Saturday, June 29, 2013

Run Rudolph Run

After their 1976 European tour and the one-off performance at Knebworth Fair, the Rolling Stones, and Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood in particular, recorded with ex-Mama and Papa John Phillips, and edited some 150 hours of live tapes from the Stones' 1975 and 1976 tours for an upcoming live album.

In late 1976, while in London, Keith Richards one night decided to go down to Island Studios. It being Christmas time, Keith decided to get into the holiday spirit by doing a version of one of his idols songs, Chuck Berry's 'Run Rudolph Run'. Het put a call into Ian Stewart to set up studio time, and he, Stu, and Canadian drummer Mike Driscoll, borrowed from Mick Taylor's band, headed down to Island for a jam session.

The recorded track then stayed idle for two years when in December, 1978 Richards decided to give Rolling Stones fans a Christmas gift with the release of 'Rudolph' and its flip side, Jimmy Cliff's 'The Harder They Come' (recorded in 1978 with Ron Wood, Charlie Watts and Ian McLagan). Read a little bit more on this underrated solo release right down here.

Adapted from the following sources:

Knebworth Fair

Tonight The Rolling Stones perform at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, for the first time in their entire career. Almost 37 years ago, on August 21, 1976, the Stones hit the stage at another well-known British rock festival, the Knebworth Fair festival, held at the grounds of Knebworth House, in Hertfordshire. The festival happened to be the band's first since 1969's tragic Altamont, and they played their largest audience - 200,000 - to date.

The Stones went on late at night and performed a lenghty set of over two and a half hours, playing a 28 number set list, marred by technical sound difficulties but fully appreciated as ground breaking and risk taking. Just as during the preceding European tour, Billy Preston played piano and organ, while Ollie Brown helped out on percussion. Ian Stewart, displaying his rolling boogie piano lines, joined Preston on some self-chosen songs, most notably the Chuck Berry tunes 'Route 66' and 'Around And Around'.

But Stu's main task was of course behind the scenes. Guardian and Observer author John Hind, who was present during rehearsals for the Knebworth show, recalls: "Back at Stage A, where the giant hangar doors were opened to accommodate the balmy night, Ian Stewart was running the show – instructing, cajoling and teasing the technicians and musicians to work. Co-founder of the Stones, Stewart had been elbowed from the limelight, 14 years earlier, because of his large chin. 'My shower of shit', he called them". You can read Hind's full article here.

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
John Hind, The Night I Saw The Rolling Stones Jam Until 7am, The Observer, 2012.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fact Sheet: Black And Blue

The Rolling Stones followed up their 1975 "Tour Of The Americas" with overdubbing and mixing sessions for the upcoming album "Black And Blue" at Mountain Recording Studios, Montreux (October, 1975), Musicland Studios, Munich (December, 1975) and Atlantic Studios, New York City (January-February, 1976). Additional musicians during the sessions were Billy Preston (organ, piano, string synthesizer, and vocals), Ollie Brown (percussion), and Ron Wood. The latter formally joined the band on December 19, 1975.

"Black And Blue", the Stones' 13th studio album, finally got released on April 20, 1976, one and a half year after its predecessor, "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll". Author James Hector puts the record in some fine perspective: "Released to the fanfare of an extensive European tour, "Black And Blue" found the Stones thrown into chaos by the departure of Mick Taylor (just as work on the record was about to begin). But the disturbed intra-band politics invested the sessions with a creative tension that would otherwise have been absent.

Several guitarists were tried out during the making of the album, climaxing with the re-appearance of Ron Wood, confirming that the likeliest candidate all along was the man for the job. Wood wasn't a bona fide member at any point during the sessions: indeed, both Harvey Mandel and Wayne Perkins made significant contributions to the album. Billy Preston, too, came into his own on "Black And Blue", lending weight to the criticism that the Stones were increasingly at the mercy of their sessions players".

With the dominance of a quality player like Billy Preston, not much room was left for neither Nicky Hopkins nor Ian Stewart. Nicky, who had his last ever recording session with the band in December, 1974, appeared on just two songs ('Fool To Cry' and 'Cherry Oh Baby'), while Stu got a percussion (!!) credit on 'Hot Stuff'.
Also on stage, during the Stones' European tour (April-June, 1976), Preston dominated the scene, leaving little room for Stewart. But, as always, Stu picked his own shows to play piano on selected numbers of his choice.

