May 29 – Stones Own Label Debut Was A Sweet Success…Or Was It?

At the time they thought it was pretty sweet. The Rolling Stones were on top on this day in 1971 with their fifth American #1 song, “Brown Sugar.” That must’ve been a relief to them as it signaled a number of changes for the band and a return to form commercially. Remarkably their three previous singles had failed to chart on Billboard.

Brown Sugar” was the first single off Sticky Fingers, which was not only their first album on their own self-named record label after they left Decca Records, but their first studio creation with Mick Taylor on guitar replacing (by then dead) Brian Jones. This one brought in Bobby Keys for a powerful sax bit and Ian Stewart on piano as well. It was also a bit of a return to their straight-forward, dirty rock origins after a few more experimental, psychedelic efforts to finish the ’60s. Fittingly, they’d recorded it (back in early 1969) at Muscle Shoals in Alabama. As Cashbox put it, the single was a “return to the fresh blues sound of the team’s pre-Satanic days.” So it was a bit of a risk. Would their fans return with them?

Lyrically it was a bit of a risk too, although few back then thought so. Some thought it was a veiled reference to heroin as that was sometimes nicknamed “brown sugar.” But a more careful listen seemed to suggest it was all about sex with Black women and what’s more, with lines like “sold in the market down in New Orleans”, one about slave women. Although at the time, it didn’t seem very risky or risque.

Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics and was the main composer (although as per their norm, Keith Richards got co-credit) and said “it was all to do with a combination of drugs and girls.” He, and the band were hot commodities then, so maybe not surprisingly, different girls or women claimed to have been his inspiration for it. Most noteworthy of those were Marsha Hunt, a girlfriend of his who had his child, and Claudia Lennear. Lennear was a backing singer for Ike & Tina Turner who was the subject for David Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul.” Bandmate Bill Wyman suggests it was her who was Mick’s “Brown Sugar.”

Either way, the song was a massive international hit, something that had eluded them a little in the previous couple of years. Besides the States, it also topped charts in Canada, Switzerland and a few other European lands and got to #2 in their UK, where it got them a gold record. They’d go on to score two more U.S. #1s, “Angie” and “Miss You.”

The song’s considered a classic. Rolling Stone has included it in their list of the 500 greatest songs of all-time and put it as a lofty #5 on a list of the greatest “Guitar songs”. They note “here the Stones lay waste to a battery of taboo subjects – slavery, sado-maschochism, inter-racial sex – and still manage to be catchy as hell.”

It was a highlight of their live set on many tours (even some concerts from before it was officially released), but the times, they are a-changin’. In 2021, the band bowed to pressure and removed it from their setlist. Mick Jagger said “it’s such a mishmash of all the nasty subjects in one go… I would never write that song now.” Keith Richards, on the other hand stated “I don’t know. I’m trying to figure out with the sisters, quite where the beef is? Didn’t they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery?”

Maybe they did, maybe they interpreted it another way. As did, perhaps, Pepsi  and Kahlua…both of whom have used it in commercials.

By the way, if you like the song but thought “what it really needed though was Eric Clapton on guitar”, you’re in luck. They actually recorded a version of the song for the album with Clapton playing, but preferred the ’69 original when it was done. The Clapton one was eventually released on a deluxe reissue of Sticky Fingers however.


May 10 – Who Knew The Band Would Be Around For Decca-des

Everyone makes mistakes. The thing that separates the winners from losers is often the ability to learn from those mistakes. In that, Dick Rowe is definitely a winner, and he proved it on this day in 1963. That was the day he signed the Rolling Stones to Decca Records…not long after turning down a chance to do the same with a band called The Beatles!

Rowe was the head of A&R for Decca in Britain. It was one of the better established record companies, dating back to 1929. By the WWII era, they were home to many of the most popular musicians of the day from Louis Armstrong to the Andrews Sisters. They also had a way of being ahead of their time. In 1954, they put out what would by most accounts be the first hit “rock and roll” record – Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.” No surprise then that when the Beatles got back home to the UK, Decca would have an interest in adding them to the roster. Rowe listened to them and alledgedly told their manager, “guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein” , although he later denied saying that. Whether he did or not, what is fact is that Decca didn’t sign the Beatles and by spring ’63, it was already becoming clear to all that that had been a huge mistake – Beatlemania was taking the world by storm. So when a Beatle suggested a new band to him, Rowe wasn’t going to mess up again.

