Archive for the ‘My Big Bad Rolling Stones Page’ Category

My Big Bad Rolling Stones page

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

There’s nothing I like talking about more these days than The Rolling Stones. My recent interest was aroused in December 2010 when I watched the Criterion Collection of Gimme Shelter and I undestood the true power and coolness of the Stones. Since then I’ve devoured books, DVDs and musical re-releases of the band while grabbing anecdotes from people who were there.

There’s so much stuff on the Stones that I’m going to have to leave a few things on other pages and link them up (having too many YouTube embeds also tends to slow down loading up of pages.

For “My big bad Exile On Main Street” page, which has everything to do with that great release, go here.

For a list of bootlegs and videos of dozens of Stones concerts from 1965 to 2008, go here.

For clips of the London Hyde Park farewell concert for Brian Jones (also the hello concert for Mick Taylor) go here.

To check out The Who recording The Stones to express solidarity for the band, go here.

Book Reviews


The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, by Stanley Booth – Despite the fake looking picture on the cover (where is the source of light?) with its intriguing view of Mick’s centre stage star splat, Booth’s book deserves all kudos for being the first real book about the Stones. And Booth, in true artistic fashion, paid for the privilege of hanging about and writing about the world’s greatest rock and roll band by eventually becoming a junkie, a hermit, and ruined his body with injury. Like working with Donald Cammell, working the Stones was a hazardous experience for many, just follow the trail of bodies. In Booth’s case, something did his head in somewhere in between his research for the book and its eventual publishing 15 years later, which is a pity because by then hardly anyone was interested in reading about the early years of the band (or so it seems by the book’s pathetic sales, not to mention its sad afterlife as a reprint on a minor publishing house). Booth did not have the benefit of Bill Wyman’s comprehensive autobiography to rely on for this the way Stephen Davis did for his book, but he does lift heavily from the Maysles Brother’ and Robert Frank’s footage.

The book opens with Booth’s contract with the Stones to give him full offstage access to the band. This is nearly as valuable as anything written in its pages… imagine owning a piece of paper with the signatures of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor!! The book is dedicated to “all the children”, and begins (as every chapter does) with a pretentious quote, in this case from Norman Mailer. Great. The opening passage is a recreation of the band on the road to Altamont (needs a pithy and indicative mid-stream anecdote to refer to the past but allude to the future – most biographies or autobiographies start this way, and Booth won’t be the one to buck that trend – in fact, it may have started the trend!). Booth excels in describing the backstage scene, and he outdoes himself with a purplish description of the great rock ‘n’ roll pirate Keith Richards, “who was even thinner and looked not like a model but an insane advertisement for a dangerous carefree Death – black ragged hair, dead-green skin, a cougar tooth hanging from his right earlobe, his lips snarled back from the marijuana cigaret between his rotting fangs, his gums blue, the world’s only bluegum white man, poisonous as a rattlesnake.”

But at the beginning, Booth hardly writes about the Stones directly, preferring instead to set the scene by describing his travails in getting his book rolling in the first place (the pursuit of his stupid official letter from the band, his dumb letter from his publisher, some ruminating on a lost girlfriend, and even a visit to Brian Jones’ grieving parents. “It was 6:44, and I just had time for a sandwich.” Booth later got a new “girlfriend” called Christopher. “She had a stomachache and didn’t want to play ducks and fishes, and who could blame her.” Yawwwwwwnnn… I could be doing better things on a Friday night. But after a while there are some interesting tidbits: “‘Brian’s fall wasn’t my fault or because of drugs,’ Anita said. ‘It was Mick and Keith.’” Later, ruminating on the sad fact that an article he’d been contracted to write about Jack Kerouac but delayed to tour with the Stones would never get written because old Jack had died, Booth falls into the trap again: “My mood had changed, and I made a ham sandwich and drank a beer.” He sure eats a lot of sandwiches. But there’s always time for lyricism, like his description of when “David Sandison told Keith about Kerouac, and though Keith had never read him he sort of swam more seriously for a few strokes.” Ha ha.

There’s interesting tidbits on the band and their hangers-on. Charlie Watts tells Booth his life story, where he quotes Watts saying that he is Jewish (not much is made of this on the web; Watts may have been joking, as it’s never referenced again in the Stononomicon. Chip Monck, Booth says, was the only person he had ever seen who could make falling asleep pretentious. There’s also an amusing passage where Bill Wyman predicts the future:

Then Wyman had an idea – for an invention, an instrument that could be attached to a guitar and would light up when a string was in tune. Jagger and Keith insisted it was impossible. Charlie said it was possible and so did I. Keith was down on the whole idea. ‘Use your ears,’ he said.

Booth jumps back and forth in time to make a point, and he dips into 1965, to the time before the band discovered real drugs:

They were still touring, causing riots of sexual frenzy each night. At the Sophia Garden in Cardiff, a man came into their dressing room, offered to sell them hashish, and they had him thrown out. Sexual frenzy was all right, but hashish was illegal. A few nights later at the Wolverhampton Gaumont, Jagger found among the fan letters left in teh Stones’ dressing room a note addressed to him, containing a stic of chewing and the request, ‘Please chew some and send it back!’ Beyond the perverse and illegal into the unsanitary.

An anecdote: it seems that when Bill noted in his diary that he had been ‘stuck in the fog’, it meant that he had been stuck inside a groupie. Nonetheless, he still complained that the band’s busy schedule was keeping him From his family. “We had a dog once, but we couldn’t keep it because I was never at home and he used to bite me when I turned up,’” Booth quotes Wyman saying.

Booth also has a great quote of the band’s first tour of Canada:

In Montreal they played to six thousand fans, some of whom attacked the stage, adding a familiar but always seductive element of danger. At the ‘Y’ Auditorium in Ottawa, the next city on the tour, thirty police onstage, unable to keep back the audience of four thousand, pulled out the amplifier cords and told the band never to come back.

The crowd control force in Toronto were not so paranoid, and the Stones played to fourteen thousand at the Maple Leaf Gardens. The next day they drove three hours to the Treasure Island Gardens in London Ontario, where the police, alarmed by the spectacle of three thousand people having a good time, stopped the show during the fifth song, inspiring the audience, many of whom had driven all the way from Detroit, to riot.

Sometimes Booth is meta-nonfictional. “Keith, Charlie, Mick Taylor and I sat around the living room listening to the blues while the sun shone. I tried to think of notes to make, but nothing was happening.

Wow… life if rough when you can’t think of anything to write in your notes as you’re hanging out with, oh, I don’t know… the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world!!! But other times Booth is not as languid, such as an outtake right out of the first part of the Gimme Shelter movie.

We wheeled out of the Gardens, stopping to honk at a saw horse someone had left in front of the exit. A teenaged boy ran out with us, so fast that he kept up for three or four blocks. A few boys and girls followed in cars, not many, but we drove as if we had just robbed the Deadwood stagecoach and, bouncing along, tore off our muffler so we really sounded terrible racing through town in a limo full of bodyguards, wall-to-wall muscle, loving every second of it.

Here Booth’s book starts to kind of dovetail with the Maysles brothers’ footage, as mainly seen in their Gimme Shelter movie, and you start to get the lead-up to the film, including all of those familiar scenes such as the Madison Square Gardens footage, the lawyer’s office, the Wild Horses sessions, the chattering with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Jefferson Airplane and Jerry Garcia (Santana, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young, both of which played that day but, are not described or mentioned in either Booth’s book or the Maysles’ movie), the Hell’s Angels, and all of the footage of that filthy day in California.

It all goes wrong, and the Stones despair about their futures; Booth gets choice quotes on this topic from Mick:

I’ve got to find a place to live, got to think about the future, because obviously I can’t do this forever. I mean, we’re so old – we’ve been going on for eight years and we can’t go on for another eight. I mean, if you can you will do, but I just can’t, I mean we’re so old – Bill’s thirty-three. In eight years he’ll be… y’see wot oi mean?

And now, 42 years after that quote, the band is celebrating its 50th anniversary year, Mick is 68, Bill is 75, etc etc. More ironic insight about the aristocracy from Mick: “It doesn’t do you any good to be knighted. You have to be a baronet at least, that’s the lowest – you’re automatically a sir if you’re a baronet. Baron Jagger? Has a nice ring to it… I wonder if it will ever happen.

More weird, ironic historical context from Booth:

On the front page of the newspaper there was a picture of a man the police said they considered responsible for the murders of Sharon tate and her houseguests and the LaBianca family. His name was Charles Manson, he had long hair and a beard, and my first impulse was to think that he was probably innocent.

Booth keeps this passage in the book, despite plenty of opportunities to edit it in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Of interest is also a note that Jagger erased all of the outtakes from the Muscle Shoals sessions that produced “Wild Horses”. WHAT!!!!!!

One of the best passages of the book was a very long transcription of a monologue by Shirley Arnold, the woman who ran the Rolling Stones fan club, about Brian Jones. She talked to Booth about Jones after Altamont, and although he had died some months before that infamous free concert, Booth puts this description at the end of the book (perhaps to bookend it with his earlier interview with Mr and Mrs Jones). I guess it’s all supposed to mean something.



Let It Bleed, photos by Ethan Russel, text with Gerard Van der Leun – A great 28cm x 28cm coffee table book with pictures of the Rolling Stones taken in 1969. The earliest pictures are of Brian Jones at his AA Milne house, taken just before he died, then pictures from what turned out to be his memorial concert in Hyde Park, then pictures from the Stones’ 16-city US tour of November 1969, which ended with a free concert at the Altamont Speedway on December 6th of that year. Russell also goes back to Altamont to take some “back to the scene of the crime” pics to cap the adventure. The book is sub-titled “The Rolling Stones, Altamont, and the End of the Sixties,” and none could be more fitting.

The pictures in the book are luscious, stunning, with 56 glorious full double-page shots. Naturally, the book contains the usual solo shots of Stones and their hangers-ons (including Cathy and Mary, two groupies they picked up in LA), hanging out, in the studio, or onstage. But the book also has many many pic of fans, either around the venue or from the stage, sometimes with the Stones in the foreground, but more often a sea of people Russell’s camera gazes over. These shots are probably the best in the collection, especially some of the really stunning ones that show faces several rows deep in full detail so that you see the gaps between teeth, the colours of the eyes, the strands of hair across the forehead. Wow! There are also great ariel shots, like the one of a nearly-full Madison Square Gardens, another one of Altamont (and the clogged highway roads full of parked cars leading to it) from the helicopter. Russell worked his ass off when he was with the Stones, and it shows – I wonder if there was anything significant that his camera missed!

The book also parallels the development of the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter film, ranging from onstage and backstage scenes at Madison Square Gardens with Jimi, Tina, Chuck and BB, to Melvin Belli’s garish lawyers office in LA (filled with hangers-on and the Maysles film crew), and finally the debacle of Altamont itself.

The book also has quite a lot of text, 54 of its 240 pages to be exact. Sure, there’s a table of contents, typography set inside a gorgeous double-page stage shot of the Stones, ditto for the tour dates listings, but there’s also a cast of characters over two pages before the three-page introduction. Part I, “Looking Back”, provides a bit of Russell’s background, along with some stuff about the Brian Jones shoot, as well as the memorial concert. Part II is all about the tour, with pages on pre-tour and rehearsals, and then text to accompany pictures from the seven of the tour’s 16 gigs, namely at Fort Collins, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Chicago and New York, and then finally West Palm Beach in Florida, the last night of the tour. Part III documents Altamont, while Part IV its aftermath. In an epilogue, Russell describes over four pages his feelings of revisiting the site in 2007 after a 27-year absence.

And while, the pictures may follow closely what we’ve already seen in the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter, it’s nice to have those images still so that you can pore over them at leisure. But as outstanding as the pictures are, the text is also very good (albeit somewhat repetitive in parts, and a bit derivative if you’ve read Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, from which he quotes liberally). Russel and Van der Leun have a lean, matter-of-fact way of writing that early Stones chroniclers like Booth and Robert Greenfield lacked (their quotes from Booth’s book are highly select), and I did get some things from it that I hadn’t already gleaned from the dozen or so books I’ve read by or about the Stones so far. Russell gives a great description of Brian in his section on the man:

Brian, more than any of his contemporaries, seemed to have invented the rock-and-roll lifestyle. It was as if he had chosen to become the Crown Prince of Stonedness. This role required that Jones remain constantly high. Few would have disputed his position, even in California in the 1960s, where people were now setting daily records of higher and higher, just trying to catch up. It was Brian’s face, after all, squinting back at you from the cover of Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass). It was his face peering out of the mist on the cover of Between the Buttons, announcing with his wicked leer that he was so high it was a miracle the camera could capture him at all.

But Russell manages, during his visit, to experience both sides of the man: the polite, shy and soft spoken Mr Jones who brings his guests tea, and the rock ‘n’ roll pervert who rolls in the dirt and points rifles at people. “This is great! Here’s a Rolling Stone doing, well, Rolling Stones things!

In describing the start of the tour, Russell in a few words gives a good sense about how financially perilous it was for the group to set out on a tour, given that their former manager Allan Klein had their balls in a financial vise. “I had fifteen thousand dollars up front to finance a half-a-million-dollar tour – to pay for the construction of the set, the stage, the lights, to guarantee the acts, to do everything. It was a very funny moment,” he quotes Booth quoting manager Ronnie Schneider. But, he notes, “if things didn’t move at great speed, they moved at Stones speed.” Booth also quotes Bill Wyman:

We did do some rehearsals. We didn’t do a lot. You know what the Stones are like. It was mostly party time. We rehearse for a week or something, and you end up doing a couple of hours here because everybody turns up late, or they don’t appear at all, or they’re off somewhere else. Keith’s socializing with the locals, and Keith’s getting stoned, and it was always a disaster. It was basically like that. But in the end we pulled it together. We’re good like that.

To which Stanley Booth adds “Keith’s lying out in the hammock, and Mick says to Phil Kaufman’s girlfriend, ‘Go tell Keith that we’ve started.’ So she says, ‘Keith, they’ve started.’ And Keith says, ‘Oh yeah. Tell them they’re sounding great.’” Elliott mentions a few anecdotes about the connected man Pete Bennett, who helped them out when they were stopped by the LAPD. He then has some words about life on the road:

The road grinds you down. The food everywhere is tasteless. Walk into the hotel room and turn on the television. Every television announcer seems to be the same person telling the same story. Down the hall from the room is the ice machine, the Coke machine. Look out the window. American cars fill the parking lot. In the endless Midwest, the landscape – without mountains, without hills – leaves the eye nothing to focus on. Every other day the time zone changes. What time is it? Does it matter? All time leads to showtime. After the rush of the show, you rush back to the hotel. And then get up and do it again.

And while Mick gives his “I mean, we’re so old. Bill’s thirty-three” quote about how he can’t go on for much more than the eight years the band’s been together (quoted above, from Booth’s book), Keith gives another quote that I missed from that tale: “It doesn’t matter if you’re sixty-eight and bald. If you can do it, there’s someone who can dig it. But if you’re a rock ‘n’ roller, you’ve got to be on the stage. A rock ‘n’ roller doesn’t exist unless he’s on the stage.” All right, Keith!!!

The final word, in my mind, of the book, of Altamont, of the Sixties, is from Mick Taylor, who, when ruminating on the concept that Altamont was the anti-Woodstock and was the death of the sixties, in the sense of what the sixties represented, says on page 225 “well, it was the end of the sixties wasn’t it? It was December 1969.”

But it’s still really all about the photos. Some of my favourites include a great shot of the British Hell’s Angels (page 22-23, and to be contrasted later on with pictures of the Oakland Hell’s Angels), a demented British biker, shirtless and in full metal pin and helmet regalia (page 25), Mick Taylor, Keith Richards and Sam Cutler sitting around eating breakfast in all their stoned glory (page 32), a picture of Keith playing his transparent guitar sitting on an amp with a glass of wine in front of him, a light flowing just behind his head, from a rehearsal at Stephen Stills’ home (page 35), Keith basking in the sun with his red velvet pants and indian poncho on (page 36), the band rehearsing on the set of the film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Mick in a white suite, a flotilla of guitar cases of in the corner (page 50-51, two pictures), Mick kneeling down and singing to the audience – you can not only see the faces of the crowd as they behold Mick, but you can also see how dirty his moccasins are (page 74), an audience shot with a beautiful blonde standing out prominently from the middle of a sea of faces, her eyes in shadow over a sultry smile (page 152-153). One of the best band shots is on page 102, where you see the two Micks, Bill and Keith, and then you get Charlie in the reflection of a mirror, no one looking directly at the camera – marvelous (the section of photos from Madison Square Gardens is one of the longest in the books, and the best). Then there’s Melvin Belli’s hideously crowded and over-stuffed cavern/office (page 166-167), an arial shot of Highway 580 choked with parked cars and pedestrians (page 176-177), and a picture of a despondent Mick and Keith, Mick chugging from a bottle of Jack Daniels and Keith hanging his head low (page 218-219). There’s also a random, superfluous shot of Keith in airport customs next to a “Patience please… a drug free America comes first” poster, looking sly and stoned in his mirrored shades, his Coke shirt and his Tibetan scarf.

Then there are all of the great shots showing huge seas of people, such at Hyde Park (page 16-17), Madison Square Gardens (page 140), and at Altamont (page 196-197) in a shot that is so crowded with heads one on top of the other that Mick and Keith in the foreground really seem crushed by their audience – you can see the expression on every face, and the emotions run the gamut. The same people are seen in other shots, including one that features the hole that appeared in the audience in front of the stage when Meredith Hunter was stabbed. The book closes with shots from the desolate Altamont of today.

There are also some remarkable pictures of individuals and small groups, such as one of Mick seeming much older than his 27 years (page 5), and another when he looks more like Keith than himself (page 146). Then there’s a great shot of Brian, in a stars and stripes shirt, looking like he’s strangling a statue of Christopher Robin, with a nasty schoolboy look on his face. His pageboy haircut nearly copying Robin’s. Another shot shows Mick in a blue and white checkered suit (?!?!) (page 30), Mick and Keith smiling like little boys as they stand in awe chatting with Chuck Berry (page 120); contrast that with the grim faces in a similar shot of Mick and Charlie standing shoulder to shoulder with Hells Angel Oakland chapter head Sonny Barger inside the tent (page 189). There’s a shot of Abbie Hoffman yucking it up backstage (page 126), and another one of Mick and his reflection (page 136).

Great book, love it, glad I’ve got it.


Old Gods Almost Dead, by Stephen Davis – For my money, this is the best Stones bio I’ve read so far. It’s full of great stuff, even if it leans heavily on Bill Wyman’s autobiography and Stanley Booth’s The true Adventures of the Rolling Stones for some 1960s tidbits, it does get into the heads and under the skin of all of the band’s members, as well as some of the other non-member key protagonists (Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Darrell Jones, etc), as it takes you on a tour of Stones Incorporated. Since this is a band like no other band, the tour is fascinating. And while no one can ever hope to claim that they can ever really probe the 50-year professional relationship of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, this book does a pretty good job from time time time, portraying Mick as a lousy drunk and Keith as a highly experienced one.

Biographies typically start off with some sort of unrelated passage, before getting into some sort of historical context/background, telling the biographies of the individual members on their own before they meet, and then collectively going forward. Check. This one starts of with Davis, author of the Hammer of the Gods bio of Led Zeppelin, sitting with a “sophisticated Scots pixie in her fifties, wearing her white hair cropped short” (he doesn’t name her, but with that much information he might as well!), who talks about the rift between Mick and Keith and how everyone wants to be Charlie. The first part we get, but Charlie?!?! That guy with the bored look on his face? Why?! Davis quotes her as saying:

There’s an old saying among those who have known the Stones a long time. It’s that Mick wants to be Keith, and they all want to be Charlie. Why Charlie? Because he’s genuinely hip, he’s got innate good taste, and understands restraint. Charlie kept his family together, and he never got off on the star trip that the rest of them did. He’s just Charlie Watts, and when the job’s over, he goes home and feeds his horses.

The feeling, for people who know the Stones, seems to be universal, as we’ll see later on.

With that context, we go to July 1962 for some more Zeitgeist, some hip descriptions of the day, of the young gods walking the hot and newly-formed earth of our modern cultural era, mixing in 1963 with the likes of a very young John Lennon, also launching on his own star trip (we see how these old friends come together in a scene in the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus), and then Davis launches back into the Mississippi Delta in 1941, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf (Robert Lomax makes an appearance too, as do the Chess brothers that will intersect with the stones through Marshall Chess of the family’s second generation), and all the other cats who were coming together twenty years previous, laying the foundations of what the Stones would catapult to the world, especially with their best albums. Chuck Berry, Adolf Hitler, the Cold War, Alexis Cormer, they all are central to the formation of the Rolling Stones in their own ways, but nothing more so than the day Cormer gave a young kid called Brian Jones a chance for a spot on his stage. Jones, under the moniker Elmo Lewis (after his hero Elmore James), dazzled people like Mick and Keith with his onstage (and, as we later find out, offstage as well) badass-edness.

