Friday, November 8, 2013

Pretty Beat Up

After a long break the Rolling Stones returned to the studio to continue work on the 40-odd songs they recorded during their November-December 1982 sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios. This time around (May-August, 1983) the band, along with sound engineer Chris Kimsey, gathered at The Hit Factory, New York City, a new place for the band.

During the New York Undercover sessions the Stones were joined by a lot of musicians, including Black Uhuru's rhythm section Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, the Sugar Hill horn section CHOPS, and new sax recruit David Sanborn.

All these musicians gathered on the "Undercover" album track 'Pretty Beat Up', with Chuck Leavell and Bill Wyman playing piano, while Ian Stewart took the organ part. Ron Wood wrote the song, with some support from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Marquee Silver Jubilee

On April 28-29, 1983, Alexis Korner and friends celebrated the 25th anniversary of London's Marquee club, the location of the Rolling Stones' first ever live performance on July 12, 1962. For the so-called '1958-1983 Silver Jubilee' concerts Korner, the governor of British blues, recruited some well-known names in British music, including old friends Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and Ian Stewart.

Other members of the 'Alexis Korner and Friends' ensemble included Georgie Fame (piano), Nico Korner (guitar), Ruby Turner (vocals), Jaki Graham (backing vocals), and a brass section consisting of Dick Heckstall-Smith, Willie Garnett, John Picard, Mel Collins, and Ted Bunting.

Bill Wyman recalls: "At the end of April, Alexis Korner, Charlie, Stu and I rehearsed at the Half Moon pub in Putney for the Marquee's 25th anniversary. Our old mate Georgie Fame joined us along with a great horn section and we played at the Marquee on April 28-29. Among the songs we performed was 'Hoochie Coochie Man', written by Willie Dixon and first recorded by Muddy Waters, who died the following day in Chicago". Alexis Korner himself died of lung cancer on January 1, 1984, aged 55.

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

Rocket 88: On The Road

On March 25, 1983, Rocket 88, billed as Ian Stewart Band, performed a one-off concert at London's 100 Club. Line-up: Roger Sutton (vocals, bass), Jimmy Roche (guitar), Ian Stewart (piano), Clive Thacker (drums), Willie Garnett (saxophone), Mike Hogh (trombone), Jon Picard (trombone), Olaf Vas (trumpet), Don Weller (saxophone).

Throughout the year the band played some more shattered gigs in and around London, with Charlie Watts on drums during some shows. As it turned out, Stu, Charlie and trombone player Jon Picard were the only original members of Rocket 88's line-up that started out in 1979, underpinning the ad hoc character of the band.

Urban De Luxe

While there were no scheduled Stones activities, Ian Stewart took the opportunity to produce the De Luxe Blues Band's third album, "Urban De Luxe". In January 1983 the band, with sound engineer Mick McKenna, entered the Mobile Sound Limited, Shepperton Sound Stage, London, to record a set of blues, boogie and R&B covers, ranging from Freddy King's 'The Stumble' (with Stu on piano) and Pete Johnson's 'Roll 'Em Pete' to Chuck Berry's 'Promised Land'.

At the time, the De Luxe Blues Band consisted of original band members Bob Hall (piano), Danny Adler (vocals, guitar) and Bob Brunning (bass), together with familiar name and Rocket 88 member George Green (piano). Drummer Micky Waller had left the band, and on the record all drum parts were played by Charlie Watts, credited as Carlo Kilowatts!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bye Bye Blues

Immediately after completing the Rolling Stones' Undercover recording sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Ian Stewart joined the Blues Band during live recordings at Richard Branson's The Venue, London (December 18, 1982). It must have been a relief for Stu to leave the Paris tensions behind and to join old pal Paul Jones' band during an R&B packed set.

Stu had been recording with the Blues Band before, most notably on the band's second album, "Ready", resulting in an immediate click with the band. At The Venue, with former Family drummer Rob Townsend replacing Hughie Flint, the band played an energetic set, showcasing Paul Jones' talents on vocals and harmonica. Remember, he could have been a Stone!

Other guest musicians during the show, which got released on the album "Bye Bye Blues" in 1983, included singer Jo-Ann Kelly, Pretty Things frontman Phil May, harmonica player Mark Feltham, the Rumour Horns' John Earle (saxophone) and Dick Hanson (trumpet), and last but not least the founding father of British blues, Alexis Korner. Just another who's who in British music!

Note: this post contains no less than ten hyperlinks. Read them all for full understanding of the British R&B music scene at the time!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cook Cook Blues

Although (or because?) the relationship between the Glimmer Twins wasn't too good at the time, in October 1982 Mick Jagger and Keith Richards decided to rent a small basement studio in Paris in an attempt to write and perform songs for a new studio album in the old style. When afterwards the Rolling Stones entered the familiar territory of EMI's Pathé Marconi Studios the band had some 40-odd songs to work on.

The so-called Undercover recording sessions at Pathé Marconi, with sound engineer Chris Kimsey, lasted from November 11-December 17, 1982, and continued, with intervals, in January-March, 1983. Both Ian Stewart and Chuck Leavell joined the band during the sessions. Stu played piano on some 10 songs, among which a couple of tunes that would make it to the final album, but also on some well-known outtakes like 'Cookin' Up' (aka 'Chainsaw Rocker'), 'Slide On' and Eddie Taylor's 'Looking For Trouble'.

Stu (on piano) and Chuck (on organ) joined forces on another outtake, the fine boogie and stroll tune 'Cook Cook Blues', which stayed in the can until it appeared as the B-side to the 1989 "Steel Wheels" single 'Rock And A Hard Place'. Here's the 1982/83 Pathé take, you can find the 1989 single version anywhere on the net.

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

Friday, October 25, 2013

Chantilly Lace

On May 26, 1982 the Rolling Stones, joined by Ian Stewart on piano and Chuck Leavell on keyboards, embarked on their Tattoo You European tour (Aberdeen, Scotland, May 26 - Leeds, England, July 25). The tour meant Leavell's live debut with the band, whereas it turned out to be the very last one for Stu. Saxophones during the tour were played by Bobby Keys and Gene Barge, another Stones newcomer.