The Stones had been rolling for about a year, but spring ’63 was very eventful as they’d just signed on with a young manager named Andrew Oldham… being a teenager, Oldham actually needed parents help to legally sign some contracts! But he had a good idea of how to make a hit. Bill Wyman remembers a day or two after signing him as manager, Oldham took the band shopping and bought them matching “tight black jeans, black roll-neck sweaters and highly fashionable Anello and Davide black Spanish boots” to wear on stage. Other times they wore suits. He soon changed his opinion and let them wear their own street clothes and grow their hair longer to provide a visual contrast to the Beatles who were seen as “wholesome” or “clean cut” for rockers. Oldham also recognized musical talent and urged Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to write more of their own material. for the first few months, all they played were essentially old Blues numbers and Chuck Berry covers.

Although he didn’t sign the Beatles, one might guess the London rock scene was quite small and close in the first half of the ’60s, so George Harrison kept in touch with Rowe. He told the Decca man that the Rolling Stones were the real deal and needed to have a deal. Rowe caught them in a show in early May at the Crawdaddy Club in London and signed them days later. Within a month, Decca issued the first Rolling Stones single – a Chuck Berry cover as it were, “Come On,” which got to #21 at home. They’d stick with Decca throughout the 1960s before forming their own label, appropriately enough Rolling Stones Records, in 1970.

At the time, Disc magazine suggested “The Beatles who recommended the Stones to Decca may live to rue the day. This group could be challenging them for top place in the immediate future.” And although they did, few would think the Beatles cared much about it. Most biographies suggest the two bands were friends and enjoyed the rivalry for chart dominance and in effect pushed each other to greater heights of creativity. It seemed guitar groups were on their way in, actually!

November 3 – Turntable Talk, Round 8 : Many Found Musical Satisfaction In This Year

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our seventh round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?” or the one dealing with one hit wonders we ran at the start of last month.

This month, a simple category…but one which is challenging and should bring up some interesting memories : Those Were The Days My Friend. Simply put, we’re asking the contributors to write about “music’s best year.”

Obviously, that’s a pretty subjective choice. A few executives might try to look at sales charts and give a statistical answer based on album sales or concert grosses, but to most it comes down to the year that seemed to be when the best music was played, or when the most really good records came out. We’ve not limited it but I would expect that most are going to pick a year from the ‘rock era’ in the second half of the ’70s. But if someone opines it was 1804 because that was when Beethoven started working on his 5th Symphony, that’ll be interesting to read about. Today we have Lisa from Tao Talk, where she combines her interests in music, movies, poetry and philosophy. So far we’ve seen 1969 and ’71 lauded. Will Lisa keep that theme going, or talk about a year from another era?

Dave has come up with creative ideas for posts on and around music, some easier to write about than others. This time he has given us the challenge to come up with what we each think was the best year for music. If that isn’t a tall order that runs the risk of being also chosen by someone else, especially if you know who those others’ favorite musicians are, I don’t know what is. The biggest challenge for me was trying to figure out a process to go through mass quantities of possibilities for songs over all time. I quickly realized that just wasn’t possible. Instead I set some parameters for myself and chose them within my parameters. Of course zillions of choices were excluded by the limits, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

My first parameter was to focus only on the rock and roll genre, using that term loosely.

My second parameter was to choose a finite number of my favorite musical groups or individuals. As time is the great arbiter of all, those were limited to, in no order of preference:

The Kinks

The Beatles

The Rolling Stones

Led Zeppelin



Joni Mitchell

Pearl Jam

Jethro Tull

George Harrison

The last parameter was years, which I limited to between 1964 and 1990. What I did then was go through the studio discographies of each of them and put check marks in each column for each group/person if they had an album that year. Sadly, although Pearl Jam is one of my favorite groups of all time, their first album wasn’t released until 1991. This excluded them from consideration. The albums each group had in 1991 and beyond varied, with top 3 in quantity being Pearl Jam at 11, REM at 9, U2 at 8.

