KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #107: Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #107: Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) by The Rolling Stones.

Let me start this post off with a bit of an editorial comment.

When I first played around with the idea of telling the stories behind some of the top 500 songs of all-time, my hope was to eliminate some of the “accidental ignorance” we all display when we bop along to an inappropriate song without being aware of what that song really means. My specific inspiration was that I wanted my girls to know that some of the songs they would sing to on the radio were, actually, songs written by men about their sexual fantasies regarding young women. I would never tell Leah and Sophie that they couldn’t listen to a certain song but, by providing some information, I would allow them to make their own, informed decisions about what sort of influences they wanted to bring into their lives. Some girls like being fussed and fawned over that way. To each her own, I suppose. But, at least, armed with the proper information, listeners can decide if a particular song is right for them or not and go on from there.

This sort of mindset comes into play with the song that was supposed to be listed here at spot #107…..”Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones. I fully and completely admit that for most of my life, I never really listened to the lyrics for this song. I sort of tuned in at the part that went,

You should of heard her just around midnight!”

I always believed that “Brown Sugar” was simply a bawdy song about inter-racial sex. I have no issue with inter-racial sex when it is between consenting adults. So, I happily bopped along with this song and considered it on par with the other big hits by The Rolling Stones such as “Jumping Jack Flash”, “Satisfaction”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Gimme Shelter” and so on. But recently, in a decision that had nothing to do with me, I read that The Rolling Stones had decided to drop “Brown Sugar” from their concert playlist because the song was “no longer appropriate”. My uninformed reaction was that maybe this was a little bit of political correctness run amok. But, instead of over-reacting and composing outraged tweets and social media posts, I did some research. In doing so, I have come to understand what all the fuss was about regarding “Brown Sugar” by The Rolling Stones.

“Brown Sugar” is actually about inter-racial sex. But, the problem is that the steamy sex that Mick Jagger wrote about and sang about is not between consenting adults at all. It is in regard to the rape of female slaves by white slave owners. The lyrics, that I never really paid attention to, bear this out:

Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields

Sold in the market down in New Orleans

Skydog slaver know he’s doin’ alright

Hear him whip the women, just around midnight.

….and, it goes on from there. I never paid attention to the full lyrics. I just bopped mindlessly along, like so many others, to the chorus and thought it was a fun, sexy song. But, I see it differently now and, if it is not appropriate for The Rolling Stones anymore then, it won’t be a song that goes on my list of the best songs of all-time, either. Sorry.

So, what to do instead?

Well, The Rolling Stones have many other great hits which we WILL still see as the last 100 songs in this countdown roll by. However, for this particular song slot, I thought it might be a good idea to highlight a lesser known song that illustrates what a truly magnificent Blues-based Rock n’ Roll band they really were. So, I went back in time a bit to an album that they called, “Goat’s Head Soup”….from which “Angie” was the big hit….and chose a song called, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”. This song really rocks. It shows the band at the height of their musical powers. The song is based upon two stories about black children in NYC during the 1970s and how difficult it was/still is to be black in America. There is a lot of fury in this song, helped in great part by the presence of “The Fifth Beatle”, Mr. Billy Preston, who ups the funk factor significantly. There is, also, a horn section that is used to great effect in this song, too.

So, get ready for a song that, while it may not rank as being one of The Rolling Stones more recognizable hits, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” is certainly one of the funkiest songs in their entire catalogue.

So, sorry/not sorry for omitting “Brown Sugar”. Here, instead, are The Rolling Stones with “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” from the album, “Goat’s Head Soup” Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for loving Funk and Blues, as much as any station, anywhere. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #123: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve…Part #2.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #123: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.

Part #2.

The story of what happened to The Verve in 1997 actually begins waaaay back in 1955 with a movie called, “Marty” which won four Academy Awards that year, including the Oscar for Best Picture. “Marty” starred actor Ernest Borgnine and was a great movie that deserved its’ Oscar win. However, the mere fact that this movie even survived the nomination process is the real story here. “Marty” was a very unique movie at the time because it was an independently-produced movie. Throughout the first half of the 20th century, movie making in Hollywood was strictly controlled by the motion picture studios in a way that has been called, “The Studio System”. At that time, actors held few rights. Their personal and professional lives were, essentially, the property of the studios that employed them. This form of indentured servitude gave rise to the creation of The Screen Actors Guild in the mid-1930s. Needless to say, the studio heads did not cotton to the actors forming a union; demanding health and safety regulations be followed and them getting a greater share of the profits from their films. It took awhile for the union to make inroads but, when “Marty” won the Best Picture Oscar, it was a moment that broke the Studio System wide open for good. Because of “Marty”, which was produced by Burt Lancaster, independent film-making became a more lucrative and viable way for actors to take control of their creative affairs.

So, what does this have to do with “Bittersweet Symphony”? Let me start to connect the dots for you.

On the legal team of the production company that Burt Lancaster headed during the filming of “Marty” was a young, bulldog of a lawyer called Allan Klein. In legal circles, Klein was known as a “predatory litigator”, meaning he was very aggressive and combative when it came to contract law, which was his specialty. Klein gained a reputation as being a fighter who wielded the threat of lawsuits as a weapon to get his foes to knuckle under to his demands. That Klein was involved in a movie that helped break open The Studio System and helped gain greater rights and profits for actors, would make it seem like he was a hero to those in the Labour Movement. But, as it turned out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. The actual truth was that Allan Klein was possessed by dreams of great power and wealth. His campaign to break through the iron-fisted control being exercised by the movie studios had little to do with securing better working conditions for actors. Instead, his motivation was that he felt he would have an easier time getting his share of the profits from films if he negotiated contracts directly with the actors, instead of the legal teams employed by the studios. He felt that actors, being creative-types, probably had little knowledge of how contracts worked, what language to include in them and so on and, as such, they would be easy marks for his plans of being a rich and powerful broker in the entertainment business. So, Klein’s involvement in “Marty” was merely step #1 in a plan that had, as its foundation, unbridled personal greed.

As mentioned, “Marty” took place in 1955. That time period also coincided with the launch of Rock n’ Roll. Klein figured that if he could help break open the Studio System in Hollywood then, why not get in on the ground floor of this new music craze? So, because he had big dreams, Klein went after the biggest prize of the all at the time, “The Beatles”. *(Elvis already had his version of Klein, in the form of Col. Tom Parker so, Klein left Elvis alone). Just as Beatlemania was erupting in the UK, Klein approached Brian Epstein the manager of The Beatles and offered to buy him out and re-write the contract that the band had with EMI. Epstein was an honourable man and felt that a deal was something one kept and so, he turned Klein down. *(As it turned out, the deal Epstein had signed with EMI was one that served the interest of EMI far more than it did The Beatles for the early part of their career. This would become evident to the band as the sixties rolled on and would become one of the main factors behind their eventual breakup).

