Thursday 19 January 2012

Stone Me

This weekend just gone, I started another of my now-nearly-legendary Catalogue Revisits.  The subject this time was The Rolling Stones.
This particular trawl through the past (darkly) was completed this week whilst eating dinner and washing up after work.
If washing up a shepherds pie dish to the accompaniment of 'Dirty Work' sounds like hard work - believe me it was!

It started simply with a playing of the best Stones compilation available - 'Rolled Gold'
('Hot Rocks' covers similar ground, but misses out the earlier tracks and some of the more interesting later-period/pre-1971 album Tracks (eg "Dandelion", "2000 Light Years From Home.)
'Forty Licks' (the other main Stones compilation is OK, but again has stuff missing and I don't like the running order (retrospective compilations SHOULD be in chronological order))

Three observations:
  1. Is there a better drum & bass combination than Charlie Watts & Bill Wyman? (Keith Moon & John Entwhistle, perhaps)
  2. 'Steel Wheels' is actually a good album - probably the last complete album the band have released, and certainly the best since 1978s 'Some Girls'
  3. The Rolling Stones have five definite phases/periods to their career:
  • The Blues Stones - Interpreter of other peoples songs (1963 - 1965)
  • The Pop Stones (1965 - 1968) - second only to The Beatles (possibly equal, but its a subjective point)
  • The Rock Stones (1968 - 1978)
  • The "Still Releasing Records, Please Buy Them" Stones (1979 - 1989) 
  • The Touring Stones (1990 - whenever)

Phase One:
Brian Jones-led, inspired by music of Chuck Berry, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Elmore James (and others), they took their name from a Muddy Waters song, and began performing around the London Blues clubs, soon gaining residencies at specific clubs and positive press response.
Andrew Loog Oldham sees the band playing at one of the clubs and becomes their press agent/manager.
He positions the band as the "anti-Beatles", and soon releases (possibly) the most famous headline the band have ever had:  "Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone"

Decca Records (who turned down The Beatles) sign the band and release their first single (a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On") .
The second single, "I Wanna Be Your Man," was written by Lennon and McCartney.

Yes, John Lennon and Paul McCartney - the people they would be in (supposed) direct competition with for the next 7 years.
Or were they in competition?
Was there ever an instance of both bands fighting for the Number 1 spot with new releases in the same week?
Did either band ever replace each other at Number 1 (Apart from "Is All Over Now" being usrped by "I Feel Fine", and "A Hard Days Night" replacing "Little Red Rooster" (both in 1964), the bands appeared (whether by design or coincidence) to give each other the opportunity of Number One Glory without

I vaguely recall in the documentary 25x5 Keith made the statement that whilst The Beatles and The Stones were seen as competitors, they (or their managers) would speak directly to the other band to find out when new singles or albums were scheduled and arrange their own release schedules accordingly.

Their first album, 'Rolling Stones', comprised 11 covers and one Jagger/Richards original.
The second album, Rolling Stones No. 2'  (released 8 months later)) increased the original quotient to 3 out of 12.
This phase was completed with the release of the singles "Not Fade Away," followed by their first Number 1 "Its All Over Now".  The years was rounded off with the Number 1 cover version of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster" (the last straight blues single they released, and probably the last time (no pun intended - see next single release) Brian Jones felt he was the leader of the band)

Phase Two:
Starts with "The Last Time" through to late 1967 and the release of 'Their Satanic Majesties Request'.
The first album of this phase ('Out Of Our Heads') maintains the 3 out of 12 song ownership, but is their last album to rely heavily on cover versions.
The next ('Aftermath') is entirely the work of Mick Jagger & Keith Richrds.  This album is pointing the way forward and The Stones are gaining their own distinctive sound.
'Between The Buttons' is the last of this phase.  This album may not be as strong as its immediate predecessor, but is a worthy album nonetheless, and offers clues as to where the Band are going next.
I was going to suggest that "We Love You" (released in August 1967) is the last "pop" single by the band, but I think its actually a bridge from The Pop Stones to The Psychadelic Stones (which shall be referred to as Phase 2a).
The last "pop" single in this phase of the band is (probably) "Lets Spend The Night Together" / "Ruby Tuesday".

