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.