However, Epstein’s rejection of Klein did not deter him. Klein immediately went after the next biggest band on the market, “The Rolling Stones” and found a much more receptive audience there. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, along with The Beatles, were the first UK acts to write and record their own songs; thus breaking open the studio system that existed in the music business at the time. So, Jagger and Richards were already of the mindset that they should be as in control of their own affairs as possible. Klein sensed that this was his opening. He approached the boys and told them that their current contract was laughable but, if they followed his advice, he would get them the best contract in History….even bigger than The Beatles. Jagger and Richards decided that they liked Klein’s chutzpah and signed him as their new manager. As promised, he demanded Decca Records re-work the Stones contract and, as a result, the band members had access to more money and promotional support than they could have ever dreamed. Little did they realize that the contracts they were signing with Klein included clauses signing away their publishing rights to their entire song catalogue to a new company that Klein created for his own purposes. In essence, Klein created a money-laundering scheme that was funded by hit songs such as “Satisfaction”. While Jagger and Richards had access to more money than they ever had had before, they had no idea how much more money they should have had that, instead, was flowing into Klein’s coffers.

Even though The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were competitors, members of both bands were also friends. In particular, John Lennon and Keith Richards got on very well and often vacationed together. It was because of time spent with Richards than Lennon began to get a sense of how badly served The Beatles had been under Epstein’s leadership. So, when Brian Epstein died unexpectedly at age 32, Lennon and the rest of The Beatles decided to take control of their own affairs. They formed a company that ended up becoming Apple Corp., which included Abbey Road Studios. They began signing a roster of talent to produce songs for them, such as James Taylor. These new business pressures were one of the many reasons why The Beatles stopped touring and became a more studio-centric band in the second half of their career. The unfortunate thing was that they soon came to learn that their business skills were not as good as their musical skills were and, as such, they found themselves in over the heads.

At the time, Paul McCartney had begun dating Linda Eastman. Her father ran the Eastman-Kodak Company and was well-versed in running multi-million dollar entities. So, Paul approached the band and suggested Eastman become their financial officer and help manage their affairs. Unfortunately, that was seen as a power grab by the other members of the band. John Lennon, who was already thinking about leaving the band, began promoting Allan Klein in reply. *(In the Disney + documentary now airing, there are several scenes in which John can be seen arranging meetings with Klein, all the while the “Let It Be” album was being created). In the end, to make a long, complex story short, Lennon, Harrison and Ringo Starr all sided against Paul McCartney and entered into an agreement with Klein. This move caused Paul to officially leave the band, making him the villain for awhile because he was the one who “broke up” The Beatles. McCartney retained his future father-in-law to broker a dissolution agreement with the other members of the band. It was a messy affair, to say the least. On the other end of things, Klein now found himself managing the two biggest bands in the world at the very same time. His deal with The Beatles mirrored those he had with The Rolling Stones and just as quickly as the ink dried on those new contracts, Beatles revenue began flowing into numbered companies created by Klein.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s. As we have seen over the course of these posts, as the 1990s progressed, a new form of music creation took place called sampling. Sampling is when an artist uses a short snippet of another artist’s previously recorded vocal or instrumental track, in their own work. In the early days of sampling, it was a bit of the old Wild West out there, as musicians plundered the works of others with abandon. Eventually, sanity returned to the music business in the form of copyright lawsuits. Soon rules were enacted that allowed for sampling, provided that the musician requesting a sample paid for it in the form of money, a share of royalties or even, in some cases, simply crediting the original source of the sample. As long as the copyrght protection afforded the original artist was being honoured in some agreed-upon way, all was good and the music business moved forward.

So, when Richard Ashcroft and his producer decided to use a sample of violin music on “Bittersweet Symphony” they went through, what they thought, were the proper channels. As it turned out, the sampled piece was from an instrumental version of a Rolling Stones song, “The Last Time”. This song was from the time period that the band was signed with Decca Records so, Ashcroft reached out to Decca and obtained permission to use the sample in exchange for giving Jagger and Richards a songwriting share on “Bittersweet Symphony”. With that little bit of legal paperwork complete, Ashcroft recorded the song, released it to much acclaim and then, the trouble began. The trouble began in the form of a letter from Allan Klein claiming copyright infringement and threatening The Verve with a massive lawsuit that included pulling their album, “Urban Hymns” off of the sales racks completely. What had actually happened was that, as part of Klein’s original re-working of the Decca deal for The Rolling Stones, his numbered company also got a share of all publishing rights to the back catalogue of The Rolling Stones so, unbeknownst to Ashcroft, he had neglected to ask Klein for permission to use the sample. Klein had Ashcroft over a legal barrel and both sides knew it. An out-of-court settlement was reached that forced Ashcroft to relinquish all publishing rights to “Bittersweet Symphony” to Klein and, through Klein, to Jagger and Richards, as songwriters of “The Last Time”, from which the offending sample was taken. So, as “Bittersweet Symphony” climbed the charts and made millions of dollars in sales and was nominated for numerous awards, Ashcroft was excluded from all of it. And yet, it was expected that he and his band would happily perform their hit song everywhere. It must have been a horrible situation for a young band to find themselves in.

Well, in 2019, at the Ivor Novello Awards (for songwriting in the UK), Richard Ashcroft was given, what amounted to, a Lifetime Achievement Award. Just prior to the award show, representatives of his legal team approached Jagger and Richards directly and asked them to personally right the wrong that had befallen Ashcroft. Both men agreed to that request. The song was long since out of circulation so, they had already made as much money from it as they probably were going to anyway so, they ceded all publishing rights back to Ashcroft. At the Ivor Novello Awards, Ashcroft was able to announce that the rights to “Bittersweet Symphony” were his once more. There are still lawsuits in play that are aimed at helping Ashcroft recoup the income he lost from losing his song rights for all those years to Jagger and Richards, through Allan Klein. If there is ever an update to this situation, I will let you know.

For now, let this story be a cautionary tale about the dangers of copyright infringement but, more than that, let it serve as a reminder that the songs we love are Art, to a degree but, more than that, they are part of a big business machine that cares not one whit about creativity or the well-being of the artists who create the content that we call music. Whether it is iron-fisted studio heads, greedy money managers or today, streaming services that pay only pennies per download to artists, the fight for fairness for all content creators continues unabated. As Pete Townsend so aptly wrote, “Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss“.

I will share two videos with you. The first is an interview with John Lennon, held after the band had realized how shady Allan Klein was. In this interview he acknowledges that Paul McCartney may have been right to have promoted Mr. Eastman and to have been wary of Klein. As well, the second video is an overview of what happened to The Verve. It is a good re-cap of all that I have written. As always….enjoy.

The link to the video of the interview with John Lennon about Allan Klein, can be found here.

The link to the video for the “Bittersweet Symphony” Overview saga, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #5: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #5: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones.