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

Suggested further reading:
Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books Limited, 2010.
Bud Scoppa, Black And Blue, The Ultimate Music Guide (from the makers of Uncut)

Saturday, June 22, 2013


On June 1, 1975 the Rolling Stones, with stand-in guitarist Ron Wood in their ranks, embarked on their "Tour Of The Americas" North American tour (June 1- August 8). Billy Preston, who had his own 2-song spot during the shows, played piano and organ. As usual, Ian Stewart hit the stage during some shows, on the numbers of his choice. In an interview with Lisa Robinson from Creem Magazine, Stu, when asked if the Stones were better in '69 or '72, expressed his feelings about the tour:

"I don't think they were better in '69 or '72...I think they are playing as well now as they have ever played. The thing really is that when they started out they were rebels and non-conformists and obviously you can't be like that all your life. But when you go out and do a tour with union guys, basically, you've gone back to the type of legit-theatre situation.They are getting to be part of sort of show-biz which I don't think was ever the idea in the first place, but this is the way Mick wants it.

He wants to have a theatre production. I don't know if it's worth it...the stages in NYC and was very funny and great to see it all happen, but I don't really know why. I suppose that one can be very proud of it all. They spent a million dollars and it opened up and the kids loved it and at the end the Stones were on stage and it closed again and it's the best rock and roll prop, but so what?

The 1975 tour was probably the best rock and roll production ever. I'm not knocking it and I'm certainly not knocking the skill and application of the crew that made it possible, but if I went to a Stones concert, or a Count Basie concert for that matter, I would want to enjoy the Stones or the Basie band without distraction. And afterwards I would be knocked out by Keith Richards or Al Grey, as the case may be, and if the stage went up and down at the corners, that would be interesting at best, but a distraction at worst.

I just wonder if it's really worth it. Mick believes that it is and that people want to see a total production. Maybe they do. I am propably completely in the minority".

You can read the full (and rare!) 1976 interview with Stu right down here. And if you read it, you'll understand this post's topic in full.

Adapted from the following source:
Lisa Robinson,  Interview with Ian Stewart, Creem Magazine, June 1976.


After the March-April 1975 recording sessions at Musicland Studios, Munich, the basis for "Black And Blue", the upcoming new studio album, was there, but it could not be released in time for the so-called Tour Of The Americas, which was due to start in June. In April it was announced that Ron Wood, who was still a committed member of Faces and didn't intend to let his band down, had agreed to be the stand-in guitarist for the tour.

It seems that above all other guitarists that auditioned for Mick Taylor's vacant position, Ron Wood was most suited to the spare axe position and most at ease with the Stones' ambience. And he was British of course. Keith Richards: "It wasn't so much the playing, when it came down to it. It came down to the fact that Ronnie was English! Well, it's an English band, and we all felt we should retain the nationality of the band at the time".

Like before, Ian Stewart had his influence in the decision making process. Stu, when asked if Keith Richards and Ron Wood were already close prior to the US tour: "Oh sure, but in fact, less than a month before we came to Montauk, they were still arguing about who was going to be the guitar player. Keith was really not sure about Woody, because he felt that Woody played too much like him, and that it wouldn't sound good. But Mick and I wanted Woody. The other guys were rather undecided.

There was a fair amount of support for Wayne Perkins. Wayne is a lovely guy and all that, but it was difficult to imagine him onstage as part of the Rolling Stones. And I had been at that concert in know, when Keith and Woody played together, and it was great actually. The feel was there, the approach was great and the 2-guitar thing was just fine. Eventually, Mick put his foot down and said, "Right, it's either going to be Woody or no tour!".

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.
Lisa Robinson,  Interview with Ian Stewart, Creem Magazine, June 1976 (

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hot Stuff

After Mick Taylor's departure from the band in December, 1974, the Rolling Stones spent the next eight months jamming and recording with a long line of guitarists. The top candidates were British guitar hero Jeff Beck, Americans Harvey Mandel and Muscle Shoals session man Wayne Perkins, and finally, Ron Wood of Faces. Recording sessions for the new album took place at De Doelen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (January 22-February 9, 1975, with the Rolling Stones Mobile Unit) and, once again, at Musicland Studios, Munich (March 25-April 4, 1975).

With the absence of Nicky Hopkins, and Ian Stewart, as always, working in the background (there's a tour coming up....) the keyboard department showed plenty of space for Billy Preston. Keith Richards recalls:

"The problem with the Stones' mid-70s albums, which I was ignorant of for a long time, was studio musicians and sidemen taking over the band. The real problem with those albums was the band was led astray by brilliant players like Billy Preston. We'd start off a typical Stones track and Billy would start playing something so fuckin' good musically that we'd get sidetracked and end up with a compromised track. That made the difference".