And so, with the quote “Yes, I will be famous; no, I won’t make thirty” (did he ever really utter it?), Davis launches into the story of the man who was at once an über-Stone and also the one who was doomed to let others tell his story. Do we need to care about Jones, given that he doesn’t even play on the Stones’ best albums and never wrote a song for the band that came to be known for its fine songwriting? Bill Wyman would think so, even if Keith Richards doesn’t (see their autobiographies, reviewed below, if you don’t believe me), but it can hardly be denied that the man’s star shone brightly at the start. But if he had talent and attitude, he lacked leadership, and the insistence that he be paid more and put up in better hotels than the rest of the band was the seed of his downfall since he never had what it took to fire members as they got uppity – the fall came when the guys he brought into the band (ie Mick and Keith) wrested control of him. But in no uncertain terms did Mick and Keith always have the upper hand – when they met him as young punks, they held him in awe for being on a stage in a club, and for having already fathered two children by separate women (how punk is that, man?).

Davis spends a fair amount of time describing the various strands that came together to form the band, including the coming-together of Kormer’s Blues Incorporated, which included Charlie Watts, Long Lohn Baldry and Art Wood (brother of Ronnie), but soon also Brian Jones. Wyman reports that Jones was the first person in England to play bottle-neck guitar on one of these nights. Jagger and Richards were there with their friend Dick Taylor (who became a minor player on the scene in his own right through the Pretty Things). Eventually, Mick also gets up on a stage that from time time time has had on it as a singer Eric Burdon, Mandfred Mann and Eric Clapton, who sang “Roll Over Beethoven” before he even owned a guitar; the guys in Blues Incorporated apparently nicknamed Clapton “Plimsolls” because he looked down at his sneakers as he sang. As for Mick, the second time he jumped up he brought Keith with him.

Wow. It’s fascinating to me, this early scene, because Baldry – one of the first openly gay musicians – spent the last years of his life playing nightly in Toronto as I was growing up. Why did I never make it out to see the man, who brought a piece of Stones history to my own town so many thousands of miles away? But these things weren’t important to me then.

There’s a cool quote from David Bowie: “In Britain there was alwas this joke that you went to art school to learn to play blues guitar.” This was the case with Keith Richards as well, and Davis explains that “The first song Keith learned to play in art school was “Cocaine Blues” (Keith didn’t know what cocaine was).” Brian though that Jagger had the right voice for his band, he took Keith in begrudgingly. Davis, on page 29, describes the band’s first gig, with Mick, Keith and Brian, Ian Stewart on piano, Dick Taylor on bass, and someone else on drums… Mick Avory? But that’s okay, Charlie Watts – who everyone wanted on drums, but nobody could afford – was in the audience as a spectator.

Amazing things happened when the band started to get interest from professional music business people. Eric Easton signed them to a three-year management contract: “Easton said he wanted Jagger out of the band because he couldn’t sing; Brian seemed amenable, but Andrew (Loog Oldham) insisted that Jagger stay.” Trying to emulate the success of the Hollies, they actually got Keith and Bill to sing backup!! The band got an endorsement deal from Vox, and the band played a debutante party for the daughter of Lord and Ladhy Killerman (great name!). Mick and Keith wrote the drab and poppy “My Only Girl“, an early version of the hit “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday” sung by Gene Pitney (here’s the Stones’ own version of “That Girl Belongs To Yesterday“). Tales of Keith being told at gunpoint by a cop to pour his drink down the toilet, sparking a life-long interest in serious weapons, fascinate in their repetition. The book mentions an infamous set the band played at the Kurhaus, an elegant 19th-century opera house at the Hague. The audience ripped up the place. There’s a document in Dutch about the event (Stones archival documentary footage can be seen from 8:10 – great footage here of “Used To Love Her”). The Stones started recording with Jack NItzsche, Davis noting that “Nitzsche basically joined the Rollin Stones as their indispensible arranger, playing on and helping produce almost all the records they would make in California over the next four years.” Jimmy Page had played on an earlier version of “Heart of Stone”. The band had 17-hour recording sessions. Nitzsche noted:

They were the first rock and roll band I met that were actually intelligent. They could all talk. They were really bright. We couldn’t believe it. The Stones were also the first ones I ever saw say ‘fuck you’ to everybody. There was no guidance at all on those records and very little need for it… They changed my whole ida of recording. I’d just been doing sessions, three hours to get a tune down. This was the first time [I saw] a band got together and just played. That was the first really free feeling I had in the studio.

Great description of the Stones gong to see James Brown at the Apollo Theater on 125th Street, where they were the only white faces in the audience. Brown noted that even black women were shocked at their “long” hair. Brian was taken in by Andy Warhol’s entourage, describing his “china-cat smile of evil assurance.”

Part 3, “No Satisfaction”, starts off with a pretty good description of 1965, which Davis calls “Year zero for rock”. The deep and lasting understanding of that era that the book gives me is of how incredibly new rock and roll was at the time, and “year zero” is not a term applied loosely. It was causing a youthquake and many opposed it. People were doing certain unholy things for the first time, and there were riots wherever the Stones went, with fans trying their best to claw them to death in frantic baccanalian trances – our young nearly shared their fate with that of Orpheus, another famous musician (the proto-rockstar). It very nearly happened to each and every one of the Stones. And that was just the fans – then it was the press, the magistrates, gangsters and all sorts of powerful forces (including the Hells Angels, real Satanists like Kenneth Anger, and others).

They had been working nonstop now for fifteen months. They were regarded by other rockers as the best live band in the world. Their concerts were interactive lust fiestas with a backbeat, and no one who saw the Stones play live in those times ever forgot it.”

Wow… “interactive love fiestas”. Sounds like fun.

During this period, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sat knee-to-knee in hotel rooms and tour buses, writing songs. “It’s the best place to write,” Mick said, “because you’re totally into it. You get back from a show, have something to eat, a few beers, and just go into your room and write. I used to write about twelve songs in two weeks on tour. It gives you lots of ideas.”

Wow… twelve songs in two weeks. And that’s not just any songs – that’s Jagger-Richards songs!! Sounds like they were good schoolboys in those days, really dedicated to their art. How times have changed… but that’s another story for later. Davis describes the band’s first meeting at a party in Paris with the evil Donald Cammell, the party’s host, who Keith rails at so heavily in his book. “Cammell was brilliant and attractive, with wide social connections and esoteric knowledge of the occult and the farout. The party was chic and bohemian, and the uncouth Stones were the least cool of Cammell’s guests.” Mind blowing. There’s the case, in May 1965, when Brian Jones raped and beat up a groupie, who threatened to go to the cops. Disgusted, the band dispatched a roadie to beat him up, breaking a few of his ribs in the process. The book does a good job of describing the twisted sociopath Jones as someone both wronged and regularly in the wrong – a list of point/counter-point that, if explored to its full, would fill a book of its own. He may have died at 27, inaugurating the 27 Club, but Jones certainly lived a fantastic and active life. Davis even speculates that Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde was named after Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg, who visited him in New York as he was preparing to record that album. “The title may have come form his impression of the two dazzling European kids who liked to beat each other up and then parade around the clubs with their black eyes and bruises, a love supreme all black-and-blue.”

Davis just can’t hold back when it comes to those two:

Brian and Anita were launched on one of the great sadomasochistic love affairs of the century. Brian’s new pad was a silken carnival of sex and LSD, with Brian’s house guests spreading lurid tales of the two “enchanted siblings” (Terry Southern) beating each other with whips in cross-dressing furies of love. In the clubs they frequented, Brian would punch Anita in the face at the slightest provocation. The beautiful blond woman took it with a smile and displayed her bruises with seeming pride. Some of her friends were appalled, but Anita told them she had never known such love for a man.

Keith was mesmerized by Anita because she scared him silly. “She knew everything and could say it in five languages,” he told Stanley Booth.

These people were nuts!

And then there was Marianne Faithfull. “Marijuana’s perfectly safe, you know,” Davis quotes her saying on national television! “It’s an old scene, man. And drugs really are the doors of perception. Something like LSD – it’s as important as Christianity. More important… I’d like to see the whole structure of society collapse. Wouldn’t it be lovely? We’re taking orders from a bunch of dead men. It’s insane. I mean, how much longer can it go on?” The press took to calling her Marijuana Faithfull as the system took its revenge on Faithfull, busting in on the Stones when she was naked at the big Redhill bust; while she wasn’t named, the Mars bar rumours went around and she might as well have been named. But, true to her word, she spent the Seventies in the gutter (for the most part voluntarily, it seems), so she walked the talk.

Davis quotes Peter Swales’ description of the band’s working dynamic around 1969:

“(Mick Jagger) really knew how to consult; he’d listen and consider any opinion, especially Charlie’s. Charlie could kill one of Mick’s pie-in-the-sky plans with a few words. He was very savvy, a very dry and lovely bloke. Mick handled Keith differently. Keith didn’t have much to say these weren’t his best years – but what he did say had major weight. They’d hammer things out together and could be very ruthless with others. I’d see them break people down, and it was scary. But you never saw them go at each other.”

Davis has a long description of what went down at Altamont which, like Stanley Booth’s book, cribs heavily from the Maysles Brothers’ footage, which was edited for the film Gimme Shelter. He describes the aftermath:

Keith was furious at the Hell’s Angels for wrecking the day. Emeretta [Marks] was doing her best to console him. Mick was trying to get Miss Pamela and Michelle Phillips down to his room for a threesome. Gram [Parsons] was bumming because he thought Michelle, radiant ex-Mama, was with him. Keith cheered him up by giving him a demo tape of “Wild Horses,” only days old. There was powder going up noses, serious gloom and doom. Mick thought he’d been shot at, and talked about quitting while he was alive. He told them he blamed himself, that it shouldn’t have happened. “I’d rather have had the cops,” he sulked. For years, the Rolling Stones had seen weird scenes in front of their eyes, but this was the first time one of their concerts had featured a human sacrifice.

Heavy, man, heavy. Then there are the weird stories of Truman Capote backstage, with Princess Lee Radziwill (called “Princess Radish” by Keith Richards), who was the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy (weird crowd these Stones moved with in those days; makes me wonder who’s in their ‘crowd’ nowadays when/if they tour):

She and Capote gave the Stones an uneasy sheen of celebrity beyond the world of rock music, which annoyed other bands like Led Zeppelin, who were touring at the same time and found themselves ignored, even though they were outselling the Stones in every city. It was the beginning of the nexus of teh Rolling Stones and Big Gossip, items that got them mainstream daily publicity instead of mere ink in the rock press.

With this new celebrity entourage milling in the dressing room, the Stones played badly in Kansas City. It was the worst show of the tour, which the princess then left in a huff when told she couldn’t fly with the Stones on their plane.

The author also offers a great quote from Keith that gives a view on his relationship with Jagger:

UP to [1972] Mick and I were inseparable. We made every decision for the group. We loved to get together and kick things around. But after we split up, I started going my way – downhill to Dopesville – and Mick ascended to Jet Land… Mick and I have different attitudes, and during the seventies I was living in a different world from him. I don’t blame him; he’s earned the right to do what he wanted. And even if I could’ve related to it, I was too busy being busted, which is equally dumb. But it got up my nose, his jet set shit, and the flaunting of it. But then he’s a lonely guy too. He’s got his own problems.

By 1976 a lot had changed:

“[Earl's Court] is the worst toilet I’ve played in,” Mick was quoted, ” and I’ve seen toilets.” Even the usually sharp Meters sounded terrible. Sleepless for five days, ill from heroin, out on bail again, Keith was unable to conjure up his requisite Evil and played like a zombie. Mick yelled at the band – “No mistakes this time!” – as he moved to his keyboard for “Fool To Cry”. The Stones got the worst reviews of their career. Their act was called a sham, and “a charade inflated into a carnival.” (Martin Amis on Mick Jagger: “This well-put-together, vitamin-packed unit of a human being does not really dance any more; it’s simply that his head his shoulders, his pelvis, both his arms, both his legs, both his huge feet and both his buttocks are wiggling, at great speed, independently, all the time… Mick is, without doubt, one of our least sedentary millionaires.”) Mick’s friend Princess Margaret, sister of the queen, popped backstage one night, further wrecking the band’s street cred.

I love quotes like that one.

Like all books about the Stones, Davis gets into the love lives of the Stones, and finally launches into a big piece on Mick, somewhere in the mid-Seventies. Married to Bianca, Mick had affairs with famous model, groupie and Playboy playmate Bebe Buell (mother of Liv Tyler with Steven Tyler, lover of Todd Rundgren and Iggy Pop, viz Please Kill Me, I’m With The Band, etc). “I think that Mick loved Bianca much more than he ever admitted to anyone.” Buell mentions once being invited to an orgy with four black men on Long Island (ha ha) by Mick and David Bowie. Crazy, man, crazy.

Like a lot of people who write, Davis mixes up “subconsciously” and “unconsciously”: “‘Start Me Up’ almost got on the album as a reggae song, but was left off because Keith worried that he’d unconsciously copied the main riff from something he’d heard on the radio.” How do you unconsciously do anything other than lie supine? But, then again, this is Keith we’re talking about. He does it again later on: “It turned out Mick had unconsciously appropriated the melody to kd lang’s ‘Constant Craving.’” Grrrr!!!

Davis also gives in to the temptation of providing a long slag on the Stones by John Lennon:

They’re still congratulating the Stones for being together 112 years. Whoopee! At least Charlie’s still got his family. In the Eighties they’ll be asking, “Why are these guys still together? Can’t they hack it on their own? Why do they have to be surrounded with a gang? Is the little leader frightened someone’s gonna knife him in the back?”… They’ll be showing pictures of the guy with lipstick wriggling his ass and the four guys with the evil black make-up trying to look raunchy, that’s gonna be the joke in the future. Being in a gang is great when you’re a certain age. But when you’re in your forties and you’re still in one, it just means you’re still 18 in the head.

“In the Eighties” he says… sad – on many levels.

Around that time, when Emotional Rescue was just released (and when Lennon was nearer assassination), a heavily inebriated Richards would “often put a framed photo of Charlie Watts in front of hi interrogators, explaining that Charlie was the Rolling Stones.” Watts is praised for driving the Stones like a Porsche, and on some tours receiving the longest ovation of the night when the musicians were introduced (at the L’Olympia in Paris on the Voodoo Lounge tour the chanting for Charlie lasted five minutes). During the Steel Wheels sessions he was apparently so miffed at Keith for working with a different drummer for his solo albums that he wore Keith ragged by not letting up through brutal 15-hour sessions.

There’s a great anecdote about the time that Prince opened for the band, definitely not the right choice for the tour. Another time they played with Bob Dylan, who messed with Woody and Richards by changing the set list (how could it not be planned and intentional) at the last minute to a dozen of his more obscure numbers.

The set was ramshackle and inaudible, with Keith and Ron cringing in smiling embarassment as they tried to keep up with an improvising Dylan. “We came off looking like real idiiots,” Wood said, “but I’d do it again for Bob.” Keith said it was a privilege to work with Bob. “I’ll play with that asshole anytime.”

By the time Voodoo Lounge rolls around, the band are part of a merchandising blitz, but the tour only begins to warm up after a few months.

An Olympian thunderstorm at Giants Stadium in New Jersey on August 14th drenched the band and provoked the best show of the year. Mick licked the raindrops off the tops of Lisa Fischer’s heaving breasts. “God joins the band whenever we play outdoors,” Keith said soon after this. “Suddenly there’s this other guy in the band, and he shows up in the form of wind and rain. And we’ve got to be ready to play with him.”

The band played the songs that made it onto Stripped. Davis calls their version of Gimme Shelter the best live recording of their careers. Yes, it is good, and Lisa Fischer does smoke!

The book – it’s a real tour de force. Read it!

Davis mentions some interesting songs that don’t appear on any albums, including “Con le mie lacrime” (an Italian version of “As Tears Go By”), “Sad Day“, “Looking Tired“, “If You Let Me“, “Gold Painted Nails“, “Memo from Turner“, “cialis england 20mg“, “I’m A Country Boy”, “Silver Blanket”, “Hamburger to Go”, “Lady”, ” Family”, “tadalafil generique 5mg“, “You Should Have Seen Her Ass“, “Four And In”, “Tops”, “Leather Jacket” (Mick Taylor has a song of the same name on his solo album), “Potted Shrimp“, “Through The Lonely Nights” (with Jimmy Page), “Criss Cross Man“, “Wish I’d Never Met You“, “Misty Roads“,

The book also reminds of the wild “Jumping Jack Flash” music video, one of the first ever, which came not in one version but in a second version as well.



According To The Rolling Stones, by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood – An awesome book of band interviews that came out in 2003, around the time of the Forty Licks greatest hits collection and tour commemorating the band’s 40th anniversary (of course, now ten years have passed, and it’s time for Fifty Licks… as if we’ll fall for that again!).

The pictures are stunning and from all over the place, following the band’s entire career. There are many pictures I’ve never seen before, including a pic of Mick Taylor’s afro. There’s a funky pic of Bill Wyman in the studio posing with a cool Framus bass and a set of Sunn amps, and a pic of Brian Jones making a “nanker” face, after which the Nanker Phelge songwriting credit is named for 14 songs recorded between 1965 and 1969. Pics from Nelcote, pics from the Beggars Banquet custard pie-throwing launch party, pics in the touring jet, and even pics of Andrew Loog Oldham with members of the Stones (which I’ve noticed tend to be in short supply in collections of Stones pics, as if few were ever taken, or maybe were blacklisted due to sour relations). A rare pic of a bearded Charlie (Mick’s infamous Grizzly Adams beard, however, is not to be seen in this collection). Nice pics of band members with Andy Warhol, George Harrison, John Belushi, Billy Preston, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, and Howlin’ Wolf. The Stones at the El Mo!! I adore the pic on P206 of Keith and Prince Rupert Loewenstein looking at each other in stagey surprise/horror, drinks in hand! Great camp!! There’s one picture of Marianne Faithfull (from the 1980s, talking to Keith backstage!) and one of Anita Pallenberg with Keith and the kids. Great recent family pictures, including one of Mick and Jerry Hall with their four kids, taken despite the end of their common-law marriage in 1999 (Bianca Jagger only shows up in one blurry pic). Latter-day bassist Darryl Jones shows up at times too.

But the pics are just the side show, the real action is in the interviews with the band themselves, in 12 chapters, each with their own themes. In between there are essays by “Stones insiders” Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, Crawdaddy Club founder Giorgio Gomelsky, photographer David Bailey, York Univesity music professor Rob Bowman, artists (and Redlands drug bust survivor) Christopher Gibbs, Rolling Stones Records president Marshall Chess, banker and financial advisor Prince Rupert, J Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf, rock journalist Edna Gundersen, producer Don Was, musician Sheryl Crow, and crime fiction writer/journalist/columnist Carl Hiaasen and stage lyricist Tim Rice. Ahmet Ertagun’s write-up is classic, he tells stories of signing the Stones, of taking Brayshnikov (“There are only two people who could dance the way you danced tonight. That’s you and me!”) to see the band; Ertagun, a gentleman, makes sure not to forget Bill Wyman.
Marshall Chess tells the story (among others) of how John Pashe came up with the iconic stones tongue logo. Carl Hiassen’s article, on liking the Stones when nobody else did, is cool. At the back there’s a great “Who’s Who” of the Stones, a brief chronology and a funky discography (with a photo collage of album covers, some of which I’ve not seen before, such as Sucking In The Seventies).

The Stones tell their stories throughout the pages, in roughly alphabetical order. I think that they were interviewed separate from each other, and the interviews stitched together. Parts are repeated throughout, and there are a fair amount of typos. But the stories are great, and Mick, Keith, Charie and Ronnie are such a depth of knowledge! They go through the early history, talking about being in bands with Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, who used to have a young Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker playing for them (wow!). They tell the story of how Charlie met Shirley, Jimmy Reed and the art of guitar weaving, and how Art Wood (brother of Ron Wood) drifted into the Stones’ orbit for a while (amazingly, it’s all in the family – Pete Townsend, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page, all old buddies from the day, who influenced each other all the time). “The Beach Boys never would have made it in Boston”. Mentions Marianne Faithfull as an “ex-nun” with big bazongas. First song was “It Should Be You”. Recorded many country and western songs that they never released. Jimmy Page among those who played with the band when they were auditioning new guitarists to replace Mick Taylor (who doesn’t know any Max Miller jokes). Some nice descriptions of the Toronto gig and bust in March 1977. Keith was sentenced to do a charity concert for the blind, “why not for the deaf?” Describing the weirdness of working with sequencers during “Undercover.” Great quote from Keith:

Musically, I’ve never laid down a lie. I’ll lie to everyone else – especially judges! – but I won’t lie to my audience.

Great quote from Charlie (bout Mick):

Eighteen wives and twenty children and he’s been knighted – fantastic!

“Thru and Thru” and “the X-Pensive winos’ “Make No Mistake” were on the Sopranos soundrack.



STP: A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones, by Robert Greenfield – Greenfield also wrote a book about the Stones’ Exile on Main Street sessions, a flawed tome about a fascinating moment in rock ‘n’ roll history (perhaps the most fascinating). And while that book has been derided and mocked somewhat, I somehow learned more about the Stones in it than I did in this book, which I had high hopes for but which ultimately disappointed me with its shapelessness and its many, many “who cares moments”.