In 1965, The Rolling Stones embarked on their first U.S. tour. They arrived in America with two minor hits under their belts: “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Get Off Of My Cloud”. They were viewed as an up-and-coming band but were not yet the Rolling Stones that they would turn out to be. So, the legend has it that one night, upon leaving a concert in Clearwater, Florida, the members of the Stones encountered a protest outside of the arena, between student activists and the police. The protest had nothing to do with them but, none-the-less, there they were in the middle of it all. That riot sparked a conversation about how each member of the band viewed their experience with “America” up until that point. What came out of that discussion were two observations: 1- that commercialism was integrated into the fabric of everyday life in the U.S., way more than it was in England and, 2-that they sensed a great disconnect between the youth of the day…their ambitions and fears…contrasted with those of the older, ruling class. Jagger later termed the feeling he was sensing as one of alienation. Well, later that night, as Keith Richards had begun to regularly do, he retired to his hotel room, took out a cassette tape recorder and began recording song ideas. One of the ideas he recorded on tape, before falling asleep during the recording, was a title that read, “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” but, just as importantly as that, if not more so, he had recorded the opening riff.

Old school Fuzz Box.

When he played the tape for his bandmates the following morning, all were very enthusiastic. Mick Jagger hurriedly set to work, fleshing out the lyrics. Richards, who always structured the musical end of things, envisioned a song that included a brass section. After several attempts at playing the song in a jam session style, Richards began to sour on the song; thinking it was too basic and that maybe the riff wasn’t so special after all. As it turned out, Ian Stewart, who was an unofficial member of the band, had heard of a new innovation for the electric guitar called a “fuzz box”. He was able to locate one nearby, brought it in and showed it to Keith Richards. Richards hooked it up to his guitar and played the riff again, through the fuzz box. The new sound changed his crisp, clean guitar chords into something fuzzy and scuzzy. Richard, initially, thought the fuzz box was gimmicky but, the other members of the band raved about it and so, Keith Richards recorded his guitar track using the fuzz box and, as they say, the rest was history. The fuzz box assisted track became the official track. Thus, the opening riff to the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” that we all know and love was made with a fuzz box and, as such, was the first recorded instance of a top-selling song being made this way.

The song, itself, has an interesting history due, in large part, to the very nature of the band. When Mick Jagger went to write lyrics about commercialism and alienation, he did so in a way that came across as being a threat to the status quo in America. To be anti-consumeristic was akin to being a Communist. Attacking commercial production was attacking what it meant to be an American. Furthermore, lines such as “trying to make some girl” earned The Rolling Stones an immediate ban for being sexually explicit. However, the opening guitar riff was so electrifying that the popularity of this new song spread quickly across the U.S. and, before too long, The Rolling Stones had their first #1 song on their hands. In fact, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was a hit in America long before it ever was a hit back home in the UK.

One of the most interesting bits of trivia associated with this song concerns an artist who did a cover version. Now, artists doing cover versions of hit songs is nothing new or noteworthy, in and of itself. However, in this case, the cover version was sung by Otis Redding. Redding took “Satisfaction” and added the horn section that Keith Richards so desired. By doing so, Redding transformed a Rock song into a Soul song. But, more than that, he became the first Black artist of note to ever cover a “White” song. That is an interesting turn of events when you realize that much of the early history of Rock n’ Roll was white artists (Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, etc.) all gaining fame by appropriating music written and performed by Black artists who, for a variety of reasons, were not able to mass market their songs themselves. In a bit of turn-about is fair play……when “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was released in America, The Rolling Stones had a Top Ten hit in the UK with a song by Howlin’ Wolf called, “Little Red Rooster”, *(which you can read about here). Because Howlin’ Wolf was a black singer, he wasn’t as well known in mainstream America as he should have been. So, The Rolling Stones insisted that he be included at any concerts or TV appearances that they made to support “Satisfaction”.

Overall, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” has gone on to become the signature song for one of the biggest bands of all-time. It begins with a fuzz box-induced riff that is instantly recognizable. From there, the song roars through a diatribe about the difference between the phoniness of commercialism and the realness of love/sex, all against a backdrop of youthful alienation. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” has been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as being one of the songs that shared the history of rock n’ roll. No wonder…..can a song about sex and money and sticking it to the Man be any more “Rock n’ Roll” than that?

So, without further delay, here is one of the most iconic Rock n’ Roll songs of all-time……(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, as covered by Otis Redding, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Little Red Rooster” by Howlin’ Wolf, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Otis Redding, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Howlin’ Wolf, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #147: It’s Only Rock n’ Roll by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #147: It’s Only Rock n’ Roll by The Rolling Stones.

When I read books, I tend to drift towards non-fiction. In particular, I read biographies about interesting and creative people, I read historical books about famous and pivotable moments in Time and, I like to read about extreme situations such as climbing Mount Everest, exploring shipwrecks or about what motivates those who participate in extreme sports such as sailing solo around the world. It is in this latter category of books that I was made aware that the oceans of the world are not all the same and that, even within a particular ocean, there are areas that mean different things for those who sail. One of the most fascinating for me was the notion that in the middle of our oceans, near to the equator, there exists areas of water known as “The Doldrums”. In “The Doldrums”, there is little to no wind present because of the various atmospheric and oceanographic conditions that reside there. Sailors circumnavigating the world can end up caught in “The Doldrums” for weeks at a time; unable to progress because they are, quite literally, “dead in the water”. The Doldrums are not a trap that sailors sail into, per se but, it is a known hazard that seems to beset even the most skilled and experienced of those who sail the sea.

When it comes to The Rolling Stones, They had been riding the waves of a successful career all throughout the late 1960s and into the mid-70s. They had album after stellar album, all produced by “Mr. Jimmy”, Jimmy Miller. That streak of success came to a end when the band produced an album called, “Goats Head Soup” that, although it had the hit song, “Angie” was deemed a commercial failure for the band and was an album that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger felt was somewhat creatively-stagnent and “comfortable”. So, for their next album, “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll”, Richards and Jagger opted not to employ the talents of Jimmy Miller and, instead, to produce the album themselves under the moniker, “The Glimmer Twins”. However, this album was met by critics with indifference, as well. So, for the first time in their career, The Rolling Stones found themselves in the music industry’s version of “The Doldrums”. They were creatively adrift.

From reading these entirety of these music posts, you should know that the late 1970s were a time of great change in the music world. Disco was becoming the biggest area of new growth in the music industry in Amercia and, in the UK, Punk Rock was rising up and demanding attention. In the middle of that rested The Rolling Stones. With The Beatles long since departed, The Rolling Stones stood as a link to the glory days of old in the world of Rock and, as such, they risked becoming one of the “dinosaur” bands that The Sex Pistols were raging about and that the dancers at Studio 54 were forgetting about as they danced the nights away. It may seem hard to imagine but, for a few years in the mid-late 1970s, The Rolling Stones were on the verge of becoming irrelevant. Then, something fortuitous happened that gave them their second wind….Keith Richards got arrested.

Keith Richards got busted for bringing cocaine into Canada and, as a result of on-going litigation, the band couldn’t travel or tour until the case resolved itself. During that time, Mick Jagger spent a lot of time in NYC and gained an appreciation for the Disco scene that was all the rage. The energy of that music inspired him in ways that may not have been possible with his musical partner, Keith Richards, beside him. So, Jagger wrote a whole host of songs that ended up going into an album called “Some Girls”. To fans and critics alike, songs like “Miss You”, “Some Girls”, “Respectable” and “Beast of Burden” all seemed fresh and exciting and, just like that, The Rolling Stones gained new life and, like sailors stuck in The Doldrums of the mid ocean, they found a new wave to ride. This new energy carried over to albums such as “Emotional Rescue” and “Tattoo You” and now classic songs such as “Waiting On a Friend”, “Start Me Up”, “Emotional Rescue” and “She’s So Cold”.

