Cover Versions, demo, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

Kings, Queens & Other Chess Pieces

I meant to mark this occasion and put something up last week, but the RJ Ellory post (below) took over slightly. A week later, it would be churlish of me not to give a nod and a wink to that creaky old juggernaut that keeps limping on, like your smelly old dog with 3 good legs that’s deaf in one ear and blind in the only eye it has left. Aye,The Rolling Stones as a rock and roll group have now been in the game for no less than 50 years. That surely makes them one of the oldest musical acts still going strong. The Four Tops still do the odd show here and there (mainly ‘there’, in Vegas), and from 1953 until the death of Lawrence Payton in 1997 managed to keep the original line-up intact.¬†The Drifters started in the 50s, but most (or all?) of the originals have, cough, drifted off. They probably played 5 shows last night anywhere between Blackpool Butlins and the Bermuda Triangle, so you can’t really count them. The Stones survive with 3 original members (Mick, Keith and Charlie, who actually joined after their first gig, see image at the bottom) and with Ronnie Wood having been in the band longer than The Fall have been a going concern. And how many members have they gone through in that time, eh? (Answer: about 66, at the last count).

Nowadays, they’re a bit more¬†creased around the edges and a bit more expensive of cloth (though evidently, unlike most men of their age (and 10, 20, 30 years younger), no more expansive of waist). Sure, they’re a whole lot less vital than they once were, their live shows still trade on their Golden Era (early 60s – mid 70s, if you need to ask) and nowadays they’re a brand not a band – you can buy their merchandise in Primark if you fancy! But, as you already know, the Stones were totally, absolutely, dynamite in their heyday.

Chess Studios, 1964.

There’s a famous story (not an urban myth, as Keith goes at great lengths to point out in his autobiography) that when they turned up midway through their first US tour to record at the famous old Chess Studios, band hero Muddy Waters (he wrote I’m A Rollin’ Stone) was painting the outside of the building, whitewash streaming down his face, only stopping to help Bill Wyman in with his amplifier from car to studio. It didn’t matter that Muddy was a legend to the Stones and all those other Thames Delta blues bands, in his homeland he had yet to make that leap from unfashionable unknown to undeniable blues great. As Keith astutely notes, “If you want to stay on the payroll, get to work.”

Chess Studios, 1964

The stuff that the band recorded at Chess in 1964 was brilliant – Keith says 14 tracks in 2 days, my bootleg has 27, including their version of Bobby Womack’s It’s All Over Now that gave them their first number 1. Organic and rootsy, deep-rooted in the blues, the music has a big, booming, beefy sound, all reverb and twang and feral snap. Most of the recordings they made there for a potential album remain unreleased to this day (Google 2120 Michigan Avenue. Go on!) and it knocks spots off of anything that their sha-la-la, she-loves-me-and-I-love-her contemporaries were tossing off into the Hit Parade. But you knew that already…

The Tunes:

The Rolling StonesIt’s All Over Now

The Rolling Stones2120 South Michigan Avenue

The Rolling StonesTime Is On My Side (version 2)

The Rolling StonesDon’t You Lie To Me

The Rolling StonesStewed & Keefed

The Rolling StonesThe Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man

The Originals:

Bobby WomackIt’s All Over Now

Irma ThomasTime Is On My Side