The book hardly features the Stones, going more into the setup of touring, the mechanics of it, the madness, the insanity, the transportation, the scoring, some of the parties, and a bit of the sex and drugs that surround rock ‘n’ roll (claims that there is sex on every other page are greatly exaggerated). They toured for two whole months, which was twice as long as the previous tour, and computer-lottery selected tickets cost a whopping $6.50! In this way, it’s a bit like some sort of nutty rock ‘n’ roll staging Apocalypse Now, complete with its very own new journalism McGuffin. There are a few incidents recounted, such as a scuffle with a photographer and an arrest in Rhode Island. There’s the opening of the tour in Vancouver, the dates in San Francisco and hanging out with Bill Graham (who Greenfield has also written a biography of), there’s encounters with kids queuing up to buy tickets and girls like Cynthia and Jo-Ann, who are hitch hiking between shows; there’s the boredom and insanity of being in the middle of nowhere and there’s groupies like Renee being set up for the risque parts of Cocksucker Blues (the film that Robert Frank is making during the tour, and he gets as much screen time as any of the other principals). Scenes in LA with Wolfman Jack, whose voice coming out of the dashboard gives the same feeling as seeing an old lover (“Hell, most people in LA spend more time in their cars than they do with their lovers, new or old.”). Greenfield quotes Charles Bukowski, on Mick Jagger, in the LA Free Press:

He tried. And he was wonderful. He spilled more blood on that floor than a five thousand-man army but he didn’t make it. He’d been tricked into acceptance… He was tired. He was too much money in. He was too famous. He sucked at the crowd He tried to remember how it was when he first worked it. How it was when he was really and purely real…

Nice. He also reproduces a groupie’s come-on message to Jagger:

Can you move your prick
As well as you kick
When you dance, Mick?

I know that you can
That’s why I’m a fan
You beautiful nasty young man

The way that you dance
Makes me just want a chance
To get at what’s under your pants

I’m a honky-tonk chick
But I do know one trick
They call it the butterfly kick

I’d lick and I’d suck
If you wanted, we’d fuck
But, alas, I haven’t such luck

Do you tink this is crude?
Well, I’m really a prude
I’m just in a Jaggeresque mood…

The book mistakenly notes that Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham had forced Bill Wyman to change his name from Bill Perks, I remember him saying in his autobiography that he’d done this on his own even before he joined the Rolling Stones. Nice interviews with Charlie Watts. Not much about Mick Taylor, who is still a mystery man. Printing goof-up on P137. Write-ups on drug culture in 1972.

[Quaaludes] are great for falling down, fucking people you might not otherwise speak to, and forgetting your name. WIthout stretching a point, or overlooking a drug, one could even say that Quaalude is the drug of the year for 1972, much as 1967 was a good year for acid, and 1969 an excellent one for developing a discreet coke habit.

Transporting the Stones to parties, moving from city to city, getting stuck in traffic, all the mundanities of being on tour. Great description of life at the Playboy Mansion in Chicago, including a reproduction of memos to the bunnies. Funny Truman Capote anecdotes (“They’re complete idiots… Intuition tells me they’ll never tour this country again, and in fact will not exist in three years.”), since he was there as a writer (although he decided later not to write the story he was preparing), Terry Southern also. Nice anecdotes with Bobby Keys (“he makes every stereotype about musicians on the road true”) about his days working with Buddy Holly, Bobby Vee, and Delaney and Bonnie. Greenfield describes a cool Keys anecdote of his days on the road with Vee, rehearsing in Moorhead, Minnesota:

This kid came in, asking for a gig as a piano player. He said his name was Eldon Gunn and he liked playing Hank Williams’ stuff. Everyone in the wand was into wide silk ties, high collar shirts, and Aqua-Net to keep their James Dean hairdos in place, and the kid just didn’t fit. So they told him to go home and practice some more and come back when your act’s together, and instead he went to New York and became a folksinger by the name of Bob Dylan.

Greenfield gets into Nicky Hopkins a bit, talking about how he played with Quicksilver Messenger Service, some great gig at the Winterland, and then describing him in full:

Hopkins is an arrow-thin young man. All the thin adjectives ever invented apply to him. He has what was once the proscribed British rock star hairstyle that has now grown overlong. An Addams-family face peeks out from among floppy hanks of black hair and thick Edwardian sideburns. God, is he thin. This isn’t a Jewish or Italian mother in America who wouldn’t be thrilled to the soles of her Stride-Rite shoes to sit him down at a table and stuff him full of food, especially because he has these great sorrel eyes that transform what could be a ghoulish face into something kind.

Weird anecdotes, like the one about Mick Taylor, who read so “avariciously” that the only way to draw him into conversation would be to start talking about Henry James or Joseph Conrad! Seems that William S Burroughs and Brion Gysin are trying to get Mick to write music for a film version of Naked Lunch!! “Somehow the Stones relate to it easily, as though it were only proper that they be consulted for the soundtrack for the best in anarchy their generation has produced.” The book recounts some of the weird things that Truman Capote, who was commissioned to write about the tour but never actually published a word, had to say about the boys in the band:

“They’re complete idiots. Mick Taylor is pretty, a little Jean Harlow blond-type, but dumb, and totally uninteresting. What I like is something beyond my imagination that [pop! snap of his fingers] sets me off. A vision. Nothing on tour was even remotely like tha, and I had no insight into any of it that any other half-sensitive person who was along would have had.”

As a matter of fact, Capote hardly has a good word for anyone associated with the thing. Nicky Hopkins he finds “has the mark of death upon him. Not interesting but obviously a very sick boy.” Jim Price is “that little blond boy from Texas, a nothing.” Bobby Keys is “either better or worse than the Stones; I can’t tell which, but certainly totally undisciplined and headed for disaster.

“Intuition tells me they’ll never tour this country again and in fact will not exist in three years. They are evanescent people who are not important. There’s no correlation at all between Jagger and a Sinatra…”

Of course, none of what he predicted became true, and Hopkins outlived him by a decade. There are also tales of rock ‘n’ roll terrorism as the band gets their equipment dynamited in Montreal (four times!), and Jagger is terrified of being assassinated, either by Hell’s Angels still brimming over the Stones’ betrayal at Altamont or by Manson Family crazies. What a life, man, what a life, and the Stones have been doing this fifty years this year!!!

Funnily enough, Greenfield wrote a new intro for the book in 2002 where he says cheekily:

In terms of my relationship with the Stones themselves, it is to their great credit that I never heard a single discouraging word from them about the book. Not that I spent much time hanging out with them once the tour was over. After the book was done, I had no more business with them, nor they with me. Quite possibly, this is one of the reasons I am still around to write this introduction.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from publishing a new book about the Stones in 2014! Even cheekier!!



The Rolling Stones Unseen Archives, by Susan Hill [ed] – A big book of pictures from the archives of the Daily Mail that starts off with a 37-page history of the band (with pictures), followed by 320 pages of photos of the band, some of them double-page spreads but more typically 2-3 pictures across a spread, in five-year bites form 1964 (the year the media latched onto the band) to 2002, just as they were launching their Bridges To Babylon album and tour.

Since the pictures come from the archives of a UK newspaper, they tend to be paparazzi works, taken either outside courthouses (and the Stones have had many courtroom appearances) or in airports, and mainly in the UK. There are also a bunch of pics taken at UK concerts, and just a few from large US dates. Having all of these pictures in one place is interesting because you get to see the boys’ hair getting longer, you can assess the evolution of their fashion sense (as well as the re-use of certain pieces of clothing, such as Mick’s funky purple velvet pants, and an oft-reused courtroom necktie), and take in the parade of wives and girlfriends (plus the introductions of both Mick Taylor and Ron Woods as the bands’ successive new lead guitarists). There are a great many pictures of Bill Wyman, assumedly the easiest Stone to photograph as he would be less camera-dodging than Mick and Keith (especially when he’s promoting his book, Stone Alone later on in his career). The pictures come with captions, some of which are not so great – one mixes Mick Taylor up with Keith Richards (quel horreur!), and another doesn’t recognise Bobby Keys, an important Stones sideman. But to make up for it there are great pics of Mick’s leather outfit from 1973 and cool shots of him jumping and pirouetting. Goofy shot of Bill farming, and some unflattering pics as well. Some write-ups are excessively euphemistic, given what we know about the band, such as the one about Anita Pallenberg’s boyfriend blowing his brains out. Condescending comments like “Mick on stage in Philadephia – not in bad shape for a thirty-eight year-old” during the Tattoo You tour are a bit funny, considering that he was 64 on the Bigger Bang tour. Nice shot of Mick playing a Gibson SG.

All together a pretty cool book.



Life, by Keith Richards – I thought I’d like this more than I did. The great Stone writes his life story, with the first 300 pages describing Keith’s pre-heroin days, when he was growing up, becoming a choirboy, his introduction to guitar through grandfather Ernie, then growing disillusioned with the system and rebelling in art school and in music. He meets the Stones, first Mick Jagger, then Ian Stewart, then Brian Jones and the others. Many pages dwell on the type of music the band was listening to, a bit of bohemian poverty and then the early fame that they had and the madness that it brought with it, which included being nearly strangled and murdered by fans, and a wave of screaming from the ladies in the audience as Stones mania rivalled Beatlemania (the Stones, after all, were signed quickly by Decca executives still living down their decision to not sign the Beatles).

Around page 300, Richards well and truly discovers heroin and the book goes into his drug use, as well as the escalating insanity of drug busts, interaction with Brian Jones, the birth-and-life-and-death of his relationship with Anita Pallenberg. There’s rehabilitation and lots of cold turkey, and there’s the death of people close to him such as Brian Jones, Gram Parsons, and his own young son Tara. There’s also more about his life in Jamaica, where he fell in love with the local music scene, meeting Patti Hanson and re-starting his family with her, and the time in the 1980s when Mick Jagger’s solo albums nearly broke up the Stones (and then there’s a bit about Richards’ own solo albums). Oh yeah, there are also plenty of descriptions of street fighting and guns, of which there never seems to be a lack of in Richards’ life, the old pirate.

As a book, it is told in a weird Keith-voice that is at once wise and rambling. Given that a true re-telling of everything Keith has lived through could easily fill 20 Lifes, there is going to be plenty that is left out, but I do feel that the book deals very little with his band-mates, with perhaps the exception of Charlie Watts and Ronnie Woods, who we can assume he’s still very close to. Bill Wyman is hardly mentioned, and Brian Jones is also mentioned little, generally in disparagement (over his loss in interest in the Stones, his wastedness, and his treatment of Anita Pallenberg). Mick Jagger is mentioned somewhat, but probably not enough, and Mick Taylor isn’t mentioned much either. Ian Stewart and saxophonist Bobby Keys (who was born on the same day in 1943, but on different continents) are in the book plenty. He does describe quite thoroughly his various busts and his relationship with the law, even going into the support he got from the White House in the aftermath of the 1977 heroin bust in Toronto, as well as some help from the Pineapple King of Hawaii during one customs incident there. The Exile on Main Street sessions are described relatively well, at least, probably because of the unique way that it was recorded in the house that Keith rented in the south of France, plus the fact that it was their first written in tax exile (and also widely considered their best album). The recording of most other albums is mentioned in an almost cursory way. Being Keith, he doesn’t go about telling his story in a very straight forward way either, and often lets others tell the story – Marlon, Bobby, Jimmy – quoting long anecdotes from others, or reproducing from books that others have written.

Another area that’s treated in greater fullness is Richards’ apprenticeship to music, covering his first music lessons with his grandfather, getting into Richards’ discovery of American blues, to his adventures in black nightclubs in the US south on their first tour there, to his discovery of alternate tunings, five-string guitars, and the messianic vibes of Jamaica. While Richards has probably collaborated with too many great musicians to mention, he does write a bit about his work with Chuck Berry.

The book also has two sections of photos, showing the Stones more regularly than they appear in writing, plus also great pics of Keith in the sixties and seventies, as well as pics of Keith and Paul McCartney, with Tom Waits, and with Johnny Depp on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean 3, and assorted family pictures. The book also has an excellent index.



Up and Down with the Rolling Stones, by Spanish Tony (Tony Sanchez) – Any book about the Rolling Stones in the 1970s, such as Robert Greenfield’s book on Exile on Main St, will mention Spanish Tony (he’s also named in the toilet graffiti on the cover of Beggar’s Banquet). Tony Sanchez knew the Rolling Stones in swinging London in the 1960s, meeting first Brian Jones, and then the rest of the band, their hanger-ons and girlfriends, various other rock stars like John Lennon (who used to badger him for drugs) and Eric Clapton. Sanchez is often described as the Stones’ favourite drug dealer, although Sanchez never admits to dealing drugs, preferring to describe himself as someone who used to help the Stones get their drugs (while eventually also becoming a junkie himself). The book was likely ghost written by someone else, as it seems unlikely that Tony himself would have had the skill to turn some of the better phrases and descriptive passages of the book himself or socio-political commentaries. First published in 1979, but updated to include Ron Wood’s wedding in 1985 and Bill Wyman’s marriage and divorce in 1989 and 1993 respectively, the book has a lot of overlap with Bill Wyman’s Stone Alone, published in 1991. Some reports say that Sanchez died in 2000.

The book contains very little information about Sanchez’s background, other than that he really was Spanish, and that he had cousins and other family members involved in organised crime. He also only appears in two of the many photos in the book. He also, apparently, ran the Rolling Stones’ night club Vesuvio for a time, before becoming Keith’s hired man. Otherwise, the whole book is about the Rolling Stones. Not so many real revelations here, other than some description of the bands’ dabbling in the occult and black magic, with Anita Pallenberg especially becoming involved in curses. Sanchez claims that she once mopped up the blood of a man who was dying after being hit by a car, using the rag with the dried blood to curse others, the blood of a man dying of violence having powerful magical qualities. He also tells strange tales of Kenneth Anger, who hung out with the band at one point, teleporting in and out of their meetings (he also tells weird tales of Aleister Crowley’s life, including his battle for control of a magical society from head warlock Samuel Mathers). According to Sanchez, the phrase “Get Yer Ya-Yas Out”, the title of the Stones’ live album of 1969, “is based on a phrase which recurs regularly in African Voodoo”.

Then there is the rise and fall of so many strange relationships (both Anita and Marianne Faithfull sleeping with at least three of the Stones – Brian, Keith and Mick… surely they would have slept with Bill too, though, right?), a few weddings, great bits about the power of Bianca Jagger, Brian’s wooing of Jerry Hall away from Bryan Ferry and their eventual Hindu wedding in Bali. He also talks about Brian Jones’ secret passion for buses, with an encyclopedic knowledge of bus models, sometimes sneaking out to go bus spotting, even going so far as to buy full buses for his collection! Sanchez writes a bit about Mick Taylor, although he derides him as having “about as much character as Bill Wyman (and you can’t have much less than that)”, putting down both Stones in one shot. Incidents that are in Greenfield’s book on Exile on Main St and in Keith’s book Life are also mentioned, in slightly different forms. Greenfield has open contempt for Sanchez in his book, but Sanchez only mentions Greenfield neutrally. Sanchez describes Keith and Anita as regularly turning people on to cocaine, and the linked drug heroin (when cocaine brings you up too high, you need heroin to bring you back to sanity), adding to the pile of 1970s junkies.

The interesting parts of the book are where Sanchez talks about the state of mind of the Stones, dealing with their increasing fame and power, and also how their lives became a combination of severe persecution by legal authorities and immunity to the law. One example Sanchez gives is that of Keith Richards on one US tour being supplied by the sponsors with a steady supply of pure pharmaceutical heroin so that he wouldn’t need to chase it from outside parties, any one of which could be sent from a US authority intent on busting the band. In other busts the band “got lucky” and police didn’t prosecute, nor did they get thorough searches any more in the 1970s. Sanchez has great descriptions of the madness surrounding the 1967 drug trials, and offers one interesting quote from Mick Jagger:

In the year 2000, no one will be arrested for drugs and those sorts of things. It will be laughable, just like it would be laughable if people were still hanged for stealing sheep. These things have to be changed, but it takes maniacs obsessed with individual microcosmic issues to bring it about. I could be ever so obsessed about the drugs thing, and if I really worked hard at it, I might speed up the process of reform by perhaps ten years or five years or perhaps only six months. But I don’t feel that it’s important enough.

Well, obviously it was important enough to ramble on about. But it’s now well past the year 2000, and Jagger’s prediction hasn’t come to pass. Sanchez also says that Jagger was at one point nearly tempted to enter politics and run for a Labour party seat, but decided against it and remained a rock ‘n’ roll ringleader preaching entertainment and potty humour instead of revolution.

One area where Sanchez diverges from Wyman is in matters of money, and it seems that Mick and Keith and Bryan had millions at their disposal in the 1960s, while Wyman contended that management choked off any real money. But maybe it was different for Brian, Mick and Keith.

The book is still full of typos, despite having been published by many different publishers over the years. Early on, Sanchez calls Keith Richards “Richard” instead of Richards, then he talks about the “Rolling Stones roch and roll circus”. When recounting the death of Gram Parsons, he talks about the crazed fan, Philip Kafuran, who snatched Parsons’ body, although the fellow’s name was “Kaufman”. Weird.



How To Be Wild Like Keith Richards, by Jack Wilson – A slim picture book that cost me as much as the Keith Richards Autobiography Life did, this book is more a playful recounting of the history of the Rolling Stones, with a particular emphasis on Keith Richards, as well as a summary of the sordid antics of similarly-wild rockers, than it is a guide on how to emulate the wildness of Richards himself. The book is full of some pretty cool photos and carries plenty of boxed asides such as how to sell your soul for rock ‘n’ roll (don’t know how effective the method is, haven’t tried it out yet). The book is littered with quotes about Keith and from people like Neil Young, Lou Reed, David Lee Roth, Jon Bon Jovi, Bon Scott, Gene Simmons, Axl Rose, Nikki Sixx, Lemmy and Pete Townsend (and also, uh, Chad Kroeger of Nickelback and Dexter Holland of the Offspring). One chapter, inexplicably, describes the supposed connections between black magic and music, bringing in the Norwegian black metallers and their inclination for murder and embodying evil; the chapter is, of course, called “Sympathy for the Devil”. Another chapter, called “I fought the law and the law won” on the history of the band’s drug busts starts off with a quote from Keith himself: “I’ve never had problems with drugs; I’ve had problems with the police.” It also has a great quote from David Lee Roth in it: “We’ve all our our self-destructive bad habits; the trick is to find four or five you personally like the best and just do those all the time.” A chapter called “It’s only rock ‘n’ roll” is sort of about the band’s music, while “Walk on the wild side” chronicles the wild lives of other rockers: Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ted Nugent, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Bebe Buell, Ozzy Osbourne, Snoop Dogg and Keith Moon. Of course, Ozzy gets a very long entry, and so does Keith Moon (is it a coincidence that the two most decadent rockers are called Keith? Ozzy’s parents should have called him Keith as well…). A final chapter, “the twilight years”, kind of sums up the story while giving a few recent anecdotes… like falling out of a tree.


Stone Alone, by Bill Wyman – While rock autobiographies have become the flavour of the day recently (Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Keith Richards, Ace Frehley and Duff McKagan have all written theirs recently, with Neil Young reportedly ready to pen his own), this is probably the granddaddy of them all – it was published in 1991 and precedes most of them (Bob Dylan published his in 2004), plus it is absolutely exhaustive! Wyman is the perfect autobiographer, being notoriously sober as an individual (as opposed to any of the above) with his memory presumably fairly intact; he’s also a meticulous journal keeper and an archivist of press clippings, meaning that he is his own encyclopedic source of dates and data. Stone Alone rocks!

For the full review of Bill Wyman’s Stone Alone (which has too many embedded video clips to include on this page) go here.


Ronnie, by Ron Wood – Lots of Stones and Stones-linked people have come out with their own versions of what went down, and this is Ronnie Wood’s. He’s the musician who’s also a painter, though, plus he was in at least one other important band before he joined the Stones, so he has a bit of a different story to tell. Oh, and he’s also a water gypsy, of the second generation to live on land. Wow.

The book is full of photos, designed tastefully, and lots of art reproductions. The endleafs are illustrated nicely with a beautiful timeline; these are the only pages of Ron Wood’s art reproduced in colour, which is a shame.

The story starts off with the early days of UK poverty that we’ve grown to expect from our 60-something rockers penning autobiographies, the 1950s England had plenty of hungry young lads like our Stones, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and everyone else (Marianne Faithfull too), and Ron Wood was no different, except he had older brothers who were musicians; he is the only one who became a Face and a Stone, though, but it was older brother Art who hooked up with Alexis Korner, who seemed to bring everybody together in those days, like he did the Stones and others. Then Ron joined the Jeff Beck Group, then the Faces, then the Stones. He talks about getting married, twice, having kids, stealing married women like Patty Harrison (a bit of swapping between George and Eric – oh Patty!) and Margaret Trudeau (not in so many words).

Seems like Jeff Beck was the first one who really used effects and distortion, so Ron wanted to forma band with him. For one session, there was Ron on bass, Jeff Beck on guitar, Keith Moon on drums, and Jimmy Page on guitar (wow!). Mentions how he was auditioned by Peter Grant to be in the New Yardbirds, he met “the rude drummer John Bonham, who reminded me of a farmer, bassist John Paul Jones and the harmless enough Robert Plant”, but he refused the gig – happier to be in the Jeff Beck Group. What is and what shall never be. Talks about getting friends with Rod Stewart, meeting the Stones for the first time, forming the Faces from the ashes of the Small Faces, and adding in himself and Rod from the Jeff Beck Group. The Faces had a bar onstage – great idea. Touring was grueling. “We would be eccentrically creative in filling our time. Days off would be spent picking on each other, terrorizing anyone who had the guys to come into our room, and ornamental nude displays of women were commonplace. The ‘doctor’s surgery’ was open and hilariourly thriving. Pharmaceutical cocaine abounded as did the local grog and spliffs, which were daily bread to all except fofr Rod, who would only chew a little hash on a dare. Evenings were filled with terrorized explorations of great dexterity. Local night haunts would be ours.”