Just like during the 1981 US tour, the main part of the setlist consisted of material from the Stones' last three albums, "Some Girls", "Emotional Rescue", and "Tattoo You". In the rock and roll covers section crowd pleasers 'Going To A Go Go' and 'Twenty Flight Rock' were supplemented with The Big Bopper's 'Chantilly Lace'. Listen to it here.....alright Stu! And here's the Bopper's original version:

During the tour Ian Stewart once again joined George Thorogood and the Destroyers on stage for a couple of times, on one occasion (The Hague, June 3) accompanied by Mick Jagger and Bobby Keys, performing a couple of Chuck Berry tunes. Completely unrehearsed....but rocking!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Bad To The Bone

During the Rolling Stones' 1981 US tour support acts changed from venue to venue, but amongst the regulars were George Thorogood and the Destroyers, a Delaware based blues rock band led by vocalist and guitarist George Thorogood. Ian Stewart joined the band on stage during a couple of shows, among which the famous one at Hampton Coliseum (December 18).

Stu must have felt attracted to the Destroyers because they always, right from their start in 1977, dug deep into the Chess Records back catalogue, performing songs from longtime Rolling Stones heroes and influencers Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, and many others. In 2011, George Thorogood and the Destroyers paid tribute to the legendary label on their album 2120 South Michigan Ave.

Early 1982 Ian Stewart also entered the studio with the band, to record one of their most well-known albums, "Bad To The Bone" (released September, 1982). Stu played piano and/or organ on almost all album tracks, including the smash hit title track (more than loosely based on Bo Diddley's 'I'm A Man'), Chuck Berry's 'No Particular Place To Go', Jimmy Reed's 'It's A Sin', the Isley Brothers' 'Nobody But Me', and others. If you're interested, listen to the full album right down here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Checkerboard Lounge

On November 22, 1981, in the middle of their US tour, the Rolling Stones arrived in Chicago for a three-night run at the Rosemont Horizon. On their night off, several of the Stones hit Buddy Guy's club, the Checkerboard Lounge, to see Muddy Waters and his band (which featured guitarist John Primer and harpist George 'Mojo' Buford at the time).

The Stones entered the room after some five songs into the show. On 'Baby Please Don't Go' we see how the band slowly gets involved into the set. An impromptu blues jam ensued, and before the night was done, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ian Stewart, Lefty Dizz, Junior Wells, and Guy himself had all appeared on stage with Waters and his band.

Stu didn't play all night, but here's a snippet from a tune in which he accompanies Junior Wells. It's nice to watch the Stones being excited to meet their long-time idol, perhaps the greatest bluesman ever and, of course, one of the major influences which led to the formation of the band back in 1962.

Adapted from the following source: Steve Leggett, Checkerboard Lounge: Live Chicago, 1981, CD/DVD review, Allmusic, 2012.

1981: Stu On Stage

One of the core pleasures of Stones-watching over the years was the suspense of waiting to see what Mick Jagger would wear on stage. For his first public performances of the 1980s, Jagger favoured sporty, gay-quarterback gear mercilessly co-oordinated in bright pinks and yellows. He put on a slick show, and periodically tore across the stage on to one of a pair of catwalks extending in to the crowd, like a labrador chasing a tennis ball.

Keith Richards and Ron Wood played their guitar parts as one long, joshing by-play, complete with errors, and Charlie Watts effortlessly battered the drums. Stage left, Bill Wyman remained stationary throughout, except to neatly shoot the cuffs of his pale-blue suit, but even he looked like a manic rock star compared to Ian Stewart.

In Philadelphia, Stu walked on in front of 90,000 fans wearing ancient corduroys and a golf shirt straining over his ample midriff while munching a cheese sandwich, which he carefully placed on top of his piano. He then proceeded to play in a classic, jumping-barrelhouse style that sometimes seemed to be from another song, if not another galaxy, to the chosen repertoire [A fine example of this we find on the Stones' rendition of Eddie Cochran's 'Twenty Flight Rock' (see last post), with Stu boogieing along; Cochran's original cuts didn't contain any piano at all!].

At what proved to be one of the last moments, Ian Stewart finally got and/or took the room to perform a full set of concerts with the band he had joined before anyone else still alive. Between numbers, Stu yawned, took down the sandwich, and continued to eat it impassively.

Adapted from the following source: Christopher Sandford, The Rolling Stones Fifty Years, Simon & Schuster, 2012, p.331-332.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Twenty Flight Rock

On September 25, 1981 the Rolling Stones, joined by Ian Stewart on piano and Ian McLagan on keyboards, embarked on their Tattoo You US Tour (Philadelphia, September 25 - Hampton, December 18). Shortly after tour start the band decided they also needed some brass on stage, and that gap was filled by saxophone players Lee Allen (October 1-4) and Ernie Watts (from October 7 onwards) respectively. Veteran Stones sax man Bobby Keys also played during some selected shows from October 9 onwards.

The main part of the tour's setlist consisted of material from the Stones' last three albums, "Some Girls", "Emotional Rescue" and, of course, "Tattoo You". In the rock and roll covers section Don Raye's boogie woogie tune 'Down The Road Apiece' appeared a few times early on in the tour, as did Bo Diddley's 'Mona'. Smokey Robinson's 'Going To A Go Go', however, was a real crowd pleaser that stayed for the duration, as did Eddie Cochran's classic 'Twenty Flight Rock'.

Stu and Mac played piano, electric piano and organ on almost all songs throughout the set. The tour was documented on the 1982 album "Still Life (American Concert 1981)" and on the live concert film "Let's Spend The Night Together", directed by Hal Ashby, and released worldwide in 1983.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

And Now For Something Completely Different.....(2)

According to a 2006 Sunday Herald article Ian 'Stu' Stewart was the inspiration for Detective Inspector John Rebus, a character created by Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin. In 2007, Rankin even wrote a tribute to one of music's  "nearly men", after teaming up with former Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat.

Rankin's song, 'The Sixth Stone', appeared on a compilation album that brought together some of Scotland's top writers and musicians. In an interview with the Scotsman, Ian Rankin recalls: "The song's  all about Stu's move from Pittenweem to the Route 66. I'm quite interested in people who are on the edge of history - onlookers in big events.

All the way through the sixties he was there in the background but he was always more interested in the golf course than the groupies, drink and drugs. I was fascinated by him as a character, and since you're writing a lyric, why not write about someone involved in the music industry? ". One can find the song's full lyrics in the afore-mentioned Scotsman article.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fact Sheet: Tattoo You

Once again produced by the Glimmer Twins, with sound engineer Chris Kimsey, "Tattoo You", the Rolling Stones' 16th studio album, was recorded during sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris (October-November, 1980 and May, 1981) and Atlantic Studios, New York City (April-June, 1981). During the sessions the band recorded two brand new tracks, 'Heaven' and 'Neighbours', while the other songs on the album were based on early song ideas and outtakes from their previous studio albums.

