Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stu on stage

October 17, 1969 the Rolling Stones and their entourage - including aide Ian Stewart and engineer Glyn Johns - flew from London to Los Angeles to prepare for their first US tour (November 7-30) since 1966. During their stay in Los Angeles the Stones spent time at Elektra Studio and Sunset Recorders to complete tracks for their upcoming album "Let It Bleed". Jimmy Miller and Glyn Johns assisted with the sessions, just as they did back in London.

Then rehearsals for the US tour moved to a soundstage at Warner Brothers Studio in Burbank. There the band worked out a polished yet raw selection of instantly identifiable Rolling Stones numbers. The only concession to the old days were two Chuck Berry numbers, 'Carol' and 'Little Queenie', while three blues numbers were featured regularly - Robert Johnson's electric 'Love In Vain' plus an acoustic interlude featuring Mississippi Fred McDowell's 'You Gotta Move' and Robert Wilkins' 'Prodigal Son'.

The rest of the numbers were Jagger-Richards songs. Besides Ian Stewart coming on stage (though not really visible to the audience) to play piano on 'Carol' and 'Little Queenie' (and sometimes 'Honky Tonk Women') there were no auxiliary musicians beyond the Stones' basic band.

Adapted from the following source: Christopher Hjort, Strange Brew. Eric Clapton & The British Blues Boom, Jawbone, 2007.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Recordings: an insider's view

In August 1969 New Musical Express relays reports on the Rolling Stones' plans for the autumn. At first, a visit to North America (Sunset Sound Studios and Elektra Studios, Los Angeles) is booked to mix and overdub songs for the upcoming "Let It Bleed" album. From February on, the Stones had been working on some 15 new tracks, rehearsing at Bermondsey and recording at Olympic Sound Studios. As Christopher Hjort recalls:

The Stones have recently updated their rehearsal place-cum-studio in Bermondsey, east London, installing an 8-track Ampex tape recorder, a Hammond C3-organ, drums, amps, and various instruments. Trusted Stones aide Ian Stewart is in charge and shows Rick Sanders of Beat Instrumental around the premises. He explains that the rehearsal space is rented out to other groups such as the Spencer Davis Group, Noel Redding's Fat Mattress, and Faces.

Discussing the Stones' new album, Stewart tells Sanders: "They've been working at it on and off from February, rehearsing here, recording at Olympic, and it's now finished as far as we're concerned, except for some of Mick's singing. The reason it took so long was that it was simply a case of taking studio time when it was available. They've got plenty of good songs written, so it's not a problem waiting for that. The record is really great.

The numbers are much stronger and the playing is better, and all the group were really enthusiastic about making it. Sometimes in the past, if one of the group wasn't needed at a particular session, he wouldn't come. On this one, everyone was there nearly all the time, even on the mixing sessions". Stu then provided an interesting insight into the Stones' recording methods. "Producer Jimmy Miller is more a link man between the group and the engineers (Glyn John, George Chkiantz and Vic Smith) in the control room, and he's great".

Stewart explains that the group usually uses very small amplifiers in the studio. On the recent sessions they have used a 15-watt Watkins amp, an early Vox- AC-30, and some Fender models, while Bill Wyman uses a Hiwatt amplifier.

Adapted from the following source: Christopher Hjort, Strange Brew. Eric Clapton & The British Blues Boom 1965-1970, Jawbone, 2007.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Red Weather

In late 1968 lead guitarist Leigh Stephens left the San Francisco based power trio Blue Cheer. He then signed a solo deal with Philips and moved to Great Britain, to rehearse with members of the newly formed band Faces, amongst others. In 1969 Stephens released his debut solo album, "Red Weather". The self produced album was recorded at Trident Studios, London.

The music on "Red Weather" had a well structured psychedelic sound. Both Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart played piano on the album, with Stu performing on two tracks, "Indians" and "Joannie Mann". Amongst the other musicians on the album was Eric Albronda, Stephens' ex-band mate from Blue Cheer. Here's the complete line-up: Leigh Stephens (gtr, bass, voc, perc), Eric Albronda (guitar, voc), Nicky Hopkins (p), Ian Stewart (p), Kevin Westlake (bass, drum, perc, voc on "Joannie Mann"), Micky Waller (dr).

Friday, December 23, 2011

I Don't Know Why

On June 9, 1969 the Rolling Stones issued a statement announcing Brian Jones' departure from the group, and a couple of days later the band held a press conference in Hyde Park, London, to present Mick Taylor as their new guitarist. Taylor had been recording with the Stones at Olympic Sound Studios from May 29 on, and on June 30 the band, with Ian Stewart on piano, taped a version of Stevie Wonder's "I Don't Know Why".

Two days later the Stones were back at Olympic, in order to mix tracks for their upcoming studio album. During the mixing of "I Don't Know Why" the studio phone rang. Bill Wyman: "I'd left the others at Olympic Studios just before 2 a.m., where they were mixing tracks for "Let It Bleed". The news of Brian's death was broken to Mick Jagger in a phone call from Tom Keylock's wife. He, Keith and Charlie sat around, dazed and disbelieving".

Brian Jones died on July 3, 1969, and the news was broken to the Stones while mixing a song called "I Don't Know Why". Weird, to say the least. The Stones' cover is played very much in Stevie Wonder's mould. The brass sounds were mixed in later in the year. The track didn't make the "Let It Bleed" album, but eventually got released on 1975's "Metamorphosis". I Don't Know Why.

Adapted from the following sources:
Bill Wyman, Stone Alone, Penguin Books, 1990.
Martin Elliott: The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three-chord wonders

Keith Richards, in his autobiography Life: "Ian Stewart used to refer to us affectionately as "my little three-chord wonders". But it is an honorable title. OK, this song has got three chords, right? What can you do with those three chords? Tell it to John Lee Hooker; most of his songs are on one chord. Howlin' Wolf stuff, one chord, and Bo Diddley. Songs like "Honky Tonk Women" and others all leave those gaps between the chords".

Adapted from the following source: Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010.

Suggested further reading on the five-string guitar playing: Life, p. 241-247.

Honky Tonk Women

After the release of "Beggars Banquet", and the "Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus" extravaganza in December 1968, the Stones took a two months break before starting recordings for a new studio album. During various sessions at Olympic Sound Studios (February-May, 1969) the band, mainly without Brian Jones, recorded some 10 new tracks, among which gems like "Midnight Rambler", "Gimme Shelter", "You Can't Always Get What You Want", "Sister Morphine" and "Love In Vain".

Nicky Hopkins and American guitarist Ry Cooder played important roles during the recordings, but Ian Stewart was invited to play piano on the band's next single release, "Honky Tonk Women". Author Martin Elliott recalls: "A short session in May 1969 enabled Mick Taylor to establish himself as suitable for an honorary guitar position with the Stones, and one of the first songs he played on was "Honky Tonk Women".

Jimmy Miller taps out the first few beats on the cowbell. Charlie Watts then hits the snare and kicks into the bass drum. Keith Richards follows shortly with the guitar riff. "Honky Tonk" is a unique piece of rhythm artistry. The released take features Ian Stewart's piano and brass instruments in the background. Was this Jim Horn who was playing with Leon Russell at the time or Bobby Keys and Jim Price who where recording with those soul stax rockers, Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett?"

