Fifty years since the Stones got together, so 48 since I heard Little Red Rooster playing on a Dansette at the Congregational Church youth club and came out learning to strut.
According to Wikipedia, it remains the only blues song ever to have topped the British charts. Must check that with the Vinyl Anoraks Circle.
It also remains an example of the Stones at their best – along with most of the r’n’b covers on their first album.
A lot of beardless British boys were covering r’n’b in the 60s and a lot of them sounded a thin sort of racket after you heard the originals. Smokestack Lightning by The Yardbirds, featuring a youngster called Clapton, was a revelation at the time. But I gave my album away after hearing it by Howling Wolf.
One of the essential albums of all time is Stoned Alchemy, originally a double vinyl release in 1989, which collected 27 of the original American r’n’b tracks which were the foundation of the Stones’s first club acts. It is terrific – but it certainly does not put the London white boys to shame.
They went on to write some very good songs of their own, of course, but also a lot of mediocre ones, and I’ve found myself fidgeting through a lot of their later sets – including, I regret to say, the one at the heart of Shine A Light, the Scorsese documentary released in 2008.
The best thing I’ve heard Jagger do for some time was reprise Dead Flowers on Mean Old Man, a great set of duets by Jerry Lee Lewis and friends, released 2010 – track at http://tinyurl.com/clfx4x9/
Jagger has a great voice for country and Dead Flowers is one of a surprising number of Stones songs which fit in well at the druggy end of country or, sometimes, right in the middle of the country road.
Early examples would be No Expectations (1968), with Brian Jones on slide guitar – http://tinyurl.com/28zo2a6 – and Honky Tonk Women (1969), followed, in case of any doubt, by the Country Honk version of it – http://tinyurl.com/btrg2w8 /
Note, by the way, on the No Expectations page, a link to a Johnny Cash version, which I hadn’t heard before.
The Stones had come across country hipster Gram Parsons by1968, although it was not until 1971 that he moved in with them and spent a summer jamming with Keith Richards, leading to Sweet Virginia (1972) – http://tinyurl.com/ckess3k/
Richards has recalled: “Mick and Gram never really clicked, mainly because the Stones are such a tribal thing. At the same time, Mick was listening to what Gram was doing. Mick’s got ears. Sometimes, while we were making Exile on Main Street in France, the three of us would be plonking away on Hank Williams songs while waiting for the rest of the band to arrive.”
Also proofs that they could have been a great country band are Far Away Eyes (1978) and, I would argue, Waiting On A Friend (1981) – http://tinyurl.com/cxaay5n/ and http://tinyurl.com/d3wplyu/
Going back to the black influences, I was interested, catching the first half of the new documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, to hear Jagger say he learned his stage moves from Little Richard. Also, I noticed, he took quite a lot from James Brown, including a good pinch of funk in the arrangement, to make Sympathy For The Devil.