Adding up all years for all albums within the group and year parameters, three years tied for the most, at 9: 1964, 1965, and 1969. As the audiophile readers undoubtedly know, three groups skewed the numbers for those years: The Kinks, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones, with The Beatles being the main culprits for 1964 with six studio albums! 1965 had a more even distribution with those three groups: Kinks (2,) Beatles (3,) and Stones (4.)

Because of that more even distribution, I’m going to say 1965 was the best year for music. Taking a gander at the songs from those albums, my favorites:

Kinks – Tired of Waiting for You, Dancing in the Streets, Where Have all the Good Times Gone

Beatles – In My Life, I Need You, I’ve Just Seen a Face,

The Rolling Stones – What a Shame, Heart of Stone, Off the Hook

I got to my choice for best year for music in a semi-scientific way and based that choice on three of my favorite groups. None of my other favorite groups had albums released in those years. Just to add a little oomph of support for the year, I looked at playbackfm for their top 100 songs of 1965 and was not too surprised to see so many Stones, Beatles, and Kinks tunes, with some not on the albums released that year:

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction



Ticket to Ride

Get Off my Cloud

The Last Time

Day Tripper

Rock n Roll Music

Eight Days a Week

A Well Respected Man

You can check out the list at that link and lists for several other years if you would like to. From that hundred, my supporting evidence that 1965 was THE BEST includes (and you will be amazed at how many great tunes came out of this year):

“In the Midnight Hour” – Wilson Pickett

“Unchained Melody” – Righteous Brothers

“Downtown” – Petula Clark

“Wooly Bully” – Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs

“Mr. Tambourine Man” – The Byrds

“Like a Rolling Stone” – Bob Dylan

“My Girl” – The Temptations

“Turn, Turn, Turn” – The Byrds

“Goldfinger” – Shirley Bassey

“For Your Love” – The Yardbirds

“California Girls” –  The Beach Boys

“I Got You” – James Brown

“The Tracks of My Tears” – The Miracles

“We Gotta Get Outta This Place” – The Animals

“Positively Fourth Street” – Bob Dylan

“I Hear a Symphony” – The Supremes

“Gloria” – Them

“It’s My Life” – The Animals

In conclusion, I’d like to thank Dave for the challenge he gave each of us. Going through it, I realize there is no real contest about which year is the best. It is more about the process of how we each chose how we chose and why. I look forward to reading each of your posts because I want to see what your process was in choosing. For anyone who also chose 1965: you’ve got great taste!

September 26 – The Stones Keep Rolling On

Well, their nickname is the “Glimmer Twins” not the “Glimmer Triplets”…the Rolling Stones began a new chapter in their lengthy history a year ago today. For the first time, they played a concert without longtime drummer Charlie Watts, who of course had passed away a month earlier.

It was a continuation of their “No Filter Tour”, which had begun, incredibly enough, in Hamburg, Germany over four years earlier. The first leg ended in Miami in August, 2019 but the planned resuming in early-’20 was scuttled by the pandemic. By the time they took the stage again, over two years had transpired and their beloved drummer had succumbed to cancer.

The tour itself resumed this night in 2021 in St. Louis, although they had done a bit of an unannounced, impromptu rehearsal in Massachusetts the previous week. 38 000 or so fans showed up to the America’s Center in the Gateway City (which actually was the smallest crowd of the regular concerts for this leg of the tour) and weren’t disappointed. As had been the case earlier in the tour, it was something of a greatest hits show, with many of the shows running over three hours and being heavy on the hits.

