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.