As a consequence, Billy Preston appears on six album tracks, while Nicky Hopkins plays piano and organ on the two remaining tracks. Ian Stewart got a percussion (!!) credit on 'Hot Stuff', the album's hyperfunk opening track. The song, the Stones' twist to a classic funk groove in the spirit of James Brown or Sly Stone, was in fact a logical extension to the band's longtime commitment to the sounds of Black America. This was merely the Stones' mid-seventies take on what they had already witnessed during their first visits to the Harlem Apollo in the early sixties.

Adapted from the following sources:
Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books, 2010.


For several reasons, the Rolling Stones decided not to tour after the release of "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll". Instead, a next recording session at Musicland Studios, Munich, was booked for the end of the year (December 7-15, 1974). In the meantime, Mick Taylor was seriously considering his position in the band. He could not be persuaded to stay and resigned. On December 12, 1974 The Rolling Stones officially announced Mick Taylor's departure from the band.

Neither Mick Jagger nor Keith Richards were shaken enough by Taylor's departure to abandon plans for the next studio album. Sessions for what would become "Black And Blue" began according to schedule in Munich. That meant the Stones were once again a quartet, just as they had been during the making of "Let It Bleed". The only other musicians around were Ian Stewart (who didn't play) and Nicky Hopkins, who was recording his last session with the Stones.

After eight years as an important band member he managed to join the escape party with Mick Taylor; it marked the end of a profound period, often referred to as "the Rolling Stones' golden age". So at the end of 1974 the Stones, basically being a two-guitar band, needed a second guitarist, someone to fill in the band's new empty spaces. It would prove a hotly contested gig, and recording sessions for the new album were all of a sudden transformed into auditions for Taylor's replacement.

Adapted from the following sources:
Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books, 2010.
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Short And Curlies (2)

On "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", Ian Stewart played piano on three tracks: the album's title track, 'Dance Little Sister', and 'Short And Curlies'. The latter song (see March, 2013 for an earlier blog entry) is a nice illustration of Stu's position in and around the Rolling Stones. Author Steve Appleford: "Ian Stewart was no roadie. He was the Stones' ambassador, their foul-mouthed stage manager, their closest comrade, their boogie-woogie conscience, a rock and roll gentleman and a commited golfer.

But mainly he was a piano player. And 'Short And Curlies' was perfectly tailored to his purist rhythm and blues sensibility. "He loved the band, hated what they were doing a load of the time and moaned about it", remembers engineer George Chkiantz. "But he was devoted to the band, and stuck with them through thick and thin". He had never expressed any lasting bitterness at being ejected from the early Rolling Stones. And maybe it was for the best, since Stu's boogie-woogie sensibility might have clashed with some of the wilder musical turns explored by the Stones over the years.

By standing outside the band, Stu could play only what he liked, and leave the rest to Nicky Hopkins. "He wasn't overly convinced by Nicky Hopkins' playing", Chkiantz says with a laugh. "He said, 'Do you really like that sort of thing?'. Stu was one of the nicest guys. Wonderful character. I'm sure that if Stu wanted to play on something he had a way of making it known".

On 'Short And Curlies', Stu's piano is right out front, not buried in the mix, and it rolls with a boys-will-be-boys impishness. It's joined by the dual guitars of Richards and Taylor as Jagger sings of a man comically under the thumb of a woman. She's spent his money, crashed his car, and yet he can't (or won't) go away. "She's got you by the balls!". Naughty, haughty, sexist boogie-woogie heaven".

Adapted from the following source: Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books, 2010.

Fact Sheet: It's Only Rock 'n' Roll

"It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", the Rolling Stones' 12th studio album, was recorded during two sessions at Musicland Studios, Munich (November, 1973 and January, 1974), while overdubbing and mixing sessions took place at Mick Jagger's Stargroves home (April 10-15, 1974, with the Rolling Stones Mobile) and Island Recording Studios, London (May 20-25, 1974). The album was released in October 1974. Author James Hector puts the record in some fine perspective:

If "Goat's Head Soup" was an overly-sophisticated response to the DIY production on "Exile On Main St.", then this time round, the Rolling Stones chose to take destiny in their own hands. Ending their fruitful, five-year relationship with producer Jimmy Miller, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards restyled themselves the Glimmer Twins. The results may have banished the memories of the subdued "Soup" album, but it's difficult to make a case for "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" as the true inheritor to "Exile".