The album got released in August 1981, some 14 months after its predecessor "Emotional Rescue". In a Mojo Magazine special edition author Paul Elliott puts the record in some fine perspective: "Circa "Tattoo You" Jagger/Richards relations were still too frosty for protracted spells of co-writing, and Ron Wood was near-incapacitated from freebase cocaine.

Unsurprisingly then, the album, like its predecessor "Emotional Rescue", relied on more outtakes. This time, though, Chris Kimsey and the band chose wisely: witness 'Tops', in which Mick Jagger comes clean about using his star status to pull, and 'Waiting On A Friend', featuring Sonny Rollins' ace tenor sax. Both are excellent ballads dating from late-'72 sessions in Jamaica, but Bob Clearmountain's crisp mixing renders them box-fresh.

Stones pianist and their sometimes fiercest critic Ian Stewart rated it, averring that the album was filler-less. With the possible exeption of 'Neighbours' - a pot/kettle/black affair on Keith Richards' real-life dispute with noisy folks next door - he might just be right".

On "Tattoo You" Stu plays piano on four tracks: the afore-mentioned 'Neighbours', 'Hang Fire', 'Little T&A', and the R&B-inspired boogie 'Black Limousine'. Other keyboard players on the album include Nicky Hopkins (piano on the 1972 tracks 'Tops' and 'Waiting On A Friend', and piano and organ on the "Emotional Rescue" outtake 'No Use In Crying'), Billy Preston (electric piano and organ on the "Black And Blue"-era 'Slave' jam), Chris Kimsey (piano on 'Heaven') and Mick Jagger (electric piano on 'Worried About You').

Adapted from the following source: Paul Elliott et al., Tattoo You, The Rolling Stones 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition, Mojo Magazine, 2003.

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

Note: a lot of album reviews float around on the internet, with varying ratings. But each with its own nuances concerning individual songs, influences and the context in which the album was made. You may find them yourselves, if you want to, but here's a starter kit.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Longview Farm

Summer 1981 the Rolling Stones started thinking of a new world tour, their first since 1975/76, to follow-up the band's upcoming new studio album, "Tattoo You". As always, it was Ian Stewart's job to find the band a suitable place to rehearse. After some research, Stu selected Longview Farm Studios, located in North Brookfield, Massachusetts and founded by professor Gilbert Scott Markle.

In his 'Diary of a Studio Owner' Markle recalls Stu's visits to the studio, and also the work that had to be done to make the Stones feel comfortable at the premises. The band, with additional musicians David Sancious (first days), Chuck Leavell (for some days until August 24), Ian McLagan (late August onwards), and of course Stu, rehearsed at Longview from August 14 until tour start, September 25.

During their stay at Longview, on September 14, the Stones, billed as Blue Sunday and the Cockroaches, performed a surprise warm-up gig at Sir Morgan's Cove in Worcester, Massachusetts.
During one of his visits to the Stones' office in Rockefeller Center, New York City, Ian Stewart talked to author Bill German about his role and position in the Rolling Stones. You can find an excerpt of the interview right here.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Street-Car Named De Luxe

In June 1981 Ian 'Stu' Stewart produced the De Luxe Blues Band's debut album, "A Street-Car Named De Luxe". The album was recorded in England with the Rolling Stones Mobile Unit, with sound engineer Mick McKenna. The De Luxe Blues Band originally started life in 1980 as a pick-up band for American blues performers Eddie Clearwater and Carey Bell for just one show.

Fellow American guitarist/singer and Rocket 88 member Danny Adler had invited pianist and Rocket 88 founding member Bob Hall, drummer Mickey Waller and bass player Bob Brunning to do the gig at London's Dingwall club.

That night the musicians decided to form a permanent band, and were soon to be joined by veteran sax player Dick Heckstall-Smith. In 1994, after five albums and many European tours, Danny Adler decided to return to the States, and the De Luxe Blues Band disbanded.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rev It Up And Go

In 1980, American rockabilly band the Stray Cats, whose style was based upon the sounds of Sun Records artists and other artists from the 1950s, moved from New York City to the UK, word spread around, and soon members of the Rolling Stones, the Who and Led Zeppelin were at their shows.

The band's 1981 debut album "Stray Cats", produced by ex-Rockpile member and roots rock enthusiast Dave Edmunds, was very well-received in the UK, and soon after the band returned to the studio to record a follow-up album, "Gonna Ball". Ian Stewart liked what he heard, and joined the band on the Chuck Berry-inspired 'Rev It Up And Go'.

As Allmusic reviewer Bruce Eder puts it, 'Rev It Up And Go' was an impassioned Chuck Berry homage that also obliquely acknowledged the Beach Boys' service, in making Berry's (and his pianist Johnnie Johnson) riffs work in a uniquely white suburban context.

Night Train

While the Rolling Stones were mixing and overdubbing tracks for their upcoming new studio album "Tattoo You" at Atlantic Sound Studios, New York City (April-June, 1981), Ian Stewart took some time off to record with a bunch of old friends, most of them well-known from different Rocket 88 line-ups.

On May 3-4, 1981 Stu and friends entered Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg, West-Germany, to record the album "It's Boogie Time" (released 1982), credited to Bob Hall and Friends. With sound engineer Carlos Albrecht the ensemble recorded some nine tracks, including the twelve-bar blues instrumental standard  'Night Train'.

Line-up for the recording sessions: Bob Hall, George Green and Ian Stewart (all piano), Danny Adler (guitar), Jack Bruce (bass), Charlie Antolini (drums), Hal Singer and Willie Garnett (saxophones). In a 2012 interview Bob Hall recalls his time with Rocket 88, and with Stu of course.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Rocket 88: University gigs

In March 1981, Rocket 88 performed some university gigs in and around London.
Basic line-up: Alexis Korner (guitar, vocals), Ian Stewart (piano), Bob Hall (piano), George Green (piano), Jack Bruce (bass, vocals), Charlie Watts (drums), Hal Singer (sax), Don Weller (sax), John Picard (trombone), Colin Smith (trumpet).


In September 1980, three months after the release of "Emotional Rescue", Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and sound engineer Chris Kimsey entered Island's Basing Street Studios, London to listen to left-overs from previous albums. Chris Kimsey recalls: "I spent three months going through like the last four, five albums finding stuff that had been either forgotten about or at the time rejected. And then I presented it to the band and I said, hey, look guys, you've got all this great stuff sitting in the can, do something with it".

The next month the Rolling Stones also returned to Pathé Marconi Studios to record some new material. In Paris (October 11-November 12, 1980) the band worked on three songs in particular: 'Slave', a left-over jam from the "Black And Blue" sessions, 'Heaven', with Chris Kimsey on alleged piano, and 'Neighbours', an uptempo boogie with Ian Stewart as a natural on piano.

