Baby, You’re A Fool To Buy

So the Stones are Rolling out another world tour, a global corporation charging eye watering prices for the privilege of seeing them up close and personal.

The more affluent of ticket buyers, lucky them, might have the honour of watching the band from the same postcode as the stage.

The really affluent will populate some sort of Golden Circle where, for the price of a scabby semi in Saltcoats they’ll get to press the wrinkled flesh of some of our greatest rock stars after they’ve wheezed themselves off the stage.

The rest of the ticket-buying public will need to watch from afar, rockin’ their socks in the knowledge that they’ve ‘seen’ the Stones, albeit from one of the massive Jumbotrons that’ll be scattered a couple of kilometres either side of the stage. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction indeed.

This picture was doing the rounds amongst friends on social media over the weekend.

That’s just ridiculous. Look at the booking fee alone. It’s obscene. For that kinda money I’d be expecting a shot of Keith’s guitar. Maybe even an invitation to pop up on stage and crank out the riff to Start Me Up on his trusty old 5-string Tele. Perhaps even get to count jumpin’ Jagger in for the opening line. But to stand in the middle (if you’re lucky) of a rugby stadium with thousands of other light of pocket Stones fans, that’s just not on. It’s a real-life beggar’s banquet. Baby, you’re a fool to buy. Don’t do it, you’ll only encourage them.

It’s a tricky one though, isn’t it? The Stones are a proper, genuine heritage act, one of those bucket list acts that you need to tick off before it’s too late. We’ve lost Bowie and Prince in recent years, yet Keef, the riff that keeps on riffin’, keeps keepin’ on.

In 1990, my pal and I went to see them on the Urban Jungle tour at Hampden, “before (ho ho) it’s too late“. They were great ‘n all, romping their way through a set kissed with the greatest of Rolled Gold; Start Me Up, Satisfaction, Gimme Shelter, Tumbling Dice, Sympathy For The Devil. Everything you wanted to hear, in other words. If you’d told me though that the band would still have been a going concern 28 years later, I’d have laughed in your face.

I’d have given anything to have seen the Stones in their swaggering, shaggering prime. But on the Stones timeline of greatness I was barely out of nappies when they were in their pomp and at their peak. The first chance I had to see the Stones was in 1990. In 1990, 1972 and Exile On Main Street was less than 20 years prior. Yet at the time it was a whole other lifetime ago. “Oh, it must’ve been great to have seen the Stones 20 years ago“, we slevvered obliviously. I remember at the Stone Roses Alexandra Palace show in 1989, dancing giddily before the band came on to Sympathy For The Devil, the whole place doing the ‘whoo-whoos’ in some mass communion. “The old songs are the best!” we agreed, the way a late teen might rave these days about Loaded or Cigarettes & Alcohol. In comparison, I think I really did see the Stones in (almost) their first flush of youth.

When did gig tickets become so expensive? The Stones’ 1990 Hampden show was £20 (including vat, as you can see). My ticket was bought in person from the old Virgin Megastore on Union Street, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t conned into paying any sort of booking/admin/licence-to-print-free-money fee. By comparison, that Stone Roses show at Alexandra Palace was just £8.50. U2 on the Joshua Tree tour a couple of years before was a part-time job killing £10. So £20 would’ve been a dear ticket in 1990, but in the scheme of things, not that expensive.

The argument’s there about touring being the only reliable source of income for bands these days but the Stones are taking the piss. Or are they? If the shows sell out, which they probably already are, are they pricing based on supply and demand? Or are they being greedy?

At some point down the line the No Filter tour will be celebrated as the highest grossing tour ever, outdoing yer U2s and yer Police and yer last Rolling Stones tour….It doesn’t make it right though.

Here’s Mick and co asking you the only question they need to know the answer to…

The Rolling StonesYou Got The Silver

Cover Versions, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

“I Suffer From Asthma. The Only Drugs I Have Are For That.”