Adapted from the following source: Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


As said before, from "Satanic Majesties" on, Nicky Hopkins was the prominent piano player on the Rolling Stones' records. Not so strange, since 'the thin man', as Nicky was called, was a brilliant player, with a style completely different from Stu's. And although Nicky and Stu got along with each other very well, Ian Stewart instantly knew he couldn't cope with Hopkins' incredible talents. Ian McLagan, a piano player himself, recalls:

"One day when I walked in the door at Bermondsey, Stu ushered me into his office on the ground floor and played me Delaney and Bonnie's album "Accept No Substitute" that had just been released. There were photographs of the musicians on the back cover, and it was the first time I had knowingly heard Jim Keltner, Carl Radle, Bobby Keys, Jim Price and Bobby Whitlock, and Delaney and Bonnie's soulful singing. But what seemed exeptional to me was Leon Russell's piano playing on "Ghetto". He soared!

Stu played the song over and over for me, and I was amazed at how the piano on the end section built like a skycraper, layer after layer, up and up. It just got more and more exciting. Stu turned me on to this new gem, and then he told me a revealing story about Nicky Hopkins, our mutual pal, and Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood's mate in the Jeff Beck Group.

'That bloody Nicky', he said with a scornful look, 'I played it for him the other day, and that's what I hate about him. I only played it once and he went straight to the piano and played the whole thing, note for note. It really pisses me off!'. It was funny because he was serious, but I understood his frustration as neither of us could compete with Nicky as a piano player. Our talents are our own, but we couldn't play something just that brilliant after hearing it for the first time. He really was annoyingly, incredibly talented".

Adapted from the following source: Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 1998.

Background Matters (2)

Also around May 1969 Ian Stewart offered his help to newly formed band Faces, a collaboration between ex-Small Faces members Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones, and singer Rod Stewart and guitarist Ronnie Wood, who had just left the Jeff Beck Group. In his great biography Faces, Before During And After, author Andy Neill recalls the situation:

"Ian Stewart, the Rolling Stones' chief road manager and piano player, offered his help. Small, stocky, with a protruding jaw, Stu looked more than a garage mechanic than a rock musician, but his boogie-woogie licks captivated those who heard them and his forthright opinions often contained good advice for those within rock's hierarchy to whom he became a dear and valued friend. Stu had shared a house in Surrey with Glyn Johns and first met the Small Faces in 1967 at Olympic while the Stones were recording in the next studio.

In 1968 the Stones invested in a warehouse at 47 Bermondsey Street, south-east London to use as a rehearsal and storage facility. Because they spent so much time at Olympic the basement space wasn't being utilised, so Stu offered it to Ronnie Lane to rehearse in. Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Glyn Johns were good pals, and Glyn and Stu had always been tight, so Ronnie would go and visit Glyn and hang out. Stu had faith in us, he said, 'I know you've got no money now but you can use the studio as much as you like and pay us when you get a record deal'. That was how things happened in those days".

In his autobiography All The Rage, Ian McLagan quotes Stu: 'You might as well use the room, they never go down there, it's a bloody waste of space, if you ask me', he said, his chin to the wind. It was exactly what the doctor ordered, and although it was only a cellar below a flag-maker's warehouse, it was everything to us. He'd had it painted and carpeted, and had a C3 Hammond with a Leslie, assorted guitar amps and a drum kit
already set up".

Adapted from the following sources:
Andy Neill, Faces, Before During And After, Omnibus Press, 2011.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 1998.

Note: three recordings from these Bermondsey sessions are contained on Faces' 4-disc retrospective "Five Guys Walk Into A Bar...".

Friday, December 16, 2011

Background Matters (1)

While Nicky Hopkins got central to the Rolling Stones' rhythm section (Nicky plays piano on most of the "Satanic Majesties" and "Beggars Banquet" songs), Ian Stewart, as usual, played his role in the background. In London's late sixties British blues scene, Stu actually was the first Stone to have contacts with future Stones guitarists Mick Taylor and Ronnie Wood. In fact it was Stu who suggested that the band checked out Taylor as their new guitar player.

Bill Wyman, in his book Rolling With The Stones: "Matters where coming to a head over Brian Jones. Things could no longer go on the way they were. Brian was no longer a musically integral part of the band. He was unhappy with his role in the band, nor could we realistically tour America with him given his problems with US immigration. In view of our upcoming shows, we needed a solution.

Stu, as usual, came up with trumps, and recommended Mick Taylor (recognised guitarist with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers) as a replacement. Mick Jagger invited him to come to the recording session in  Barnes that evening. So it was that Michael Kevin Taylor arrived at Olympic on May 31, 1969. He was about to become a Rolling Stone".

Adds Christopher Hjort, in his book Strange Brew: "Ian Stewart already knew Mick Taylor, since he sold him a guitar in 1967. "Taylor: I've got no idea why Keith Richards wanted to sell the guitar, but I remember going down to the studio and getting it. I don't remember actually meeting him, I met Ian Stewart, their roadie. I told him I was looking for a Gibson Les Paul because my own one was stolen. Stu said: "Well, we've got one that we want to sell, come to the studio and look at it. It was funny when I met Keith later and turned up with the same guitar that he'd had".

Adapted from the following sources:
Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones, Dorling Kindersley, 2002.
Christopher Hjort, Strange Brew. Eric Clapton And The British Blues Boom 1965-1970, Jawbone, 2007.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No Expectations

Although he didn't appear on "Beggars Banquet", an outtake of one the album's finest moments, "No Expectations", is availabe on which Stu's organ competes for space with Nicky Hopkins' piano. Martin Elliott:
"No Expectations is a tranquil pensive song, and a complete contrast to the electric riffs tried out during the Surrey rehearsals.

Nicky Hopkins lays down a soft melody on the piano and a skilful, effortless bottleneck guitar by Brian Jones accompanies it. One can almost detect the atmospheric ripples of water, splashing on stone. It was one of Brian Jones' career highlights. He was thrilled at the return to Robert Johnson country blues.

The outtake version has studio conversation introducing the song. The take does not have the bottleneck guitar and has more use of the (uncredited!) single key soft organ which is used in great juxtaposition with the piano. From this version, one can appreciate the acoustic guitar playing by Keith Richards and the subtle bass arrangement".

Adapted from the following source: Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Jumping Jack Flash

The Rolling Stones' new studio album, "Beggars Banquet", was recorded during three (March 17 - April 3, May 13-23, June 4-10, 1968)  lenghty sessions at Olympic Sound Studios, London, with producer Jimmy Miller and sound engineer Glyn Johns. Final mixing and overdubbing of the album took place at Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles (July 7-25).

For the first time in the band's history, Ian Stewart didn't appear on the new Stones album, although he contributed to the recording of one of the band's signature tunes, "Jumping Jack Flash". Author Martin Elliott puts the recording of "Flash" in some fine perspective: "The band's decision was to return to rhythm and blues in English studios, and this they did with the precision of Jimmy Miller at the controls.

The song's  foundations were laid by Bill Wyman during the Surrey rehearsals as he 'mucked around' with a chord sequence on the piano. Keith Richards and Mick Jagger knew instantaneously that the sound had great possibilities. The heavy guitar chords which run throughout the track immediately assault the senses. They are heavy but acoustically based. Jagger shouts 'one two' and the band join in supplying the incessant riff around the uplifting vocal. Brian Jones shuffles his demonic maracas as Richards' distorted lead guitar provides the Stones with their most powerful rock sound to date. Ian Stewart contributed a background piano".