According to St. Louis Today, the show began “with images of Jagger, Richards, Wood and Watts flashing on video screens. The final image, a photo of a smiling Watts cued the band’s entrance to the stage for ‘Street Fighting Man.’” Needless to say, they paid homage to their drummer of 50+ years, with Jagger saying “this is our first tour we’ve ever done without him. We all miss Charlie so much on the stage and off the stage and we’d like to dedicate this tour to Charlie.” They then kicked into “Tumblin’ Dice” and ran through a good selection of hits including “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Honky Tonk Women” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, the final song of the main set. New for the show was the song “Living in A Ghost Town” which they’d recorded the year before during the pandemic lockdown. They jumped on back to do an encore of “Gimme Shelter” and “Satisfaction.”

Filling Watts big shoes was Steve Jordan, appropriate enough since Keith Richards said Watts had once said if he couldn’t play anymore, “Steve Jordan’s your man.” The Stones were pretty familiar with Jordan, even though he was only five years old when the band began! Jordan had played in Richards’ side-project, the X-spensive Winos in the ’80s. And kept busy on a host of other projects including being in the Saturday Night Live house band (which led to him being with the Blues Brothers when they were active), then David Letterman’s on his Late Night show for four years and doing session work for a who’s who of ’80s and ’90s stars including Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, John Mellencamp, Bonnie Tyler and Bob Dylan as well as being Eric Clapton’s touring drummer.

The tour carried on to huge box offices and good reviews through November, wrapping up with a small show at the Hard Rock Cafe in Hollywood November 23.

August 24 – Starts And Ends For The Stones

It’s an important date on the Rolling Stones calendar. Of course, when you’ve been around 60 years, there come to be a lot of those!

Of course, sadly enough, their drummer Charlie Watts passed away one year ago from cancer on this day. But 40 years to the day earlier, in 1981, was a much brighter moment for them. That marked the release of their 18th studio album (in North America, in Britain, with different track listings early on in their career it was merely their 16th), Tattoo You.

The album was something of a return to form, if one considers their “form” to be pretty much straight-ahead rock, compared to Emotional Rescue, which came out a year earlier, or Some Girls from ’78. What makes that surprising is that far from a unified album it was basically a reworking of outtakes they had from the past decade! The Stones had agreed to go on a massive world tour starting that fall, and hadn’t got anything much in the way of new songs to record. Associate producer Chris Kimsey explains it “really came about because Mick and Keith were going through a period of not getting on. There was a need to have an album out and I told everyone I could make an album from what I knew was still there…I spent three months going through (outtakes of) the last four, five albums.”

He succeeded surprisingly well, coming up with a solid collection of 11 songs, some dating back to 1972. So far back did he look in fact, that Mick Taylor is the guitarist on two songs…and he had left the band seven years earlier. That done, the band got back together briefly over the winter of ’80-81 in New York to finish off the tracks, in a few cases adding new vocals (the lead-off single “Start Me Up” for example had been “Never Stop” in the demo they worked from) and a few overdubbed instruments, like Sonny Collins sax on “Waiting on A Friend.” Looking back on it, Mick Jagger says “I think it’s excellent. But all the things I usually like, it doesn’t have. It doesn’t have any unity or purpose or place or time.”

Remarkably, fans and critics found it did have a sort of unity and took to it in a big way. The magazine that more or less shares its name with the band (Rolling Stone) rated it 5-stars, declaring “the Rolling Stones are back…(with a new record that) dances – not prances – and rocks – not jives – onto the scene.” The New York Times suggested “Tattoo You is something special”, liking how there were “no Chuck Berry retreads, none of (the songs) are disco, none of them are reggae. They are all rock’n’roll.” Later on, Udiscover Music summed it up as being a record which “consilidated the finest elements of the Stones music, demonstrating their willingness to change while never betraying their roots.”

That was pretty much the case, although they did separate the songs into a rock side of the record and a ballads one. The former generated two hit singles while the latter added one. The “ballad” was “Waiting on a Friend,” a song originally done for Goat’s Head Soup back in ’72; it got to #13 in the U.S. and #10 in Canada. The rockers were “Hang Fire”, a top 20 hit in the States, and memorably, “Start Me Up.” That one had originally been created during the Some Girls sessions (long before Microsoft existed let alone used it for software commercials) and was their first real, prototypical rock song to connect in years. It topped Aussie charts, and got to #2 in the States and Canada. It also was their very first “Mainstream Rock” #1 hit on Billboard. But that’s a bit misleading as the chart had only been begun about six months prior…had it been around in the ’60s there is little doubt they would have been scores of them.