What a wheeze, Brian Jones.

rolling stones 67

1967 was The Summer Of Love, although for the Rolling Stones it was anything but. By now, Brian was an extreme liability. Totally lost to drugs, puffy-eyed footage of the time shows him incapable of doing practically anything. His knack of being able to get a tune out of any exotic instrument hadn’t quite deserted him yet. Otherwise, he’d have been kicked out of his own band earlier than he eventually was. A trip to Tangier with doppelganger girlfriend Anita Pallenberg ended with Anita returning to Britain in the arms of Keith, who’d circled the troubled couple like a shark sniffing blood. Band dynamics, unsurprisingly, were irreparably damaged forever.

brian anita

Amidst the chaos, the Stones found time to travel far and wide, not in the sense of a touring pop group, but as well-moneyed young tourists. Marrakesh became a favourite haunt. There, they’d met a dealer who introduced them to hashish, importing the drug back into Britain in the soles of custom-made shoes. At a party at Redlands, Keith’s very big house in the country, the Stones plus their girlfriends were subjected to a raid by police acting on a tip-off. The tabloids of the day set right into the Stones, with outlandish stories of a drug-taking, naked orgy. ‘Nude Girl At Stones’ Drugs Party‘ , ‘Why Girl Was Wearing Only Rug‘, ‘”Merry Nude” In Slipping Rug‘. Nothing much has changed, eh?

During the ensuing trial, prosecutors claimed that the only woman in the house, Marianne Faithful, was dressed in nothing but a fur rug that she let slip occasionally. They claimed that her lack of inhibition was a clear sign she was under the influence of drugs, specifically cannabis. Let’s face it, she probably was.  By the end of the trial, the Stones were made examples of. Mick and Keith were subsequently sentenced to jail, Mick for 3 months for possession of amphetamines and Keith for 12, for allowing cannabis to be smoked in his home. Immediately they appealed against their sentence.

keith moon free keith

Pop fans and friends in high places voiced their opinions. Keith Moon and girlfriend Kim Kerrigan joined in the protests. William-Rees Mogg, the editor of The Times famously wrote an editorial that argued the Stones’ case, saying that if Mick and Keith were jailed they’d be seen as martyrs to a cause, and that would not help the anti-drugs movement in any way, shape or form. The Stones continued to craft out half-hearted tracks for their forthcoming Satanic Majesties Request LP, the shadow of the gaoler hanging grimly upon their shoulder. It wouldn’t be until the end of July that their appeal would be upheld.

Free men by August, Mick, Keith and the rest of the Stones gathered to create one of their most astonishing pieces of music.

 Rolling StonesWe Love You

We Love You was recorded as a ‘thank you‘ to the fans who’d stood by them. Beginning with the clattering of a jail door and a nagging, repetitively hypnotic Nicky Hopkins piano line, it‘s a droning, paranoid anthem of defiance, a two-fingered salute to the establishment who’d tried and failed to squash them.

A barely functioning Brian hammers out a wonky mellotron riff that parps throughout like the wasted half-cousin of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love and the backing vocals (featuring an uncredited Lennon and McCartney ‘conducted’ by a visiting Allen Ginsberg) slur and slide into oblivion.

They looked like little angels,” Ginsberg wrote later of the Stones and Beatles, “like Botticelli Graces singing together for the first time.”

Bill Wyman’s bassline that plays just behind the piano riff is in equal parts terrifying and extraordinary, creating a level of helpless claustrophobia that’s not been matched since. Keys jangle menacingly, gaolers’ footsteps echo throughout and the whole thing swirls down the plughole with a Made In Marrakesh fuzz guitar overload.

The band even went so far as to make a promotional video to accompany it. Aping their recent trials and tribulations, no-one at the BBC dared show it. The least poppiest of Stones singles to date (their 13th), it peaked at a disappointing number 8 in the UK.



 rolling stones butterfly


* Bonus Track!

For a brief moment in time between ’89 and ’90, my friends and I deserted the favoured local indie disco for the far more exotic charms of the Metro in Saltcoats, a sticky-carpeted former old cinema where I’d seen Star Wars in the first week of release. The Metro was packed full of brickies, bastards and jail bait but had an anything goes policy to what was loosely termed ‘dance music’. Two years later and it’d be a hell hole, but for a brief moment in time it shone as brightly as the summer sun. The Strangler’s Peaches bassline played out behind some generic four-to-the-floor dance beat one memorable night. One other time they played this…

4 For MoneyIt’s A Moment In Time

Sampling a sped-up We Love You piano riff and adding a gospelly male shouter on top was hardly groundbreaking (and these days it sounds fairly rubbish) but when first heard this track was everything we wanted. A dance beat. And the Stones. And we were sure that no-one else inside the Metro knew it was a Stones’ track. The snobs that we were.