Adapted from the following source: Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Surrey Rehearsals

It's often been said that a mind unlocked by psychedelics is better equipped to perceive simple truths. The Beatles' cure for an LSD-induced hangover was a return to rock 'n roll ("Lady Madonna"), while Bob Dylan re-emerged with an album of country songs. The Rolling Stones also started work on a new album within this back-to-basics framework, with new producer Jimmy Miller in control.

Songs were worked on prior to the sessions, and time, plus a grim determination to put the musical uncertainties of the past eighteen months behind them, all contributed to a new mood of optimism. And with Andrew Oldham out of the picture, and Brian Jones slowly but unquestionably fading, the Jagger-Richards partnership had become absolutely central to the quest.

March 1968 The Stones, except for Brian Jones, but with Ian Stewart in tow, started rehearsals for the forthcoming new album in the small, but familiar R.G. Jones Studio, Morden, Surrey. "I'll Coming Home" is a fine example of the energetic jam sessions, during which many songs were worked on for the first time. It's pretty clear that the band intended to shift their style back to the blues, with a harder rock edge and feel.

Adapted from the following source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Drinking Muddy Water

Although Nicky Hopkins played piano on two tracks of "Between The Buttons", he and Ian Stewart obviously hadn't met yet. Most probably Hopkins' parts were recorded during mixing and overdubbing sessions in January 1967, which Stu didn't attend. According to author Len Comaratta "in the spring of 1967, guitarist Jimmy Page invited Nicky Hopkins to record on some songs for the Yardbirds' "Little Games" album. During these sessions, Hopkins made his impression on the Rolling Stones' founding member and pianist, Ian Stewart".

Both Stu, who already knew Jimmy for a long time, and Nicky perform on the final album. Hopkins contributed to the tracks 'I Remember The Night', 'Stealing, Stealing', and "Smile On Me", while Stu lended his boogie piano to "Drinking Muddy Water". When we take in mind Stu's disliking of what was going on at Olympic Sound Studios, he must have felt comfortable during the "Little Games" sessions. Session player Nicky Hopkins had of course another stake, and afterwards joined the Stones to record "There Satanic Majesties Request", eventually performing on all album tracks.

Adapted from the following source: Len Comaratta, Icons Of Rock, Hot, 2010.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Their Satanic Majesties Request (2)

Actually, where was Ian Stewart in last post's story? Nowhere near really, because Stu disgusted (the making of) "Their Satanic Majesties Request". Even on a topic that he might have liked, Andrew Oldham's leaving, Stu showed a lot of distance (all them 'they's') to what was going on at the time. Ian Stewart: At some stage the band realized that Andrew Oldham's ideas on producing were only ideas he'd got from them in the first place.

There must have been some sort of bust-up with Amdrew 'cause all of a sudden they wanted to get rid of him. Before they started "Satanic Majesties" a lot of time was booked at Olympic. Andrew was supposed to be there as producer. And he was there only in a literal sense. We went in and played a lot of blues just as badly as we could. Andrew just walked out. At the time I didn't understand what was going on. They were probably a bit fed up with Oldham wanting to be the record producer and not really producing.

With less distance, and with a lot more of emotion, Stu (in Bill Wyman's Stone Alone) describes Brian Jones' estrangement from the Stones. "The only time Brian looked like coming into his own was when they did that awful "Satanic Majesties", where he got the chance to dabble with the mellotron. It was a terrible shame. He'd do anything. He would turn up at the studio with saxophones, and he even played harp on one number. He had the ability to actually sit down and fiddle with it, and got something out of it fairly easily.

The talent and ability was there, but he just screwed himself up. It was tragic, because Brian really was a good player, but all he wanted to do was fiddle about with reed instruments and Indian drums. He just dabbled and was too out of it to play anything. Being a star just got to him totally". As an illustration of his disliking of the album, Stu just played (some) organ on one album track, Bill Wyman's "In Another Land". Almost all other keyboards on the album were played by Brian Jones and Nicky Hopkins, who by now had found his place in the inner circle of the band.

Adapted from the following sources:
Ian McPherson, Time Is On Our Side (website, original source unsure, maybe Melody Maker).
Bill Wyman, Stone Alone, Penguin Books, 1990.

Their Satanic Majesties Request (1)

Perhaps more than any other record in rock history, the Rolling Stones' sixth studio album, "Their Satanic Majesties Request", was shaped by non-musical events. To understand the album necessitates a detailed trawl through 1967, a year that started in unpromising fashion for the band, and rapidly got a whole lot worse. The preceding album "Between The Buttons" became the Stones' least succesfull record to date. Meanwhile the Beatles were in the midst of working on "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", and Mick Jagger was an interested observer at several sessions.

In February both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were charged for the possession of illegal drugs. Recording sessions at Olympic Sound Studios, London (Februay 9-24) were rudely interrupted. A European tour (March-April) proved a further strength-sapping distraction. Because of the court appearance of Mick and Keith in May and June the sessions for the forthcoming album had slipped low down on everyone's list of priorities. And with the release of "Sgt. Pepper" on June 1, it was clear that the Stones had lost the race to set the tone for the Summer Of Love.

At the end of the month Jagger and Richards were sentenced, but with the appeal pending the band reconvened at Olympic to work on the proposed album. Much of "Satanic" was completed in July (7-22) with sound engineers Glyn Johns and Eddie Kramer, but without producer Andrew Oldham, whom the band ditched earlier in the year. The album was completed in October, and finally released in December. But it wasn't very well received. More than forty years later, many of the accusations aimed at "Satanic" seem unnecessarily harsh, and the album's got an enhanced posthumous status.

Adapted from the following source: David Wells, The British Psychedelic Trip (Part 12: The Rolling Stones), Record Collector, 1999.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fact sheet: Between The Buttons

January 1967 the Rolling Stones released their fifth studio album, "Between The Buttons". Author James Hector puts the album in some fine perspective: "For the first time since their début, the Rolling Stones recorded an album almost exclusively in London. But while sessions for that first album had been hastily stolen in between a hectic touring schedule, the atmosphere of "Between The Buttons" was quite different. 'Dopey camaraderie', is how Bill Wyman describes the mood at London's Olympic Sound Studios during November and December 1966.

'Buttons' found the Stones drifting further away from the safety-net of black American music. The sound was as claustrophobic as ever, but now benefited from advances in studio techniques, Bob Dylan, dope and a more relaxed approach to songwriting. The leap into an indistinct future was mirrored by Gered Mankowitz's Vaseline-enhanced cover photo, which depicted a discernible fuzziness around the edges. It wasn't too long before that vagueness began to gnaw at the band's core".

Ian Stewart plays piano and organ on the raunchy "Miss Amanda Jones", and piano on three more songs: "My Obsession", "Complicated", and "Connection", an out-and-out drug song. Hector: 'they're dying to add me to their collection' seems in hindsight rather prophetic, bearing in mind that within weeks of the recording, three of the group would become scapegoats for an entire, drug-wise generation".

Adapted from the following source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A wedding!

1967, the so-called Summer Of Love year, turned out to be a very tough year for the Rolling Stones. In February both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were arrested for the possession of illegal drugs. Recording sessions for a new studio album at Olympic Sound Studios, London, were rudely interrupted. In May, Brian Jones also was arrested for possession of drugs.

For Ian Stewart, who never got involved into the 'drug thing', 1967 started in a much more promising fashion, since he married Cynthia Dillane, Andrew Oldham's personal assistant for about five years. In his autobiography Stone Alone Bill Wyman recalls the wedding day: "Stu, our trusty road manager, pianist and, above all, mate from the earliest days, was married on 2 January 1967 to Cynthia, Andrew Oldham's secretary. After the service which some of the Stones attended at St Andrew's Church, Cheam, Surrey, there was a wedding breakfast for twenty-six guests.