With the album, the Stones opted for the star-studded epic, tailored towards easy mass consumption and with the simplest of story-lines: "It's only rock 'n' roll, but I like it". Well, nice to see you, to see you nice, and all that, but the album marked the band's decisive entry into a comfortable living as rock's elder statesmen. From this point on, their youth cultural importance vanished, and there would be few musical surprises in the future.

Ian Stewart played piano on three tracks: the album's title track, 'Dance Little Sister', and 'Short And Curlies', a left-over from the "Goat's Head Soup" sessions, and clearly an album filler. Other members of the keyboard department on "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" were familiar names: Nicky Hopkins (piano on five tracks) and Billy Preston (clavinet and/or piano on three tracks).

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

Suggested further reading:
Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books Limited, 2010.
Andrew Mueller, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll, The Ultimate Music Guide (from the makers of Uncut)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scarlet: A Mystery

If there's one 'mystery track' in the Stones' catalogue, it must be 'Scarlet'. Both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger are said to have been working on a song with this title, albeit more than a year apart from each other, and under totally different circumstances. In his "Complete Works" Nico Zentgraf mentions the following details about the recording sessions: 

October 15, 1974: At Olympic Sound Studios, London, Keith Richards works on a song called ‘Scarlet’. Line-up: Keith Richards (vocals, guitar)/Jimmy Page (guitar)/Ron Wood (guitar)/Ian Stewart (piano)/Rick Grech (bass)/Bruce Rowland (drums).

January 10, 1976: At Phonogram Studios, Rio de Janeiro, Mick Jagger works on a song called ‘Scarlet’. Line-up: Mick Jagger (guitar, vocals)/Luiz Cláudio (guitar)/Antonio Adolfo (piano)/Dadi (bass)/Paulinho Braga (drums)/Neném, Marçal, Eliseu, Lula, Risadinha, andCanegal (percussion).

Is there anybody out there who can expand on this information? By the way: Scarlet Page (born 1971) is Jimmy Page's daughter, while Elizabeth Scarlet Jagger (born 1984) is the eldest daughter of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall.

Adapted from the following source: Nico Zentgraf, The Complete Works website.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Preparing For Don (2)

On June 1 1974, at LWT Studios, London, the Rolling Stones recorded some instrumental backing tracks to be used for the shooting of promo-films. The shootings, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, were premiered in the "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" TV show (October 19, 1974). Mick Jagger added live vocals to three songs from the upcoming studio album "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll": 'Till The Next Goodbye', 'Ain't Too Proud To Beg', and the album's title track.

The recording of 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)' also contains a new lead guitar part and different back-up vocals. Just like on the album track, Ian Stewart plays piano, but once again he is not seen in the video. Fortunately maybe, this time around, because the video shooting turned out to be pretty hilarious, as can be seen below. Have a look at Charlie Watts, exiting stage right, not amused at all!

It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)

Overdubbing and mixing sessions for the Rolling Stones' new studio album, "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll", took place at Mick Jagger's Stargroves home (April 10-15, 1974, with the Rolling Stones Mobile) and Island Recording Studios, London (May 20-25). During these sessions the band worked on eight basic tracks they recorded earlier at Musicland Studios, Munich, along with 'Short And Curlies' (first taped during the 1972 "Goat's Head Soup" sessions) and a new song, the album's title track.

Although Jagger-Richards were the song's credited composers, 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)' was first sketched out by Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood, the ever-playful guitarist with Faces. The Stones had known Wood since he was a young guitarist hanging around the Crawdaddy and Marquee clubs in the early Sixties. Early December 1973, engineer George Chkiantz was quickly summoned to Wood's home studio at The Wick, Richmond, where he found Jagger and Wood both strumming acoustic guitars.

Despite its title, 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' isn't a fast rocker. The song is played mid-tempo with some acoustic parts. The basic track was recorded with Willie Weeks, one of the most in-demand session musicians, on bass, Ian McLagan on keyboards and a brutal crash of drums and cymbals by Kenney Jones, while David Bowie took some backing vocals.

Mick Jagger then took the track with him to Munich, where the Stones worked on it for the first time. The final recording was finished at Island Recording Studios, where the vocals were re-done, and Keith Richards added a sharp burst of Chuck Berry-style riffing, while at the same time erasing Wood's original electric parts, but keeping the acoustic ones. Ian Stewart supplied a piano melody replacing McLagan's part. Kenney Jones' drum parts made it to the final record, since Charlie Watts felt he could do no better.

Adapted from the following sources:
Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books, 2010.
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.