Alternative Version, Get This!, Gone but not forgotten, Live!, Peel Sessions

The Stuff I Got Gonna Bust Your Brains Out

robert johnson

That’s the haunted figure of Robert Johnson, womanisin’, gamblin’, soul-sellin’ deep South bluesman with a hell hound on his tail. Robert had the uncanny knack of channeling all sorts of bad voodoo via his unnaturally long fingers into his music and into the ether forever. To this day, the dusty grooves on his old 1930’s 78s spark with the crackle and pop of a life gone wrong.

Robert JohnsonStop Breaking Down:

His songs, all rudimentary strumming and picking, have been picked up and picked apart by all manner of blues-influenced groups, not least the Rolling Stones.

stones 72

No strangers to a stolen blues riff and a Robert Johnson tune (their version of Love In Vain is the definitive country/blues weeper), the Stones really out-did themselves when they came to tackle Stop Breaking Down. It’s a completely different song to the original.

Rolling StonesStop Breaking Down:

A total groove with Charlie playing just behind the beat, it’s a beautiful soup of chugging, riffing rhythm guitar and an asthmatic wheezing lead hanging on for dear life like the ash at the end of Keith’s ubiquitous cigarette. Between Jagger’s verses, the band swagger in that tight but loose way that no band has ever since equalled. Listening to it you can almost see Jagger prancing around some massive American stage or other, wiggling his 26″ snakehips to those lucky enough to be able to see them from the back of whatever enormodome they happen to have found themselves in.

stones 72 3

Totally telepathically in synch with one another, the Stones in ’72 would be my time machine moment. Actually, they wouldn’t. Given the chance I’d be going back to 1965 to watch my team win the Scottish league for the last time, hang around a year and catch Dylan go electric then hope for some malfunction or other that would allow me to wait around for 6 years until it was fixed. To be Keith for a day while recording Exile On Main Street. What a time of it. Great hair. Great clothes. Great guitars. Great women. And everything else that goes with it. Like your own plane…

keith plane

…or drinks cabinet on stage…

stones 72 2

The Rolling Stones version of Stop Breaking Down comes towards the end of Side 4 on Exile On Main Street, the loosest, funkiest, grooviest Stones LP of the lot. But you knew that already. That they chose to sequence it where they did (although sandwiched between the blues rock of All Down The Line and southern soul gospel of Shine A Light makes for a strong ending) suggests the Stones had no particular fondness for it, that they considered it an album track at best, perhaps even (gasp) album filler. It certainly never gets a mention in the same breath as the big tracks from the LP (Tumbling Dice, Happy, Rocks Off, Loving Cup…I could go on and on) but to me, as something of a hidden Stones gem, that’s kinda what makes Stop Breaking Down so special.

white stripes

Evoking the spirit of the early, earthy Stones with a punk/blues ferocity not heard since, ooh I dunno, Pussy Galore or someone were whipping up a frenzy at the end of the 80s, the White Stripes version of Stop Breaking Down appeared on their first, self-titled LP. If you’ve not heard it before, it’s just as you might imagine it to sound.

White StripesStop Breaking Down;

Thump. Crash. Thump. Crash. Thump. Crash. “Whooo!”. Screeee. Thump. Thump. “Whoooo!”. Screeeeeeeeeeee!

Two folk standing in a room with a handful of basic instruments between them has never sounded so feral and primal. Nowadays, it’s all the rage. Isn’t it, Black Keys? I know Jack White splits opinion, but for what it’s worth I love the White Stripes.

Later on, they tackled the same track for a BBC session, extending it to twice its length and playing it as a walkin’, talkin’ slow blues.

Thump. Crash. Thump. Crash. Thump. Crash. “Whooo!”. Screeee. Thump. Thump. “Whoooo!”. Screeeeeeeeeeee! At half the speed.

White StripesStop Breaking Down (BBC Session);

*Bonus Track!