The subject matter of 'Neighbours' was inspired by Keith Richards having been evicted by his landlord for unsociable behaviour. The song ponders the subject by leaps and bounds under the twin thrust of rocky and raucous guitars and saxophone, the latter protagonized by jazz musician Sonny Rollins, which was overdubbed at a later session. On the final take, which appeared on the band's new album "Tattoo You", the song was reduced to a loud-sounding nothing, with Stu's boogie piano buried deep in the mix.

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

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Blues Band

November 1979 until July 1980 proved to be a busy period for Ian Stewart outside the Rolling Stones. Besides touring and recording with Rocket 88, Ronnie Lane, and old friends Brian Knight and Geoff Bradford, Stu also recorded with the Blues Band, with another old pal, Paul Jones (born Pond) on vocals and harmonica.

Bill Wyman recalls: "As Brian Jones celebrated his twentieth birthday on 28 February 1962, the powerful forces that actually formed the Rolling Stones came into play. Brian met a young man named Paul Pond, later to become prominent under the name Paul Jones as a founder-member of Manfred Mann. Paul led a blues group called Thunder Odin's Big Secret. When his guitarist left he asked Brian to join him 'because he was pretty good".

In the following months, while rehearsing with the embryonic Rolling Stones at the Bricklayer's Arms pub, Brian Jones, supported by Stu, tried without success to persuade Paul Pond, who in the meantime also had been singing with Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, to join his rehearsal group, but Paul decided that his university studies came first.

Pond then carried on, and worked as a musician, actor, and television and radio presenter, before forming the Blues Band in 1979, a band firmly rooted in rhythm & blues music. The band's first line-up also consisted of Dave Kelly (vocals, guitar), Gary Fletcher (bass), Tom McGuiness (guitar), and Hughie Flint (drums).

During recordings for the band's second album, "Ready", in May and July 1980, Stu joined the band and played piano on some four tracks, among which Willie Dixon's 'Twenty Nine Ways' and a Blues Band original, 'The Cat'. Early 1981 Stu recorded one more track ('Bad Penny Blues') with the band, which still performs across Europe with almost the same line-up.

Adapted from the following sources: Bill Wyman, Stone Alone, Penguin Books, 1990; and various wikipedia pages.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fact Sheet: Emotional Rescue

Once again produced by the Glimmer Twins, with sound engineer Chris Kimsey, "Emotional Rescue", the Rolling Stones' 15th studio album, was recorded during sessions at Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas (January-February, 1979) and Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris (June-October, 1979). Mixing and overdubbing of the album took place at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York City (November-December, 1979 and March-April, 1980).

The album got released in June 1980, two years after their smash hit album "Some Girls". Author James Hector puts the record in some fine perspective: "As the end of the decade approached, the world discovered that it didn't necessarily need the Stones any more, but "Some Girls" suggested that it was still good to have them around. Not so "Emotional Rescue", a facsimile of the previous album, but about 75% less convincing.

Having been provoked into action by punk rock, testing the water and finding it surprisingly welcoming, the band quickly returned to that winning formula, not realising that musical expectations had changed, that coasting it was simply not enough any more. "Emotional Rescue" remains one of the most forgettable moments in the band's history. Here's what you really ought to know: when Mick Jagger embarked on the round of interviews to promote the album, he told one journalist: 'There is no future in rock 'n' roll'. Listening to "Emotional Rescue", it wasn't difficult to disagree with him".

On "Emotional Rescue" we hear a lot more keyboards than we did on the almost 'keyboard-less' "Some Girls". Ian Stewart plays piano on 'Summer Romance' and 'Where The Boys Go', and Nicky Hopkins attended the mixing sessions at Electric Ladyland to overdub piano on 'Indian Girl' and synthesizer on 'Send It To Me'. Keith Richards also plays some piano on "Indian Girl' and on album closer 'All About You'. Mick Jagger plays electric piano on the album's title song, and finally Bill Wyman added some synthesizer parts to 'Indian Girl' and 'Emotional Rescue'. It's pretty clear that, once again, there wasn't a dominant player like Nicky Hopkins or Billy Preston around!

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

Note: a lot of album reviews float around on the internet; most of them not particularly positive, but each with its own nuances concerning individual songs, influences and the context in which the album was made. You may find them yourselves, if you want to.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Undeterred by the modest commercial sucess of the "See Me" album, Ronnie Lane put together a band for club gigs in and around London. For several months in early 1980 Ronnie and his Mates, as the band was called, appeared all over the UK and even managed a TV appearance for the legendary German music series Rockpalast. (March 19, 1980).

Ronnie and his Mates consisted of Ronnie Lane (vocals, guitar), Ian Stewart (piano), Henry McCullough (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Slim Chance's Charlie Hart (accordion, piano and vocals), all-round bass player Chrissie Stewart (bass), Bruce Rowland (drums), and father and son Ray and George Carless on saxophones. Once again a matter of who's who in British music.

On the Rockpalast stage the band played a loose and relaxed set, consisting of a lot of Lane originals and a selection of cover songs, among which Fats Domino's 'I'm Ready' and Chuck Berry's 'You Never Can Tell'. Stu's trademark boogie-woogie piano is all over the place, and this is a rather unique opportunity to hear (and see!) the man at work. Stu looks comfortable, and unflappable as always.

Way Up Yonder

During the "Rough Mix" sessions with Pete Townshend back in 1977 Ian and Cynthia Stewart persuaded good friend Ronnie Lane to see a doctor when he was exhibiting all the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. After the disease was officially diagnosed Lane, who was living in Wales at the time, continued touring and recording, but in the end decided to return to London to get proper treatment.

But before returning to England, he finished his last solo album, "See Me" (released April 1980), at his beloved Fishpool Farm in Hyssington, Wales. It didn't prove to be a memorable Lane album, but with the help of a lot of friends, among which Eric Clapton, Ronnie managed to cook up some fairly good songs. Stu, together with ex-Slim Chance member Bill Livsey, plays piano on the album closer "Way Up Yonder", a traditional kind of throw-away but catchy pub singalong.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trouble In Mind

During their November-December 1979 tour with Rocket 88, Charlie Watts and Ian Stewart also managed to record with old pals Brian Knight and Geoff Bradford, who both were part of the 'embryonic' Rolling Stones scene in 1962, but didn't make it to the final stage. Keith Richards, describing his first meeting with Stu at Soho's Bricklayer's Arms pub, recalls:

"And I started with him and he says, "You're not gonna play that rock-and-roll shit, are ya?" Stu had massive reservations and he was suspicious of rock and roll. I'm "Yeah", and then I start to play some Chuck Berry. And he's "Oh, you know Johnnie Johnson?" who was Chuck's piano player, and we started to sling the hash, boogie-woogie. That's all we did. And then the other guys slowly started to turn up. It wasn't just Mick and Brian.