At the reception in the evening, Cynthia recalls her father, a professor at paediatrics, walking past of the Stones and Marianne Faithfull who were sitting on a long sofa smoking pot. 'Someone's got a bonfire', he said innocently. 'It was a bitterly cold January day and nobody could possibly have had a bonfire, but he identified this "strong odour, a garden fragrance", Cynthia remembers".

Not so very much is publicized about Stu and Cynthia's marriage. The couple got one son (Giles, born 1971) and got divorced in some later year. Of course it's interesting to have a closer look at the 'triangle' relationship between Stu, the silent and stubborn Scotsman, and the wordly Andrew (who kicked him out of the Stones in the first place) and Cynthia. More on this topic to come in the near future, I hope.

Adapted from the following source: Bill Wyman, Stone Alone, Penguin Books, 1991.
Suggested further reading: Andrew Loog Oldham, 2Stoned, Vintage, 2003.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I've Been Loving You Too Long

December 1966 saw the release of the Rolling Stones' first live album Got Live If You Want It!, recorded during their 7th UK tour (September 23 - October 9, 1966). A bizarre album really, actually a commercial cop-out. First of all, the album wasn't recorded at the Royal Albert Hall, London (as the liner notes insisted), but during two shows in Newcastle and Bristol. But even more bizarre is the fact that two songs on the album aren't live material at all.

Both Benny Spellman's "Fortune Teller" and Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" were cast-off studio recordings, masqueraded as in-concert material. "Fortune Teller" dated back as far as August 1963, and "I've Been Loving You Too Long" was one of several soul covers taped at the 'Satisfaction' sessions in May 1965.

Author James Hector about this particular song: "This tortured, deep soul ballad had been a hit for Redding earlier in the year, and the general opinion was that while Otis could cover "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", adding the horns Keith Richards always maintained the song needed, for the suburban London upstarts to cover one of Redding's finest...the nerve! Yet there was something equally moving about the Stones' version, especially Mick Jagger's nakedly exposed fragility as he attempted 'to do' Otis".

If you want the fake version of "I've Been Loving You Too Long" go to Got Live If You Want It!. If you want the real thing take a look below. On the Stones' version we hear Jack Nitzsche on piano and Ian Stewart on organ. Must have been weird for Stu to hear himself on a live album, whereas he never appeared on stage (to play, that is).


Adapted from the following source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Miss Amanda Jones

The Rolling Stones hadn't played Britain for almost a year when they took the stage at the Royal Albert Hall, London, to kick off their seventh UK tour (September 23 - October 9, 1966). A month after tour ending the band returned, for the first time since 1963, to Olympic Sound Studios, London, to finish work on their next studio album, "Between The Buttons".

As mentioned before, during the Olympic Sound sessions (November 8-26) a lot of people would drop by the studio, most of them friends of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards or Brian Jones. Musically speaking, a very interesting person to drop by happened to be Nicky Hopkins, who had been working with Brian Jones on the soundtrack of the movie "Mord und Totschlag" ("A Degree of Murder") by German director Volker Schlöndorff.

After Jack Nitzsche at RCA, Nicky Hopkins, one of London's most in-demand session pianists, became the second 'outsider' keyboard player to perform with the Stones, both in the studio and on stage. On "Between The Buttons" Hopkins plays piano on two songs: "Cool, Calm And Collected", and "Something Happened To Me Yesterday".

Jack Nitzsche contributes keyboards to three songs, while Ian Stewart plays piano on four tracks, among which the raunchy "Miss Amanda Jones". And with multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones contributing a whole range of instruments to most of the songs, the 'keybaord department' by now looked very crowded. Or didn't it?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?

After yet another lengthy North American tour (June 24 - July 29, 1966), the Rolling Stones once again entered RCA Studios, Hollywood, in order to record material for upcoming single and album releases. During the sessions (August 3-11) the band taped some twenty new songs, which were to be completed at Olympic Sound Studios, London, during November and December. The times they were 'a-changing', but things at RCA still were familiar, with Dave Hassinger engineering and Jack Nitzsche helping out on piano, organ and harpsichord.

But the industrious sessions at RCA (and Chess), when the main concern was to bag as many songs as possible, were left behind for good when the Stones took the early versions of the recorded songs back to Britain. The next studio album, "Between The Buttons", was built up over several weeks in party-like conditions, with many pals - Robert Fraser, Anita Pallenberg and Marianne Faithfull, Tony Sanchez, Michael Cooper, Gered Mankowitz, Jimi Hendrix, Tara Browne, and Nicky Hopkins showing up.

In between sessions at RCA Studios (August) and Olympic Sound Studios (November-December) the Stones finished recording of their next single, "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?" at IBC Studios, London, with the help of engineer Glyn Johns. It was described by Mick Jagger as the ultimate 'freak-out'. The recording featured guitar feedback at the beginning and end, and also brass which generates the song's attack. Bill Wyman's bass line and a raving piano by Ian Stewart glide the song as it dips and climbs around Mick Jagger's surging vocals.

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fact sheet: Aftermath

April 1966 the Rolling Stones released their fourth studio album, "Aftermath". Author Pat Gilbert puts the album in some fine perspective: Musically, "Aftermath" is famous for its thoughtfully crafted pop songs, fleshed out with exotic instruments including sitar, dulcimer, harpsichord, marimbas and bells. But as the first album to consist exclusively of Jagger-Richards originals, it also gave the world the first tantalising glimpses of what it felt like to be a Rolling Stone in the months after (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction topped the US charts in June 1965.

The Stones could not, it seemed, get any satisfaction any more, however exiting their lives appeared from the outside. Across 14 tracks, the band spat out their disdain for weak women, rich bitches, touring, hangers-on and travel. Virtually every song contained a vivid flash of anger, homesickness, spite, frustration, boredom, or paranoia. Besides, although he added lots of spice and timbre to the album, the "Aftermath" sessions were the first real signs of Brian  Jones' departure from the band.

The album was recorded during two lenghty sessions at RCA Studios, Hollywood, in December 1965 and March 1966. Ian Stewart plays organ on "Out Of Time" and "It's Not Easy", and piano on six other tracks: "Stupid Girl", "What To Do", "Flight 505", the great "Under My Thumb", the lenghty blues "Goin' Home" and "Doncha Bother Me", a one-take riff at country blues, tinged with country leanings.

Adapted from the following source: Pat Gilbert, Angry Young Men, Mojo Magazine, 2003.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Under My Thumb

Right after recordings for the Ed Sullivan TV show, the Rolling Stones flew to Australia and commenced an Australia/New Zealand tour (February 18 - March 2, 1966). The return trip went via Fiji and then back to Los Angeles. This gave the band the opportunity to once again enter RCA Studios, Hollywood (March 6-8) to record some ten new songs for their upcoming fourth studio album, Aftermath. As usual, Dave Hassinger and Jack Nitzsche assisted with production.

Nitzsche contributes piano on "Out Of Time", supporting Ian Stewart, who is on organ. Brian Jones was featured on yet another newly acquired instrument, the marimba, which was first played by Stu on a cover of Sam Cooke's "Good Times". The African instrument, translated as 'the voice of wood' is played like a xylophone. Its resonance is unique due to the wooden keys mounted above resonators.