Wood is a good one for name-dropping, and he seems to know absolutely everybody. He was a roommate of Jimi Hendrix, who he says had low self confidence and hated the sound of his singing voice. Mentions how Keith Moon bought one of the 25-ton stages from the Rolling Stones’ Black And Blue tour and put it in his garden. He talks about hanging out with Muhammad Ali, how he learned magic tricks and illusions, as they “gave him a chance to hold people’s attention. This from the man who held the world’s attention in the palm of his hand for decades.” Wood talks about being friends with John Belushi, and how he knew the drug dealer Belushi spent his last night with, and how John had called the house looking for them that night… but they hadn’t been in. What is and what shall never be. Ron Wood in the film “9 And A Half Weeks” in the art gallery scene. Great scene of hanging out with Groucho Marx – even reproduces the gags like “You (Ron Wood) have the silliest haircut I’ve ever seen. What are you , an man or a chicken?” very accurately (although who will ever know – Groucho’s been dead since 1977). He mentions how Neil Young had helped him come up with the name The New Barbarians for one of his side projects. Hanging out with Bob Dylan, who played on several of Ron Wood’s solo albums. Wood takes another moment to diss Peter Grant:

(Bob Dylan) and I spoke for five minutes or so, until Peter Grant came up to us and announced, “Hi, I manage Led Zeppelin.”
Bob looked at him and shot back, ‘Hey, I don’t come toy ou with my problems.’

There’s a great anecdote about one of the talents that they discovered:

Living and breathing music 24 hours a day is a trait shared by most graet musicians, and early on Charlie spotted one of these types and recognised his great potential

In October 1981, a then-unknown soul phenomenon opened for the Stones at the LA Coliseum. Charlie said, ‘You have to listen to this guy before he becomes famous.’ And when Chalies says that, the rest of us take notice. Even thought most people think Charlie’s strictly a jazz man, he’s right up to date with the new bands. He’s the one who is always finding the new guys, and to prove it he’s the one who introduced us to Oasis, Christina Aguilera and Jack White, among others.

On Charlie’s say-so, we gave this little rocker his first break. When he stepped out onstage we were all – especially Keith – a bit surprised, because he was wearing a raincoat and stockings. ‘That’s the trouble of conferring a title on yourself before you’ve proved it,’ said Keith. The crowd was a bit surprised too and started lobbing fruit and vegetables at the guy. But it quickly became clear that this guy had something special. He brought so much vavavoom to the stage. That’s how TAFKAP, the artist formerly known as Prince, became a star.

Kind of Ronnie to mention it, even if it is a little condescending. Nice typo on page 180 too: “paino player”.

The book also takes time out to talk about financial problems, loss-making business finances (a restaurant in Miami, a night club in London, a tour, and lots of expensive bottles of wine later…). It also goes into beautiful paintings created, exhibitions, and more celebrity friends.

Of course, while the book contains a lot of love for his second wife Jo and their 30 years together, a lot has happened since the book was published in 2007. Ronnie left his wife two days after his daughter Leah’s wedding in 2008, to be with a Russian model young enough to be his grand-daughter, went into a wicked booze and drugs spiral, that he may now have broken out of with the help of another model (Brazilian) young enough to be his grand-daughter, his eighth rehab session (in the book he’s glowing about the seventh session, just in time for the Forty Licks tour) and a new solo album. Good for him, he’s survived, and he’s written a great book.



Faithfull, by Marianne Faithfull – A fascinating book that describes the druggy life of Marianne Faithfull and her many, many affairs, as well as a bit of her musical journey; there’s also a lot about Faithfull’s observations of the Rolling Stones, from her vantage point of having slept with at least three of them (her buddy Anita Pallenberg has the same point of view, having also slept with Brian, Jagger and Richards; unfortunately, she hasn’t written her autobiography yet). Faithfull is married, with a child and a hit record when she’s barely 20, her husband the beatnik hipster John Dunbar, who was actually much more hip and far deeper into drugs than Mick or Keith were in 1962. Life was a roller coaster of meeting people, getting famous, and then not turning back from that life ever again, from time to time getting frantic, getting crazy, getting high, collecting families to attach herself to since she didn’t have a proper one herself, never responsible about money except for the early days with Dunbar when she was the only one bringing any into their young household. Small wonder she got messed up.

Faithfull sometimes comes off like a princess, but she more often seems like a wise sage, and perhaps the smartest person to have ever come out of the Stones camp. Her earliest memories are recounted at the beginning, along with some interesting tales of her eccentric parents (amazingly, her goofy British father is even more extreme than her Austrian mother, a haughty but penniless aristocrat).

The book is full of great anecdotes, like being on tour in the UK with Roy Orbison (who expected her to jump into his bed), and a young Graham Nash when he was in the Hollies (“even I had enough sense to not sleep with him”). There are long descriptions of various acid trips and other drug journeys (“Sleep was out of the question. I lay down on the bed, but found that when I shut my eyes I could see right through my eyelids.”). There’s nearly a whole chapter about meeting the hip young Bob Dylan on his first visit to London, when he held court with the Beatles fawning at his feet, and fools like Donovan were mocked mercilessly. She describes being on tour, with Jimmy Page and Jackie DeShannon romping next door (Page had been a session man on “As Tears Go By” – “He played on almost all my sessions in the sixties. He was very dull in those days”). In 1965 she was on tour with a bunch of bands, including the Mannish Boys, whose lead singer was a young Bowie. Faithfull devotes most of the chapter “What’s A Sweetheart Like You…” to a description of her first meeting with Bob Dylan, which happened just after she found out that she was pregnant and had gotten engaged to John Dunbar. Rejecting Dylan’s sexual advances, she gets into an intellectual discussion with him that sounds very Dylanesque:

How can you take a guy who wears glasses seriously,” she quotes him saying. “Only undertakers and college professors and grandmas and people who can’t even see what’s in front of their noses wear glasses. He’s an intellectual jerk, that’s the worst kind of jerk there is.

Ha ha ha… They meet again a few more times, later on to discuss her album Broken English song by song. Slowly, she slips into the Stones’ orbit, first by sleeping with Brian, then Keith, and eventually Mick, with whom she stays several fateful years (during which she provided the inspiration for several songs, also co-writing “Sister Morphine”). Faithfull has great descriptive passages in her text about the Stones:

Where Brian [Jones] was soft, malleable, vague and unstable, everything about Keith [Richards} was angular, flinty, compact, hard, disctinct. The hatchet face, chiselled, rock-hard features, Indian scout’s eyes that bore through everything. The mysterious rider appearing out of nowhere. Hypnotic, sinister, disturbing. A cursed-by-fate intensity, set off against gorgeous clothes, self-mocking humor and a sardonic turn of phrase.

She describes sex with Richards as the best ever (at least until her last night with her mentally ill junkie lover Howard Tose). Later, in the photo captions, she describes Keith again: “Bourbon to hand, switchblade in his boot, guitar across his back and the law at his heels – Keith Richards is rock ‘n’ roll.” Mick she describes in many different ways:

There is quite a perverse side to Mick and it’s no accident that his anguished relationships produced some great songs. Mick is so grounded as a person he never loses his footing. He can be right there next to the person falling off the edge but not slip himself. For a songwriter, this is a very useful talent. He is able to observe the car crash at the moment of impact and escape unscathed – a quality that is extremely exasperating for the victims. I always envied Keith and Anita because they looked into the jaws of death together. It was never like that with Mick and me.

She has her fun with Mick. “Like Ronald Reagan, he had learned to play a character more copmlex than his own.” Ouch!! “The most indelible misconception to come out of Let It Bleed was the silly notion of Mick as the disciple of Satan. A devotee of satin, perhaps,” and she describes the origins of “Sympathy for the Devil” in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which the well-read Faithfull had given Jagger a copy of. There’s a hilarious encounter between Jagger and the gay labour MP Tom Driberg:

“My dear boy, we wouldn’t expect you to attend to the day-to-day ephemera of the House. Not at all. We see you more as, uh, a figure-head, like, you know…”
“The Queen?” said Mick, completing his sentence.

What a scream. the conversation is full of “funny chat and zinging questions”, but when it founders, “in an awkward moment of silence Dribert looked at Mick’s crotch and suddenly said ‘What an enormous basket you have.’” Oh la la!!! Faithfull looks for ways to bring up bisexuality and Mick Jagger, never really spitting it out for those of us who don’t know how to read between the lines to figure out what exactly she’s saying. Or maybe I need to read it again. Oh well.

Faithfull tells all sorts of funny anecdotes about her promiscuity. “My first affair at Cheyne Walk [where she lived with Jagger] was with Prince Stanislaus Klossowski de Rola, known to all as Stash. He got into the house and came up to my bedroom making a grand entrance in his cape. Well, that deserves a fuck, I thought.” She had affairs with Anita Pallenberg, with whom she was once caught in flagrante by Mick and Keith (!?!?) (“Mick’s attitude was, ‘Let’s join ‘em.’ But Keith put a stop to it right away, There’s quite an old-fashioned side to him.”). This was all happening around the time that Eric Clapton was giving Jagger guitar lessons (?!?!).

She recounts the weekend that she and drug dealer Jean de Bretueil went to Paris and he sold Jim Morrison the dose that killed him (some sources claim that he had done the same thing for Janis Joplin!). They ran for Morocco. “Jean saw himself as a dealer to the stars. Now he was a small-time heroin dealer in big trouble. He was very young. Had he lived, he might have turned into a human being.”

Faithfull describes her life as a street addict in London, living on top of a bombed-out wall in a squat, and how she found some sort of truth there, eventually pulling herself out to resume her musical career, and possibly getting off heroin eventually. Here the story starts to peter out, as celebrities like the Rolling Stones seldom show up, and Bob Dylan only makes an occasional appearance (Dylan never forgot their first encounter, and their reunion is peculiar. “I idolized Dylan, but to be idolized by Dylan is a very different thing… an unnerving thing. Terrifying, really, as if the Minotaur had taken a liking to you.”). But in her new phase, we somewhat un-grounded as we no longer know or understand her co-conspirators. But her description of her remarkable life is always strong and fascinating, if somewhat maddening, tragic and pathetic as she makes herself a burden on friends, family and state. But she still does have several great anecdotes in her, such as the one of getting blotto with the Von Bülow’s, and trying on shoes from Sonny’s staggering collection. “I passed out and was found lying on the bed wearing pair number 57.” She appeared in a documentary with Robert Michum, who gave her a classic movie era screen kiss in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard, and eventually became a grandmother. “Oscar looks just like me and therefore is the best thing ever.” And that’s that.


Memories, Dreams, Reflections, by Marianne Faithfull – As the titles suggests, Marianne Faithfull’s second memoir is a scattered collection of this and that. Faithfull’s first autobiography, Faithfull, was published in 1994 and is a brilliant rock autobiography, probably something that just about anybody should read, as long as you can deal with the incredible self-absorption (hey, it’s a rock bio – what do you expect?). This 2008 follow-up, though, is simply not as good. It re-treads a lot of material as the first one (mommy and daddy’s doomed relationship is revisited, but without any new insights, other than “one of the reasons I was sent to the convent was so that my mother could have a sex life.”), but also tells interesting anecdotes of her grandfather and his Jewish wife in Vienna, so dipping back into the past is not all wrong! Finally moving ahead in time, it deals quite superficially with events that have come up in the years in between, which includes health issues (most importantly the fortunate, fluke-y just-in-time discovery of deadly cancer – Al Jourgensen had the same luck), friends dying, recording sessions, acting, and more tours. She also dwells on the Beats, her appreciation of them, and of experiencing the passing of William Burroughs, (hero or monster?), Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.

The chapters are all over the place, some of which are devoted to a single friend’s memory (for Caroline Blackwood, Henrietta Moraes, Juliette Greco and Gregory Corso she becomes a sort of “Speaker for the dead”, a la the Orson Scott Card book in his Ender series, which I have just finished reading – which I guess is what happens when people get old and survive their friends, family, acquaintances), and one chapter covers her surreal conversation with Fabulous Beast (herself). Being a proto-goth, she gets gloomy too. “I think the apocalypse will appear for far more banal reasons than [the end of the Mayan calendar]: war, pestilence, famine, and global warming. And rampant greed. And, of course, sheer incompetence. It ain’t gonna get any better. I just hope my grandchildren get to see the world I grew up in and know what a tree is. It’s tragic, I know. I’m beginning to sound like a complete curmudgeon – but I am a curmudgeon! And now I see how curmudgeons get to be that way. This world sucks!”

She also goes back to the Sixties a lot in the text (and even more so in the pictures section), talking about how beautiful and stoned everyone was, but how the Sixties were really just a weak version of the Fifties, which she was too young to be involved with until later in life when she moved in with the Beats. “Being with George (Harrison) and Pattie (Boyd) was very relaxing. Mick and I were able to lie back on Moroccan cushions, get high and float away listening to George’s new songs.” She claims that Mick Jagger had nothing to do with the writing of “Ruby Tuesday”, despite getting a writing credit, but that Brian Jones had a large hand in it (more than any other Stones song), it “was a collaboration between Keith and Brian. Without Brian there wouldn’t be a ‘Ruby Tuesday’.” She talks about the Joe Orton play “Up Against It” that they were trying to cast the Beatles to make a movie of, which would have been edgy, and potentially career-destroying, but for which they may have built up enough popularity and credibility to pull off. In it, “the Archbishop of Canterbury turns out to be a woman, the [Beatles] get dressed up as women, commit adultery and murder, and are involved in the assassination of the Prime Minister.” Hmmm… tantalizing to think about what may have been, or if Mick Jagger and Ian McKellan had taken it up afterwards, as is the legend! (Orton was murdered by his gay lover, inspiring the Beatles song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”).

We learn weird tidbits throughout, some of which complement the first book; for example, it seems that she lost all ability to speak French after her near-OD in Australia and six-day coma. Interesting, she also gets to sing an unused Roger Waters song from 1968, “Incarceration of a Flower Child”. She gets catty with Paul McCartney, and Mick in a sort of backwards way. “Whatever we thought of Linda – and she didn’t make that great an impression on me – I think it was a credit to Paul that he didn’t marry a model. A module. Because that’s what all the others have ended up doing, they’ve married these modules. And they have children who also become modules.” Of course, Mick, Keith and Ron all married/allied with models/former models, and some of their kids have become models now too! “There was a lot of dark, creepy stuff in the sixties, I can tell you: The Process, Mel Lyman, Manson, Anton LaVey, and L Ron Hubbard. Those people were always trying to get hold of me. Somehow I managed to negotiate my way around them quite successfully. I didn’t get involved in any cults, apart from going up to Bangor for that regrettable weekend with the Maharishi and the Beatles, the weekend that Brian Epstein killed himself.” Inspection of Brian Epstein, inspection of Spanish Tony’s Vesuvio (“like all dealers, he didn’t consider himself just a dealer, he wanted to be something else, something a bit more grand, a maitre d’ to the hipoisie; thus the Vesuvio”), and regret about ever having anything to do with Kenneth Anger (she had played Lilith, “a cemetery-haunting female demon” in his film Lucifer Rising; “dabbling in the occult has a nasty way of casting its baleful influence long after you have left the scene – and accumulating vengeful force along the way”).

But things were much different then for privileged people like Faithfull. “The artistic community, even in the sixties, was very small. ‘The Sixties’ was actually a very few people. In the sixties you could go up to the Stones’ Maddox Street office and tell Mick some crazy idea you had and he’s listen to you – not that he’d probably do much about it, or Paul at Wimpole Street, but today it would be beyond belief what you’d have to do – apart from the fact that you wouldn’t want to! There’d be fourteen lawyers prancing, seven accountants simpering, managers mulling, minders, minions, middle-men, media mentors, marketeers.” The book is incredibly chatty, and at times the author doesn’t even try to cover up that this was all narrated to him: “”When I hear Gregory laughing while I’m reading his poetry on the album – which you must get – I see Gregory rise up with his wicked puckish grin, a wild jail kid, but so sweet.” At one point she even gets someone else to tell the story!

It is with great envy that I read about her collaboration with Nick Cave (!!), the Bad Seeds, and PJ Harvey (!!). Unfortunately, her chapter on Before The Poison, the recording where she collaborates with them, is brief, and she really doesn’t talk much about other musicians! Happily she also mentions being in Singapore, staying at the Raffles Hotel, and walking around the corner in search of an opium den to hang out on Bugis Street (also called “Boogie Street”, according to the local pronunciation, which Leonard Cohen wrote a book about), and nearly getting killed by the tough punks who used to hang out there (times have changed – now it’s a youth hang-out). And with drugs she’s still unrepentant, willing to find some good there. “I’m not prepared to feel that everything I’ve done in the last ten years is wrong. I am ready to admit that my body prefers it when I don’t drink, but I’m not sure about the rest of me! I’m convinced that there’s something in us deep down that needs a break from the regular life. My theory is that by keeping yourself just slightly off the straight and narrow you can avoid all sorts of things perhaps major things, that otherwise could spell trouble. I know that when I’ve been in top form, off drink and whatever, it’s then that I can get into all sorts of trouble – sexual pickles and all that stuff. I’ve even been known to marry the wrong person soon after sobering up.”

Of course, none of this changes that fact that we’re hearing all of this from the Marianne Faithfull, who along with Michelle Phillips became the vision of hippy chick beauty and youth. The fact that she’s aged like a wine into this incredible songbird is also a stunning achievement of someone who has really had it all, on both sides of the coin. What a life!!

The pictures are great, and the book even has an index!


And on Piano… Nicky Hopkins, the extraordinary life of rock’s greatest session man, by Julian Dawson – I’ve always loved the era that Nicky Hopkins was a part of, and when I realized how many classic Stones albums he had played on, my breath just vanished. Wow! He’s the power behind “Sympathy For The Devil” and “Loving Cup”, and the list of his contributions just goes on and on and on: he played for The Rolling Stones (as a contributor and also as a touring member on the infamous 1972 tour!!!), the Beatles, the ex-Beatles’ solo projects (all four of them, separately, but sometimes even collaboratively with each other), the Kinks, the Who, the Jeff Beck Band (contributor and touring member), the Quicksilver Messenger Service (contributor and touring member) and so many more! So when I saw that someone’s written a biography of the legendary session man I just had to investigate… [to read the rest of this entry click here]

Meanwhile, here are a few photos of Nicky from Woodstock!






Every Night’s A Saturday Night, by Bobby Keys – A great story about Mr Bobby Keys, from Slaton, in the north part of Texas (population in 2010 – 6,100), just outside Lubbock, Texas (population in 1960, when Keys left there – 128,000), who was born on the same day as Keith Richards (December 18th, 1943) and raised by his grandparents, his grandmother murdered one day later on by her grandfather who got away with it, who grew up with the Crickets before they were famous, got into trouble, picked up the saxophone and just blew!!!

Of course he talks about getting into trouble as a teen, joining his first shows, joining his first tours, leaving Texas for the first time, and never looking back; he seems to have had a reasonably good childhood, not sure why he was so anxious to leave Texas behind, and he doesn’t get into it. And like so many other rock ‘n’ rollers, he got his first taste of rock ‘n’ roll full blast watching Blackboard Jungle in 1955 when he was 12 years old, which featured the music of Bill Haley and the Comets, and he started listening to music compulsively from then on.

[He talks about all these things a bit here, during a book promotion talk]

But people were against rock ‘n’ roll, as it was considered the devil’s music. “All sorts of things were attributed to rock ‘n’ roll.” On an early Buddy Knox tour he went across Canada, from Prince Edward Island to British Columbia “with every little jerk town in between, and there are a lotta jerk towns in Canada.”

He lived in some interesting times, and he lived through some interesting times. For one three-week period he was a getaway driver for a guy who was a hustler at pool, but that got dangerous and people who’d been ripped off started shooting at them as they peeled out (“I will never set foot in the town of Mankato, Minnesota, again for as long as I live”, he writes – I wonder if his book will be sold there!). Well, yes – there are a lot of ups and downs in life, and “not every night ended on a stage. Sometimes you had to take a job driving the getaway car for an alcoholic pool hustler just to make ends meet. So I tried to look at it as an adventure. And it was an adventure, but in the end it wasn’t furthering my saxophonic career any. Plus, I didn’t like getting shot at.” Yes, who does.

Interesting anecdote about how Janis Joplin watched Delaney and Bonnie perform a version of “Piece Of My Heart” that surpassed hers on a bill that she was headlining, and she got very upset because that was her showcase song!! There’s a nutty anecdote about how Bobby Keys and Jim Price were flown over to England to be a part of Derek And The Dominoes, but Eric palmed them off to George Harrison, who used them on All Things Must Pass. Not a terrible compromise if you think about it, although a bit cold.