So, what about, “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll”? By all measure, it is an absolute banger of a song. It is one of the songs that most people think of when they think of The Rolling Stones in their prime. Yet, in actual fact, it is a song that stands as a creative island in the doldrums of their career. It is a song that could, very easily, have been their last hit if critics had had their way and The Rolling Stones would have broken up during their mid-70s drought. But, if there is anything that defines this band it is in their belief in themselves as musicians and their confidence in each other, as players. As Keith Richards once said, when asked to define what was it that allowed The Rolling Stones to be so good for so long, “I don’t know, man but, there’s just this magic that seems at the ready whenever the five of us play together. It seems like we can summon it at will. It is always there waiting for us. All we need to do is play.”

This is, in essence, what the song, “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll” is about. It was a statement from the band, to their critics, that they weren’t trying to please anyone other than themselves. It is a rock n’ roll song played by a rock n’ roll band and, if the critics didn’t care for that any longer then, the critics knew where they could go.

So, here is a song that stands as one of their most popular songs in a career littered with hits. Enjoy, “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll” by The Rolling Stones.

The link to the video for the song, “It’s Only Rock n’ Roll” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #31: Jumpin’ Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #31: Jumping’ Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones.

One of my favourite books ever is Keith Richard’s biography entitled, “Life”. The book chronicles every aspect of Richard’s life, right from his earliest days as a young boy, all the way through his initial friendship with Mick Jagger, all the way through almost every song of note that The Rolling Stones made and a thousand and one other events that happened along the way. Keith Richards writes in a voice that gives the reader an excellent sense of the excitement that comes with being a major Rock n’ Roll star. And while there are sections that delve into some of the more sordid affairs of his life, the ones that leapt off of the page and were my favourite parts of the book were when Richard pulled back the curtain and allowed us all to see how the magic worked. Easily the best and most memorable aspect of this book is the joy of creativity that fills this man. There are so many instances of where a song idea sprang from, how they arrived at a certain chord progression or lyric or else, how it felt to take their good work and play it live for an audience. Keith Richards absolutely delights in the process of creativity and no more so in how “Jumping’ Jack Flash” came to be. So, I thought I would share a bit of that glee with you, as we talk about one of the greatest rock songs of them all, “Jumping’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones.

First things first, I usually spend my words telling you about the story behind the song of the day. But, in this case, the story behind the song isn’t really that important, as you will soon see. What is important is how the song was made. So, I am going to start by getting the song origin out of the way, if you will, and then, plunging into the good stuff about how “Jumping’ Jack Flash” was created.

“Jumping’ Jack Flash” was written after an early morning encounter with Keith Richards’ gardener. As was often the case, Richards and his bandmates usually worked all through the night when they were rehearsing and/or working on new songs. On one such occasion, Mick Jagger stayed over at Richards’ house. They went to sleep around five in the morning. A few short hours later, Jagger awoke in a start because of the clomping of footsteps out side of his window. When he shouted out in alarm that someone was nearby, Richards replied that it was only his gardener, “Jumping Jack”, as he called him. The boys both had a laugh about “Jumping Jack” and went back to sleep. Upon waking up for good, they returned to the topic of “Jumping Jack, the Gardener”. Jagger started playing with his name, as if in song and, shortly thereafter, added the word, “Flash” for fun and to help match the syllables of the name with the notes he was humming. Before you know it, the magic of The Glimmer Twins returned and they had the start of “Jumping’ Jack Flash”.

That is, more or less, the story of the origin of the song. At that time, the whole psychedelic influence of Brian Jones was ending. He was drug-addled and increasingly incoherent much of the time. While he had been one of the creative forces in the band during their early days, he was becoming less so, over time. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were both ready to take The Rolling Stones into more, guitar-driven, Rock-oriented direction. “Jumping’ Jack Flash” signalled to the music industry and to their fans that this transition had been completed and the Brian Jones era was over. Shortly after the release of “Jumping’ Jack Flash”, Brian Jones was officially fired from the band. One month after that, he was found dead in his pool.

But, like I said off of the top, the real story of this song is the creative process, writ large, that was at play during this time in the Stones’ history and that allowed for such instant success with a new song like “Jumping’ Jack Flash. To understand this best, I am going to do something I don’t normally do and that is, I am going to let someone else do the talking……that someone being, Keith Richards. Here he is talking about being creative and about how he and his mates worked with sounds.

Flash! What a record! All my stuff came together on a cassette player. With “Jumping’ Jack Flash” and “Street Fighting’ Man” I’d discovered a new sound I could get out of an acoustic guitar. That grinding, dirty sound came out of these crummy little motels where the only thing you had to record with was this new invention called a cassette recorder. And it didn’t disturb anybody. Suddenly, you had this mini studio. Playing an acoustic, you’d overload the cassette player to the point of distortion so that when it played back, in effect, you had an electric guitar. You were using a cassette player as a pickup and an amplifier at the same time. You were forcing acoustic guitars through the cassette player and what came out the other end was electric as Hell! An electric guitar will jump in your hands. It’s like holding an electric eel. An acoustic guitar is very dry and you have to play it a different way. But, if you can get that different sound electrified, you get this amazing tone and this amazing sound. I always loved the acoustic guitar…loved playing it and, I thought, if I can just power this up a bit without going electric then I’ll have a unique sound. It’s got a little tingle on top. It fascinated me at the time. In the studio, I plugged the cassette player into a little extension speaker and put a microphone in front so that it had a bit more breadth and depth and put that on tape. That was the basic track. There are no electric instruments on “Street Fighting’ Man” at all, apart from the bass. All acoustic guitars. “Jumping’ Jack Flash”, the same. I wish I could still do that but, they don’t build cassette machines like that anymore. The band thought I was mad but they sort of indulged me. But, I heard a sound that I knew I could get out that way. Producer Jimmy saw it, too and was right with me. “Street Fighting’ Man”, “Jumping’ Jack Flash” and “Gimme Shelter” were all made that way….on a cassette machine. And that’s how those songs were made……using rubbish, in hotel rooms, with our little toys.”

So, as you listen to “Jumping’ Jack Flash” in a few moments, imagine that you are hearing acoustic lead guitars! Amazing! They don’t sound like any acoustic guitars that I have ever heard before. I will close with one other quote from the book. It is all about where the “magic” of creativity comes from and how feels to unleash that power on stage, in front of a raucous crowd.