Phase Three:
Singularly speaking "Jumping Jack Flash" heralds the arrival of The Rock Stones.
OK - parts of 'Beggars Banquet' and 'Let It Bleed' have a healthy dose of country-rock running throught it, but their on their way to being The Greatest Rock and Roll Band In The World (it was a close run thing with The Who, but I think The Stones ultimately won out).
Their position of supremacy is confirmed with 'Sticky Fingers', and then surpassed with 'Exile On Main Street'
The last 4 ('Goats Head Soup', 'Its Only Rock n Roll', 'Black and Blue' & 'Some Girls') were released to ever diminishing sales.  They have their moments but never seem as complete as the initial albums of this phase.  Mind you, after 'Exile ..' could anything they do be as

Phase 4:
Bleak times - Jagger & Richards relationship at all time low, Keefs Heroin addiction and legal wranglings, solo records are being thought about and released.  And it shows (at least to my ears) in the resultant album 'Emotional Rescue' (the band could've been re-titled The Motionless Stones)
1981s 'Tattoo You' was another patchy effort, save for "Waiting On A Friend" (the Mick & Keef reconciliation song (?)) and the unforgettable riff that is "Start Me Up" - another one of those Stones riffs, much like Satisfaction, Jumping Jack Flash or Brown Sugar, that makes you want to play the guitar.
'Undercover' is OK, but you just feel it's the sound of The Stones treading water
'Dirty Work' from 1986 is ... the album they released in 1986.  I really can't find any enthusiasm for this release.
1989s 'Steel Wheels' is a whole different proposition.  This is the sound of The Stones wanting to be a band again, and contains some of the best stuff they've done since the late 70s releases

But what next?
What do rock stars do when they hit 50?  There was no real precedence.
Do they retire gracefully and live in their country houses, maybe taking up metal detecting as a new hobby?
Or keep performing?

Phase 5:
Not really releasing records anymore (3 albums ('Voodoo Lounge', 'Bridges To Babylon' and 'A Bigger Bang') in 18 years) - but do they need to.

Since 1989, The Stones have undertaken the following tours, grossing more every time they went out on the road:

  • August 1989-August 1990 - Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour
  • August 1994-August 1995 - Voodoo Lounge Tour
  • September 1997-September 1998 & June 1999 - Bridges to Babylon Tour
  • January-April 1999 - No Security Tour
  • September 2002-November 2003 - Licks Tour
  • August 2005-August 2007 - A Bigger Bang Tour

Their last 2 Tours have been the highest grossing Tours ever

It is rumoured that the band will be touring again this year (2012) to celebrate their 50th Anniversary
Never seen them live, and to be honest this is probably my last opportunity.  Here's hoping that the tickets will be in the "affordable" price bracket.

I'll admit at this point that I don't own the last 3 albums and have only heard odd tracks from them.  But based on what I do know, I offer the following Buying Advice:
  • Rolled Gold (get the Plus version)
  • Jumpback - covers the highlights of the 1971 - 1993 (this ones not chronological either, but where else can you get a Stones compilation that includes "Tumbling Dice", "Angie", "Beast of Burden" & "Start Me Up")
  • Sticky Fingers - you can never listen to "Wild Horses" too often, and any album that opens with "Brown Sugar" can't be that bad
  • Exile On Main Street - takes a while, but ultimately worth the wait
  • Beggars Banquet - The first Rock Stones album ("Sympathy For The Devil" is even available on Just Dance (imagine my surprise at Christmas seeing the kids performing a synchronised dance routine to a song (supposedly) sung by the devil himself (or herself))
  • The rest - in any order will suffice, but probably get 'Aftermath' and 'Between The Buttons')

For a complete, comprehensive History of The Rolling Stones, you could do worse than read "Rolling With The Stones" by Bill Wyman.  Packed full of detailed information, tour schedules & respective set-lists, recording details and general "trivia" pertaining to the ban, all drawn from Bill's personal diaries & archive (He has such a comprehensive archive and attention to detail, you get the idea he's kept every receipt for every pint of beer he's ever purchased (whats wrong with that? - so do I))

Rolling With The Stones (on Amazon)

A song so strong, even Susan Boyle couldn't ruin it for me:

And to represent the solo outings: Bill Wyman - Je Suis Un Rock Star

(includes the line: "We could go on the hovercraft across the water, They'll think I'm your dad and you're my daughter" - means nothing in 1981, but takes on a whole new creepy feel when considering the stories of Bill and Mandy Smith in 1984)

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