He went to New York, played with Levon Helm, hung out with JJ Cale, met the Stones on their first tour, got in with Joe Cocker, Delaney and Bonnie, which led to more gigs with the Rolling Stones, and his first song with them was “Live With Me” from Let It Bleed (and so, unlike Nicky Hopkins, he never played with the Stones when Brian Jones was with them). Seems that Bobby was in a studio recording with Delaney and Bonnie when he ran into Mick Jagger, with whom he had once lived (and been very good friends with even before he was friends with Keith Richards), doing the Let It Bleed sessions, who asked him to come and play on “Live With Me” (page 110), and so a long relationship was formed that led to Keys playing on several Stones albums, several tours, getting burned out and leaving mid-tour, before slowly getting back into the fold – things are still frosty, apparently (“nobody leaves the Stones”) – but getting better. Bobby talks about the “Mick camp” and the “Keith camp” within the Stones, and he somehow straddled both, at least until he let the band down by leaving mid-tour (for legitimate reasons – to prevent death-by-burnout). Keys notes that Bonnie Bramlett had originally been asked to sing the “Gimme Shelter” female vocal part, but her husband Delaney Bramlett wouldn’t allow it, so the immortal part went to Merry Clayton. Wow!! He explains the anecdote about the bathtub full of champagne, and anecdotes about recording Exile On Main Street in the south of France (from page 140). And then the subsequent tour!!

[The tour of 1972] was so exciting. We were all in our twenties then, except for Charlie and Bill. At that point, I’d been playing saxophone for about fifteen years. My graduating class was 1961, which I didn’t make, but that’s what it would ‘ve been, and in 1972, eleven years later, I was playing with the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the goddamn solar system. So that was a pretty quick rise.

It also led to some ego tripping, and for a while he turned down good jobs on the assumption that the Stones would always come calling. Which didn’t always happen.

When you’re not on the payroll and you want to continue the Beverly Wiltshire lifestyle, but you’re only geared for a Holiday Inn existence, things are gonna catch up to you. I was on a different page than the rest of the world. I just didn’t consider the fact that this fuckin’ sleigh ride was ever gonna end. And then the snow melted. Nothin’ left but mud.

Keys talks about working with Carly Simon, and introducing her to Mick, who spent a night with her; and Keys claims the song “You’re So Vain”, which Mick sang with Carly on, is actually about Mick. Not sure how it could be, since Keys also says that the two were introduced when the song was all ready to go and being recorded in the studio – maybe some day we’ll know for real.

Keys talks a lot about his friendship with Harry Nilsson, and how smart he was, as well as their motto: “uncommonly smart, extremely good-looking, and capable of making career decisions.” Nice. Talks about being in the New Barbarians with Keith and Ronnie, and being introduced by Dan Akroyd, “a guy who’s always got good pot. He’s a big, big pothead. I’ve always liked him even more for that. He’s a good guy. Very knowledgeable, music-wise.” He mentions that the New Barbarians never put out an album but, well, actually they did (see review on this page). One promoter was saying that the New Barbarians would be playing with Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart to pump up sales, but Keith roughed him up, put a knife to his throat, and said that if he ever saw him again he’d put a bullet between his eyes. “There was a helicopter out there within thirty minutes. He was on that helicopter and he was gone and we never saw him again.” Wow! For a while he managed Ronnie Wood’s nightclub in Miami, which he thought was a money laundering operation, so he got out of there too. “Everybody was wearing bright linen jackets with the sleeves rolled up and lots of chains, and just coke everywhere. I never did that. Wear the bright jackets with lots of chains, that is.” Bobby gives his version of the story of rejoining the Stones touring band, which Keith also gives in Life, which involves Bobby waiting in the parking lot for hours, and then sneaking backstage onto stage to play. After all these years, and so many albums and tours with them, Keys has a very interesting way of describing the Rolling Stones, and their drummer Charlie Watts, who he describes as “one of the greastest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll”:

With Charlie and with Keith, Charlie’s the engine and Keith’s the driver, the conductor. Charlie holds it all together. I’ve been onstage before with the Stones where everything else has broken down except for Charlie. Like, if the electricity goes off, or when the electricity goes off in people’s minds – sometimes it goes dark onstage but the lights are still burning – either way, Charlie knows where the light is.

The book is very chatty, and being from Texas you do get a lot of quaint expressions like “I was shittin’ in tall cotton and fartin’ in silk sheets”, meaning he was having the time of his life. It also has intermittent passages from friends of Bobby, such as Joe Cocker, who talks about how they tried to recruit Jimmy Page into one of his bands, but Jimmy was forming his own band, ha ha, and we know all about that one.

The book is complemented at the end by a discography, filmography (only six films), list of notable tours, and an index! There’s a great section of photos too, his 1961 high school pic, and onstage photos from 1961, most of which were with Keith, Ronnie, and the rest of the Stones, but also a great rooftop picture of Bobby with John Lennon and Jimmy Iovine. Wow!


I’m With The Band: Confessions of a groupie, by Pamela Des Barres – A great coming-of-age story of a young groupie-musician-actor, who witnessed the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and eventually hung out with, bedded, and married some of the most influential musicians of this incredible era. The first half of the book is (as always) the most interesting, and she describes the arousal of her teenage passions – in particular her early encounters with the Rolling Stones – with great color and enthusiasm. The middle of the book chronicles her adventures in her own pioneering girl band, GTO, and her affairs with rock stars, before slowing down a bit and becoming all about the hunt for a long-term relationship and marriage (around page 188 of this 300-page book she says “I am sweet, delicious, and a juicy 21! Somebody claim me!!”). She even starts to get discreet, hiding the names of the stars she was shagging! But among the people she sleeps with are members of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Byrds, Michael Des Barres, Lane Caudell, a pre-fame Don Johnson and Woody Allen. Crazy! But nothing is as nutty as the bizarre Marlon Brando obsession that emerges in the last pages of the book, as she goes off to see Last Tango In Paris, has butter fantasies, and calls Brando’s personal line repeatedly (and you have to wonder if Brando – or McCartney, or any of these people who didn’t really know her all that well – dug her book and all her freaky groupie fantasies, or were simply freaked out).

The book has some great quotes about Miss Pamela’s dalliances with Mick Jagger (as well as a cool scene of the teenage Pam hanging out with Bill, Charlie and Beefheart listening to Muddy Waters, not to mention the fact that Nicky Hopkins played on Permanent Damage, the only album her band the GTO’s put out). To read the full review, click is generic cialis just as good.

CD Reviews



The Rolling Stones, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, The Rolling Stones in Concert” box – There’s something that I just lo-o-ove about The Rolling Stones. I don’t know what it is, besides the fact that they are the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the history of the world. Maybe it’s just that all of the cool, fashionable people like them; maybe it’s the fact that they, themselves, are cool, fashionable people. In 1969, the year that I was born, the Stones went on tour to promote “Let It Bleed”, one of the best rock ‘n’ roll albums ever made (it contains “Gimme Shelter”, how could it not rule?!?!). “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” is a document of that tour, and it’s just amazing. I can’t believe I waited until I was 41 years old before I ever listened to it?

This 40th anniversary edition of “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out” contains a CD of the original release, with its 10 songs (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Carol”, “Stray Cat Blues”, “Love In Vain”, “”Midnight Rambler”, “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Live With Me”, “Little Queenie”, “Honky Tonk Women”, and “Street FIghting Man”); another CD with five unreleased songs (“Prodigal Son”, “You Gotta Move”, “Under My Thumb”, “I’m Free” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”); a third CD with five B.B. King songs and seven Ike and Tina Turner songs; and, finally, a DVD with five clips that mirror the five unreleased songs CD, but also add backstage shots, studio shots, pre-Altamont shots in San Francisco shots and

This concert captures the Stones just days before their infamous appearance at Altamont, so expertly captured by the Maysles Brothers in their film “Gimme Shelter”, which I devoured a few months ago in its Criterion Collection form and reviewed here. This album is an extension of that film – the DVD contains 28 minutes of video from the Madison Square Gardens gigs that form this live disc, and there is some overlap with “Gimme Shelter” – Mick and Charlie going onto a frozen highway to shoot demos for the cover of the album with a donkey. Sure, it was Sixties madness, and these guys were millionaires, with the money to fund an entourage of filmmakers and photographers, biographers, anything.

The DVD bits of the set are great. It starts off with text:

In 1969 the Rolling Stones set out on tour to promote the release of LET IT BLEED / It was the first time the world’s greatest rock and roll band played the world’s greatest venue – Madison Square Garden / GET YER YA-YA’S OUT! and GIMME SHELTER captured what many consider to be one of the greatest live rock & roll performances ever.

The DVD begins with shots of the Madison Square Gardens at street level, the marquee, and people walking by. Beautiful 1969 teenager faces, mostly white but some balck, nice long coats, long haired chicks, a few trendy guys, people who wouldn’t look out of place in today’s day and age, then the band walknig backstage – Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, and Jimi Hendrix. Cool crowd shots mixed with cool Stones shots, and then the music for Robert Wilkins’ “Prodigal Son”, then more crowd shots, before we see Keith playing the steel top guitar, Mick singing, slapping his knees, grunting and groaning, crowd shots of beautiful women, the song ends unexpectedly, with Mick thinking it’s going to continue. They follow it with “You Gotta Move” by ‘Mississippi’ Fred McDowell and the Reverend Gary Davis, and tons of great crowd shots, including a young woman with a great look of wonderment – did any other filmmakers capture shots like this at the time? There’s a long, miserable scene of Mick and Charlie trying to capture a photo for the cover of the live album, with a donkey, a helmet, a cape, a scarf, a sword, some guitar cases, a white Bentley. “It’s fuckin’ cold. Just this silk thing between me and the weather,” complains Mick. Charlie with red pants, red socks, black shoes. A burro on the highway, and a crew of observers shooting it. The rain and sleet picks up, and Mick makes a move for his Bentley. There’s a great shot of Keith Richards playing expert blues at the piano. Gorgeous. In the studio with a bunch of reels, at the console, and “Under My Thumb”, the famous “Altamont murder” song, done onstage in the Gardens with its vicious guitar stabs. Jagger running his fingers through his hair, with his cape, his “omega beehivehair” t-shirt (I want one) and his scarf, the glittery belt and the buttoned pants. An experiment in slow motion that the Maysles Brothers did so well in Gimme Shelter (didn’t come off so well here, being out of synch and all). Great bit of “I’m Free”, which then goes into a backstage bit with Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix sitting next to each other, having a word, talking about Keith’s plexiglass guitar (Keith seemed cool, but he was probably nervous sitting next to Jimi). Later you see him playing a Gibson SG left-handed, doing the “Gimme Shelter riff”. Then the video goes back into “I’m Free”. The DVD shows a great version of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, with great crowd shots, a picture of Janis Joplin in a white fur hat, silk purple blouse (no bra), and a black vest and beads and boogying all over, hanging out with a well-dressed black dude. She seemed prety happy, despite being kicked out of backstage. Great crowd sots – chicks dancing on top of their seats, Jimi in a sheep fur jacket dancing about, and a sea of blanched faces, someone with a Raggedy Ann doll, groovy hippy chicks, an Asian woman with straight long hair, every other scene is of the crowd going crazy, Jagger sitting on the stage, waving for crowd response, a girl with a lightning mark across her face, more shots of Janis, Charlie Watts in the foreground, another shot of Mick throwing the rose petals into the audience, the crowd scrum, a kid on his mother’s shoulders (New York had hippies too, it seems). Slowdown as Mick moves offstage, and the film blur effects come up. Back to the backstage at Altamont area, with none of the ugly vibes shown in “Gimme Shelter”, Jerry Garcia and Paul Kramer hanging out in San Francisco, Mick and Charlie zoom in, tries to figure out what’s going on, solve problems. Mick’s only 24, but he’s a totally on boss, taking charge of the event organisation, then some scenes with Michelle Phillips, kissing her forehead, and “okay, we cut.”

The booklet is a masterpiece, with the endpages showing the band with the newly-recruited 22-year-old Mick Taylor (and, keep in mind, Mick and Keith were 26, Charlie Watts was 29, and Bill Wyman was 36 (and, to date, he’s the only septagenarian Stone – although Charlie’s close). The booklet shows photos from the band’s practice space in a basement studio in Stephen Stills’ house in Laurel Canyon, then a larger rehearsal stage (which was on the Warner Brothers’ set for ‘They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”), there’s a crowd shot (and was there ever a more beautiful crowd in rock ‘n’ roll history than at that gig?) before we see a sample shot of the album cover that might have been that shows the old starts and stripes top hat (with its obvious joint), passports, belts, cigarettes, photos, beads, fur boas, and all sorts of other stuff. But, with a joint so obviously there, how could it be used? Mick, by this time, was probably learning to be a hardnose boss and getting what he wanted. I know people like that.

The booklet continues, with a shot of the band getting in a limo, with nearly everyone facing away. What’s the point of a two-page shot like that? There’s a shot of Keith and Jimi, from the DVD, and then tons of pictures of the era – onstage at Madison Square Gardens, in a press conference, wandering around town, Mick in a white suite and Keith in jeans n’ jacket n’ alligator boots comin’ down the steps at the Waldorf Astoria, Mick talking to Ike Turner backstage, Mick ‘n’ B.B. King, an onstage shot of Tina Turner in ecstasy, and finally a glorious shot of some hippy with a great leather jacket that unfolds into a sea of tassles.

The text of the booklet is better than that of most box sets, and has a long essay from Ethan Russell, who went on tour with the Stones and filled book after book of pictures of the band (and is known, by the way, as the only photographer to have shot album covers for The Beatles, The Stones and The Who). The essay is personal and wonderful, but also over the top. “The Stones’ performances came at the end of an unprecedented ascendance of music’s influence over an entire generation. It is probably fair to say that never in the history of America had music played a more important role than our music did for us”, and “certainly, no nation ever had a soundtrack like ours.” Bombastic, but not off the mark, I should think. A lot of the book (and the “Gimme Shelter” movie) is apologetic about the non-appearance of the Stones at Woodstock, and in many ways the band tried to out-do the legacy of the famous concert. They turned away activist Abbie Hoffman, who supposedly coined the term “Woodstock Generation”, when he came demanding alms in New York (pretending to be Colonel Tom ), but they also tried to create a “Woodstrock West” at Altamont (which failed). Besides that, their July 5th concert in London, just days after the death of Brian Jones, had been the biggest free concert until Woodstock.

Russell talks about being invited to join the tour after seeking out the band in LA, where he happened to be, and history was made. It was on this tour that Sam Cutler, for the first time, introduced the band as “the Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the World!” Mick, apparently, didn’t like the moniker, thought it was “over the top”. The tour drudged on, and the boys never played an encore. But then… New York, and Madison Square Gardens, by which time they’d played 15 shows in 12 cities. Russell conveys interesting points, such as how “The Stones, especially Mick, are comfortable amidst the cosmopolitan trappings, always a surprise to me.” There are tales of the security entourage, Vietnam vets, and there’s also the infamous press conference, seen in Gimme Shelter, where Mick is asked if he’s satisfied (“Sexually, yes. Financially, unsatisfied. Philosophically, trying.”) and where he first mentions a free concert that would be Altamont. Some of the anecdotes, such as one about a trip to Baltimore, are boring (typical), but others are good fun. “Jagger has just been told that a woman is about to have his baby, and that another woman was about to leave him. This is what’s inside him as he goes through the curtain, faces the 16,000 at Madison Square Garden and the band launches into ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash.’ You would never know. “John Glynns, the engineer who recorded the show, talks about looking up at the building from outside and seeing it swaying as the band played, from the tremendous crowd response.

Russell also went on to tell the story of “the album cover that never was”, describing the early stages of the process of getting the album cover together when many suggestions were shot down – several treasured shots from the live show, a picture of Mick talking to a man of 30 with close cropped hair lighting a cigarette while Mick is dressed up like… Mick. None of them acceptable, probably because the band isn’t interested in seeing what they always see when they are on tour. Mick suggests some sort of still life with all of the band’s odds ‘n’ ends – a suitcase, a passport, a stars and stripes top hat, a joint. They took tons of pictures, all of them unusable. “Didn’t you shoot any without the joint?” Mick asked.

The booklet also reprints Lester Bangs’ November 12th, 1970 Rolling Stone Magazine review of the album that starts out talking about how bored he is with bands (Ten Years After, CSNY, CCR, The Band) and music (“Standards of performance are very low, and those few artists with enough talent or interest to put on a credible show often end up turning in performances so professionally, predictably competent that you walk tout with the palest satisfaction and few memories.”), but you get the sense that until “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out”, his view was that the best live album of all time had been “Got Live If You Want It”. Like a lot of Bangs’ writing, it is so quotable that it is hard to write about it as such. Basically he spends the first 33% of the piece complaining about the state of music, and the next 66% praising the album (which is why the Stones reproduced it here, surely). “More than just the soundtrack for a Rolling Stones concert, it’s a truly inspired session, as intimate an experience as sitting in while the Stones jam for sheer joy in the basement. It proves once and for all that this band does not merely play the audience, it plays music whose essential crudeness is so highly refined that it becomes a kind of absolute distillation of raunch, that element which seems to be seeping out of Seventies rock at a disturbing rate.” Bangs considers their version of Chuck Berry’s “Carol” better than his, ditto for Joe Cocker’s version of “Honky Tonk Women.” Bangs gets a lot wrong – “The Seventies may not have started with bright prospects for the future of rock, and so many hacks are reciting the litany of doom that it’s beginning to annoy like that insane survey hit. The form may be in trouble, and we listeners may ourselves be in trouble, so jaded it gets harder each month to even hear what we’re listening to.” This is him writing about the Seventies!!! What would he have made of this decade, with Rebecca Black’s “Friday” on our minds. But at least he saw a bright future for the Stones. And he was right.

Finally, the booklet contains four pages of recollections from five fans. The first one, from Binky Phillips, talks about his adventure in the front row and getting hit on the head by Charlie Watts’ flying drumstick. “A fan”, who was 13 at the time, talks about asking Keith to marry her. “Talk to me again in a few years,” was what he said. Jeez. Tour business manager Ronnie Schneider recollects going with Mick to Harlem to see James Brown play, but he also remembers how the band lacked a business contract with the organisers of the show, a dangerous situation to be in. The organisers were stingeing on the rider, so it looked like they were prepared to fleece the band. Schneider bluffed the organisers that the band were not going to play to the 16,000 impatient, screaming fans, but would walk away and leave them to deal with the rioters; that contract got signed, even though it was a bluff. Wonder if that’s how it really went down…

The concert is, of course, fantastic. The disc starts off with strange announcements, overlapped, many voices: “everything seems to be ready, are you ready, are you ready for the next band?” “We’re sorry for the delay, is everybody ready?” “Haven’t been to New York in a long time.” “Let’s hear it for the next band, you’re in for a great time, the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world – the Rolling Stones!” (most of the voices seem to belong to Mick Jagger) coming out of the speakers, with crowd cheers in the background; it is an effective technique for building anticipation of great things to come, and when you hear the opening riffs of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” one of my favourite Stones number you get all of those great things: energy, rhythm, grunts and groans, and that great mindless beat. The band is smoking. Mick starts with some cheeky audience engagement: “Oh yeah, thank you kindly. I think I bust a button my trousers, I hope they don’t fall down. You don’t want my trousers to fall down, now, do you?” They quickly go into “Carol”, a relatively unexciting Chuck Berry cover (later on they do “Little Queenie”, a much more invigorating number), and then hit a steaming version of the smutty “Stray Cat Blues”, seemingly an ode to teen sex, with its refrain of “But it’s no hanging matter/ It’s no capital crime.” Yee-haw!! After that, things mellow out with Robert Johnson’s plaintive “Love in Vain”. There’s a brief pause, and that’s followed by a hot version of “Midnight Rambler”, with its opening harmonica and Mick grunting, fan response, and ultimately that great, shambling boogie. At 9:04, it is the longest song on the album, and it just raves and raves, with Mick grunting and groaning at the long funk-out, before the song slows down to its “well you heard a-bout the Bos-ton” stomp, and enormous crowd applause. Can’t listen to it once, have to listen to it twice. Between songs you hear the famous crowd drawl “paint it black… paint it black, you devils” from some anonymous, stoned female fan in the front row (will we ever know who she was? She must get a kick hearing this album); but instead of “Paint It Black”, the crowd gets something much more evil: “Sympathy For The Devil.” The song heaves and grows in intensity, Mick and the band are having a great time. “Live With Me” is a dumb rocker; according to the liner notes, Janis Joplin at the concert screamed out “you don’t have the guts”, although you can’t hear it in the recording. Mick doesn’t interact with the crowd much, and it’s only on the eight song, “Little Queenie”, that he addresses the audience. “Oh New York City, you talk a lot, let’s have a lookatcha.” The song is a great stomper (nearly every song on the album stomps, of course), and “Little Queenie” has a lot of tone and drama.

Meanwhile, I was still thinkin, hmmmm
Well if it’s a slow one, We’ll omit it
If it’s a rocker, then we’ll get it
If it’s a good one, she’ll admit it
C’mon queenie, let’s get with it.

Oomph! “Well all right! Well all right!! Charlie’s good tonight,” Jagger says, before the band launches into a slow and ground-out “Honky Tonk Women,” a relatively tepid take  followed by a hot “Street Fighting Man” that primps and groans.

