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.