The Stones' association with the female 'put down' theme is much debated. It may have been derived from insecurity or simply the boredom of impersonal hotel groupies, who knows? At least "Under My Thumb", another lyrically revelistic and chauvinistic song, is inspired by late-night groupie encounters. The song has a strong rhythmic base, with almost African connotations. This primeval feel is enhanced by the marimba, which is again played by Brian Jones.

It provides the song's unique riff against Bill Wyman's tight bass sound. Keith Richards plucks the guitar on the rhythm breaks and there is a de-tuned groan chorus riff, in the style of the previous year's Spencer Davis Group's  "Keep On Runnin'". The song speeds up at the end as Mick Jagger jives 'take it easy babe', with Ian Stewart keeping pace on piano.

Adapted from the following source: Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Bass player Bill Wyman happened to be the first member of the Rolling Stones to get engaged in many side projects. Wyman: 'My projects outside the Stones included producing Bobbie Miller, the End and John Lee's Groundhogs. At a Bobby Miller session at IBC Studios (January 5, 1966), Glyn Johns and I cut a track called "Stu-Ball", with me on bass, Tony Meehan (ex-Shadows) on drums, Keith Richards playing guitar and Ian Stewart on piano'.

The song, written by Wyman and Stu, and credited to Ian Stewart and the Railroaders, became the B-side of Bobbie Miller''s Decca single, "Everywhere I Go", released in March. If you want to, you can find this little instrumental gem somewhere down here.

Adapted from the following source: Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones, Dorling Kindersley, 2002.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Goin' Home

During their December 3-8, 1965 recordings at RCA Studios, Hollywood, the Rolling Stones taped, as author James Hector called it, a pivotal moment in pop's slow transmutation into rock. "Goin' Home", an 'open plan' blues jam which builds up incessantly in the style of John Lee Hooker, happened to be the first track to reach rock marathon status; it lasted 11 minutes and 30 seconds.

The song turned out to be a precursor to what would be achieved with the considerably more dextrous "Midnight Rambler" and was reminiscent of early live epics like "Hey Crawdaddy". Mick Jagger leads the song's structure, thrusting the band forward and simmering them down as he feels appropriate. The whole band responds to the rock jargon he utters. It reflects their anticipation of going home following almost two months of American touring. Ian Stewart's on piano.

Adapted from the following sources:
James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.
Martin Elliott: The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Sad Day

After relatively short tours of West Germany and Austria (September 11-18, 1965) and the UK (September 24 - October 17), the Rolling Stones set off for their fourth and so-far most extensive North American tour (October 29 - December 5). Near tour ending the band once again returned to RCA Studios, Hollywood, to record tracks for a new studio album.

In his book Rolling With The Stones Bill Wyman recalls the sessions: Early December we were back in RCA's Hollywood Studio for another three days with engineer Dave Hassinger. Stu was kept very busy throughout the sessions, as he always was. He not only played piano and organ, but was also nipping out for food and drink and laying on a constant stream of instruments. He got me a six-string bass that I played on one number, as well as a sitar for Brian Jones. 'Gibson let us have quite a few Fuzz Tones', said Stu. 'We only used fuzz on a couple of tracks, buth Keith Richards gets carried away and tramples them underfoot when he's raving about on stage. We've gone through quite a few like that'.

In a 1966 issue of the Beat Instrumental magazine, author Kevin Swift states that 'Keith Richards and Mick Jagger acted as musical directors until the others got the gist of the numbers and then it was a free-for-all with everyone chipping in with their own particular ideas. Charlie Watts was in great form and played the bongos and conga drums like a native. He also tried his hand on a set of gigantic timpani which an orchestra had left behind. Brian Jones, Stu and American session player Jack Nitzsche took it in turns to play the harpsichord, piano or organ. Brian told me that there is a keyboard instrument on every track recorded. He and Stu handled the groovy numbers while Jack Nitzsche played on the slower tracks'.

On "Sad Day" and "Ride On Baby", two rather obscure tracks dating from these December 1965 sessions, Ian Stewart and Jack Nitzsche even handle the keys together. Nitzsche plays some piano on both tracks, while Stu plays piano on "Ride On Baby" and organ on "Sad Day", some kind of a rocked-up ballad, which ended up as the US flip-side for the band's next single release, "19th Nervous Breakdown".

Adapted from the following sources:
Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones, Dorling Kindersley, 2002.
Kevin Swift, Beat International, February 1966.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fact sheet: Recordings 1962-1965

From their first studio recordings in 1962 until the release of "Out Of Our Heads" in September 1965, the Rolling Stones recorded some 85 tracks, of which 61 got an official release on single, EP or (compilation) album. Although he was forced to step back from the band's basic line-up in 1963, Ian Stewart played piano, and sometimes organ or marimbas, on 46 off all recorded tracks. A nice illustration of the fact that Stu, although he wasn't visible to the audience, still played an important role in the Stones' musical output.

But, as mentioned before, Stu wasn't the only one to play piano and keyboards with the Stones in those days. Andrew Oldham (read full article here): Jack Nitzsche ended up playing on the whole Stones RCA run - all their records from that time. After Sonny Bono introduced me to him, he just appeared at the sessions. I didn't ask him what he was doing there, in case he asked me for money.

There are three keyboard players on those mid-60s Stones RCA sessions. if it's a blues figure, it's Ian Stewart playing piano (Ian Stewart was the Ur-Stone who was not to become part of the group). On a few occasions when it's slightly strange it might be Brian Jones, but the rest - all the piano, organ, harpsichord playing - plus the denseness, the body, the glue - is Jack Nitzsche.

I wonder how these two great players, 'insider' Ian Stewart and 'outsider' Jack Nitzsche, got along with each other in those days. I don't know, anybody?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Looking Tired

From October 1964 until September 1965, the Rolling Stones recorded some thirty tracks at Chess Studios, Chicago and RCA Studios, Hollywood. All of these tracks got an official album, single or compilation release, apart from one. "Looking Tired", recorded September 1965 at RCA, was originally set for inclusion on an album titled "Could You Walk On The Water?", but that album was, considering its title, of course never released. "Looking Tired" is a rather relaxed sounding mid-tempo rhythm and blues song, featuring nimble acoustic guitars, and a casually played piano by Ian Stewart.

Adapted from the following source: Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002. Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fact sheet: Out Of Our Heads

September 1965 the Rolling Stones released their third studio album, "Out Of Our Heads". Author James Hector puts the album in some fine perspective: Unlike "No.2", which was pieced together from songs recorded in three corners of the world, "Out Of Our Heads" was very much the first album taped at RCA Studios, Hollywood. Compared with the makeshift studios they'd been used to, RCA was a microcosm of America itself - a seemingly endless expanse, stuffed with all manner of expensive gadgets and worldly staff.

The band returned to the studio many times during the next two years, recording several of their best-known hits there. But on "Out Of Our Heads", the relationship had yet to flourish. Sure, the band taped "The Last Time", "Satisfaction" and "Get Off Of My Cloud" during the making of the album, and each was a singularly unique creation. But a combination of lukewarm material and some hasty production work rendered 'Heads' a marking-time album. It showed little development, apart from an almost total exclusion ban on country blues, and that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

The album contains 12 tracks. Ian Stewart plays marimbas on a cover version of Sam Cooke's "Good Times", and piano on five tracks: "Cry To Me", "Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')", Chuck Berry's "Talkin' 'Bout You", "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man" and a cover of Roosevelt Jamison's "That's How Strong My Love Is". Hector again: The band loved the sound they got at RCA, but by the time "Out Of Our Heads" had been mixed, it was the work taped at Chess Studios, Chicago, which was most impressive. One of those to benefit was "That's How Strong My Love Is", which boasted a tremendous performance from Mick Jagger.