“Street Fighting Man” is officially the last song of the release, but because this is the box set we are still to be treated to five more tunes from the night, as well as the sets of opening acts B.B. King, and Ike and Tina Turner! First up, the Stones songs: the first one, “Prodigal Son”, starts off with lots of Jagger banter. “Thank you very much. We surely gonna dig it. Can you dig it? Yeah, all right. Aw, you sure sound very pretty to us, beautiful voices you got”, before Keith starts up on the steel guitar and Jagger wallops through the old Robert Wilkins song. “Thank you, we’re going to do another one like this”, and then there’s “You Gotta Move”, a Mississippi Fred McDowell and Glen Davis song (incidentally, the band also played it on “Love You Live” from 1977). The band then kicks into “Under My Thumb”, that rascally tune of misogeny that is so loved by all Stones fans, and the song meanders on and on, eventually losing a bit of steam, finally shifting gears into a drawling version of “I’m Free,” with its funky, bluesy guitar solo. but the band recovers its wallop with “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)”, sung with gusto by Jagger.

BB King jumps into things with “Everyday I Have The Blues”, a spirited opener with blistering guitar and King’s cheesy bluesy voice hotting things up. “How Blue Can You Get” is a mellower song, it is about an evil woman and it is full of jokes, ha ha! “That’s Wrong Little Mama” is a song with full horns and is busy and active, with stop and start music, but B.B. King just going on and on and on. Beautiful sustained guitar tones on the solo. “Why I Sing The Blues” is fast and funky, with horns, and it’s a history of black America. Great, perfect vocal delivery with singing, talking and hollerin’, and great sweet guitar. He ends the song, then picks it up again for another round, “one more, baby, one more.” “Please Accept My Love” is preceded by a sorta funny/cheezy speech, over B.B. King’s guitar pluckings and some lazy drum and piano accompaniment:

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to dedicate this next number from the group and I, especially to you, thank you, thank you very much; and we also would like to dedicate this to the stars of the show, The Stones, because had it not been for them [applause]… thank you, had it not been for them, you would not have heard B.B. King. Thank you. The next number I ask you please, if you will, don’t pay much attention to the way I sound trying to sing it, nor the orchestration, nor Lucille; but if you will, please, ladies and gentlemen, if you will just try and pick up on the lyric in this song – because this lyric, I think, can tell you more than I ever could t-trying to stand up and talk to you, and the title of this is “Please Accept My Love.” Thank you. Thank you very much.

Once we’ve been through that, B.B. King starts off with his beautiful singing, then his passionate hollering, “if you let me be your slave/ your love I’ll cherish to my grave.” Beautiful. Ike and Tina Turner then come out with an all-covers set, starting with a jazzy intro to “Gimme Some Lovin’”, before zapping into “Sweet Soul Music”, with Miss Tina Turner blasting the roof off the joint with that throaty roar. “Do you like good music, oh sweet soul music?” Splendid. That’s followed by a truly inspired “Son of a Preacher Man”, just fine how that voice swells and lowers, then explodes with emotion; “takin’ time to make time.” You really feel like she’s being wooed by the son of a preacher man and is deep in love/lust. That’s followed by a great, rollin’ version of “Proud Mary”, hot and horny. Even hornier is “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, which starts off slow, then builds up as a call and response between Tina and a far-from-the-microphone Ike “you got what I want,””you got what I need.” I want you to give it to me. Tina sounds like she’s getting it on right onstage. Here’s a video clip of the song, probably from a different night, that’s outright pornographic.


“Sock it – sock it to me babe! Oh baby!! Don’t make me stop!!! Oh baby, I don’t want to stop now.” Need to listen to that more than twice in a row, man. Then there’s a version of the Beatles’ “Come Together”, which proves that rock ‘n’ roll could still have soul, although it’s a bit heavy for the band. The last song is a funky and soulful “Land of a Thousand Dances”, which is a great one to take the set out. And what a set!



The Rolling Stones, Love You Live – When I was in back in Toronto in September 2011, I wanted to finally check out the El Mocambo bar. My interest was fueled by my recent passion for The Rolling Stones and the fact that the first four songs of disc two of Love You Live was recorded there as a secret club gig when the band, billed as The Cockroaches, “opened” for local band April Wine (who recorded the night for their own live show, which I’ve also ordered and reviewed here). I never made it to the El Mo (just as I’d never made it in all the years I lived in the metro Toronto area before moving to Asian in 1992), so I ordered Love You Live and checked it out. It is, of course, magnificent.

The non-El Mocambo songs were recorded mainly in Paris on June 5th, 6th and 7th 1976, but there are also single songs from London, Los Angeles and Toronto (not the secret El Mocambo gig, but the big Maple Leaf Gardens gig). “Brown Sugar” is nice, “If You Won’t Rock” me is nice, even if Mick’s vocals are a bit yappy. The song blends into a cool “Get Off Of My Cloud”, which has Billy Preston singing backups. Keith sings a great version of “Happy”, the band drones into the forgettably trippy, disco-era knock-off “Hot Stuff”, before grinding away with “Star Star”, and its infamous chorus. “Tumbling Dice” is sweet and standard. “Fingerprint File” is a funky, groovy, scratchy, honkey tonk, rambling number recorded at Maple Leaf Gardens, which is followed by a somber, stomping version of “You Gotta Move”. During “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, Mick talks to the audience in French, getting them to sing along to the chorus, cool.

“Mannish Boy” at the El Mocambo is good fun, with lots of hollering, and whooping from the audience too. Mick warns of “bottom-pinchers” from the stage as he introduces a funky, reggae-tinged “Crackin’ Up”. Lotta hooting and hollering from the audience after that, Mick starts to talk the audience:

Jagger: Are you feeling good? Are you feeling loose now, a bit more relaxed? I feel like stroking everybody. Stoke me Billy. Stroke me darling! Shall we introduce the band?
Richards: All right then.
Jagger: Where’s Billy. Billy’s gone. Billy? Where’s Billy? Billy’s very open for offer. I wouldn’t say he’s up for grabs, but open for offers. [Percussionist] Ollie Brown is dead open. Charlie Watts is a sort of maybe. Will Wyman just wants to take photographs of girls’ legs. Ronnie Woods is gay.
Woods: Old bum’s rush Jagger.
Jagger: Keith is, of course, completely straight.

“Little Red Rooster” is lovely, grinding blues. Afterwards, someone yells out “c’mon, let the good times roll.” Jagger responds with “everything all right in the critics section? Everyone got a drink?” Then they busted into “Around and Around”, a wild rockin’ Chuck Berry number. I’d love to hear the whole concert, not just these four numbers – it looks like it has a pretty amazing setlist.

Back on a big stadium stage, “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll” sounds a bit ordinary, unfortunately. There’s some lyric like “I bet you think you’re the only girl around/ I bet you think you’re the only woman in… Toronto.” What? “Brown Sugar” is good fun and real rock ‘n’ roll. The band comes out for a nice, fun encore – “Sympathy For The Devil”.



Rolling Stones, Some Girls re-release (with 12 bonus tracks) – A year after the Rolling Stones re-released the 18 songs of Exile on Main St with 10 excavated tracks, mostly from the original sessions, they’ve come out with the same treatment for the 10 songs of 1978′s Some Girls, adding 12 songs from those sessions. The Some Girls sessions were the first with Ron Wood, and produced about 50 songs (including a prototype for “Start Me Up”), many of which appeared on Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You, and 22 of those 50 appear here. But this is not the second time the Stones have given fans back some of their discarded tracks – Tattoo You, released in 1981, was made up of songs that dated from multiple sessions from 1972 (when Mick Taylor was still in the band) to 1980, including also the 1978 Some Girls sessions.

The album, of course, starts off with the magnificent harmonica- and saxophone-enhanced disco funk of “Miss You”, a wild and wacky if there ever was one. “When the Whip Comes Down” is punky and hard (and punky and gay in its themes, of course), while “Imagination” is a spacey, swirley cover of “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)”, a sweet over-wrought 1971 song by the Temptations, with its orchestration, maracas and divine harmonisation. Here, however, it works well as a rock ‘n’ roll with the standard Mick verses, Mick ‘n’ Keith chorus. “Some Girls” is a weird song that sort of drones on and on, reveling in digging up misogynistic controversy (such as the notorious “black girls just wanna…” line), but it’s not really a hot Stones number and I wonder if they ever played it live. The solos are pretty okay, though, really weird guitar hacking. “Lies” is a sweet, fast rocker that stampedes all over the place. “Far Away Eyes” is, along with “Some Girls”, the second novelty song on this song, where Mick narrates the story of a Southern hick who drives around, meets a girl with faraway eyes… yeah. The music is pure country, and it’s hard to believe that this is the Rolling Stones, but I guess it is! “I had an arrangement to meet a girl, and I was kinda late, and I thought that by the time I’d get there she’d be off with the first truck driver she could find. Much to my surprise, there she was sitting in the corner, a little bleary, worse for wear and tear… the girl… with FAAAAAAAR away eyes.” Guilty pleasure time, I like this song more than I probably should (the same can be said of the other country songs that the band does among the bonus tracks, a Waylan Jennings song and a Hank Williams number – shame SHAME!). “Respectable” has Mick joining Keith and Ron on guitar, it’s a heavy rocker and good fun, even if the chorus is pretty boring. Oh well. “Before They Make Me” is a Keith Richards song that… isn’t as good as “Happy.” “Beast Of Burden” is the classic swamp monster that strokes and rolls with that weird Stones vibe. Great stuff. The album is topped off with the manic weirdness of “Shattered”, with Mick really going nuts, the perfect bookend to the similar “Miss You”, although “Shattered” lack’s the former’s disco beat – instead it has a killer googly riff.

The bonus tracks start off with “Claudine”, a weird country honkey tonk about Claudine Longet, who sang “L’amour est Bleu (Love is Blue)” and who shot her boyfriend, Olympic skier Spider Sabich, in Aspen, Colorado, whether intentionally or accidentally. The lyrics to this rockin’ murder ballad are pretty rough, the song had originally been intended for “Emotional Rescue”, but it was pulled. “So Young” is just as raunchy, with lyrics like “put my dick on a leash”, it’s a wicked honkey tonk with some great piano from Ian Stewart, who was largely absent from these session, and there’s some cool scratchy guitar. “Do You Think I Really Care” is a silly country song that has some pretty funny lyrics (“I see you in the back of Max’s Kansas City, propping up the bar”), while “When You’re Gone” is a swampy blues rocker with nasty distorted vocals, kind of CCR-ish. “No Spare Parts” seems to be one of the new songs on the release, with Don Was playing bass rather than Bill Wyman. It’s another plaintive country rocker (how many of them did the Stones record in these sessions?). “Don’t Be A Stranger” also has a new feel to it, and sounds a fair amount like “Dancing In The Light” from the Exile on Main St bonus songs sessions. This song, however, has a sort of Latin feel to it, and it zooms around with Mick addressing a former love. “You can tell me of your escapades, the story of your lost decade, don’t be a stranger, a stranger no more, don’t be a stranger, just knock on my door.” “We Had It All” is a real Waylon Jennings country mourner, sung by Keith, it’s a sad and haunting tune that really sticks with you, minimal arrangements. Great. “Tallahassee Lassie”, an old Freddy Cannon rockabilly number. “I Love You Too Much” is a typical Stones rocker, nothing exciting. “Keep Up Blues” has a new-ish sound to it, kind of like the mock blues of “I’m Not Signifying” on the Exile on Main St bonus tracks. “You Win Again” is a Hank Williams song, so it’s quite countrified, plodding along, chewin’ cud, moaning and groaning, “this heart of mine has never SEEEEEEEEENNNN”. “Petrol Blues” is a bizarre piano stomp that Mick plays and sings on, “Dear Mr President…”

The packaging for the re-release is nothing special – it’s in a cardboard double CD case and there’s nice album art, but the booklet has not much other than a three page essay on the release and a bunch of images of the Stones, lingerie models and famous movie stars, all cropped from the original cover art. At least there’s five pages of black and white pics of the area. There are also credits, so you get to see how many tracks have people form the original sessions and how many modern additions like Don Was sat in on.

The Some Girls CD re-release comes with the first DVD release of the Some Girls concert tour video!


Mick Taylor, Mick Taylor – I’ve been a big fan of Mick Taylor’s work with the Rolling Stones, having recently immersed myself in Let It Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Yas Out, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main St (especially), Goats Head Soup and It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (as well as the movies he appears in with the Stones: Gimme Shelter, Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones, and Cocksucker Blues). I knew that after he left the Stones, he was quiet for many years, but he actually did record with Jack Bruce and Bob Dylan, and produced a few solo albums. This is his first one, released in 1979. I listened to a few tracks on YouTube, and liking what I heard I ordered its 2011 re-release.

Opening track “Leather Jackets” is a bit of a disappointment, as it sounds like an upbeat James Taylor or Jackson Browne song, and there’s this annoying skat shika-shik-shika-shik-shik-shik beat-building stuff at the beginning, but it is nice to find out that Taylor actually has a pretty good singing voice, since it’s not assumed that every guitarist can actually sing (and many shouldn’t – witness Uli Roth!). He also maybe sounds a bit like Jeff Healey, which is better, but he’s not quite as bluesy, nor ever as ferocious. “Alabama” is a groovy tune, nice singing, nice guitar. “Slow Blues” is an instrumental, his backup band of sessions musicians hitting all of the notes with full precision – but with little soul. Oh well. “Baby I Want You” is a long, slow number, with plenty of acoustic guitar and some pretty singing. I like the way the song fades out near the end… then fades right back in for some more blues soloing. “Broken Hands” is a mean, tight little rocker with sparse vocals and lots of blazing guitars. “Giddy Up” is a sweet and funky instrumental”. “SW5″ is the best vocal song on the album, it is tuneful, has a lot of elegance and emotion, as well as cool piano accompaniment and naturally great slide guitar. Taylor plays all of the parts (guitar, vocal, piano, bass and strings) except the drums on this number, pretty nifty. “Spanish/A Minor” is a double song (running one 12:16 track on the CD, but with different credits in the accompanying book). This is the best instrumental on the CD, going through all sorts of different moods and themes, and each of them sound great, albeit somewhat marred by lumpy, mechanical vibrapohne drumming and boring, soulless fills in “Spanish”; “A Minor”, however, has better vibe and spirit with Mike Driscoll on the skins. Nice. The CD ends with a “promotional single version” of “Leather Jacket” that is slightly shorter than the album version; they shouldn’t have bothered…

Keith Richards’ solo stuff



Talk Is Cheap – Keith’s two solo albums get a lot of praise in general, being considered generally much better than Mick’s; no one, however, mentions Ron Wood’s numerous solo albums, which are definitely the best of the three (four, if you count Mick Taylor’s dull offering). Keith tends to get funky and experimental, to Wood’s solid rock writing, and on Keith’s first outing you get a bit of a jam feel with all sorts of unconventional song structures. There’s weird bass sounds on the opening track “Big Enough”, the weird string mutations of “Struggle”, a relatively straight forward rocker, and then the odd ’50s doo-wopabilly of “I Could Have Stood You Up” (the Stones never farmed this sort of Stray Cats territory). “You Don’t Move Me”, an ode to Mick Jagger, is a decent rocker, but it suffers from an overdose of backup vocals in the chorus, and a generally loose song structure. “How I Wish” is a nice song, while “Rockawhile” is more jam-y (the keyboards are horrible, though, although the accompanying vocals are soulful). “Whip It Up” is a solid rocker, while “Locked Away” is a mellow song that again suffers from too much background vocals. Closing track “It Means A Lot” is jam-y and meandering. Not bad.

The album contains the single “Take It So Hard”, which is a meaty rocker with a nice rousing chorus, while the best song on the album is “Make No Mistake”, a moody little duet Sarah Dash. Also featured on the album singing backups is Mrs Springsteen herself, Patty Scialfa. This came out in 1988, between Stones albums Dirty Work (1986) and Steel Wheels (1989), when Mick and Keith were at their most pissed off with each other (mainly about Mick’s solo albums, which came out in 1985 and 1987).

Bottom line is that none of these songs are anywhere as good as the solo songs that Keith sings on the Stones albums, even the ones from the 1990s or the first decade of the new century.



Main Offender – Keith’s second album is a lot different from his first, mainly because it is far less experimental and jammy, and has stronger songs, two of which you can keep humming for days. The first song “999″ is probably the album’s best rocker, with an intriguing bass-y riff in that inimitable Keith Richards guitar voice. Wonderful. “Wicked As It Seems” is a pretty standard rocker with just a bit of blues in it (with plenty of that band-background-vocals” that you never get on a Stones album, but seems to permeate this Keith’s solo work). Third song “Eileen” is a beautiful pop ballad, I love it – really a remarkably soulful little tune. “World Of Wonder” is the first non-standard song on the set, a reggae workout with Keith’s rasp holding it all together. “Yap Yap” is a silly jam-out song. Kinda like it, not sure why. “Yap Yap, you talk too much.” “Bodytalk” is more of a Stones-y jam that rambles on and on, with nice guitar licks, and whispers of female vocals from Sarah Dash. “Hate It When You Leave” is the other really great song on the album, starting off with mellow guitar before soaring into near-Arabic woodwinds. Beautiful production on this, one of Keith’s all-time best songs. Love the chorus! “Runnin’ Too Deep” rocks well, and “Will But You Won’t” is more of the same. “Demon” is slow and misty, a cool little tune.

Bottom line is that – just like with Talk Is Cheap – none of these songs are anywhere as good as the solo songs that Keith sings on the Stones albums (except maybe “Eileen” and “Hate It When You Leave”), even the ones from the 1990s or the first decade of the new century. But this album is definitely a lot more fun than its predecessor, leaving no reason to not believe that a third solo Keith Richards album would have simply destroyed!!!!!!

Ron Wood solo stuff

Out of curiosity mainly, but also out of my recent near-feverish devotion to all things Stones, I ordered Ron Wood’s 1974 solo debut “I’ve Got My Own Album To Do” from Amazon. Wow, I’m so glad I did – it’s amazing!!! It’s like hearing a great lost Stones album from the mid-1970s, albeit one that has mainly Keith singing on it (Ron Wood’s singing voice is very similar to Richards’), along with a few other cameos – Rod Stewart, Jagger himself. I’d read about the recording of this album in Ron and Keith’s respective autobiographies, as well as in books like Old Gods Almost Dead, and it was time to see what all the fuss was about. And yes, this is worth making a lot of fuss about!!

WIth some foresight, I also bought the more recently-released live CD and DVD of Wood’s tour of that year with Keith Richards and the studio band for that album, which happened before the album was released, and the line-up was billed as “Woody and Friends”. The live recording of that day is called “The First Barbarians, Live From Kilburn”, though, the title being a sort of reverse time reference (a “retronym”) to The New Barbarians, a band that Keith and Ron put together in 1979 (which has its own live recording now – “Buried Alive: Live In Maryland“, which I think I must buy now, considering how amazing Woody was in the 1970s; his 1979 “Gimme Some Neck” album is also supposed to be very good – I’ll be getting that soon too, I’m sure).



I’ve Got My Own Album To Do, by Ron Wood – A great rockin’ album, discovering it is a full-on experience since none of these songs are familiar, except maybe the cover “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody”). Opening track “I Can Feel The Fire” is a groovy reggae-ish number, that has the voices of Ron, Mick and Keith on it, as close to an advance line-up of the current Stones as you’re ever going to get. “Far East Man” is co-written with George Harrison, who appears on this album to provide slide guitar and backing vocals (Harrison released his own version on his own Dark Horse release of later that year). The song is kind of dated-sounding, and comes off more as a Seventies soft-rocker (Seals and Croft anyone?). It probably wasn’t popular in the Wood/Stones camp, because it was left off the tour – at least, it didn’t appear on “The First Barbarians”. Mick Taylor plays bass! “Mystifies Me” is a great, throaty bluesy number that just zooms. Rod Stewart makes his first backing vocals appearance here – wow, do Ron’s vocals ever sound like Keith’s! “Take A Look At The Guy” is a cool, funky, barroom rocker that sounds like similar stuff from the Faces, Keith plays electric guitar, Mick Taylor is on electric guitar, and Rod is backing. It’s a funny song that comes off great live! “Act Together” is a Jagger/Richards composition that’s really awesome, with great soulful lyrics. “It’s looking good, let’s get our shit together.” The Stones were never able to get their own version together, but it doesn’t matter – this one’s great (and so is the live version). Keith outdoes himself here, playing the electric guitar, electric piano, acoustic piano and singing. “Am I Grooving You” is a great, swampy tune with some wild basslines from Willie Weeks (Weeks, and the performance of this song at the opening of the First Barbarians set, are unexpected standouts). Jagger contributes vocals on this song, an evil little boiler with Ron’s groovy harmonica. “Shirley” is another very cool song that nearly has a scratchey “Monkey Man” riffage happening, but also some dated and cheezy electronic sounds via an ARP synthesizer… but also some cool Mick Taylor sounds. Next. “Cancel Everything” is nice, bluesy, throaty Seventies rock that hops and blazes with sweet, sweet sounds. Wood sounds pretty Bob Dylan-ish here. “Sure The One You Need” is another Jagger/Richards composition, and Keith sings the main vocals. It has cool lead guitar sounds, and lots of Chuck Berry hacking – it’s kind of Hedwig-esque. ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” is a sweet little old R&B cover that has a lot of soul, but also a bit of annoying ARP synthesizer to mar it somewhat. “Crotch Music” is a silly instrumental written by Willie Weeks that is based around some jazzy jamming and bass riffing, as well as some cool drumming, although some annoying ARP synthesizer as well. Great jam, great riffs! Bassist Weeks and drummer Andy Newmark were both hot session musicians, and it shows – they’ve got chops!