Whatever happened to The Bees? I had them pegged as the equal of the Beta Band. Terrific players with a slightly psychedelic take on things. Not so much under the radar as off it completely, they deserved better. Their take on Stop Breaking Down is clearly modelled on the Stones’ version, but with a dual vocal and a nice, understated Hammond holding the whole thing together.

stones exile




Hard-to-find, Studio master tapes

Gimme Shelter? Gimme, Gimme, Gimme!

Updated November 2010!

Hey! You! Aye, You! You’ve probably stumbled onto here via Google or whatever search engine or blog aggregator you use, hoping to find some Rolling Stones goodies. Just to let you know, the links for the music contained herein are looooooooong dead, but, BUT! you can now get them from here – https://philspector.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/rolling-stones-jigsaw-puzzle/ instead. Oh yeah!

Yes! It’s yet another of those fantastic studio master tapes that are all over the internet! It’s hard to top The Beatles Master Tapes. You might say they’ll never be topped. But this is a close second. Very close. This time it’s only THE STONES! THE ROLLING STONES! The master tapes of ‘Gimme Shelter’! Oh yes! No kidding! You may have these tracks already, cos they have appeared almost everywhere online, but I am aware that many visitors to this site come specifically to find studio gems such as these, so if you don’t have it, prepare to be dazzled. Daaaaaaaa-zzled!

A dazzled Mick. Camp? Moi?

Part 1. The History. ‘Gimme Shelter’ appeared on ‘Let It Bleed’ (the cake on the cover was made by Delia Smith, fact #1) and released in 1969. As you all know the song was the soundtrack to the end of the 60s. Rape, murder, it’s just a shot away, and all that. The Hells Angels murdered someone in the crowd at Altamont and the whole of the 60s went tits up and finished. Just like that. The decade that had started so brightly and full of hope ended (musically) on a sour note. But like I said, you all knew that.

Everyone waves bye bye to the end of the 60s

The song was written by Jagger and Richards. Jagger was getting lyrics together between takes of the film ‘Performance‘ that he was making at the time. Richards was playing about with the distinctive intro looking for a song to fit it. Et voila. Recording took place at Olympic Studios in London around February and March 1969 with Jimmy Miller producing. In one of those magical moments that occur now and again, Miller suggested getting a female vocalist to duet with Jagger. Cue Merry Clayton (incorrectly credited as Mary Clayton on the album, fact #2). Clayton’s high pitched, powerful vocal performance made the song. Her vocals are absolutely astounding.

Merry Mary Clayton

If you don’t believe me, here‘s the double tracked vocal-only performance. Just Jagger and Clayton battling it out. Listen out around the 3 minute mark as her voice cracks under the pressure and Jagger whoops a celebratory “Oh yeah!”. It. Is. Astonishing. Jagger later said of the finished track, “That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse.” And the vocal track certainly backs this up. And if you liked that part enough….

Keith. 27th November 1969. 15 days after I was born. Fact #3

Part 2. The Science Part. The files for these master tapes came originally (I think) from some enterprising kind soul with a Keith Richards fixation and a copy of the ‘Rock Band’ computer game. They are in ogg vorbis format, which means they cannot be played directly into Windows Media or iTunes or anything like that. But fear not. Get yourself Audacity. Install it and open it up. Open a new file from the menu, find the ‘Gimme Shelter.mogg’ file that you’ve just downloaded, double click it and by the wonders of technology, after about a minute you’ll find all 9 tracks open up simultaneously. Press ‘play’ and the whole track as you know it will start. Now let the fun begin. On the left hand side of your screen you will see the option to ‘mute‘ the track. Have fun muting the various tracks. Then click and drag across the track you want to isolate and save it as a wma file. You can make instrumental tracks for karaoke (why?) or you can make guitar-free tracks so that you can jam along. Whatcha waitin’ for?


Me. Yesterday.

Footnote. There have been many, many covers of ‘Gimme Shelter’. Merry Clayton did one herself. I don’t have my copy handy at present or I would’ve included it in this post. Suffice to say, a future ‘Gimme Shelter Covers‘ post is almost guaranteed. From the sublime to the ridiculous, they’ve all done it. Inspiral Carpets, Hawkwind with Sam Fox, Patti Smith, Voice Of The Beehive…..prepare to be irked.

UPDATE Feb. 09

Links were deleted by internet police, but you can find the instrumental guitar tracks here.