Source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Get Off Of My Cloud

Immediately after their short Irish tour the Rolling Stones once again returned to RCA Studios, Hollywood, in order to finish work on their upcoming third studio album. Apart from a handful of album tracks, the band also taped their next single, "Get Off Of My Cloud". There was a riff in "Cloud", but it was buried deep beneath the guitar/bass/drum rhythm, like was Ian Stewart's piano.

The track adopts a rock and roll aproach and was a contrast to the rock/soul sound of "Satisfaction". "Cloud" created a safe pedestal for a degree of experimentation on future single releases. There was also something in the imagery - the world stopping, the guy "dressed up like a Union Jack" wielding a pack of detergent, being 'high' on a cloud - which suggested the presence of strange new influences. The 'stoned' age, be it by drugs or alcohol, was beginning to run away from the establishment.

Mick Jagger later said his lyrics were crap, Keith Richards that the song was one of Andrew Oldham's worst productions. But "Get Off Of My Cloud", with its declamatory, double-time vocals, and its relentless pursuit to purge every moment of silence from the recording tape has grown with age.

Adapted from the following sources:
James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002. Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Charlie Is My Darling

Although this particular post isn't about Ian Stewart, there is some connection to his position in the Rolling Stones, in the broader pesrpective of Brian Jones, his fellow original member, hinting at leaving the band in the near future. Film director Peter Whitehead was asked to record a documentary of life on the road with the Stones. The opportunity that presented itself was a two day (September 3-4, 1965) tour of Ireland. The resulting movie, Charlie Is My Darling, was premiered in January 1966 but failed to get an official release.

Peter Whitehead recalls: Andrew Oldham was completely responsible for Charlie; it was his idea. He gave me complete freedom and was very generous of spirit. With the realism of Charlie I tried to show the Stones were just the lads next door. I was really trying to portray these guys as ordinary blokes to whom something amazing had happened, who loved their music and were doing what they wanted to do. But there were no guarantees for the future. There was no guarantee the Stones would last even a year longer.

For me it was a revelation that pop music was so important and powerful, that it was such a deeply archetypal experience for teenagers. I was completely detached, observing it as someone who was interested in the Rolling Stones as a social phenomenon. It was obvious I was a little aloof, not like some guy fawning over them. It was very moving for me because of everything Brian Jones talks about in the film.

Brian obviously had a total premonition about his own death. I would say for a young guy like that, a total narcissist, for him death was the trip anyway. He was in his prime, yet even then he was talking about the indeterminacy of everything, everything coming to an end. He could sense this rejection, this fall, this failure, this sinking into oblivion. It was all there already; he was being stalked.

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002. Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Andrew Loog Oldham, 2Stoned, Vintage, 2003.

West Coast Idea

After a brief (July 7-10, 1965) return to the US for a mixing session at RCA Studios, Hollywood, the Rolling Stones continued their touring scheme with a UK mini-tour (July 16-August 1). After the tour Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart participated in recording sessions with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Chris Winters, although it's still pretty unclear when things exactly happened. Before you read on, look here for an earlier post (and comment!) on the topic.

This is how the story's told in "Strange Brew", a great book on Eric Clapton and the British blues boom:
Following a John Mayall's Bluesbreakers gig on August 18, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page returned to Jimmy's home on Miles Road, Epsom, Surrey, where they taped extensive two-guitar blues jams. The tapes ended up in the possession of Andrew Oldham's Immediate Records, who persuaded Jimmy Page to edit and overdub backings - presumably some time at the end of 1965 - and released them in 1968 over three albums in the Blues Anytime series.

By then featuring Mick Jagger (playing the harp and credited as Knocker), Bill Wyman (bass), Ian Stewart (piano), and Chris Winters (drums), the edited tracks were given appropriate titles: 'Choker', 'West Coast Idea' (with Page's original contribution mixed out), and 'Snake Drive'. Three instrumentals, 'Freight Loader', 'Miles Road', and 'Tribute To Elmore James', are retained in their original state as genuine guitar duets between Clapton and Page.

Adapted from the following source: Christopher Hjort, Strange Brew: Eric Clapton And The Brtish Blues Boom 1965-1970, Jawbone Book, 2007.

Note: both Nico Zentgraf's and Felix Aeppli's Rolling Stones databases contain slightly different information about these sessions, the most important difference being their mentioning of an (officially released!) track called 'Draggin' My Tail', including Stu on piano.


After their return to the UK, the Rolling Stones played two four-date mini-tours in the second half of June 1965. The first (June 15-18) was to Scotland, which gave the band the chance to relax at the famous Gleneagles Hotel, an old-style establishment, with a famous golf course. Although, relax? The choice for Gleneagles was especially Stu's choice. Ian Stewart was a keen golf player, and as road manager showed preference for hotels with courses.

Keith Richards recalls: "We'd been playing in some town where there's all these chicks, and they want to get laid and we want to lay them. But Stu would have booked us into some hotel about ten miles out of town. You'd wake up in the morning and there's the links. We're bored to death looking for some action and Stu's playing Gleneagles".

Their return visit (June 24-29) to three Scandinavian countries and a first show in Norway did a great deal to enhance the Stones' already considerable reputation in Europe.

Adapted from the following sources:
Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones, Dorling Kindersley, 2002.
Ray Connolly, Stu, Out-Take Limited, 2003.

Friday, October 28, 2011

How Many More Years

Towards the end of their third US tour, on May 20, 1965, the Rolling Stones recorded a slot for the popular ABC TV show Shindig! Of course Ian Stewart didn't appear on stage, but because the band performed to backing tracks recorded earlier at Chess and RCA Studios, Stu was probably 'somewhere' in the sound during this rather historic broadcast.

Historic in the sense that the show, or at least a part of it, brought the Stones in very close contact with their blues roots. Bill Wyman: Sonny and Cher, Jackie DeShannon, Bobby Sherman and, at our insistence, Howlin' Wolf were also there. Today it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of seeing a black performer on what was very much a white TV show. The producer of Shindig! was Englishman Jack Good, who would constantly refer to Wolf, in his very proper accent, as 'Mr Howling'. Wolf Played "How Many More Years", a performance which must have been a revelation to many watching the show.

While we were reheasring, revered 1930s blues singer Son House and his manager Dick Waterman came by the studio. Brian Jones came up to Dick, and said "Excuse me, who is the old man that Wolf thinks is so special? Wolf is in awe of him. And so Dick said, "That's Son House". And then Brian turned to Dick and said, "Ah, the one that taught Robert Johnson".

But the show wasn't just a 'rootsy' affair, since Howlin' Wolf's backing band contained young pianist Billy Preston, who would lend the Rolling Stones a big hand on organ, piano and clavinet during their 1970's studio recordings and live performances, alongside Ian Stewart and Nicky Hopkins.

Adapted from the following source: Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones, Dorling Kindersley, 2002.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chess and RCA, once again (2)

Although he didn't play on the song (Jack Nitzsche did, at least on some cuts but not the final one), Ian Stewart played a role in the decision to release "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as the Stones' next single. Bill Wyman recalls the recording of one of the band's trademark songs: On 10 May the band drove to Chess Studios for what became a nine-hour recording session, cutting several songs, including a first version of "Satisfaction", which wasn't very good.