“Flash” is particularly interesting. “Flash” is basically, “Satisfaction” in reverse. Nearly all of the riffs are closely related. But, if someone said that I could only play one riff for the rest of my life, I’d play, “Flash”! It’s almost Arabic or very old, archaic, classical, the chord setups you could only hear in Gregorian chants or something like that. It’s a weird mixture of your actual rock and roll and, at the same time, this weird echo of very, very ancient music that you don’t even know. It’s all much older than I am and that’s unbelievable! It’s like a recall of something and I don’t know where that comes from…………And when we play it, I can hear the whole band take off behind me. There’s this extra sort of turbocharge! You jump on the riff and it plays you. We have ignition? OK, let’s go! One, two, three…..And then we don’t look at each other again because you know that you’re in for a ride. It’ll always make you feel different. Levitation is the closest analogy to what I feel….whether it is “Flash” or “Satisfaction”….when I feel I’ve hit the right tempo and the band’s behind me. It’s like taking off in a jet. I have no sense that my feet are touching the ground. People ask me, “When are you gong to give this all up?” I can’t retire until I croak. I don’t think they quite understand what I get out of this. I’m not doing this for the money or for you. I’m doing it for me. I have no choice.”

In a much earlier post, I stated that the celebrity I would most want to have dinner with would be Bjork. That much is still true. But, if she happened to be busy, having a pint or two with Keith Richards would be more than alright, too. With that having been said, here are the Rolling Stones with their hit song that was recorded on a cassette player in a hotel room, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Jumping’ Jack Flash” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #39: Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #39: Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones.

I have said this before but, sometimes a song is just a song and, sometimes, a song takes on a greater meaning and becomes more than just a union of lyrics and chords. Such is the case for “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. This is a song that, fairly or unfairly, has come to symbolize the death of The Summer of Love and, along with it, all of the hope and optimism with which the 1960s had developed. The death knell clearly came at Altamont Speedway in California with the single death of one young black man at the hands of Hells Angels “security” but, more than that, this song provided a soundtrack that helped usher in a litany of negative-oriented stories of personal behaviour and ambition gone awry; such as with the messy end to the Vietnam War, the onset of the Watergate Scandal, the buildup of nuclear weapons between the US and Russia and much, much more. That “Gimme Shelter” was actually a song about developing a sense of protection or self-preservation from the evil in the world, ended up getting lost and, as a result, “Gimme Shelter” has garnered the reputation for infamy that it has. But, there is even more tragedy associated with this song than you can possibly imagine, as I shall tell you all now.

Before getting into that, let me talk about the song, itself. “Gimme Shelter” is the lead track from The Rolling Stones seminal album, “Let It Bleed”. That whole album is great. It was part of a string of awesome albums and helped the Stones to have a second wave of fame and good fortune when it came to record sales and the respect that comes with producing classic music that has stood the test of time. “Gimme Shelter” began with the opening guitar riff that Keith Richards developed. The story behind it is that Richards found himself alone in a London hotel room that overlooked a busy, bustling street. At the time, the weather was dreadful, as was Richards’ mood because his girlfriend, Anita Pallenburg, was shooting a movie with Mick Jagger and Richards did not trust his friend, Mick, to remain a gentlemen in the company of his girl. So, out of this maelstrom of emotions, Richards channeled his darkness into those famous opening chords. While Richards was playing with the chords and developing them further, into more of a formal song, a thunderstorm broke and rain poured down on the people below. Richards watched as they all scrambled for shelter fro the storm. As he realized what he was seeing and thinking, the idea of seeking shelter from the political and emotional storms of the world appeared to him and thus, the essence of the song that would become, “Gimme Shelter” was born.

However, the really important component to the story of this song involves someone who was not even a manner of the band at all. It was a twenty year old, preacher’s daughter from Los Angeles named Merry Clayton. The Rolling Stones had always been a self-contained unit when it came to recording their music; with the odd exception for session players, here and there. As a band, they had never formally had a female sing a co-headlining part in any song. So, when producer Jimmy “Mr. Jimmy” Miller took the band to Los Angeles to record the song, he informed them that when he heard the song in his head, he heard a female voice running through it. As a measure of the trust that the band had developed in him, they agreed to let him bring someone in who might want to give singing with The Rolling Stones a try. The lady they chose was an unknown Gospel singer named Merry Clayton. She was given a call at midnight and, unbeknownst to the band, was heavily pregnant, in her pyjamas, her hair in curlers and about to climb into bed when her phone rang. At first, Clayton was prepared to turn the offer down because she had never heard of The Rolling Stones before. But, her husband convinced her to give it a go so, Merry Clayton rolled out of bed and went to the studio in an awaiting car, dressed in jammies and with her curlers in her hair.

When she arrived at the studio, Clayton was informed that her role was only to sing the words, “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away! It’s just a shot away!” over and over again. Being a preacher’s daughter and having been raised to sing in a church, these lines bothered her at first. But, after Mick and Keith explained what the song was about and the importance to the song of her lines, she agreed. For the first take, Clayton gave it what was, in her words, her standard try. She wanted to gauge how in tune her take on the lyrics was compared to what the band was expecting. The band was pleased and asked for a second take. This time, Clayton, who was tired and just wanted to go back home, decided to blow the roof off of the studio and so, she dug waaaaay down into her soul and blasted out the lyrics. At one point, her voiced cracked slightly under the strain of it all, prompting Mick Jagger to mutter, “Whoa!” If you have good headphones, you can hear him exclaim this at around the 3:00 mark of the song. Clayton did one more take but, her second take is the one that appeared on the final cut of the song. The Rolling Stones, to a person, were very impressed with Merry Clayton and had hoped that she would join them on tour; specifically to sing “Gimme Shelter” with Mick Jagger but, also, to become one of their permanent back-up singers. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

Just like the events at Altamont Speedway forever associated this song with the end of The Summer of Love, “Gimme Shelter” is also, rightly or wrongly, associated with the personal tragedy that struck Merry Clayton just days after recording her lines that night. Whether it was from the exertion of the recording session or whether it was from other, more natural causes, Merry Clayton miscarried her baby. Needless to say, to come so far in a pregnancy, only to lose your baby at the very last minute has to be devastating for anyone. It certainly was for Merry Clayton. Consequently, Clayton was never able to join The Rolling Stones on tour and, to this very day, she finds it too painful to listen to the very song that made her famous because of the memories it espouses for her.

So, there ends the story of an absolutely fabulous song. For all of its merits….and there are many…..”Gimme Shelter” is forever linked to the deaths of two who were ever so young and, in the bigger picture, to the death of the Hope for a better tomorrow for all. That is a heavy burden for a song to bear but, bear it, the song must. That burden has not stopped “Gimme Shelter” from becoming one of The Rolling Stones most popular and important songs nor has it stopped others from recognizing the greatness inherent within the song, itself. As I said off of the top, sometimes a song is just a song and, sometimes, unfortunately, a song takes on a life of its own and becomes more than it was ever intended to be. That is certainly the case with “Gimme Shelter”.

So, without further delay, here are The Rolling Stones with their great and tragic song, “Gimme Shelter”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Merry Clayton…..who did record her own cover of this song, minus The Rolling Stones….can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #46: Little Red Rooster by Howlin’ Wolf (+) covered by Sam Cooke and The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #46: Little Red Rooster by Howlin’ Wolf (+) covered by Sam Cooke and The Rolling Stones.