All in all, Tattoo You reached #2 in their homeland, but #1 in a number of other lands including the U.S. (where it was their eighth-straight …but also their last one to date) ,Canada, France and Germany. Although it only hit gold status in the UK, it was 4X platinum in North America.

It helped them make the fall tour in North America the year’s biggest, taking in over $50 million and playing to crowds as big as 181 000 over two nights in Philadelphia, and 87 000 or so in New Orleans’ Superdome, which at the time was the largest-ever indoor crowd for a concert. Fans wanting to relive the experience got the chance in 2012, when they released a double-album called Hampton Coliseum, a recording of their December show in Virginia, which included six of the Tattoo You songs, including “Black Limousine” and “Little T&A” besides the better-known hits.

August 20 – CBS Figured There Was Gold In Those Stones

The rich got richer! Rolling Stones signed a contract with Columbia/CBS Records this day in 1983 after spending years with Atlantic. The contract was worth at least $28 million (their biographer Murray Nelson says it was more like $50 million.) Whether 28 or 50 mil, it was the biggest contract any musician had signed to that point, topping Kenny Rogers’ previous record $20 million with RCA.

The contract was reportedly for four new albums and allowed them to keep using their own “Rolling Stones” label . Mick, Keith and the lads gave them two before jumping to Virgin Records in the ’90s. Both 1986’s Dirty Work and ’89’s Steel Wheels did fairly well- both were top 5 hits and platinum in the U.S., Steel Wheels hit #1 in Canada. However, it would seem unlikely Columbia got their money back on them alone. The real goldmine for them though was obtaining the rights to all the previous Stones’ work and being able to reissue them. Fans might not have noticed the change; even though signed to CBS the records and CDs had the Stones’ own “big lips” label on them. They were one of the few acts prominent enough to be on Columbia and not have their records sporting the traditional orange markings of that company.

In the ’90s they signed to Virgin Records but their last album, Blue and Lonesome in 2016 was on Polydor Records, distributed by Universal. That one by the way was their 11th #1 album in their homeland and won them a Grammy Award for Best Blues album… but with the state of music sales, is currently their only regular album not to have gone gold or better in the U.S. Will we see another new Stones album? Time will tell. Although there are no apparent immediate plans for one, the band recently wrapped up a European tour marking their 60th anniversary as a group.

July 11 – When The Glimmer Twins Were Cowboys…With Cowbells

The Rolling Stones took a page out of the Beatles playbook this day in 1969, issuing a standalone single not from their current album. And much like “Penny Lane” and “Hey Jude” had done for the Fab Four, the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women” became one of their biggest and best-known hits. The single is noteworthy in their chronology not only for being one of their biggest hits, but being the introduction of Mick Taylor to the world.

Honky Tonk Women” had surprising origins…like a ranch somewhere in the middle of Brazil. After finishing the Beggars Banquet album, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went on vacation there, with their girlfriends. Girlfriends in tow or not, the lads took every chance to take part in the local nightlife in the cantinas and saloons nearby, and met many “honky tonk women” – on one level merely women who liked to hang out in the bars and dance, but on a more metaphoric, assumed level, local prostitutes. Anyway, the pair were thinking about them…and the country surroundings. Richards recalls “Mick and I were sitting in the middle of nowhere, with all these horses and I started to play. Basically, fooling around with an old Hank Williams tune, ’cause we really thought we were like real cowboys.”