Geoff Bradford, a lovely slide blues guitar player who used to play with Cyril Davies. And Brian Knight, a blues fan and his big number was 'Walk On, Walk On'. He had that down and that was it. So Stu could have played with all these other cats, and actually we were third in line for this setup. Mick and I were brought in as maybes, tryouts. These cats were playing clubs with Alexis Korner; they knew shit. We were brand-new in town in those terms.

And I realized that Stu had to make up his mind whether he was going to go for these real traditional folk blues players. Because by then I'd played some hot boogie-woogie and some Chuck Berry. And by the end of the evening I knew there was a band in the making. Nothing was said, but I knew that I'd got Stu's attention. Geoff Bradford and Brian Knight were a very successful blues band after these early Stones sessions, Blues By Six. But they were basically traditional players who had no intention of playing anything else except what they knew: Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Big Bill Broonzy".

On Brian Knight's "A Dark Horse", the resulting album from the late 1979-early 1980 sessions at Matrix Studios, London (released in 1981), Charlie Watts, who played with Blues By Six before joining the Stones, and Stu performed on a handful of songs, including the blues standard 'Trouble In Mind', written by jazz pianist Richard M. Jones. Ex-John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green is on guitar. They still got the blues!

Adapted from the following source: Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010. Warning: just like the "Rocket 88" post, this one contains many links, and once again it could have been many more. It seems things are getting out of hand!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Rocket 88

During the Rolling Stones' recording sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris (July 1979), Charlie Watts managed to take some time off in order to perform with Bob Hall's Swindon Skiffle Group, now labeled Rocket 88, at jazz festivals in England (Bracknell) and The Netherlands (North Sea Jazz, The Hague). Obviously Ian Stewart, with his responsibility for the Stones' equipment, didn't have the opportunity to leave the recording sessions, so Stu sat these two shows out.

In November 1979, when the Stones were mixing and overdubbing their "Emotional Rescue" album at Electric Ladyland Studios, New York City, Rocket 88 went on the road for a series of shows in West-Germany and England, and this time Stu managed to be around. Basic line-up: Alexis Korner (guitar, vocals)/Bob Hall (piano)/George Green (piano)/Ian Stewart (piano)/Jack Bruce (bass, vocals)/Charlie Watts (drums)/Hal Singer (saxophone)/Don Weller (saxophone)/John Picard (trombone)/Colin Smith (trumpet).

Other musicians who played during the tour included Danny Adler (guitar, vocals), Chris Farlowe (vocals), Pete York (drums) and Dick Morrissey (saxophone). Some kind of who's who in British music! The band's performance at the Rotation Club, Hannover, West-Germany, was recorded to produce a live-album (released January, 1981). Ian Stewart produced the album, with sound engineer Mike McKenna. Listen to the title track of the album right here. And here's a little bit more from Stu on Rocket 88, his musical influences and the album. Finally, the full liner notes to the album can be found here.

Adapted from various websites, including Nico Zentgraf's Complete Works Pages and the Alexis Korner website. Warning: this post contains eight links (and it could have been many more!), don't miss any of them for full understanding!

Pathé Marconi Revisited

The Rolling Stones' first recording sessions for a new studio album at Compass Point Studios (January-February, 1979) eventually didn't prove to be very fruitful, so in Summer 1979 the band decided to return to Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, probably in an attempt to regain their very successful "Some Girls" grooves. During three lenghty sessions between June and October the band not only worked on new material, but also returned to several outtakes from their earlier Pathé sessions.

Being the only keyboard player around, Ian Stewart once again got the chance to display his trademark piano playing on several songs, among which the up-tempo rocker 'Where The Boys Go', which would end up on "Emotional Rescue", and Keith Richards' 'Little T&A'. The latter song wouldn't see the light of day until 1981's rush hour "Tattoo You" album.

On 'Where The Boys Go', a typical Saturday-night-out-rocker, the Stones sound tight, although it's pretty clear why the song didn't end up on the "Some Girls" album, and why the band never included it in their live sets. Despite a brave Keith Richards solo the track is rather monotonous, although Mick Jagger tries to spice it up through his spoken cockney vocals about drinking, fighting and finding a 'piece of arse'.

On 'Little T&A', originally labeled as 'Bulldog', Keith Richards takes the lead vocals, in which he acknowledges that the dealers were squealing as he was off heroin. From the opening guitar chords the song is full of 'juicy' exitement (the pool's in but the patio ain't dry!). Typical Richards riffs abound while he twists his tongue around the vocal slang - T&A of course standing for 'tits and ass'. The Stones took the song on the road during their 1981-82 world tour.

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, August 10, 2013

Concert For The Blind

April 1979 time had come for Keith Richards' fracas with the Canadian authorities after his 1977 drug bust to be put to rest. Among other conditions set by the authorities Keith had to play in Toronto in aid of the Canadian National Institute For The Blind. Around that time, Ron Wood had formed a touring band for his new solo album "Gimme Some Neck", named the New Barbarians.

The New Barbarians, with Keith Richards as special guest guitarist, provided the basis for the two free concerts held on April 22, 1979, at Oshawa Civic Auditorium, Toronto. Besides both Stones guitarists the band consisted of Bobby Keys, Ian McLagan, famous bass player Stanley Clarke and Meters drummer Joseph 'Ziggy' Modeliste.

The Rolling Stones' song 'Before They Make Me Run' had an apt title for the shows, and was a climax of the two sets the New Barbarians performed that day. Then at the end the full Stones line-up, including Ian Stewart on piano and Ian McLagan on keyboards, came on stage, as a surprise to the Canadian crowd. The band opened with Chuck Berry's Let It Rock (listen to it here), and played a short set consisting mostly of songs from their recent "Some Girls" album.

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

Compass Point Sessions

On January 18, 1979, the Rolling Stones entered Chris Blackwell's Compass Point Studios at Nassau, Bahamas, to start recordings (January 18-February 12) for a new studio album. Besides working on new songs, the band also returned to the many outtakes of their very productive 1978 "Some Girls" sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris.

Although the Stones invited some notable guest musicians, among whom Bobby Keys, Sugar Blue, Boz Scaggs, Max Romeo and Michael Shrieve, Ian Stewart was the only keyboard player around. Among the songs he played his trademark piano on were two more fast numbers from the Paris sessions, 'Summer Romance' and 'Hang Fire'.