Moving to Los Angeles on 11 May the band prepared for the next two days of productive recording sessions at RCA Studios, Hollywood. Attempting "Satisfaction" again, the sound suddenly went right with Keith using a fuzz-box and Charlie laying down a different tempo: the song just gelled. Keith and Mick were still not completely happy about it, though. After listening to the master tape, the band discussed whether it should be the next single, as Andrew Oldham and engineer Dave Hassinger were so positive about it.

The Stones decided to put it to the vote. Andrew, Dave, Stu, Brian, Charlie and Bill voted yes, while Mick and Keith voted no. The majority carried the day: it would be the band's next single. During the lenghty RCA sessions the band recorded a lot more songs, with Ian Stewart playing piano, organ and marimbas. On "Cry To Me", a country-soul ballad first covered by Solomon Burke in 1962, Stu joined the keys with Jack Nitzsche, with Stu on piano and Jack on organ.

Adapted from the following source: Bill Wyman, Stone Alone, Penguin Books, 1990.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Chess and RCA, once again

After short tours of the UK and Scandinavia, and three sold-out shows at the famous L'Olympia, Paris, France, the Rolling Stones hit the United States for the third time in their career. During the tour (April 23 - May 29, 1965) the band once again returned to their favourite US studios (Chess Studios and RCA Studios) to record new material for single and album release.

On May 10 the Stones entered Chess Studios, Chicago, to record some five songs, among which cover versions of Don Covay's "Mercy Mercy", and Roosevelt Jamison's "That's How Strong My Love Is" (a song made popular by Otis Redding), and a Nanker-Phelge group composition called "The Under Assistent West Coast Promotion Man".

Ian Stewart's presence during the sessions was pretty clear, as is shown by his piano playing on "The Under Assistent", a composition which gently pokes fun at George Sherlock who accompanied the Stones as a representative of their American-based label, London Records. The song is akin to "Off The Hook", another Nanker-Phelge composition.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BBC Radio Sessions

Starting off in October 1963, the Rolling Stones recorded some 13 sessions for various BBC radio shows (Saturday Club, Blues In Rhythm, the Joe Loss Show, and Top Gear), the last one being in September 1965. During these sessions the band taped about 50 songs, but surprisingly Ian Stewart, even if he wasn't visible, played on only three of them.

In between June 1964's "You Can Make It If You Try" and September 1965's "Fanny Mae" (both recordings for the Saturday Club show), Stu performed in real boogie woogie style on "Down The Road Apiece", a live studio recording for the March 1965 Top Gear show, with host Brian Matthew.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Last Time

After a short, three-date Ireland tour the Rolling Stones embarked on their first ever tour of the Pacific, playing sixteen shows in Australia and New Zealand (January 22 - February 13, 1965). Before and after the tour the band visited RCA Studios, Hollywood, to record their next single. "The Last Time" was first taped on January 18, but since Mick Jagger wasn't sufficiently happy with the vocals the band returned to RCA after the tour to re-do them.

The song, recorded under the watchful eye of experienced engineer Dave Hassinger, signified a slight change in style: the sound was harder hitting, thriving on a repetitive guitar riff (a characteristic of Keith Richards' work), and surgeant backing vocals - 'I don't know'. Phil Spector was in the studio lending a significant hand, while Jack Nitzsche played tambourine. Although hardly audible in the final mix, Ian Stewart is on piano.

"The Last Time" was credited as a Jagger-Richards composition, but strictly speaking it wasn't written entirely by them. Actually they borrowed the chorus from gospel group the Staple Singers' 1955 recording called "This May Be The Last Time", in itself a traditional but arranged by the Staples, with arranger Shirley Joiner.

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002. Cherry Red Books, 2002.
James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones. Omnibus Press, 1995.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fact sheet: The Rolling Stones No.2

January 1965 the Rolling Stones released their second album, "The Rolling Stones No.2". Author James Hector puts the album in some fine perspective: American material once again formed the basis of a Stones album, though with one difference. Most of the songs they chose were recent hits. With dozens of home-grown R&B acts sifting through the Chess archive for potential songs, and Jagger and Richards still in the formative stages of their songwriting, the band inevitably turned to the Billboard R&B charts for inspiration. There they found contemporary songs by Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, The Drifters and Irma Thomas, all crying out to be covered.

The début album was completed during a couple of intensive bouts of recording at Regent Sound Studios. No.2 reflected the band's new-found worldliness, drawing from sessions taped in London (Regent), Chicago (Chess) and Hollywood (RCA). While the first album had been a set of contrasts - fast-paced rock 'n' roll and unhurried blues or ballads - No.2 was more a measured affair, lacking the exhilirating moments of raw energy of its predecessor.

The album contains 12 tracks. Ian Stewart plays organ on "Time Is On My Side", and piano on three tracks: "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love", "What A Shame" and, last but not least, "Down The Road Apiece", recorded during the famous 1964 Chess sessions. Hector again: Something of a standard during the Forties, this number probably swung best when in the hands of pianist Merrill Moore, who covered it in 1955. The Stones based their version on Chuck Berry's 1960 recording, and had been playing it ever since their live début in 1962.

They rarely did Berry a disservice when covering his songs, or even his interpretations of others' material, and "Down The Road Apiece" is mighty impressive. The rhythm section, with Ian Stewart in tow, swung effectively, but it's Keith Richards - who gets more fired-up with each guitar break - who shines most. Both Stu and Keith swing and boogie in unique style!

Source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Friday, October 14, 2011

And now for something completely different......

Detective Inspector John Rebus, born in the Fife region, Scotland, can be said to belong to a long tradition of paternal Scottish hard men. A natural leader whose gruff exterior and fierce will to succeed in his field belies a benevolent nature. According to a Sunday Herald article in 2006 Ian 'Stu' Stewart was the inspiration for the John Rebus character:

"Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin has revealed that John Rebus, the star of 15 novels set in the grimy underbelly of the nation's capital, may have more to do with the Rolling Stones than any detective could have surmised. The award-winning novelist admits during a new Radio 4 series exploring the relationships between crime writers and their favourite music that he took some of his inspiration for the unruly inspector from the "sixth Stone", Ian Stewart".

Read more about Rankin, Rebus and Stu on this wiki page.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

One Ugly Child

Autumn 1964 saw various members of the Rolling Stones doing session work with other artists. Brian Jones took part in recording sessions from Peter and Gordon, and Bill Wyman recorded with The Herd. Ian Stewart was brought into London-based rhythm and blues band Downliners Sect through Andrew Oldham to play piano on "One Ugly Child", a track that ended up on the band's début album. Andrew Oldham, bringing in Stu to play on a song called "One Ugly Child": coincidence or irony?

Friday, October 7, 2011

What A Shame

Like everybody knows, Ian Stewart wasn't the only piano player to serve the Rolling Stones. Some other illustrous keyboard players like Nicky Hopkins, Billy Preston, Ian 'Mac' McLagan and Chuck Leavell also made their contributions to Stones records and live shows. But the first piano 'outsider' to enter the Stones' camp happened to be Jack Nitzsche. Nitzsche, who helped to create Phil Spector's wall of sound, joined the band during their first recordings at RCA Studios, Hollywood (November 2-3, 1964).