Thus, “Honky Tonk Women” came around, even though Mick set the song in Memphis and New York City rather than the pampas of Brazil. The original take of it was more country & western-oriented than the one fans heard and loved as a single. Back in London, in the spring of ’69, they began to work on the song. Brian Jones was playing on some of the earliest demos, which turned out to be the last thing he’d do with the Stones. However, as we recently noted, Jones was becoming less and less reliable and would soon be booted from the band and replaced with Taylor, who plays on the final cut and claims he created the distinctive guitar riff that runs through it (something Keith remembers differently!). Producer Jimmy Miller, who’d worked with them on Let it Bleed came back to produce it, and had the idea of putting the cowbells at the opening of the song, and is credited with playing them.

The song came out shortly after Jones death, ironically…in fact, the day after he died in Britain ( a few days before this, it’s American release.) And of course, it took off. It rode up the charts like a wild horse around the world, becoming their second #1 single in both their homeland and the States, and topping Australian and New Zealand charts as well; somehow in Canada it was held to #2. In the U.S. it was the year’s fourth biggest song and went gold. The song went on to be one of the band’s most enduring and popular ones in concert, memorably in the 1989 tour when they brought a 60-foot inflatable “honky tonk woman” on stage for the song!

Those who wanted the song on an LP didn’t have long to wait; the label included it on a compilation called Through the Past Darkly before the end of ’69. But the single was quite a record in its own right – the b-side was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, another classic. Rolling Stone lists both among their 200 greatest songs of all-time. At the time it came out, that magazine called it “the strongest three minutes of rock and roll yet released in 1969.”

Fans who wanted to hear what the original take sounded like were in luck as well. They put out a more country-sounding version, based on the original demo, called “Country Honk” on Let it Bleed.

July 3 – This Stone Rolled Too Wildly

It’s a red-letter day for black marks on the rock calendar. This day in 1969, Brian Jones , founder of the Rolling Stones, died at age 27, drowning in his pool. That came only weeks after the band had fired him after years of volatile, unpredictable behavior.

Jones was, no matter what else, a musical talent to be reckoned with. His dad was a piano teacher on the side and his mom led the church choir; they exposed Brian to lots of classical music as a child. He soon found a preference for old American blues music however, and his parents indulged him, buying him a saxophone and then a guitar as a young teen. He mastered both, and later keyboards and other instruments as well. He was by all accounts smart, but always in trouble at school. By age 16 he was playing in various jazz or blues clubs around London; in 1962 he put an ad in a music paper looking to form a band. That brought out, among others, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, as well as Charlie Watts. Jones assembled the band, and then picked the name, Rolling Stones, on a whim when an interviewer asked about it.

Jones preferred doing blues covers and very bluesy rock originals, which the rest of the band soon began to tire of, as did the manager Andrew Loog Oldham, with whom Jones never got along well with. Through the band’s early days, Jones irritated the others, getting paid 5 pounds (about $140 now) a week more than Jagger and Richards by the record company, supposedly for helping manage the group. He went through a string of girlfriends, that was prolific even by rock star standards, had several children and was often sued for paternity. One of his many flings left him for Keith in 1967, adding to the hostilities. And he got as bored with music as with any girl. On the one hand, he wanted the band to remain rooted in the blues; on the other hand he had grown bored with playing guitar by all accounts a few years in. Bill Wyman remembered “there were at least two sides to Brian’s personality. One Brian was introverted, shy, sensitive, deep-thinking. The other was a preening peacock…”

Although he was best known for his guitar work, often playing what they termed “weaving” guitars with Richards (in which both would rather alternate lead bits and rhythm parts), and also being a slide guitar talent, as we hear on “Little Red Rooster”, he experimented with all sorts of other instruments, particularly paying attention to the Beatles expanded sounds in ’66-67. He got a sitar (played on “Paint it Black” among other songs), and a mellotron (“She’s a Rainbow”), not to mention dulcimers and autoharps. He even joined Jimi Hendrix, playing percussion on “All Along the Watch Tower.”

He also experimented with drugs and booze, and stretching it to the limits. One wonders how bad one’s addiction had to be in the 1960s for Keith Richards to be fed up with it! By early 1969, the Stones were planning an American tour, and Jones drug arrests made it difficult to get him a work visa. Worse, he’d often not show up for recording sessions, and some present called him “literally incapable of playing music” anymore. He drove his motorbike through a store window, further debilitating him. On June 8, 1969, the band fired him although they gave him the grace of being able to publicly say he quit because “I no longer see eye to eye with the others over the discs we’re cutting.”