Now Look – Wood followed his first album with an equally strong second effort, proving himself the capable songsmith we always suspected him to be. I wonder if he meant the title to be just as monosyllabic as his own name – Ron Wood, Now Look – with even the vowels all in the same places. Just a thought.

The songs are a bit funkier on this 1975 release than they had been on Wood’s debut of the previous year, I’ve Got My Own Album To Do. The album starts well with “I Got Lost When I Found You”, which has a bit of an Elton John feel to it, especially when he howls. “Big Bayou” is a short little rocker that squeals with electric guitar pleasure and wild honking, with a nice chorus and a wild bass sound. “Breathe On Me” is slower and sadder, with Wood’s voice a sweet and expressive as Rod Stewart’s (nearly) on his most atmospheric numbers. This may be the “Mystifies Me” of the album, although it falls short of that particular song’s power. “If You Don’t Want My Love” is very of the 1970s, nearly a soul song of sorts, it sounds just fantastic. “I Can Say She’s Alright” starts off like a pretty standard rocker, but as it’s a long song of over six minutes, there’s plenty of room for development, and the song zooms and zooms into a wicked funk jam. “Caribbean Boogie” has wicked bass lines that really sing and a fun attitude throughout, it blends seamlessly and beautifully with the title track, “Now Look”, a sweet rocker that, in its own way, is really nothing really all that special. “Sweet Baby Mine” is a pretty mellow 70s soft rocker, with that lilting chorus and some pretty good jamming. “I Can’t Stand The Rain” is a standout cover on the album, with its groovy riff and the shambolling singing, spiced up with burbling organ. Nice touch! “It’s Unholy” starts off as a bit of a dull rocker, but it picks up in the middle for a really great jam for the last three minutes – this can be enjoyed as a song of its own, and there’s some great funk and soul in those weird guitar lines. Closing track “I Got A Feeling” is a beautiful piece of rockin’ soul, with the velvety sounds of the Womack sisters keeping things real and very beautiful. A very special song to close the album.

Packaging is at a minimum, done in ugly mustard yellow throughout, although the CD itself has a nice palm-lined lane look to it. Musicians that play on the album are Bobby Womack (who wrote the Stones’ first Number One single, “It’s All Over Now”) and his sisters, crack session bassist Willie Weeks, fellow Faces Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones, future band-mate Keith Richards, and the guy he was set to replace in the Stones, Mick Taylor.



Ron Wood, Gimme Some Neck – The consensus on this 1979 release is that it’s Ron Wood’s best solo album, but I still don’t think that it’s necessarily better than his first one, I’ve Got My Own Album To Do; that was from 1974 when he was not yet a Stone – that only happened in 1975 – but was spending more time with Keith than anyone else at the time). This time (like every time) he’s got an all-star cast helping out, and his art adorns the packaging. The first song “Worry No More” is a pleasant honkey tonk that sounds like it is sung by Keith Richards (they have similar singing voices). “Breaking My Heart” has some sort of echoey effect on the vocals, it’s a bit funky, a bit rocky, a bit reggae-ish, with decent lyrics, but also comes off sounding pretty muddy. “Delia” is a pretty little guitar piece. “Buried Alive” is a cool rocker with a great, sleazy riff, more shambling than anything the Faces ever recorded. Nice. “Come To Realise” is a dull pop-ish rocker/anthem with some funky piano, sounds kind of tossed-off. “Infekshun” sounds a bit like a Bob Dylan song, sorta, but it’s pretty weak. The best song by far, and you can hear it from the opening bars, is “Seven Days”, a song that Bob Dylan gave to Ron Wood some years before he released it himself (in 1991 on an album of “bootlegs”, he’d played it live in 1976). Once that’s out of the way, the album quickly gets boring again, such as “We All Get Old” (with a title like that how could it have any spark at all?). Sheesh. “F.U.C. Her” is a bright(er) spot that comes off as a Dire Straits song with its near-monolithic steady as it goes breathless singing at pace, and plenty of acronyms:

Well she looks real cute when she puts in the boot
A night time slicker, an A.R.S. licker
A C.O.C. teaser, an ice cream squeezer
Her C.U.M. really do you in
So don’t you try to F.U.C. her
If I wouldn’t touch her with mine

“Lost And Lonely” starts off well, but quickly goes nowhere, with awful backup singers in the chorus. It comes off as a watered-down Stones songs from their 1990s creative nadir, or some sort of anonymous ’80s soundtrack song. Too bad. Closing track “Don’t Worry” has a bit more life, though, and the album ends on a sound note.

This album seriously lacks great Ron Wood songs – whether they rock hard or just wring out the emotions – like the ones that were in such great abundance on Wood’s first and second albums, songs like “Mystifies Me” (especially “Mystifies Me”), “Take A Look At The Guy”, “Act Together”, “Shirley”, or even the weird funker “Crotch Music” that lets the band show off live.



The First Barbarians – Live From Kilburn (CD/DVD set) – Great price, great material; while the quality of both the CD and the DVD has suffered with age, the base material is fantastic! Taking the band he was recording his first solo album with to play two live shows at London’s Kilburn Gaumont State Theatre on July 14th 1974, ex-Faces guitarist Ronnie Wood appeared with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, ex-Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan, and session players Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark on bass and drums respectively forming a very tight rhythm section. Rod Stewart came in to sing on a few songs as well (George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Mick Taylor and a few others who were recording with Wood at the time didn’t show up). This package contains 10 of the 11 songs on “I’ve Got My Own Album To Do”, which was to be released September 13th, leaving off “Far East Man”, which Wood wrote with George Harrison (perhaps they hadn’t written it yet? perhaps Harrison wanted to be the one to play it live? perhaps it didn’t fit into the set, with its soft rock burr?); both the CD and the DVD add an intro, and the CD contains Wood’s “Forever” and Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain”, which are not on the full length, and the DVD contains “Forever”. “If You Gotta Make A Fool Out of Somebody” is only on the DVD.

The video starts with black and white footage of the musicians coming out bone by one, Keith, then Ron with his Les Paul, open-chested outfit with feather epauleted vest and funky neck ornament. The choppy video switches from crisp black and white to fuzzy colour, bounces around a bit and looks like it’s going to get eaten by the video playback machine… wait – this is a DVD! “Am I Grooving You” is majestic and loud as it saunters through the swamp. “Cancel Everything” is great as Ron and Keith duet. Rod Stewart comes out for “If You Gotta Make A Fool Out of Somebody” to big applause, all three of them on the mic for the chorus. Great bluesy Ron verses. “Mystifies Me” is a soulful and beautiful. “Act Together” is a ballad, Keith on organ and singing, no more Rod. “Shirley,” Keith’s cord snags, Ron now on a Stratocaster, great shots of Keith jamming out. Nearly the level of “Monkey Man”, but with a very long intro, the verses become a bit same-y after a while and drag, but it’s a good piece of savage rock ‘n’ roll. There are some cheezy keyboards, and the choruses could benefit from a bit of help from Keith, who gets right into it and sings “Sure The One You Need”, a Jagger/Richards song that comes off very funky. “I Can’t Stand The Rain” is a cool, groovy funky bit of greatness, very different from the Ann Peebles version that is light on the vocals (it’s a short song) and goes for extended jams. “Crotch Music” is a bit of soloing – bass riffs and chords, drum drills and exercises. Great rhythms, while Ron takes a smoke.

Oddly, the insert for this release contains full song credits for I’ve Got My Own Album To Do, with a cool chart showing who played what, song by song (it was left off of the booklet for I’ve Got My Own Album To Do). There’s also, ah, a message from Ron Wood, some pics, and another track list.



The New Barbarians, Live In Maryland – Buried Alive – A double CD with no DVD (unlike the First Barbarians release), a full concert of great songs with some nice stage banter/grunting from tourmaster Ron Wood. The tour was an ambitious one, and while financially unrewarding for Wood (he has retreated from solo touring after getting burned on this one) it was a neat piece of rock ‘n’ roll history, with a neat band composing Ron Wood and Keith Richards (whom Wood names “Keith Rigid” during band introduction time) from the Stones, regular Stones sideman Bobby Keys, ex-Face Ian McLagan, Stanley Clarke on bass and Ziggy Modeliste on drums. A crack band rocking through songs from Wood’s three solo albums of the time, including songs also by the Stones (“Sure The One You Need”, “Honky Tonk Women”, “Before They Make Me Run”, and “Jumping Jack Flash”. There’s also a BB King song, the Stones-linked Robert Johnson song “Love In Vain”, Arthur Conley’s “Let’s Go Steady” (it’s mis-creditetd to Neil Sedaka, who wrote “Let’s Go Steady Again”), and Bob Dylan’s “Seven Days”, which Wood recorded that year, playing his version before Dylan did. There’s also the supreme funk of Freddy Scott’s “Am I Grooving You?“. The sound quality isn’t the best, but the versions are very nice, especially “Mystifies Me”.

BB King’s “Rock Me Baby” is especially nice, as are “Lost And Lonely” and “Breathe On Me”, which finishes off with a great jam that makes it the longest song on the album (10:24). “Come To Realise” is beautiful and soulful, one of the few good songs from his third release. “I Can Feel The Fire” is loud and savage, with blistering solos and sax at the end. “How’s that for a rescue?”

Keith Richards sings a bunch of songs, including “Sure The One You Need”, a Jagger/Richards composition that never made it to a Stones album (he laid it down on Ron Wood’s first solo album, and here as well). He also sings “Let’s Go Steady” and “Before They Make Me Run” (prefacing the song by saying “we never did play this live as the Stones, the Barbarians were kind enough to sort of let it all hang out and do it.”), as well as numbers like Johnny Paycheck’s country tear-jerker “Apartment No. 9” and the blues of Big Maceo Merriweather’s “tagra tadalafil tablets” from his Toronto Tapes; this concert’s rendition of the latter is simply stunning!

Just a few songs cut across both Barbarians albums. These are “Am I Grooving You” (this release features the longest version of this song by far), I Can Feel The Fire”, “Mystifies Me” and “Sure The One You Need”. “Am I Groovin’ You” howls and shakes, a shambolic masterpiece of glittering scum. Lovely, fuzzy and great, with a wicked Stanley Clarke bass solo six minutes in, throughout the rest of the song – wow!! The song blends effortlessly with “Seven Days”, the song Dylan gave Wood. Nice version, man! Cool final song – “Jumping Jack Flash!!”

DVD Reviews



Charlie Is My Darling – The latest to be released (as of November 2012), but chronologically the first Rolling Stones movie in order of sequence made. Charlie Is My Darling was shot on the Rolling Stones November 1965 “tour” of Ireland, which means two nights there – November 4th and 5th. The box set contains two original edits of the film (the director’s cut of 35 minutes, and the producer’s cut of nearly 49 minutes), as well as the new version with restored footage, which is 62:21. The box set folds out nicely, with surprises all along the way – there’s an enlarged and numbered cell frame (mine has one of Mick from the interview sessions). There’s a nice hardcover booklet, and then there’s a cool poster. The pack comes with a DVD of all visual materials (and a Blu-Ray disc of the same material if you have a Blu-Ray player), a CD of the soundtrack of the album (not every scrap of music in the movie, as the jam sessions on Beatles and Elvis songs are omitted), and a bonus CD of 11 songs from the March UK tour (the same one that produced the “Got Live If You Want It” EP that was released in June 1965).

The full movie is great, even if the restored film is quite inky-looking (you see a before-and-after of the restoration – I’d say that, with the exception of the blobs and lines, the original looked better). Starting off the first thing we see is the strange ABKCO logo, and then introductions to the band members that includes Andrew Loog Oldham (who is rarely present in pictures of the Stones from those days, as if the band wants to minimalise his importance). Oldham, clearly, had a hand in the production of this – he isn’t listed alongside the Stones in the producer’s cut or the director’s cut. The film opens with the wacky orchestral “Play With Fire” from the Andrew Oldham Orchestra (other orchestral versions play throughout the film from time to time – none of them are any good, except for the awesome “Satisfaction”, which is spruced up with some pretty funky fuzz bass). There’s some sweet fan talk, “I like the one who plays the drums.” Bizarre, haughty answers to the question of “why do you like the Stone that you like?” Answer: I don’t have a reason, I just like him. I just like him. I just like him. One person goes so far as to say “I like his hair.” Great prophetic quotes from Brian Jones, “My futures as a Rolling Stone is uncertain.” He’s generally very negative, talking about marriage in a doubtful way with that soft voice of his (of course he couldn’t get married – he beat and cheated on his women after getting them pregnant). But he’s more upbeat about the film he wants to make, which is about love, and in which Love is one of the (abstracted) characters (Bergmanesque?). Interview clips from Mick, Charlie, rian, Bill and Keith. Mick’s quotes are the best: “You have to be very egotistical (onstage). It’s an act, it’s not really you.”

The progression of the film seems to be chronological – leaving London for Ireland, hanging out before the first show, the first show, then some more hanging around, then the second show, some more hanging around, then scenes of the journey home (to the strains of “Going Home”), and then the arrival back in London. Scenes from the road, driving down a wet motorway, in the airport at customs. What appears to be an undercover cop strolls by the camera, a deer caught in the headlights. Smallish crowd around the venue. The director interviews an Irish bloke with long hair who says he’s in a band called The Creatures – Van Morisson? Brian Jones practicing on his Firebird. “We want BILL!!!” The first set is electric, and we see the band jumping around, the camera swaying and not really catching things well. The band sings into strange little tulip mics, and when Mick detaches his there’s a whole long piece he has to take off. A riot breaks out onstage after “It’s Alright.” Charlie gets tugged-upon, Brian spins around, people stay away from a ferocious Keith, but they have to call it a show eventually. The band practices “Sitting On A Fence” backstage. Keith so young, pre-junkie days, wearing a cop’s hat. “Tell Me” solo practice. The band breaks into a groan-a-thon of the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, then “Eight Days A Week.” Nice shot of Andrew Loog Oldham picking his nose. In the train smoking just next to a No Smoking sticker. Brian Jones complaining that fame means “no physical freedom.” Nice shots of old cars, the boys harassing/following school kids like a bunch of perverts. A prophetic/obvious Mick: “The kids of 21 now have to become 75 before the whole thing is changed.” Well, the kids of 21 in 1965 are now 68 (and Mick is 69), and how much has changed? A lot, but we’re still much more conservative than we should be by the indications of the change that was beginning to show itself that year. Brian Jones relates the story of the Long Beach mob when they were nearly crushed inside of a car by the surrounding fans. “Most successful entertainers have always been the most egotistical ones onstage. They might not be as egotistical as that offstage. But all that ego is got rid of onstage. (I’m) about half as egotistical (offstage as on).” Brian picks nose. Charlie sings!! Keith looks like Lou Reed. Great finger picking guitar. There seems to be an aborted plug for Lipton’s Tea, which the boys promote but in such a sarcastic way that it really takes the piss.

At the concert on the second day, we see the band from behind the curtains just as they open and the show begins – exciting fly-on-the-wall feeling. Mick really spazzes out during “Reeling And Rocking”. A priest shows up at the concert and he’s interviewed (now living in Cambodia, there’s an interview with him in the booklet where he describes the ruckus that erupted in the Church after this scandalous incident – happily, the bishop supported him, knocking down all the haters). “I feel like Robert Browning. Actually, I was thinking of Shelley,” sys Mick, wankily. Keith on piano, singing like Elvis, as camera zooms in and out. Four hands on piano. Great camera work with glowing lamp in hotel room (it’s crap throughout most of the film). Bored, bored, bored Stones before a show. Brian Jones: “Yes, I’ve never thought very far ahead at all. I’ve always ben a little apprehensive about the future.” Great pics of the sleeping Stones at the back of the airplane – Brian, Charlie and Bill in the second-last row, Andrew Loog Oldman, Mick and Keith in the very back row.

sleeping Stones

sleeping Stones

The bonus features are decent, giving the 12 minutes of the raw interview footage of the individual Stones (Mick 2 minutes, Charlie 5 minutes, Brian 4 minutes, Bill 1 minute). Charlie’s interviewer follows wonky line of questioning. Bill: “I’m not a musician, I just play in a band.”

The CDs are good. The soundtrack contains a blend of orchestral Stones (so-so), live songs, and interview segments. It makes a great listen on the commute. The live CD from March is even better, as it’s a full concert from 1965 (the Got Live If You Want It EP may be from the same month but, with its six songs, it’s much less than a concert – if you can even find it!), and it shows a proper setlist of the band before they had any hits, when they were still primarily playing others’ songs (eight of the 10 songs they play are covers). The setlist is:

1. Everybody Needs Someone To Love (Solomon Burke)
2. Pain In My Heart (Allan Toussaint)
3. Down The Road Apiece (Don Raye)
4. Time Is On My Side (Jerry Ragovoy)
5. I’m Alright (The Rolling Stones)
6. Off The Hook (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

7. Little Red Rooster (Willie Dixon)
8. Route 66 (Bobby Troup)
9. I’m Moving On (Hank Snow)
10. The Last Time (Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)
11. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (Solomon Burke)

Interestingly, they start the set off with “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love”, but they only play the first verse, before jumping into Pain In My Heart (it’s reprised at the end in full). Nice effect. The band is full of energy, and the crowd screaming is not too distracting – each instrument is to be heard very nicely balanced in the mix. Perfect. Mick’s voice is young, pure and strong, he never roars or blasts out his voice, nor does he add peculiar flairs. They sound like the Stones, but they are not really yet sleazy and shamboling (no hints of “Midnight Rambler” here yet), just gritty and raw.

The soundtrack CD has some interesting moments. Probably the highlight is the sound of the band being interrupted by the band storming the stage during “It’s Alright.” There is also Oldham’s “Theme For A Rolling Stone”, which is a nice little show tune instrumental.

Interestingly, this is coming out in the year of the Stones’ 50th anniversary celebrations, when they have their new compilation album GRRR! and other projects; but this is an ABKCO production, and as such doesn’t really have anything to do with the Stones but Alan Klein’s estate, so the Stones aren’t promoting it at all. Weird.



One Plus One (alternate title: Sympathy For The Devil) – This film by Jean-Luc Godard shows the Rolling Stones in the studio as they prepare to record “Sympathy For The Devil”. Godard, being very political, interspersed the Stones segments with scenes of Black Panther types handling rifles and reading from revolutionary texts in junkyards as blonde, bound women march through, and various other controversial passages; sometimes the two parts of the film bleed together, with the sounds of the Stones recording going over the political skits, or the sounds of the political skits heard as we watch the boys recording. Contrast or comparison? The Stones at that point had not even released “Street Fighting Man”, which was on the Beggar’s Banquet album along with “Sympathy For The Devil”, and were in fact coming out of the disastrous Their Satanic Majesty’s Request experience when they didn’t tour at all, but gearing up for a multi-media assault that included two comeback albums (Beggar’s Banquet and Sticky Fingers), a tour of the US, the Gimme Shelter movie, the Cocksucker Blues movie, the Ladies And Gentlemen The Rolling Stones movie, Stanley Booth’s book The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, various magazine articles, photographers and filmmakers everywhere, not to mention the Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus movie, the death of Brian Jones, the Hyde Park free concert, and Altamont. One Plus One came together at the start of this heady three year burst of activity and creativity that ended with Exile on Main Street, the band’s best album.

At the beginning of the film we see the band in a massive, massive studio, full of guitars, pianos, and multi-coloured partitions. There are people hanging about, squads of anonymous helper dudes smoking away, and then among them there’s Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. Cool. The band is bored, Mick is demonstrating his song, its mysterious three chords, Bryan seeming to contribute some cool jamming (he was criticised for being belligerent and hard to work with at this time), but we don’t see him much throughout. Bill looking extra bored, lounging in a pink outfit with pink leather cowboy boots, playing bass chords. Nicky Hopkins in the foreground. Keith has his solo thought through early on, we hear snatches of it already well before they even get the rest of the beat properly together. Second run-through has samba with organ, eith on bass. Keith’s shirt open. Great feeling of space in the huge studio, great lighting, Mick smokes and sings. Church organ version, Brian on guitar.

The film cuts to a group of interviewers following Eve Democracy through a forest asking vague questions that she answers with a yes or a no. “Do you feel exploited when you step into an interview?” Yes. “Is there a good way to conduct an interview?” No. “Are drugs a spiritual form of gambling?” There are scenes of people spraypainting slogans on the wals – SOVIETKONG, etc. There’s a weird bookstore scene where people take books as if to purchase them, but instead of paying for them with money they have to slap two prisoners in the face before they can leave the store with their books. Junkyard press conference with two funky female journalists. At the end there’s a beach scene, with a film crew, people with guns chasing each other along the beach as the crane dolley picks it all up, as the studio version of the film plays.