On November 8, 1964, still during their second US tour, the Rolling Stones returned to Chess Studios, Chicago, to finish work on "Time Is On My Side", and to record another track for their upcoming second album. With Jack Nitzsche nowhere around Stu played piano on the Jagger-Richards composition "What A Shame", a true attempt to conjure up some down home Chicago rhythm and blues style magic.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Everybody Needs Somebody To Love

On September 5, 1964 the Rolling Stones embarked on their fourth UK package tour ('The Rolling Stones Show"), which lasted until October 11. Between dates the band found time for a recording session at Regent Sound Studios (September 28-29) and a BBC radio session (October 8), during which they taped  "2120 South Michigan Avenue", regrettably without Stu's organ playing.

On October 23, 1964 the Rolling Stones flew to New York City for their second US tour. During the tour, which lasted until November 15, the band entered RCA Studios, Hollywood (where Elvis Presley recorded many of his hits), for their first recording sessions there.

Under the supervision of engineer Dave Hassinger, the Stones recorded six tracks for their upcoming second album, among which a cover version of Solomon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody To Love". In the Stones' version, which doesn't rely on the typical three-minute pop formula, the song almost reaches a standstill at one stage, until Mick Jagger lurches the 'jam' forward again. Ian 'Stu' Stewart is on piano.

Adapted from the following sources:
Massimo Bonanno, Aftermath, 2007.
Martin Elliott: The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

There's A Riot Goin' On

After a short lay off The Rolling Stones soon got back into it. During a show at Spa Royal Hall, Bridlington (July 11, 1964) there was some fighting in the crowd, and many girls fainted - things were back to normal on stage. July was otherwise anything but a typical month: the band only played nine gigs, the quietest month since they'd starting playing together.

So after the rigours of US touring, on top of a hectic UK schedule, the Stones had a relatively easy period on their return. During the summer there were two mini-tours and a trip to The Netherlands for the band's first proper European gig. But the fighting during shows seemed to get worse. During a gig at the Empress Ballroom, Blackpool (July 24, 1964), a gang of drunken Scots started fighting their way to the front, and after some warning Keith Richards kicked one of them in the head.

'It was very nearly the date on my gravestone', remembered Ian Stewart, a Scotsman himself: 'Keith still thought he was God and that he could kick one of these guys and get away with it. The rest of the band already turned, realising they had to get off stage. I just pushed Keith and said, "For fuck's sake get out of here while you're still alive". Stu arrived at the band's hotel later that evening to return the kit, or rather the fragments that remained. That night, almost anything got smashed up.

Soon after, history would repeat itself. On Saturday 8 August the Stones played a venue in Holland called the Kurhaus and things quickly turned into a disaster. As soon as the curtains opened the crowd went berserk. 100 police were moved in position to protect the band and it ended up with chandeliers being broken and tapestries torn from walls. After two numbers the leads were pulled from the mics and the band ended up as spectators to a riot. Stu was right in the firing line and got hit by a bottle.

What an irony: at one time forced to step down from the basic band, the next moment standing in the frontline, trying to save the band's equipment while catching bottles and things.

Adapted from the following source: Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones, Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2002.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sleepy City

While the Rolling Stones continued to build a huge live reputation (at home and abroad) and at the same time became more confident in the studio, manager Andrew Oldham occasionally took them away from their blues and R&B roots, and recruited members of the band, including Stu, for his own Andrew Oldham Orchestra. As mentioned before, there was no actual orchestra per se. The orchestra's name was applied to recordings made by Oldham using a multitude of session musicians, including members of the Stones.

Oldham's idea of capitalizing on the Stones' success by issuing some 'experimental' Jagger-Richards compositions to unsespecting artists was not exactly a commercial success. During the so-called 'Sleepy City' sessions at Regent Sound Studios and Decca Sound Studios, London (June 29-July 7, 1964) recordings were made for the Rolling Stones, the Andrew Oldham Orchestra and Marianne Faithfull. With Andrew Oldham producing, several tracks were laid down by a basic group comprising of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ian Stewart, with additional session musicians like guitarists Jimmy Page, Big Jim Sullivan and John McLaughlin helping out.

One Jagger-Richards track, (Walkin' Thru The) Sleepy City, was given to British band The Mighty Avengers. Predictably it flopped. The Stones' own version of the song is ruined by being over-produced. Simplicity, as they would soon learn, was the key to success. Of course one wonders if Stu felt comfortable with his piano playing on the Orchestra tracks. I don't know, but I doubt it.

Adapted from the following source: Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Time Is On My Side

During their first US tour the Rolling Stones bumped into Irma Thomas' cover version of the Jerry Ragovoy (alias Norman Meade) song "Time Is On My Side", and the band decided to record the song themselves. Right after the tour (June 24-26, 1964) they returned to Regent Sound Studios, London, to give it a first try. The song was destined to be an American single and it appeared on the second USA album "12x5".

Ironically the same song, recorded later in the year at Chess Studios in Chicago, was set for inclusion on the Stones' second UK album, a true transatlantic mix-up. The difference is that the UK recorded version has a full organ introduction and a more pronounced tambourine, while the Chess version has a guitar introduction, and stinging guitar throughout, a mark of the band's improving powers of interpretation.

"Time Is On My Side" is a worthy ballad, poignant in context, and given the full Stones' treatment. The band once again had accomplished the feat of transposing a song into a Stones' original, just as they had done with Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away". Ian Stewart supplies the gospel-type organ.

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones. Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Records, 2002.
James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Recording At Chess Studios: Five By Five

Perhaps the best memento of the two-day session at Chess Studios is the second Stones EP, "Five By Five" (released August 1964). As the title suggests, this truly R&B record contains five tracks: 'If You Need Me', 'Empty Heart', '2120 South Michigan Avenue', 'Confessin' The Blues', and Chuck Berry's 'Around And Around'. During the sessions the band also recorded their fourth single, 'It's All Over Now', and a couple of tracks that ended up on their second album, "The Rolling Stones No. 2".

In his book The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones James Hector presents a track-by-track review of the "Five By Five" EP. With engineer Ron Malo at the controls and many other legendary hands to shake, the group finally fullfilled a dream. Awestruck? It didn't show.

On 'If You Need Me' (Pickett-Bateman-Sanders) the band dispensed with the horns favoured by Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke, both of whom covered the song in 1963, but there was no mistaking the song's deep gospel origins, helped along by Ian Stewarts's organ playing.

'Empty Heart' (Nanker Phelge), recorded on the second day of the band's intensive sessions at Chess, was passable R&B, with some impressive harmonica playing by Brian Jones. Basically a jam hinging on a funky R&B bassline, '2120 South Michigan Avenue' (Nanker Phelge) was a musical tribute to Chess Studios - the title was simply the blues Mecca's full adress. Once again, Jones took the lead with some blueswailing harmonica, with some strong competition from Ian Stewart on organ.

Originally an early Forties swing jazz number by pianist Jay McShann and vocalist Walter Brown, 'Confessin' The Blues' was overhauled by Chuck Berry in 1960, from which the Stones took their cue. Having played it regularly since their July 1962 live début, the band were confident with their arrangement, and it showed.

Back in April 1962, a bed room band named Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys - featuring Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and future Pretty Thing Dick Taylor - posted a tape to Alexis Korner. It included a version of Chuck Berry's 'Around And Around'. Little over two years later, the two first-named were recording at Chess in the presence of Berry himself. Eager to impress the assembled Godheads, the Rolling Stones turned in a tight, near-flawless performance, as Richards revealed himself as a master of Berry's technique. Stu's piano fills lent greater authenticity to the demonstration of R&B, London-style.

Source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.