Not long after, his girlfriend found him floating in his pool. By the time medics arrived, he was dead. The coroner put it down as “death by misadventure” but noted both his heart and liver were in terrible shape from years of abuse. He was one of the first members of the grisly, so-called “27 Club”, musicians dying of unusual circumstances at age 27. Through the years various conspiracy theories have emerged suggesting he was killed in a fight over money, but the Sussex police investigated in 2010 and found no reason to re-open the case.

Although only Wyman and Watts attended his funeral from the Stones, they did play a show at Hyde Park just two days after his death, and released a number of white butterflies in his memory, as well as playing “I’m Yours and I’m Hers,” a Johnny Winter song he loved.

As an ironic final twist to the story, the Doors Jim Morrison wrote a poem in his honor, entitled “Ode to LA, while thinking of Brian Jones, deceased.” Two years later to the day, Morrison himself joined the “27 Club”, being found dead in his Paris bathtub.

April 15 – Stones Album The ‘Aftermath’ Of Competition With Beatles?

One of the side-effects of The Beatles incredible run of records in the ’60s was the effect they had on other bands of the era. The Beach Boys were openly competitive with them, and so were the Rolling Stones. They all listened intently to one another’s releases and then tried to one-up them. A good example of that was this day in 1966, when the Rolling Stones put out the British version of the album Aftermath. The American version came out about three months later.

It represented quite a step forward for the Stones in many ways…and not coincidentally, they started working on it just after the Beatles released Rubber Soul. And the expansion of sounds and instruments the Fab Four were beginning to show rubbed off on this one – Brian Jones in particular got musically experimental, playing a sitar on “Paint it Black” and a koto (a Japanese string instrument) on “Take It Or Leave It.” Sound-wise, they began incorporating elements of country and psychedelia in with their traditional blues rock stylings. It was the first they’d recorded in stereo. And there was perhaps just a wee bit more American influence as well; they recorded the album in L.A., and they’d hooked up with Allen Klein to work as their North American manager. Few people in music would end up saying much good about Klein, but in the here and now, he got the band an advance of over $1 million which added to their confidence.

The confidence showed up in the lyrics, which generally followed a theme of sex, anger and power. Many today label it a “misogynistic” record, but at the time, few cared. They focused on the songs, which were among the Stones best to that point – including “I Am Waiting,” “Lady Jane”, “Under My Thumb,” “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Paint it Black.” Sort of. “Paint it Black” was put out as a standalone single in Britain at the time and wasn’t on their copies; it did make it onto the shorter American release which was however, short three other songs. The Brits got 52 minutes of music in all, the lengthiest LP made to that point. (That sort of differentiation between North American and European releases was common at the time; in fact Aftermath was only the fourth Rolling Stones album at home but their sixth on this side of the Atlantic.) There were limits to how much swagger the Stones could display mind you. Their record companies (London Records here and Decca Records in Europe) nixed their plans to call it Could You Walk On Water? …which given the Beatles problems later that year after John Lennon made his more popular than Jesus comments, seemed to be remarkably astute of them. Decca however, spared no superlatives when putting out the record, comparing it to equivalent in importance of Shakespeare or Dickens “for gramaphone records.”

Reviews at the time were positive. Record Mirror figured “the Rolling Stones have on their hands the smash LP of the year,” the NME figured that they were musical “masterminds” and speculated “Mother’s Little Helper” and “Lady Jane” could be massive hits, Robert Christgau figured it was the “only possible challenge to Rubber Soul …for innovation, tightness and lyrical intelligence.” Years later, Entertainment Weekly would grade it “A-”, allmusic gave it a perfect 5-stars, and Pop Matters noted that it “cemented their reputation as a subversive cultural force.” Many would point to it as a significant step towards the psychedelic sounds that so dominated the following few years, and the aggression that would spur on the punk movement a decade later.