As we inch closer and closer to the end of this countdown, it is to be expected that we will come across songs that are the ultimate examples of excellence in their chosen genre. Today, we are going to meet a man who was born in 1910, named Chester Arthur Burnett. Mr. Burnett is as famous and respected a musician as anyone in this entire countdown. He is larger than life; quite literally, at over six feet tall and 300 hundred pounds. He is a man who is name-checked by the likes of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Paul McCartney as being a role-model whom they hoped they could emulate and make proud. He is a legendary Bluesman who helped create the authentic Chicago Blues scene along side the likes of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Sonny Boy Williamson. He is, the late, great man, himself, Howlin’ Wolf! This is his story.

Chester Arthur Burnett was born in the Mississippi Delta and learned the Blues from musicians who played locally in churches and small music clubs. He grew up in a religious house but, he was not a religious man. In fact, he was kicked out of his religious school for playing a hymn in a boogie-woogie style when he was nearing the age of ten. From that point onward, he was disowned by his mother who was ashamed that her son was playing the “Devil’s music”. So, Chester Arthur Burnett began a pilgrimage to find his estranged father. Along the way, Burnett fell under the influence of great Bluesmen such as Robert Johnson. While learning from his mentors, Burnett learned how to play the harmonica, as well as, the electric guitar. But, most of all, instruments aside, what Burnett learned to do was play the Blues. Under the tutelage of Blues masters, like Johnson, Burnett learned how to develop his playing skills but, also, his stage presence. He soon became known as “The Wolf”, for how he howled out the words of the songs he sang. It was, as if, he was possessed and was struggling to contain his angst, his hurt, his longing and passion, with each song he performed. Eventually, he was christened, “Howlin’ Wolf”, a name that travelled with him for the remainder of his days.

Howlin’ Wolf’s journey brought him to his father and to Chicago. There, he was signed to the famous Chess Records and began releasing records that scored well on the Blues charts. He developed a friendly rivalry with fellow Chess artist, Muddy Waters. Both men were using the songwriting talents of fellow Bluesman, Willie Dixon. Both men were always pressuring Dixon to save his best material for them. Luckily, he was more than capable of churning out hit songs for both men. For instance, Muddy Waters released “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, Hooch Coochie Man”, “Got My Mojo Working”…..*(which inspired Jim Morrison and the Doors on “L.A. Woman”…..”Mr. Mojo Rising”) and, as well, “Rollin’ and Tumbling'”. For Howlin’ Wolf, Dixon wrote, “Moaning’ At Midnight”, “Smokestack Lightning”, “I’m Leaving’ You” and, today’s song, “Little Red Rooster”. In the case of both men, Chicago Blues became every bit as recognized and respected as an authentic version of The Blues, as Mississippi Delta Blues ever did. Together, The Blues spread across America and, as we know, helped usher in the age of Rock n’ Roll.

All of the great rockers who formed the vanguard of the first wave of Rock n’ Roll all point to the great Blues men as a source enormous inspiration and respect. John Lennon, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton….all of them, all state that their desire to get into music as a career stemmed from hearing and seeing the great Bluesmen, like Howlin’ Wolf, play. They wore out his records and ran to his concerts when he travelled to the UK. When they came to the US, themselves, they all sought out the Chicago Blues masters. Authentic Blues has a beat and a cadence that helped give early rock n’ roll songs their structure. Authentic Blues, also, had a passion and sensuality that seemed to be lacking in the crooner-style music that dominated the airwaves in the 1950s. One can only imagine was a revelation it must have been to have been a young boy, like Lennon or McCartney, searching for inspiration and then watching the energy, the sweat, the heat coming off the stage when they saw the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters play live.

The song, “Little Red Rooster” has become, what we call today, a standard. It is a song that acts as being representative of an entire class or genre of music. It was written by Willie Dixon for Howlin’ Wolf. Dixon states that it is a song about a barnyard animal. Maybe it is. But, if you believe that then, I have a special swamp land paradise that you should invest in immediately. No, “Little Red Rooster” is a song about sex. As you listen to Howlin’ Wolf belting out the lyrics about the rooster causing chaos in the barnyard, he does so with a sly grin and a big wink. I will definitely play his version of “Little Red Rooster” for your listening pleasure, below. But, as well, this song was covered by many of the greats of all-time; two of which were Sam Cooke and The Rolling Stones. Sam Cooke’s version replaces the electric guitar, which is featured so prominently by Howlin’ Wolf, with an electric piano/keyboard which is played, in the version you will hear, by the Fifth Beate, himself, Mr. Billy Preston. The song is still Bluesy but, more jazzy under Cooke’s soulful command. The Rolling Stones, on the other hand, were very Blues-oriented in their early days, which is when they covered, “Little Red Rooster”. In the video for their version, note how the song centers around the playing of Brian Jones who, in the band’s beginning, was their creative leader. It is he, not Richards, who plays the lead guitar so faithfully and respectingly of Howlin’ Wolf’s legacy and style.

So, without further delay, here is some Blues with a capital, “B”! First up, Howlin’ Wolf then, Sam Cooke and finally, The Rolling Stones, to close. What a trifecta of talent! Man! Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Little Red Rooster” by Howlin’ Wolf, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Howlin’ Wolf, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Little Red Rooster”, as covered by Sam Cooke, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Sam Cooke, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Little Red Rooster”, as covered by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #211: Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #211: Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones.

“Paint It Black” comes from an album called, “Aftermath”. This was album #6 (in the US) and #4 (in the UK) for The Rolling Stones. While “Aftermath” may not have the cache of later albums such as “Exile on Main Street” and others, it is, never-the-less, a very important album in the evolution of one of the greatest rock n’ roll bands in the world. Many critics compare “Aftermath” to The Beatles breakthrough album, “Revolver”. In the case of both bands, they had built up a strong foundation of hits based upon their love of the Blues but now, in the mid-1960s, both bands started to experiment with new influences (especially, those of a mystical nature from the Far East), as well as, the use of new instruments, such as the sitar. In both cases, each band released an album that was longer than was usual for the times; thus, presenting songs that possessed more depth and detail. Furthermore, both bands released albums that contained coherent themes that ran through all of the songs (as opposed to the usual industry plan of creating albums containing hit singles, surrounded by filler songs). Specifically, for The Rolling Stones, “Aftermath” ran on a theme of women and power and life on the road and of death.

“Paint It Black” is a simple song to understand, really. It is about that feeling of depression that can occur when you are faced with the sudden death of someone important to you. Black, as you may be aware, can be seen not as a colour but, in fact, the absolute absence of colour. Darkness. Nothingness. Death. However, in this song, The Rolling Stones are using an old trick that I used to use, as a teacher, when I wanted to test the depth of certain skills and that is, keep the song/activity simple so certain other aspects of skill can easily shine through. In the case of “Paint It Black”, while the meaning behind the song is rather straight-forward, the musical structure was not. “Paint It Black” was the first Stones’ song to make prominent use of the sitar (which was played, to great effect, by Brian Jones). It is, also, a song that makes excellent use of rhythm or beat; with Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts both shining in their playing.