On 'Summer Romance', which would appear on the band's new album, "Emotional Rescue", Keith Richards and Ron Wood intuitively wind up their guitars to produce a song which is essentially lead guitar orientated. Stu, as so often buried deep in the mix, accompanies the band when they strain to recollect those 'Butlins Holiday Romances".

'Hang Fire', a song characterized by innocent sounding harmony vocals, would stay in the can until 1981's "Tattoo You" album. The track, originally titled 'Lazy Bitch', portrays the depressing state of a country racked by unemployment and poverty. The song's mood is up tempo; yet another fast number, but Stu seems to feel comfortable.

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

Friday, August 9, 2013

No Time To Lose

After their 1978 US tour and subsequent recordings at RCA Studios, Hollywood, the Rolling Stones took a break until January 1979. In the meantime Ian Stewart joined Eric Clapton's band for two songs during the latter's show at Glasgow's Apollo Theatre (November 24, 1978), and recorded with French proto-punk band Shakin' Street at Olympic Sound Studios, London.

At the Apollo Stu appeared on stage during the final part of the show, playing piano on two blues standards, Big Bill Broonzy's 'Key To The Highway' and Bobby Bland's 'Further Up On The Road'. It must have felt good for a Scotsman to be back on familiar ground, playing some of his favourite music along with one of his best musical friends!

At first sight, Stu's appearance on Shakin' Streets's debut album "Vampire Rock" may look strange. Ian didn't particularly like the harder rocking side of the Stones, as displayed on the "Some Girls" album, and the French-based band, inspired by US bands like MC5, the Dictators and the New York Dolls, were rocking even harder.

But if we keep in mind that one of Shakin Street's founder members, Fabienne Shine, happened to be the ex-girlfriend of another old pal of Stu's, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, things might fall into place. On "Vampire Rock" Stu boogies along on two tracks, album closer 'Speedy Girl' and 'No Time To Lose'. You might click here to have a listen into the latter track.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Night Live

On October 7, 1978 the Rolling Stones appeared on US television show Saturday Night Live, to further promote their "Some Girls" album. The band performed 'Respectable', 'Shattered' and 'Beast Of Burden', all songs from the album, with their 1978 touring line-up, including Ian Stewart on piano and Ian McLagan on keyboards and backing vocals. As can clearly be heard Mick Jagger lost his voice during rehearsals, but despite that the band delivered an inspired, be it a little bit ragged, performance.

Tallahassee Lassie

Hot from their 1978 S.E.A.T. tour the Rolling Stones stayed together with the intention to complete some earlier Paris session material and also to record a few new tracks. In August 1978 the Stones gathered at RCA Studios, Hollywood; familiar ground, since the band had been recording extensively at RCA during the early stages of their career (1964-1966).

As it turned out, only two Paris takes, 'Summer Romance' and 'Where The Boys Go', both with Ian Stewart on piano, were worked upon during the RCA sessions. Many of the other songs recorded at the sessions were cover versions, which suggests they were played for fun or inspiration rather than any serious intention of them being recorded for an album.

During the sessions, the band dug deep into their roots, playing the blues (Jimmy Reed, Walter Jacobs), rhythm & blues (Willie Dixon), rock 'n' roll (Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry), country (George Jones, Chuck Willis) and reggae (Jimmy Cliff). One of the covers, Freddy Cannon's classic song 'Tallahassee Lassie', with Stu on piano, eventually saw the light of day on the Stones' 2011 "Some Girls" re-release.

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

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some Girls Live In Texas

On June 10, 1978 the Rolling Stones embarked on their first US tour in three years, which was to last until July 26. The S.E.A.T. tour ('Seventy Eight American Tour') combined small theater shows with huge stadiums. The show at Will Rogers Auditorium, Fort Worth, Texas, with a capacity of 3,000, happened to be one of the smaller ones. In his liner notes to the concert DVD "Some Girls Live In Texas" author James Karnbach recalls:

"It was July 18th 1978, and the crowds outside the venue on that Tuesday evening were excited as well as anxious to get inside the relative comfort and cool of the Will Rogers Auditorium. Billed as 'The London Green Shoed Cowboys' - a ruse that fooled no one, tickets had sold out in the blink of an eye. Fans had lined up for hours before the show and many were about to see the band live for the first time in a relatively small setting.

The 1978 tour started out in Lakeland, Florida on June 10th, and by the time they arrived in Texas the Stones had played 19 shows - and as Billboard Magazine said 'No flash, no gimmicks, just rock-n-roll'. The band for the S.E.A.T. tour included Ian 'Stu' Stewart on piano (the day of the Fort Worth show was Stu's 40th birthday) and piano and organ player Ian 'Mac' McLagan.

When the band had rehearsed in Bearsville, New York they had Jamaican keyboard player Bernard 'Touter' Harvey with them. Unfortunately, his reggae style of playing didn't fit the rock and roll feel the band was looking for and Ron Wood had suggested he phone his old friend and former band mate from Faces, Ian McLagan, to ask if he wouldn't  mind flying to the USA to join the rehearsals and then go on tour. Mac had just two days of getting to know the material prior to the Lakeland gig but it turned out that he was the perfect fit and just what the band had been looking for".

As always, Stu played piano on some selected songs, among which Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and show opener 'Let It Rock'. The band had first played 'Let It Rock' on their 1970 tour of Europe, but this was the first US tour on which the audience was getting to hear it live. Watch the video (with a visible Stu!) below: the song sets the pace for a stripped-down, no-nonsense, fast and energetic rock-and-roll show!

Adapted from the following source:
James Karnbach, Anything But Shattered, liner notes to the 2011 DVD "Some Girls Live In Texas", edited by Richard Havers.

Fact Sheet: Some Girls

Again produced by the Glimmer Twins, with engineer Chris Kimsey, "Some Girls", the Rolling Stones' 14th studio album, was recorded during two sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris. The album got released in June 1978. Author James Hector puts the record in some fine perspective:

"A new permanent guitarist, a new six-album deal with EMI - and the shock of the new wave to contend with. But first there was the problem of Keith Richards' 1977 Toronto drug bust. At one point, with the prospect of a lenghty prison spell hanging over him, it threatened to rip the band apart: instead it sealed his reputation as Wasted One No.1, and helped to bridge the gap between the Stones as old farts and the blanked-out faces of the punk generation.

