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Rolling Stones Singles Revisited

January 3, 2013

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Keith Richards has repeatedly told the story of how on tour in the USA in May 1965 he awoke one morning in his Florida hotel to find that his tape recorder contained a cassette that had reached its end. When he listened back to the tape he found a snatch of a riff, followed by forty minutes of snoring. He has also claimed the Satisfaction riff was borrowed from Dancing In The Streets by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Early incarnations suggested a softer, folk-based song but Mick Jagger spotted the potential of transforming the song into an uptempo number. Keith wanted the riff carried by a brass section along the lines of the February 1966 version cut by Otis Redding. The version of Satisfaction played by the Stones on their March 1971 UK tour has something of this – listen to the Get Your Leeds Lungs out version to see what Keith meant. The studio version that the Stones cut at Chess and RCA Hollywood in May 1965 featured Keith using a fuzzbox to replace the horns he heard and it as a guitar-based rocker that Satisfaction is known today. Jagger’s lyrics are intentionally placed low in the mix, bearing out his theory that it’s better if the listener has to work to decipher them. Massively successful, a number one hit all over the world including the UK and the USA.

Get Off Of My Cloud

Very much Son of Satisfaction. Again the track was recorded at Chess and RCA Hollywood, this time during September 1965. The song owes much to Twist and Shout, albeit with an extra chord added in the chorus. Although Andrew Loog Oldham received a production credit it is now widely accepted that the strong studio sound was largely due to engineer Dave Hassinger. Keith Richards has criticised the recording as being rushed and over-compressed, the latter in order to sound good on the radio. The strategy worked in commercial terms – another number one single in both the UK and the USA. Brian Jones played lead guitar whilst Ian Stewart featured on piano. One contemporary review claimed “another wild, far out beat number…rocks all the way with exciting vocal work.” Not played live for many years until in 1976 the track formed part of a medley with If You Can’t Rock Me and appeared in this form on 1977’s Love You Live double LP.

Heart of Stone

The release of this track as a US-only single in December 1964 demonstrated that Jagger and Richards were becoming more confident about their song-writing ability. It was recorded twice: first by Andrew Loog Oldham in London in July-August 1964 and then again by Dave Hassinger at RCA Hollywood in November of the same year. The early version featured Jimmy Page on guitar and was eventually released on the Metamorphosis compilation LP in June 1975. The second version shows Keith Richards effectively emulating Page’s guitar parts, aided by Jack Nitzsche’s piano. The single featured the second, superior recording. Comparing the two versions illustrates the gulf that then existed between UK studios / producers and their US counterparts. The US version appeared on 1965’s LP “The Rolling Stones Now!”, a US-only release that combined seven tracks from the Stones second UK LP with five tracks that were otherwise unavailable in the US.

19th Nervous Breakdown

The Autumn 1965 tour of the US was referred to by Mick Jagger in jest as his ’19th nervous breakdown’, a phrase the band turned into a possible title and then into a frantic maelstrom of a song. On release in February 1966 the single only reached number 2 in the UK charts, breaking a run of four successive number 1’s. The track was recorded at RCA Hollywood in December 1965. Jack Nitzsche got a co-production credit with Loog, but even Dave Hassingers engineering skills were insufficient to clarify the sound. The most notable sonic feature was Bill Wymans  semi-accoustic Framus bass which dive-bombs through the mix. Disc magazine were not impressed: “Technically, especially when straining to hear Mick’s voice surface from the backing, it’s not the best.” Glyn Johns did a remix of the song which brought out Mick’s vocal more but Oldham rejected it.  The track was played on the October 1966 UK tour but since then has only rarely been attempted live.