Predictions were right. “Mother’s Little Helper” was put out as a single here and made it to #8, oddly they didn’t release it as a 7” in the UK. “Paint it Black” was a worldwide hit, their sixth #1 in Britain and third #1 hit in the States and Canada. The album went to #1 for eight weeks in the UK and became their first one to go gold there; it also topped German charts and got to #2 in the U.S. where it eventually became their first platinum one.

Of course, as they were reveling in the “aftermath” of the Aftermath success, the Beatles were putting together Revolver… and the competition continued to heat up.

April 4 – Happy Ending To Verve’s Bittersweet Story

It was one of Britpop’s finest moments…and one of music legal bureaucrats worst. The Verve hit #12 in the U.S. on the Billboard singles chart this day in 1998 with the wonderful “Bittersweet Symphony.”

While “Britpop” is rather an undefined and arguably irrelevant category, it’s been widely applied to just about any British pop band or artist of the ’90s who weren’t straight-forward rock nor easy listening. It was the defining movement of the decade there, but in the States, it took a back seat to grunge among other things, and by getting to #12, “Bittersweet Symphony” ranks as the penultimate Britpop single, behind only Oasis’ “Wonderwall”.

The song was one that had widespread and obvious appeal; as The Guardian term it, “a moody, existential anthem driven forward by a distinctive string motif.” Or, as allmusic put it, “astonishing.” It was helped along by a memorable video consisting of one camera watching the band’s singer, Richard Ashcroft as he walked along a London street for the full four-and-a-half minutes (about a minute and a half shorter than the album cut, by the way.) It was a highlight off the great album Urban Hymns, which allmusic rate a rare perfect 5-stars and which remains in the all-time top 20 sellers in their native land. After two albums and seven years, they’d clearly found their stride with it. The song would get nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song (it lost to Alanis Morrissette) and a Brit Award for Single of the Year. It lost that too, to a ditty by All Saints, but they did take home trophies there for Best Album and Best Group.

Strangely, at the time they were recording, Ashcroft wasn’t crazy about it. Luckily, producer Youth (Martin Glover) was, and more or less demanded they keep it…and had the genius moment of adding something more to it. “It was only after we’d put strings on it that he started getting excited,” he recalls. Ahh, yes the strings.

The string bit he inserted was a little bit of Andrew Oldham’s orchestra playing the Rolling Stones “The Last Time.” The Verve and their record company thought they’d reached an appropriate and legal agreement to sample it, but Allen Klein jumped out of the woodwork and sued them. Klein had been the Stones’ manager around the time the original came out, and owned publishing rights to it. Now famously, he won the lawsuit, getting Keith Richards and Mick Jagger added to the writing credits and taking the lion’s share of the royalties from the smash. Richards’ joked it was the biggest hit he’d written since “Brown Sugar.”

Finally, in 2019, the “Glimmer Twins” over-ruled their one time boss, and Ashcroft announced “this remarkable and life-affirming turn of events was made possible by a kind and magnanimous gesture from Mick and Keith who have also agreed they are very happy for the writing credit to exclude them and all their royalties derived from the song they will pass to me.” There’s no report on how Mick and Keith managed to get Klein or his estate to agree, but as the manager had died years earlier, we must assume his descendants weren’t as greedy as he had been. Either way, Ashcroft is right calling the Stones’ duo “magnanimous.”

Those royalties will probably serve him well. Because The Verve were already considering splitting up while making Urban Hymns, the legal mess was likely the final straw that caused them to go their own ways. Ashcroft’s had a solo career since, which has been moderately popular but never coming close the popularity of this record.

While it missed the top 10 by a bit in the U.S., it managed to get to #5 in Canada, #3 in Ireland and #2 in the UK… remarkably it somehow missed being a weekly #1, but it still went 3X platinum there. Critically it was picked as the Song of the Year by both the NME and Rolling Stone. And maybe now, after all that legal stuff, people will get to be able to just enjoy it for what it was – one of the ’90s more majestic and timeless works.