While no-one seriously believed that the band would convincingly reinvent themselves as punk rockers, "Some Girls" was their grittiest set of songs since "Exile", helping them through what were difficult times for long-in-the-tooth rock acts. With Richards being preoccupied with beating the rap and, more critically, beating a decade-long drug habit, Mick Jagger took the bait, took some guitar lessons from Ron Wood, and steered the band successfully into the next stage of their career.

Punk squeezed the last traces of R&B out of white guitar rock: blue notes were replaced by the furious white heat of endless on-beats, played so fast that there was little room for the syncopation on which the Stones had based their entire style. Nevertheless, the band proved remarkably adaptable. Claims that Jagger was more interested in costly cuisine and even more expensive girlfriends than he was in the band were roundly answered by the album".

"Some Girls" turned out to be an almost 'keyboard-less' album. Ian 'Mac' McLagan ended up on two tracks, playing Wurlitzer electric piano on 'Miss You' and organ on 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)'. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both played piano on 'Far Away Eyes'. Ian Stewart didn't appear on the album at all, for the first time since 1968's "Beggars Banquet". But Stu was present during the Pathé Marconi sessions, and most of the tracks he played on appeared on the 2011 "Some Girls" re-release.

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

Suggested further reading:
David Quantick, Some Girls, The Ultimate Music Guide (from the makers of Uncut).
Sylvie Simmons, Women Trouble, The Rolling Stones - Inside The World's Greatest Rock 'n ' Roll Band, Mojo, 2003.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

British Museum of Popular Music

Here's a little bit more from Ian 'Mac' McLagan, recalling his stay during the 1978 Rolling Stones US tour: "Keith's room was the party room because he liked people around him, and liked to listen to music and get nicely toasted. It was my non-stop rock and roll university. We'd listen, and play, and talk for hours about the music. It was an ongoing education to me, and there was something to learn from each of the Stones.

They had forgotten more about the music they loved than most people ever learn. Bill Wyman had an amazing collection of early rock 'n' roll, blues and folk-blues recordings, and he could answer most questions I'd ask without having to look anything up. Charlie's first love is jazz and he could fill you in on that subject, or point you in the right direction.

Mick and Keith knew about the blues, rock 'n ' roll, rhythm & blues, country and country blues, and Stu knew his boogie-woogie better than anyone. Woody had two older brothers, Art and Ted, who played him Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong when he was growing up, as well as turning him on to the blues, so being around them all was like having the British Museum of Popular Music reference library at your fingertips.

They were all well-rounded listeners. Well, maybe not Stu. He was more of a purist. With him, there were sharply defined lines that could never be crossed. He had no time for country and western music, and wasn't a particular fan of Elvis or the hill-billy sound, but apart from him, their ears were open, and mine too. I was exactly where I wanted to be with exactly the right people".

Adapted from the following source: Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Sweet Little Sixteen

The Rolling Stones finished recording and mixing the "Some Girls" album in March 1978 at Atlantic Studios, New York City. Rehearsals for the band's first US tour (June 10-July 26) in three years began close to two months later in the end of May. This time around the Stones gathered at Albert Grossman's Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, along with Peter Tosh's band, who would be opening the set.

During the rehearsals the band, with Ian Stewart as a sixth member, were a tight and unison sixsome. They enjoyed playing numbers from the past such as Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and a whole lot of Eddie Cochran tunes. As it turned out, only 'Sweet Little Sixteen' would be played on the tour. Here's a version from the July 18 Fort Worth show, with Stu on piano, enjoying his 40th birthday.

But, as always, Stu only played on selected songs, so there was still a need for another keyboard player. Thoughts of sharing Peter Tosh's keyboard player, Bernard Harvey, were soon dropped. At the very last minute a call was made to England for Ian 'Mac' McLagan to join the band and after working with The Rich Kids he jumped at the chance to appear with his idols. Mac, who arrived 48 hours before the tour was due to commence, recalls:

"They'd wanted a flavour of reggae in the show, and as Stu wasn't into it, they got Bernard 'Touter' Harvey to sit in with them. He's a great player, especially for reggae, but when it came to rock 'n ' roll, he just didn't have the chops. Of course, I couldn't play reggae at all, but the guys had figured it would be easier to get me to learn how to skank if they needed it, than the other way round".

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Petrol Gang

The Rolling Stones' 2011 "Some Girls" re-release ends with 'Petrol Blues', a nearly two minute track with Mick Jagger on vocals and piano. The vocals revolve around the petrol crisis (remember, it was 1978 at the time) and the lack of fuel as the petrol manufacturers stockpiled it. Mick Jagger asks President Jimmy Carter for help since he does not want to sell his new Cadillac.

The original version of the track was called 'Petrol Gang', and had Mick Jagger on vocals and Ian 'Stu' Stewart on piano, as can clearly be heard on the demo tape: "Play it faster Stu, bit behind there dear, two miles behind me"!

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

In The Shade

On "Some Girls", which turned out to be an almost 'keyboard-less' album, Ian McLagan ended up on two tracks, playing Wurlitzer piano on smash-hit 'Miss You' and organ on the Temptations cover 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)'. Ian Stewart doesn't appear on the album at all, for the first time since 1968's "Beggars Banquet". But Stu was present during the Pathé Marconi sessions, and most of the tracks he played on appeared on the 2011 "Some Girls" re-release.

Hank Williams' 'You Win Again' is pure country of course, while 'Claudine' (see last post) and the 'Dead Flowers'-like 'Do You Think I Really Care' are two more or less country-and-roll tinged songs. 'So Young', which got an earlier release as a B-side in 1994, contains Stu's trademark boogie woogie piano, while 'Petrol Gang' has a story of its own (see next post).


The Rolling Stones' recording sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris proved to be very inspired and fruitful; all in all more than 50 tracks were recorded, 10 of which made it to the new album, "Some Girls". Ian 'Mac' McLagan continues: "Eventually Keith picked up his Telecaster and started to play. Charlie followed, and then Woody and Bill. I sat down at the Hammond and noodled along with them. It felt good to be playing with them. No, it felt great, and it made me want to play. Simon Kirke was over behind Charlie, smacking the congas, and Stu sat down at the piano.

Mick stood in the middle of the floor at the microphone singing and howling, and I'd forgotten how good his harp playing was. We went through several tunes, a couple I knew from somewhere, and another that sounded somewhat familiar, and then it was all new from then on in. We took a break for a bite to eat later that night, and then went back to the hotel.

I threw my bag in the room, and caught up with Charlie and Woody in Keith's room, who was keen to play me some of the tracks they already had on tape. He put on 'Claudine' and the whole band were in classic form, but Mick's 'live' vocal floored me. At the end of the song he asks the question, 'Am I in my right mind to be locked up with this people?' My answer would be 'Yes!' It was my favourite band playing at their peak".