Paint It, Black

“Don’t ask me what the comma in the title is for – that’s Decca’s” (Keith Richards). Another track recorded by Dave Hassinger at RCA Hollywood (March 1966) and another chart-topper on both sides of the Atlantic. The track showcases Brian Jones’ ability to master a wide variety of musical instruments, here the sitar.  Brian sat cross-legged on the floor on the Ed Sullivan show to give his sitar greater visual prominence. Jagger sings the first two lines in an almost subdued tone before hollering the rest of the song. The single got great reviews with Melody Maker calling it a “glorious Indian raga-rock riot”. The song was rarely played live until the Stones revived their 60’s classics and began to include it in setlists from 1989 onwards. These days Ronnie Wood plays the (electric) sitar part, as shown on the version from Twickenham Stadium in August 2003 included on the Four Flicks DVD

Under My Thumb

Taken from the Stones LP Aftermath this song featured Brian Jones on marimba, which gives the track an African feel. The song noticeably speeds up at the end courtesy of Ian Stewart’s piano. Overall a very poor track: the lyrics are yet another variation on Jaggers “dumb chicks” putdown as he charmingly refers to an ex as a “squirming dog who’s just had her day”. Keith Richards’ guitar solo is aimless. Played extensively on the 1969 American tour: a version is included on the expanded edition of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!. After the infamous June 1967 Redlands drug-bust the Who released a version of Under My Thumb as a single to demonstrate their support for the Stones.  John Entwistle was on his honeymoon so Townshend played bass as well as guitar. There was just time to get the record out before Jagger and Richards were released on appeal. The recording failed to improve on the Stones version  and the B-side cover of The Last Time was no better.

Let’s Spend the Night Together

The Stones at their poppiest, released as a double A side single with the equally catchy Ruby Tuesday. “Produced” by Andrew Loog Oldham at Olympic Studios in London during November 1966 although most of the heavy-lifting was done by engineer Glyn Johns. The melody was written by Keith Richards at the piano, and he also played bass. Jagger’s vocal caused some controversy, particularly in the US where Ed Sullivan demanded a lyric change to “spend some time together.” The NME commented “a super disc for dancing.” The song was resurrected for the 1981US tour and became the title of Hal Ashby’s concert film, the version used therein having been recorded in Tempe, Arizona on December 13.

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Peace and Love did not sit well with the Rolling Stones. After the mixed critical reaction to 1967’s trippy Their Satanic Majesties Request LP a return to their roots was strongly indicated. Joining the Beatles (Get Back) and the Move (Fire Brigade) the Stones went Back To Basics to stunning effect. Enter Jimmy Miller as the bands best-ever producer. Bill Wyman came up with a basic musical idea, whilst Jagger and Richards came up with words and riffs, based on Jack Dyer, Richards gardener at Redlands. The extraordinary guitar textures were created by part-recording accoustic guitar on a cassette recorder with so much overload that it sounded electric. Special mention should go to the extraordinary coda, Nicky Hopkins playing a rising Hammond organ line that was direct injected into the mixing board so as to almost sound like another guitar. A promotional film was shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg where the band were all heavily made-up and exuded menace. Roy Carr regards the recording as “as near perfect as any rock record should ever possibly be”. Played at virtually every Stones concert since then. Innumerable live versions exist but the definitive performance was recorded on November 27, 1969 at Madison Square Garden and included on the Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! LP.

Honky Tonk Women

Producer Jimmy Miller returned to his drumming roots by playing the cowbell introduction to this track, after receiving permission from Charlie Watts to do so. Charlie actually enters on the “wrong” beat of the cowbell, but everyone loved the push-pull effect so it stayed. Jagger and Richards wrote the song during a South American holiday in early 1969. Early versions of the song feature Brian Jones but the finished version showcases Mick Taylor, Brian’s successor. The basic Stones line-up was augmented by brass-players Jim Horn, Bobby Keyes and Jim Price. Another number 1 in both the UK and the US, backed by You Can’t Always Get What You Want – surely the Stones best value-for-money single release. A studio out-take shows Jagger experimenting with different lyrics so that Paris takes over from New York. The NME decided that the disc “bounces along with an irresistible beat that’ll have the kids jigging about uncontrollably.” A consistent fixture in the live set, the song has been played at most gigs since its creation. It did not feature on a contemporary LP, although Let It Bleed features an acoustic prototype called Country Honk. In 1976 at Knebworth Fayre a snippet of Country Honk was busked in front of 200,000 people causing Jagger to enquire of Ronnie Wood “Did you play on that one? Could you learn it?”

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