One of the only controversial aspects of this song concerns the songwriting credits which, in turn, give us, as fans, a sneak peak into the inner dynamics of how The Rolling Stones functioned as a group. There was a time in the early days of The Rolling Stones existence when Brian Jones was actually more of the creative leader of the group. But, as time went on, Mick and Keef took over as principle lyricist and musical creators. This resulted in Jagger/Richards appearing as sole songwriters when the song, “Paint It Black” was released. The problem with that was that on this song, it was Brian Jones who introduced the entire sitar aspect to the song and it was Bill Wyman who arranged the rhythm side of things. Keith Richards had very little to do with this song and, as time went on, always found it a confusing song to play. Mick Jagger did write the full lyrics. Yet, on the credits, Jones and Wyman’s names appear nowehere at all. Only Mick and Keef are given public credit. In Keith Richards autobiography called, “Life”, he mentions how upset Bill Wyman was, in particular but how, in the end, Wyman was forced to swallow his pride because there was no way the credits were going to read as anything other than, “Jagger/Richards”. It reminded me of something I read after Charlie Watts had passed away. Apparently, one late night in Paris, I believe, a drunken Mick Jagger called Charlie Watts in his hotel room and barked into the phone, “Where is my drummer!?” Charlie did not accept his summons. Instead, he angrily knocked on Jagger’s door early the next morning, marched in and scolded Jagger by saying, “I am not your drummer! You are my singer!” and then he left again as quickly and angrily as he came.

“Paint It Black” is one of those songs that, in many ways, has come to define an era. It has been used in several movies that dealt with the Vietnam War and, as such, some people claim “Paint It Black” is an anti-war song. Jagger and Richards both deny that this is the case yet, for many fans, whenever the opening chords of this song start, images of choppers and soldiers come into our heads. A final note of trivia about “Paint It Black” is that Jagger borrowed a line from the classic story of “Ulysses”. The line where he sings, “I see the girls walk by, dressed in their summer clothes, I have to turn my head until my darkness goes”…the second half of that line from “I have to turn my head…” is from “Ulysses”.

In any case, “Paint It Black” has endured as one of The Rolling Stones all-time classic tunes. It comes from an album that was, in reality, a transition point in their evolution as a band and, arguably, their first real classic album. It is a song about depression on an album that was anything but depressing. And we still love it so today, almost sixty years later.

So, without further delay, here are The Rolling Stones” with “Paint It Black”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Paint It Black” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website of The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine zine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #60: Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #60: Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones.

In many ways, the argument can be made that the essence of Humanity is the constant battle we face between Good and Evil. All throughout the course of Human History, this battle plays out. You can see it in the foundational construction of Christianity; with everything from Eve giving into temptation in The Garden of Eden, to the whole premise of Heaven and Hell. The History of Nations has been one of constantly alternating periods of Peace and of War. Even in the Arts, the crux of virtually all Drama centres on conflicts between protagonists and antagonists. Whether or not the tension created by opposing views on Goodness and Evil lends itself to a form of balance is almost as fundamental as having clean air to breath and clean water to drink. Good and Evil. War and Peace. Creation and Destruction. Heaven and Hell. Love and Hate. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Let’s have a go, shall we?

A great many people, when they speak of modern music, always end up pairing The Beatles and The Rolling Stones up. The two groups started around the same time in the early 1960s. They thrived all throughout that decade. They each made some of the most classic and innovative songs of all-time. They both dealt with financial sharks such as Allen Klein; losing millions of dollars but, also, becoming richer than they ever could have imagined. In fact, the band members were actually friends with each other; hanging out on vacations, playing on each others’ songs and so on. But, there was one thing that served as a dividing line between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and that was their image. Whether a band’s image is something concocted by their record label or whether it is something that comes from within the band, themselves, the contrast between the squeaky clean mop-top image of the Fab Four and the bawdy, dark, boozy, sexual image of The Rolling Stones existed like darkness and light.

Truth be told, while The Rolling Stones openly courted their image as rebellious and dangerous so as to carve out a separate identity from their rivals, The Beatles, a more fundamental aspect of it all was in how they were more organically Blues-based and, as such, the Blues comes from a deeper, darker place so, therefore, they went deeper and darker in pursuit. One of the earliest of the famous Bluesmen was a man named Robert Johnson. It was often said by him and, by others, about him, that Johnson had made a deal with the Devil that, in exchange for his soul, the Devil would grant Johnson the ability to conjure up a form of the Blues like no other had done before nor since. There is no way to verify that such an exchange actually took place but, the legend grew and became part and parcel of who Robert Johnson was. One of the men who would come along decades later, sniffing out the very legend of Robert Johnson, was Keith Richards. Keef, along with his teenage bestie, Mick Jagger, were interested in the Blues right from their earliest days together. So were John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The difference was that The Beatles chose to use the rhythm of The Blues as a way to make perfect Pop songs. Keith and Mick used the Blues to help them find the soul of a baser Rock sound that manifested itself in the form of songs like, “Sympathy For The Devil”.

Coming in hot on the heels of an album called, “Her Satanic Majesty’s Request”, “Sympathy For The Devil” cemented the reputation in the minds of many, that The Rolling Stones had gone to the dark side and that, maybe even, they were satanic, themselves. The Rolling Stones did little to dispel those rumours. In fact, they revelled in them. It made them the bad boys of Rock n’ Roll; an image that the band wore like fashion. However, in interviews, both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger both dismissed such satanic talk as nonsensical. Richards claimed that it was all just good, clean fun. Jagger stated that to be an authentic Bluesman is to go places within your own heart that ordinary musicians dare not go and that, sometimes, when you mine your own soul, darkness grows. So, as “Sympathy For The Devil” was just a twinkle in Jagger’s songwriter’s eye, the band, themselves, were at the height of their bad boy image making shenanigans. This helped create a mindset that lent itself to the creation of one of the richest, deepest explorations on the concept of Good vs. Evil in the whole history of modern music.

“Sympathy For The Devil” was inspired by a book called, “The Master and Margarita” by Russian novelist, Mikhail Bulgakov. At the time, “The Master and Margarita” was a banned book in Russia that was smuggled out into the western world. As such, it had a cache about it and it became a sought-after read by those with connections in the literary world. Someone who had connections was Mick Jagger’s girlfriend at the time, Marianne Faithful. It was she who placed “The Master and Margarita” into Jagger’s hands. From there, the roots of the song grew and the lyrics followed quickly. The short strokes of this magnificent song are that it is a treatise on the whole history of Evil in various conflicts and atrocities throughout the whole of modern history. It is a song that declares that we can’t adopt a sanctimonious pose and tsk-tsk those we feel do wrong because, it is actually in all of our natures to be evil. What separates those who massacre others and those who strive for Peace and Brotherhood is simply the difference in how we keep our darker impulses at bay and in check.