The exiting, country-and-roll like 'Claudine', with Stu on piano, was a finished take, but it was shelved due to potential legal problems. The track eventually got released on the 2011 "Some Girls" re-release. The song was inspired by the case of Claudine Longet - the ex-wife of sixties crooner Andy Williams, who was convicted of shooting her lover.

Adapted from the following sources:

James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Pathé Marconi

September 1977 the Rolling Stones released their double live album "Love You Live", which was largely drawn from their 1976 Paris shows, and from the El Mocambo gigs earlier in the year. Since Billy Preston had played on all album tracks he wanted a cut of the royalties and, much to Mick Jagger's annoyance, this was agreed. It is striking that Preston never toured nor recorded with the Stones again, with the exception of 1997's 'Saint Of Me'.

Early October the band entered Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris to record a new album. Pathé, the official EMI studio in Paris, had an old-world charm and atmosphere. The actual room used by the Stones was a rehearsal room rather than a normal studio. In fact the sessions, often referred to as the 'More Fast Numbers' sessions, were split into two parts, the first one running from October 10-December 21, 1977, and the second one from January 5-March 2, 1978.

Because of his friendship with Ron Wood, Faces keyboard player Ian 'Mac' McLagan was invited to play during the first sessions. Mac recalls: "Pathé Marconi is an old established studio originally designed for recording large orchestras, and Woody was just inside the huge studio door, a smile on his face, as I walked in. He showed me around the room, took me over to the grand piano and handed me a straw. Laying out two lines on the piano lid, he shouted across the room:

'Hey, Keith, look who I've got here'. 'Oh, it's him!' Keith gave a gap-toothed grimace. 'Oh, I see Woody's taken care of you then?' He laughed as I wiped the residue from my nose, then led me into the control room. Stu appeared, all chin and pockets, and an easy smile. 'Hello, stranger. How's things?' I told him everything was fine, and asked him how they were doing. 'Oh, pretty good, you know. If these buggers would only get on with it, tsk!' No one could ever get a swelled head around Stu. The salt of the earth, he always had his feet on the ground".

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Around The World

July 1977 Ronnie Lane and his friend Eric Clapton started recording sessions with the Rolling Stones Mobile unit at Lane's Fishpool Farm in Hyssington, Wales. Ian Stewart produced the sessions, which were eventually aborted because Lane and Clapton decided to go on tour instead. Clapton's manager Roger Forrester invited Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance to be Clapton's support act around the UK and Europe.

Seven tracks from the sessions got eventually released on a couple of compilation albums ("Plonk", "Lucky Seven"). Stu played piano on one track, Fats Domino's 'Around The World (Before I Grow Too Old)', in a line-up consisting of Ronnie Lane (vocals, guitar), Eric Clapton (guitar), and (then) Slim Chance members John Porter (guitar, mandolin), Charlie Hart (accordion), Brian Belshaw (bass) and Hughie Flint (drums).

Great Western Boogie

Part four of yesterday's "Boogie Woogie History" documentary contains a performance by Bob Hall, George Green, Big Joe Duskin, Axel Zwingenberger (all piano), Dave Green (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums), under the name Rocket 88. The recordings were made in January 1986, a month after Ian Stewart's untimely death. Bob Hall, a long-time collaborator of Alexis Korner, and Stu had started working together in June 1977. It all started when Hall got fed up with the company he was working for in Swindon.

He agreed to do a farewell concert at Swindon's Art Centre and recruited a band for the occasion. Stu joined and brought along one Charlie. The one-off concert on June 12, 1977 by a band that even had no name was a great success. Says Bob Hall: "I don't think the band had a name by then, it was just my farewell concert. I remember I played the first half of the concert either solo or with George Green or Stu on second piano, bass and drums, because we didn't have enough brass arrangements for a whole evening".

The concert was entirely recorded on Ronnie Lane's mobile studio, and some tracks appeared on the album "Jammin' The Boogie" (released 1978). Ian Stewart produced the album, and played piano on one released track, 'Great Western Boogie'.
Line-up: Bob Hall (piano, vocals)/George Green (piano)/Ian Stewart (piano)/Nick Dean (bass)/Charlie Watts (drums)/Colin Smith (trumpet)/John Picard (trombone)/Al Gray (tenor sax).

This one-off event turned out to be a success and lead the band to book further concerts at the Swindon Art Centre, the first of which took place on February 1, 1978. Now called Bob Hall's Swindon Skiffle Group, the band continued with the same basic line-up featuring Charlie Watts and Ian Stewart. Dave Green, a childhood friend of Charlie's, replaced Nick Dean on bass and Dick Morrissey replaced Al Gray on tenor sax. This new line-up carried on till early 1981, changing the band's name a few times along the way. To be continued.

Adapted from the following source: Eddy Bonte, Rocket 88: Jammin' With Charlie (read the full article here). Read a little bit more on Bob Hall right here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Interlude: Boogie Woogie History

Boogie Woogie History.....I suppose Stu would have liked it. Discover parts 2-4 of this documentary on the Internet.

Sing Me Back Home

Early 1977 plans were well underway for a live Rolling Stones record, with most of the tracks being taken from the 1976 Paris concerts. Both the British and American music scene were evolving fast, with an emphasis on a harsher back to the roots music. Mick Jagger always had a feel for contemporary music and suggested that the Rolling Stones return to their roots and record some songs in a club, just like in the old Windsor and Richmond days.

After some research the El Mocambo club (capacity 500) in Toronto was booked, the intention being to record five gigs and place some of the tracks on the forthcoming live album. Plans were disrupted when Canadian police visited Keith Richards' hotel suite, and arrested him with a charge of intent to drug trafficking. All events were temporarily put aside for the band's two (March 4-5, 1977) remaining sets at the El Mocambo club, which both were inspired and electrifying.

On March 12, 1977, Keith Richards, while technically detained in Canada on bail pending a decision on the charges following the drugs bust, went into Toronto's Sounds Interchange Recording Studios, to record some tracks Gram Parsons taught him. Keith: "It was quite likely that jail time was on the cards. It was Stu who suggested that I should use the waiting time to put down some tracks of my own - put something down to remember the man by.

He hired a studio, a beautiful piano and a microphone. We just did all the country songs, nothing different from what I do any other night, but there was a certain poignancy about it because at that moment things looked a bit grim. I played the George Jones, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Domino things I'd played with Gram. Merle Haggard's 'Sing Me Back Home' is pretty poignant anyway. The warden is taking the prisoner down the hall to his execution".

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010.