The seed that kept growing

By Tom MacIntosh

In April 1964 The Rolling Stones released their eponymous debut album with what Keith Richards described as half-comprised mixes, mostly all covers and rushed to the market by then producer Andrew Loog Oldham; it was cut in just 5 days. It was, however, what knocked the Beatles off their top spot in the U.K. charts at #1. But certainly the haste in recording left them with a raw, aggressive, perhaps dangerous sound that would flourish into what they later became, one of rock history’s greatest bands. This package was the seed to brighter, ‘badder’, bad boy things.


Artistically the album doesn’t lift much original weight, since the material was mostly other people’s songs, as on their EP released 3 months earlier, which featured their first single, a Chuck Berry ditty called Come On, and on this album they also redo another Berry number Carol, where Richards and Mick Jagger play a call and response game as they tear through the verses hitting every note right in the middle. The opener, a speedy travelogue of Bobby Troup’s Route 66, which was made popular in 1946 by the Nat King Cole Trio, and the closer Walking the Dog by Rufus Thomas, frame a remarkable set of R&B gems, especially the twanging, twisting, toe-tapping blues they were looking for. Take the sensual I’m a King Bee, a Slim Harpo (aka James Moore) swamp blues piece done with a rawer, brasher approach, afforded the ‘white-boy-singing-the-blues’ which was apart from the purist black bluesmen of the day. You see, classic blues was never ‘in-your-face’ like this, it was a humble lament sung by those who knew what it was to be ‘blue’, but this, as well as the British Invasion, breathed new air into the genre, which is to say, it reached a broader interracial public.

The band at the time comprised the ‘glitter twins’ Jagger/Richards, who would later find their calling on writing and composition, bassman Bill Wyman, guitarist and Stones founder Brian Jones, and rat-ta-tat drummer Charlie Watts, as well as the ‘6th Stone’ Ian Stewart on keyboards, Gene Pitney on piano, and Phil Spector playing maracas. They penned 2 songs under the Spector/Stones pseudonym Nanker Phelge, called Little By Little and Now I Got a Witness, a curious take on Marvin Gaye's’ Motown hit Can I Get a Witness. The first ‘glitter twin’ effort put to vinyl was here on Tell Me (You’re Coming Back), a romantic ballad performed most likely on Richards’ Harmony 12 string.

Their cover of Mona (I Need You Baby) by Bo Diddley is a beauty that they curiously replaced on the U.S. album release (called England’s Newest Hit Makers: The Rolling Stones) with Not Fade Away by Buddy Holly, while You Can Make It Try by Ted Jarrett and I Just Want to Make Love to You by Willie Dixon create a soulful texture that is more layered than the standard ‘blueswailing’ of the day.

The U.K. release, called simply The Rolling Stones was an event that broke the Beatles grasp of the public ear, and #1 slot on the U.K. charts since 1963. They were on their way to becoming the ‘bad boys’ of the pop/rock/blues scene, all due to this mish-mash of covers performed with energetic youth and attitude. It earned them gold and platinum status in the U.S. and Canada to put the cherry on top! Fun fact: it appears in Robert Dimerys musical reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die (Universe Publishing, 2005). Of course it does, this was the seed that got it all rocking and rolling, like a rolling stone. And look at them now!

The Rolling Stones ladies and gentlemen.