“Sympathy For The Devil” is a history lesson masquerading as a song. It touches on numerous real events from the annals of History, such as: the murders of The Romanov Family that preceded the Russian Revolution, the assassination of the Kennedy Brothers, the German Blitzkrieg offensive against Poland that launched WWII and many other notorious moments when our better natures were seen to be lacking. The song is sung by Mick Jagger from the point of view of Lucifer who gleefully promotes his notion of “good work” and then, demands acknowledgement from the listener in the form of the listener having to state his name. There is power in forcing someone to acknowledge your identity; especially, when your identity is synonymous with the intimidating forces of Evil.

But, “Sympathy For The Devil” is not just a song that rests on the stellar nature of its’ lyrics. The musical structure of the song is another aspect of the attention to detail that the great musicians all seem to have. The musical structure of “Sympathy For The Devil” was inspired by the Samba. Further to that, it was meant to go from the start of the song, all the way to the end, maintaining the same rhythm….never really slowing down, nor speeding up, not getting quieter nor louder…..instead, the tempo is meant to be constant all the way through. Richards described it as being almost “tribal” and “African” *(his words) and that sense of blackness and darkness was what gave “Sympathy For The Devil” its soul and spirit. The song is, also, noted for the background chorus that chants “Woo-Woo” all throughout the song. The “Woo-woos” came about because of how the people gathered in the control booth were reacting to Mick Jagger as he passionately rolled through his lyrics while recording his track. Producer, Jimmy “Mr. Jimmy” Miller, first started it off as a way to measure Jagger’s timing between lines. Keith Richards girlfriend, Anita Pallenburg, thought the Woo-woos added a needed element to the song and started joining in. By the time Jagger had finished, Miller, Pallenburg, Marianne Faithful and Brian Jones were all singing along. Needless to say, the band thought the Woo-woos added something to the song, as well, and they were officially added to the track and have now become one of the most popular features of the song.

It really says something for a song to offer a discourse in the history of humanity, an exploration of the nature of our soul, all the while mining its structure for as close to an authentic Blues feel as a band of white boys can manage, while being fuelled by a chorus of woo-woos. But, “Sympathy For The Devil” checks all of those boxes in a way that makes it one of the most unique and driven and intellectual songs of all-time. So, without further delay, here is one of The Rolling Stones greatest songs….a true masterpiece of lyrical and musical construction…..”Sympathy For The Devil” from the album, “Beggar’s Banquet”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

***For those interested….the link to the video for the song, “Sympathy For The Devil” by The Rolling Stones, as sung at the notorious Altamont Speedway Concert, can be found here. It is generally agreed that the concert sprang out of control when this song started to be played. While the stabbing that happened didn’t occur during the playing of “Sympathy For The Devil”, it is plain to see that the seeds for it were sown here. The Rolling Stones do not look like they are in control of their own stage at all here. So, watch the video if you are interested in seeing a nasty bit of history, like those depicted in the song, itself.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #252: Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #252: Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones musical catalogue is an embarrassment of riches. There are so many great songs sprinkled throughout the entirety of their career that it may seem difficult, at times, to know where to begin when it comes to giving them all their due. So, by no means do I think that “Honky Tonk Woman” is only the #252nd best song of all-time! I know it is a classic but, because there are so many hits, I have decided to toss one of their songs in, every so often, the rest of the way and give each tune its’ moment in the spotlight, regardless of where that “ranking” may be. From my point of view, The Rolling Stones are who they are for a reason. Today, our peek into their musical catalogue takes us to “Honky Tonk Woman”.

“Honky Tonk Woman” was meant to be a Hank Williams-esque country song. In fact, On their great album, “Let It Bleed”, the original version of this song can be found listed as “Country Honk”. Many music critics regard “Country Honk” as the only filler track on the magnificent, “Let It Bleed” album. So, what happened to “Country Honk” that resulted in it becoming the version of “Honky Tonk Woman” that we have all come to know?

First of all, the song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on vacation at a dude ranch resort in South America. Richards described the experience as being away from the trappings of modern life; allowing them to feel like they were actual cowboys out on some dusty plain. Thus, the original “country and western” feel to the song. However, while the boys were far removed from what was going on with their band back in England, events continued to unfold that were about to lead directly toward the tweaking of this song.

One of the original members of the band, Brian Jones, was not well. He was in the process of losing his battle with drug addiction and depression. When Richards and Jagger returned to England to record “Country Honk”, Jones contributed what he could to the demo tracks but, soon thereafter, his condition worsened and the decision was made to drop him from the group. In his place, a young twenty-year-old guitar prodigy named Mick Taylor was recruited. He had made a name for himself playing in a band called John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. When Taylor heard the demo for “Country Honk”, he immediately began adding a bit of Bluesy guitar work. Once he had added his input, the rest of the band saw that the song had evolved into something bigger and better than the original version.

The day “Honky Tonk Woman” was recorded and released as a non-album single, Brian Jones was found dead in his pool. A day later, The Rolling Stones played a free tribute concert in London that was dedicated to the memory of their friend, Brian Jones. At this concert, Mick Taylor made his public debut as a member of The Rolling Stones and “Honky Tonk Woman” was played live for the first time. After the show was over, the band gave away free copies of the new single to any fan who stayed to help clean up after the concert (which saw upwards of 250,000 people show up). “Honky Tonk Woman” made it to #1 on the music charts and was the very last song by The Rolling Stones to do so.

“Honky Tonk Woman” is noteworthy, from a musical point of view, for several reasons. First of all, it is one of the few songs ever recorded (along with “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult) that makes active use of a cowbell as a musical instrument. The cowbell was played by producer, Jimmy “Mr. Jimmy” Miller. Secondly, throughout the course of the song, Mick Taylor and Keith Richards trade off lead and rhythm guitar parts. Both men have stated how seamlessly and effortlessly they wove in and out of each other’s musical space during the song. Finally, the song, itself, is about sex and drugs and rock n’ roll and, as such, the lyrics had to be carefully constructed so as to pass BBC censors and avoid being banned for being inappropriate. Lyrics such as, “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind”, were deemed by the authorities as being suitable substitutes for saying that “We did cocaine and then she performed oral sex on me” which is what Mick Jagger was really intending to say.

In any case, “Honky Tonk Woman” has gone on to become a staple of live shows by The Rolling Stones. Even though it was issued as a “non-album single”, meaning that it didn’t appear on any of their regular album releases, the song can easily be found on numerous “Greatest Hits” albums, as well as, many of the “live” albums that The Stones have released, too. In many ways, “Honky Tonk Woman” has come to symbolize the closing of the first chapter of the career of the band. With it came the death of one of the original members (Brian Jones), the introduction of new guitarists (Mick Taylor and his eventual replacement, Ronnie Woods), the final time they had a #1 hit and then, mere weeks after the Brian Jones tribute concert, The Rolling Stones held their ill-fated concert at Altamont Speedway (which saw the Hells Angels “security team” kill a fan during the concert); effectively drawing The Summer of Love to a close.

“Honky Tonk Woman” is a heck of a song, with a heck of a legacy attached. Without further delay, let’s all give it a listen. *This video is from the actual Brian Jones Tribute Concert in Hyde Park. This marked Mick Taylor’s debut, as well. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Honky Tonk Woman” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, Country Honk” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for playing the best music of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.