Back in the sessions, Keith does a blues intro to the song. Brian’s guitar is not plugged in, he’s wailing away, but nothing can be heard. Something fishy was going on there. Later Charlie gets the rhythm, Bill is on congas, Nicky Hopkins in the grand piano, Mick on bongo. On the second day, all others are wearing different clothes, but Bill is still in his pink outfit. The band messes on the “No Expectations” riff. Bill later changes to a red jacket, plays guitar, Charlie in a yellow leather jacket, Keith’s funky jam on a Les Paul. The sessions wear on. What’s not caught on film is that, at some point, the hot lights set the studio on fire and it burns the ground, not before someone can salvage the smoking pile of tapes. Wow!

The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus – A wonderful document of the swinging London scene of late 1968, full of little gems. There is the opening act by Jethro Tull, with a 20-year old Tony Iommi (of Black Sabbath fame) playing guitar for them, and Ian Anderson nervously trying out for the first times his trademark one-legged Pan stance. Then there is a wonderful blues perfomance by Taj Mahal, an artist I was not aware of but who really blew my mind (awesome bass player, nice guitar player, the whole band kitted out in funky blues/cowboy gear), and a rare interchange between John Lennon and Mick Jagger (the Beatles/Stones rivalry is well known, but these guys manage to be civil to each other). It is also apparently the last live appearance of Brian Jones, who barely does anything throughout – although he does put in a really great slide guitar performance.

The reason that the release of this document was delayed until 1996 was apparently that the Stones were unhappy with their performance, and envious that of the Who, who had just come off tour and were at the top of their form (and had performed earlier in the night, with good energy, whereas the Stones were playing at 2:00 in the morning and rather pooped). For me, The Who’s performance of “A Quick One (While He’s Away)” was theatrical and boring, not superior to any of the other pieces at all. The Stones had six numbers, including a rip-em-up rendition of “Sympathy for the Devil” which was probably only slightly less interesting than the Godard documentary of the original recording of the song. Mick also does a cool, dramatic strip show that reveals some pretty interesting body art. Great historical artifact, great great great.



Gimme Shelter (Criterion Collection edition) – I finally get to see the great film. Starts off with Charlie Watts and the photo shoot for the cover of “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out”, with Mick Jagger. Then the band is doing “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in New York. Then footage of the guys watching the footage, then Altamont soundfiles play, including Hells Angels honcho Sonny Berger on the phone. Mick is visibly upset, Charlie first bemused, then serious. In live shots, we get to look over Jagger’s shoulder at the audience and look at the sea of people, some of them you can see in vivid detail amazing. Funny press conference slag:

- Are you any more satisfied now than you were before?
- You mean sexually or philosophically?
- I mean both.
- Well, we’re definitely more satisfied now sexually…”

Teleconference with lawyer to get Altamont concert going. Funky dandy clothes on the Stones, old cars riding around Alabama. “Keep Alabama fitter, fight litter” on billboard near the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where they record “Wild Horses.” Mick with white suit, red scarf, red hat. First the band listens to “Wild Horses”, Keith is singing along. Charlie’s bloodied face looks at the camera uncomfortable, Mick claps. Cut to the helicopter taking the band (minus Bill Wyman) out to Altamont (or Al-ta-mon-tay as some local announcers called it). Great slow-mo and multiple images on Jagger as he sings “Love In Vain”, Keith’s wearing a funky red and black Marilyn shirt. Lawyer scenes. Tina Turner, with her snake tongue, singing a very passionate “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” at the Madison Square Gardens show as she jerks off mic and mic stand (an extended scene that you can find on YouTube is positively X-rated).

The band was so young – Will Wyman was the only geezer at 36, Charlie Watts was 29, Mick and Keith were 26, Mick Taylor was only 20! Mick’s skinny chest and cross is so Mick, “It’s nice to have a chick occasionally,” says a disgruntled Mick about Tina. Pretty girls run onstage. “I think I lost a button on my trousers, I hope they don’t fall down,” he taunts, flirting with the audience – many probably hoped that they would fall down. Can see faces in audience during “Street Fighting Man.” Shows Altamont setup and fires. Afternoon helicopter out to Altamont on December 6th, 1969, cars, crowds, hippies, bad acid trips, white lady raising money for the Panthers, topless hippy chick with big breasts, and some audience fights and freakouts, a topless guy crowd surfing. First baby born, fat naked white lady wandering through the crowd, medical kit. Fat naked Mexican guy appears many times throughout. Frisbees, cool chicks with bubbles in sunset, happenin’, man. The Hells Angels show up mid-afternoon and hang out on their beer bus watching the crowd. Middle-aged couples, dogs, cool crowd, hippy chicks, topless chicks, purple-suited black man. Santana played first, then Jefferson Airplane (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had played that day too, but are not in the film; the Grateful Dead were supposed to play too, but when they saw the madness they refused to go on). Jerry Garcia and Paul Cantor complained that the vibe is really weird. No Stones are seen at all from 48:00 to 1:08:00. “Sympathy For The Devil” is interrupted by a Hells Angels freakout in the audience. Dancing fat Hells Angel with a red bandana. Dog walks across the stage. Lots of girls with roses, Mick spazzes at the audience, a Hells Angel with sombrero hat has a word with Mick – what is discussed? People giving each other head shakes, like they know something bad is happening, a wet-eyed girl. Mick admits he can’t see what’s happening. Meredith Hunter is seen in the crowd at 1:18:48, then they start with “Under My Thumb,” more sick looks. “I pray that it’s all right.” Stabbed in a second. Crochetted dress girl was with Meredith Hunter, she’s seen crying. Off the Stones go in a helicopter, end of the Stones’ screening, dark looks. “All right, see you all,” freeze frame. Brilliant. Closing credits with “Gimme Shelter” and afternoon setup scenes.

The DVD has lots of extras, including 22 minutes of outtakes, first showing bored Stones, Keith doesn’t want the camera in his face. Full version of a song with full audio and some video, “Little Queeny”, the only full song on the whole DVD. Hanging out backstage with Ike and Tina Turner, Ike is playing guitar while Tina checks out a catalogue. Keith is showin’ off guitar rifs to Ike. It was November, 1969. There is a full set of Bill Owens pics, showing Hells Angels at the mic, crowd shots, Hare Krishnas, a girl on the road with a long shadow. Beth Sunflower pics show the fat naked guy, the gob onstage. There are also trailers of the Maysles Brothers’ films – three trailers for “Gimme Shelter”, one for “Salesman” (the cutthroat “Glengarry Glen Ross”-like world of bible salesmen) and “Grey Gardens”, the tale of faded money and a crumbling mansion. There’s a demo of the restoration, both video and sound. Finally, there’s 90 minutes of sound from a KSAN radio special that was on the air one day after the Altamont Speedway Rolling Stones free concert disaster. First up is a Tower Records ad, pitching the newly-released “Let It Bleed” for $2.77. Tales of bad trips and freakouts, it was really heavy, man, many bad trips, bad vibrations, really something going on right from the start, even before Santana began. Woodstock was the point of reference. The Speedway was in a hot alley, everyone was in a hurry to re-create Woodstock for the west coast. The way the stage was constructed. “What’s the difference between Mick Jagger and Judy Garland?” When we say we’ll do something, we do it. Committed. Sam Cutler, the road manager, complained that there were 15 people left behind afterwards to clean up 15 tons of garbage, the stage, and the scaffolding. Sonny Barger, Hells Angels chapter head, told his story. There was a fire on. He told Mick to get people to sit down. “I’ve been hurt before and I’ve been hurt by experts, but over the years I’ve learned how to get up and do it again.”

The movie has a commentary from the filmmakers. The directors were Albert and David Maysles, but the younger of the two, David, died in 1987, so the commentators are Albert, as well as editor and co-director Charlotte Zwerin. The Stones broguht the Maysles, who were in their late 30s/early 40s at the time, one day before the Madison Square Gardens gig, which they filmed. The Rolling Stones didn’t want a film, they wanted to be filmed, and they have many unedited films on their shelves. Charlie Watts has a big role in the start of this film, bigger character than usual. The flimmakers discuss the use of facial expressions and the focus on the Stones’ faces throughout this film, as well as audience faces and expressions, of happiness and agony. There are moments of silence when the camera is on a face you get into the mind of someone, it’s a very special privilege. Anecdote of snow having fallen on the film rolls overnight. The 1969 tour happened just after Brian Jones died, this was Mick’s liberation and coming out from under Brian’s shadow. Nice shots of Keith’s crazy transparent plexi guitar.

Keiths plexi guitar

Keith’s plexi guitar

The Maysles got a lot of money up front and half of the profits, but they also had to put $500,000 of their own money into it. For six months afterwards the Stones still hadn’t signed the release for the film, but they didn’t get the release (and they needed the release for the venture to become profitable) until a friend who knew Mick from the “Performance” movie intervened. Jimi Hendrix and BB King were there at the Madison Square Gardens backstage room. Charlotte notes her amazement that Tina Turner’s sexual innuendo wasn’t removed by censors. “They must have been dense.” Notes about Mel Bella’s cathedral-sized office, which was asurdly baroque an crammed with things like parrot cages, the king of torts who knew about publicity. Commentary is made about all the cameramen, but not George Lucas, who was there on one of his early assignments. Before the concert started they saw a fence being torn down, Keith remarked “First act of violence,” that stuck them as very smart. Explained logistics problems, such as getting sound to sync up with video, or of the generator at Altamont slowing down the speed of filming. Hells Angels were good to the filmmakers on the site, carrying heavy bags. The gang had a place at concerts in California, typically keeping order around the equipment area. Many of the Angels there that day were pledges who had to prove themselves. They wanted also to film the Hells Angels watching the movie, it became an ugly scene where they demanded that the film be destroyed, they demanded $1 million for their scenes in the movie, and they said that if it was released there would be a contract out on their lives, they also wanted to beat up the guys right there in the Hells Angels chapter house. Ugly scene. They also said that after the concert, people who were too stoned to go home or who wanted to party some more, tried to hang out with the Hells Angels at their party fire, and there were more beatings. “It’s the true story that Woodstock wasn’t.”

The DVD also comes with a 44-page booklet that includes essays by Village Voice film critic Amy Taubin, Stanley Booth, who wrote The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones about his travels with the Stones, Mick Jagger’s personal assistant from 1967 to 1972 Georgia “Jo” Bergman, musician and author Michael Lydon, a short piece by Ralph “Sonny” Barger himself that is excerpted from Barger’s book Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, and the final piece is by New York Press film editor Godfrey Cheshire. The booklet contains lots of details from people who were there – Taubin gives some overview, while Booth gives a fantastic portrayal of the events of the weeks leading up to the concert as well as a full description of the day itself (he was roughed up by Hell’s Angels himself), and mentions Michelle Phillips and Gram Parsons and other Stones hangers-on from the time; Bergman talked more about business and logistics, being Mick’s PA (she makes it a point that she’s not one of the chicks Jagger sleeps with), while Lydon gives zeitgeist of the era. Sonny Barger tells a tale that is a bit different from the one that most people would think, and he also reveals that “Meredith had shot a Hells Angel. Since the guy he shot was a fugitive at the time, we couldn’t take him to a doctor or an emergency ward. It was just a flesh wound anyway.” Finally, Cheshire gives some of the film history of “Gimme Shelter”, noting that George Lucas was one of the young cameramen on the scene that day.

A lot of other details of the concert are not mentioned, such as the CSNY and Grateful Dead bits, as well as the news that three other people died that day – two in a hit and run accident, and one who drowned in an irrigation ditch.



The Rolling Stones, Some Girls Live in Concert ’78, recorded in Fort Worth, Texas, July 18th, 1978 – Get the audio here. According to the essay in the eight-page booklet that comes with the DVD, the band announced a secret gig in Fort Worth, Texas, on July 18th, at the Will Rogers Auditorium, a 3,000-seater, under cover as “The London Green Shoed Cowboys”. Everybody saw through the ruse, and tickets were in high demand.

The DVD is a testament to a pretty good show. The band goes out and does their thing, with Mick covered up in a hat and jacket and some sort of weird mock leather track pants, which he slowly peels off part by part as the show goes on – the hat goes, then the jacket, and finally also the shirt. There’s the usual onstage Stones chaos, and at one point we see a roadie mopping up some spill onstage. Keith looks frazzled, and pretty sloppy in a weird silk shirt, but he pulls through. Unlike Ladies And Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones, this concert was recorded on one night, rather than edited together from parts recorded over a series of nights.

For a few songs, Mick plays a brown Stratocaster as a prop (does his playing really make a difference, if he’s even playing at all?). Looks like Elvis or Bruce Dickinson slinging a guitar – awkward. Keith plays a tan Telecaster (then, later on, a black Telecaster), Woody is on a mirrored Les Paul. Mick tries to smooch Ron Wood, later grabs his sack, even later slaps his butt – must be some weird initiation thing. Mick’s trying to look like Bob Dylan singing powerfully with a guitar, but he looks more like a proto-Bryan Adams (… what I’m really trying to say is that he shouldn’t play guitar – and after that he didn’t). “Just My Imagination” jam, Mick bug-eyed at the end. Mick has guitar for four songs in a row (“When The Whip Comes Down”, Beast Of Burden”, “Miss You” and “Imagination”), leaves it off for the next song, then picks it up again for “Respectable”. Woody picks a cigarette (?) up off the floor, offers it to Mick for a drag. Mick, with jacket, looks like he has no arms. “Shattered” ends with a jab. “Are you feeling good? I always feel good in Texas; I’m afraid if the band’s slightly lacking in energy is because they spent all of last night fucking. But we do our best.” Mick on piano for “Far Away Eyes”, he then moves to keyboard. Ron Wood on slide. Fiddlist Doug Kershaw (who had opened the show), came back to play on this song – jarring. “Love In Vain”, Ron Wood plays black and silver Telecaster slide. “Tumbling Dice”, Woody plays mother of pearl-flecked Les Paul, Mick grabs his dick at 1:04:00. Mick finally removes jacket. In “Happy”, he pretends to slap Woody’s face, then slaps his butt. There’s a bit of a tongue thing. Best song on concert. Keith is ferocious. In “Brown Sugar”, Mick removes shirt, whips Woody with it (of course). Big girl in back going crazy. Crowd response, Mick throws water on audience.

The documentary has 15 minutes of interview with Sir Mick, and 20 minutes from a 1978 Saturday Night Live performance, and then about two minutes of American TV interviewing – 20/20, with some stuff from Geraldo Rivera.

In the documentary, Mick talks about the tolerant musical diversity of the time in New York, with acceptance of dance music, punk and country all happening at the same time. Mentions the Sugarhill Gang, referenced Dr Dre’s remix of “Miss You” of many years later, I guess he’s hinting that the band was ahead of their time. “Shattered” has semi-rap sing-talk in it. You really see how old he is here, with big eccentric House of Lords-style eyebrows and small eyes. Mick dresses in a white suit and records the Tomorrow Show with Dan Ackroyd, who has multi-coloured hair and smokes a cigarette throughout the piece. Ha ha ha… Nothing special in the interview, but the live footage is good, especially as they play the same egalitarian sound stage that all other SNL performers use. Mick steals Woody’s cig, then whips him on the face and crotch with his towel. Jeez! Mick sounds like Buster Poindexter now, does crazy kung fu moves in “Beast of Burden” and spits on the SNL stage in “Respectable”. Mick tongues Woody’s lips. In the 20/20 interview with Geraldo Rivera, he asks Bill what makes Mick Jagger one of the best frontmen. “Ego.” Bill thought that they’d last 2-3 years, never 16 (and that was half way through his career with the Rolling Stones – by the time he left, they’d been together 32 years).

Mick 'n' Woody gettin' personal

Mick ‘n’ Woody gettin’ personal



Shine A Light – The film starts off with a fake phone conversation Mick Jagger has with Martin Scorsese about the staging of a concert, before showing a meet and greet between Bill Clinton and the Rolling Stones. “I’m Bush-ed,” says Keith, eyebrows raised. Ha ha. Set list surprises. First song “Jumping Jack Flash”, “Shattered,” Mick sings flatly. Mick Jagger, spidery 60-year-old. Male background singer kind of over-doing it. “She Was Hot”, “All Down The Line”. Mick in great shape, dancing up a storm. Charlie blows breath – whew! Interviews with the young Stones juxtaposed here. Mick plays guitar, sings with Jack White, “I guess I play a bad guitar” on “Lovin’ Cup.” Bobby Keys on sax, Mick a firecracker on guitar for “Some Girls.” Keith plays a weird 12-string guitar solo on “As Tears Go By”, song suits Mick’s voice very nicely now. Short series of bad interviews, like one in Japan:

How old are you?
Same age as me.
How nice.

What question have you been asked the most?
That one you just asked.

And how many times were they asked “so, how much longer are you going to keep doing this?” A bunch of older songs – “Jusy My Imaginations, ” “The Girl With Faraway Eyes.” Mick ‘n’ Keith hugging and harmonizing. Muddy Waters comes out for “Champagne And Reefer” with Buddy Guy. Keith intimidated Buddy onstage, gets him to stop spazzing, Mik plays the mouth harp at him. “Tumbling Dice”, introduces the band. Keith’s schtick: “It’s good to see you all. It’s good to see anybody.” Keith sings “You’ve Got The Silver” with no guitar, Ron on slide. Still has the voice. “Keith sings “Connection.” Keith talks about him ‘n’ Ronnie: “We’re both pretty lousy, but together we’re better than ten others.” Overly-long lame intro to “Sympathy For The Devil”, with Mick strutting around stage left. Ho hum… Christina Aguilero omes out for “Live With Me,” really shouldn’t have (does she fill the cheese gap that Cher has left behind her?) She would have been better doing “Gimme Shelter”. Similarly lame intro to “Start Me UP.” That as “last song”? Come on!! “Brown Sugar,” Keith’s guitar zomms in and out of the mix. “Satisfaction.” Closing credits is the audio for “Shine A Light.” The song is in memory of Ahmet Ertegun – it was this show where he slipped and injured himself in the backstage area, never to recover. Suppplementary video – ironic media statements: why have you stayed together so ong? Top of the “to die” list (“I’ll let you know”).

Why do you keep on doing what you’re doing?
That’s a stupid question.

Mick on slide guitar. Shows Mick on the other side of the call with Scorsese. Ron, Mick and Keith acoustic jam with Charlie – Mick on harmonica. Bonus songs: “Undercover of the Night”, intro sounds weird without the stupid electric drum jazz. “Paint It Black” near-identical to the studio version. Ron plays cool banjo, Keith spacing out while on one knee. “Little T&A.” Bass solo of sorts, “I’m Free” also a very faithful version.


The Rolling Stones, Let’s Spend The Night Together – A great DVD of 24 Stones classics, filmed in 1981, it was also one of Hal Ashby’s last films (the bearded wild man him self appears in a backstage scene halfway through the movie). The film starts off at a stadium show in the afternoon, filmed at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona (13 December 1981), before later on moving into the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey (filmed 5–6 November 1981). I came into this film with fairly low expectations, but it blew me away – in this video Mick is about the same age as I am now, and he’s in amazing shape; he pulls off a great show – the whole band does!

To read the rest of my review of the 1982 film “Let’s Spend The Night Together”, click here.



Performance – While the production was plagued with trouble, Performance is now viewed as one of the great, early, innovative art films. Director Donald Cammell may have killed himself gruesomely in 1996 and only produced a few more movies (notable The Demon Seed, with Julie Christie), but he left us with this great time capsule of the Stones and Swimming London. James Fox is a young gangster, Chas, who runs afoul of his mob and has to go on the run. He finds the house of Turner, played by Mick Jagger, and Anita Pallenberg, and their young lover Michele Breton. The film starts off with long gangster scenes and stagey acting, with the actors often having their backs to the camera (there’s some sort of symbolism in this, not sure what it means). One of the characters is called Mad Dog Moody, like in Harry Potter. The gangsters are suave, but bored. There’s a mock Jimi Hendrix. Chas looks like Bowie did later in his career. We first meet Anita, a voice on an intercom when Chas is at the door. The screen fills with freaky Anita movies – she had been pregnant, but aborted her baby to do this film. Licking Mick’s lips in a menage a trios. Anita is seductive with James Fox. “I jack off – juggle!“. Anita rolling joints in bath scenes, she shoots up while drunk and dances around the sad world of the forgotten Turner. Black rap – great! Mick is very short next to James Fox. A random nipple close up. “Do you know who you are?” Anita is so high. Freaky painter twins come in, Turner buys their frame but not their painting, puts it in a closet with other frames. They take mushrooms, Chas’ mind loosens up a bit, he gets off his machoism and homophobia and becomes a bit more androgynous, like Turner (it’s temporary, though, of course). Camera drifts through the back of Mick’s head through to James Fox, maybe Mick’s not really there? The faces are interposed. Subtle it isn’t it – Mick and Chas are the same person. Or Mick’s not really there. Mick sings some Robert Johnson songs, including “Me And The Devil Blues”. Chas is uptight – “He’s weird. And you’re weird. You’re kinky!” There are several cool uses of mirrors, including a whole set on a ceiling. “He’s a man, a male and female man.” “You’re sick you-you-you degenerate!” A little dark mirror, and then the great fluorescent bulb dancing scene with the Memo From Turner song that Mick sings with Nick Cave hair, rock and roll finally coming over the Muzak system. Naked gangsters, followed by Chas and Turner/Michele Breton in bed. Then there’s the bullet hole path from the “Jamie’s Got A Gun” video, which is pretty weird (but also many years before its time). Great.