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.