to Nanker Phlege, which was the nom de musique for the entire band, and the latter was a Jagger/Richards collaboration.

12X5 (Oct 1964). This was a US-only release collecting a number of singles with a UK EP. There are two Nanker Phlege songs and three Jagger/Richards songs out of the 12.

The Rolling Stones, Now! (Feb 1965). This is the US version of the second UK album The Rolling Stones No. 2. Instead of trying to pretend that I know how to unravel the differences, I'm just going to quote wikipedia:
The album contained seven tracks from their second UK album The Rolling Stones No. 2, the recent US Top 20 hit "Heart of Stone", the recent UK #1 hit single "Little Red Rooster", "Surprise, Surprise", from the UK various artist compilation Fourteen, "Mona (I Need You Baby)" from The Rolling Stones and "Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')" which would appear on the UK edition of the Stones' next album Out of Our Heads later in 1965.
Strangely, given how convoluted the sequence is, it is a much more coherent album than the previous two, and "Heart Of Stone" is the first truly great Jagger/Richards song.

Out Of Our Heads (US, July 1965). This is the greatest of the early Stones albums, and the US version is significantly better than the UK one. The UK version has "Heart of Stone" and "I'm Free" in its favor, but the US version loses those while focusing on the singles, adding "The Last Time," "Play With Fire," and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," a song that you may have heard once or twice in your life. This is the first essential Stones album, at least in the US version.

December's Children (And Everybody's) (Dec 1965). This album picks up the rest of the tracks from the UK Out Of Our Heads and adds a few killer singles.  When it is not cooking, it sounds a bit like leftovers, especially coming right after the US Out Of Our Heads. But the killer tracks - "Get Off Of My Cloud," "As Tears Go By," "The Singer, Not The Song," and "I'm Free."

Aftermath (UK, 1966) and Could You Walk On The Water? (bootleg of unreleased album, 1966). Aftermath on both sides of the pond was the first of the intermediate Stones albums, where every song was a Jagger/Richards composition and the band was experimenting with sounds far beyond the R&B and blues covers that had previously fueled them. The UK version has 14 tracks to the US version's 11. While the US version adds "Paint It, Black," one of the greatest Stones singles, the UK version has "Mother's Little Helper," "Out Of Time," "Take It Or Leave It," and "What To Do," all of which would turn up on later released. Besides those tracks, both versions of Aftermath include "Lady Jane," "Under My Thumb," "Goin' Home," and "I Am Waiting," all of which are amazing, if shockingly sexist and quite dated in one case. Could You Walk On The Water? was the proposed US counterpart to the UK Aftermath (before they decided to just release a version of the same album). Wikipedia says:
The track list for the shelved album includes "Take It or Leave It", "Mother's Little Helper", "Think", "Goin' Home" (short edit) and "Doncha Bother Me". Of these, all five would be released on the UK version of Aftermath, three on the US version. Of the remaining tracks, "19th Nervous Breakdown" and "Sad Day" were released as a single, "Sittin' on the Fence" and "Ride On, Baby" were later to be released on the US album Flowers, along with "Mother's Little Helper" and "Take It or Leave It". "Looking Tired" remains unreleased to this day.
"Looking Tired" has actually popped up on some bootlegs, including this one.

Between The Buttons (UK, January 1967). This is a great and underappreciated album, with each song brimming with Swinging London pop brilliance. The US version cuts "Back Street Girl" and "Please Go Home" for the current singles "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend The Night Together," but somehow the UK version is a better album for not having any of the Stones' best-known tracks on it. It seems more personal than even Aftermath, and Brian Jones' increased eclecticism (he is credited on the album with electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, organ, electric dulcimer, percussion, harpsichord, kazoo, recorder, theremin, trumpet, trombone, tuba, saxophone, harmonica, sitar, and backing vocals) only adds to the weird pop brilliance of this one.

 Their Satanic Majesties' Request (Dec 1967). This is the first Stones album to be released with the same track listing on both sides of the pond. And it is a fascinating mess of an album, with guitars shrieking on a most un-Stones-like frequency, loads of crude psychedelia, a general lack of focus, and still almost brilliant enough to pull it off. "Citadel," in particular, has been covered by a lot of artists, because that song rocks ass.


Denis Prieur 10:55 PM, September 11, 2013  

Great review of an underappreciated era. Only a few quibbles:
1. The Stones were the greatest rock band AT THE VERY LEAST from 1968-1972.
2. The Citadel is only the third or fourth best song on Satanic Majesty.
3. You should check out for a great version of It's All Over Now that showcases Jagger's early stage presence.

I'm going to go revisit Between the Buttons now and see what I've been missing out on.

Hayden Childs 4:46 PM, September 12, 2013  

Thanks, Dennis! I don't know if I made it clear that I love Satanic Majesties despite (or because of) its messiness, but "Citadel" is my favorite, man. Going to check your video now!

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