Oh no! I just found out I was singing this song wrong! “It’s the honky tonk women that give me the honky tonk blues” — I was missing the “that”!
On a sizzling new live album, Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood pays tribute to Chuck Berry. It’s called “Mad Lad: A Live Tribute to Chuck Berry.” Ronnie Wood plays guitar on all the songs, and he sings on most of them. I’m not the biggest fan of Ronnie Wood on lead vocals, because his singing voice reminds me more of Bob Dylan than Mick Jagger. But his guitar playing is fantastic, and his band is really tight. They are billed as Ronnie Wood With His Wild Five. The album was recorded at a small theater in Dorset, England.
The CD opens with “Tribute to Chuck Berry,” a song by Wood, followed by the Chuck Berry covers. Many of the songs are instantly recognizable, while others are lesser known. Some of them, including “Talking About You” and “Little Queenie,” have been recorded by the Stones. “Wee Wee Hours” features Imelda May on vocals with Ronnie Wood and is the CD’s best song. Other standouts include “Almost Grown,” which is Ronnie’s best vocal of the evening, “Blue Feeling,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Mad Lad,” the album’s title track, which is an instrumental. But all the songs are fantastic. If you’re a Stones diehard like me, this album is a must for your collection!
Longtime Rolling Stones insider Bill German presented a talk today at the New York Public Library on West 53rd Street. As many Stones fans know, Mr. German wrote and edited a newsletter about the band for many years. He went on tour with them, he hung out backstage and was welcomed into their homes and hotel rooms. He subsequently wrote about his adventures in a page-turner of a book that he cleverly titled “Under Their Thumb: How a Nice Boy From Brooklyn Got Mixed Up With the Rolling Stones (and Lived to Tell About It).” Bill also collaborated on a book with Ron Wood about Mr. Wood’s paintings and drawings.
In my opinion, “Under Their Thumb” is the best book about the Stones — and trust me, I have read many books about the Stones. And in addition to being a gifted writer, Bill is also a terrific public speaker. This was my second time hearing him tell his story. Bill does impersonations of Mick, Ron and Keith, and the way Bill does this you really feel like you are there. During his presentation today, Bill shared pictures and fun anecdotes, including what it was like to hang out in Ron Wood’s basement when people like Stevie Ray Vaughn would pop by at 3 a.m., Keith’s hosting a “lunch” at 8 p.m. — and what happened when he spilled orange juice on Mick Jagger’s rug!
The room was filled with dozens of serious fans who, like me, were hanging on to Bill’s every word. Before and after the presentation, Bill spoke with his fellow Stones fans and signed copies of his books. I picked up extra copies of both the books that he had available, which I will be sending along to out-of-town friends and fellow Stones devotees Gary and Steve. Bill was gracious enough to sign these. He also answered all questions from those in attendance. I had a question of my own I wanted to ask, but I will ask that of Bill another day.
In 1981, the Rolling Stones were at the top of their game. They had a No. 1 album, “Tattoo You,” from which the first single, Start Me Up, was a smash hit on the radio. They also had videos running constantly on a brand new cable station called MTV. The band’s tour that year was arguably the biggest any rock band ever done to date, filling large outdoor stadiums and sports arenas, including the Pontiac Silverdome. (I happened to be just starting high school at the time, and was therefore too young to go to the show.) Opening acts for the Stones that tour included Journey and George Thorogood. With the exception of bass player Bill Wyman, the lads were all still in their 30s. Mick Jagger, trim and fit and with long hair, wore football pants and performed shirtless through much of the show. Then for the encore (usually the song Satisfaction, some nights Street Fighting Man), he would come out on stage wearing a colorful cape made of the British and American flags sewn together. He sang into a cordless microphone, which he stuffed into his crotch while running about the stage during the instrumental bits.
Documenting this tour was a live album, released the following year, called “Still Life: American Concert 1981.” This is not considered one of the best Rolling Stones albums, but it was the first one that I ever bought. I got it at Meijer Thrifty Acres. I remember the DJ Allison Harte talking about the album on WLAV when it came out and playing songs from it. I also remember that at first I was not hugely impressed. My biggest complaint was the album’s length. It was just 10 songs! For some reason I thought this was a recording of a complete concert. I wondered what kind of band would only play for 45 minutes? It was not until years later that I learned that the Stones played 25 or more songs on that tour, for close to three hours each night.
At some point I was in my room playing the record with all the lights off (as I did back then) and it was one specific moment in the song Twenty Flight Rock, where the other members of the band give a brief pause while Mick sings a line, that got me. I can’t explain it. It was something about the band’s ability to do that, to be so precise, so tight, that got me hooked. I learned later that Twenty Flight Rock was an Eddie Cochran song that the Stones were doing a cover version of. They also did a cover of the Smokey Robinson and the Miracles song Going to a Go-Go, which got airplay on the radio and on MTV. But it was the song Twenty Flight Rock, all one minute and 45 seconds of it, that initiated my love for the Rolling Stones.
Here are a few additional notes about the 1981 Stones tour and the “Still Life” album:
- The album contains an “intro” of Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train and an “outro” of Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner from Woodstock. Both the intro and outro were played at the concerts, the latter as fireworks exploded over the crowd.
- The album artwork is by the Japanese artist Kazuhide Yamazaki, based on his colorful stage backdrops used on the tour.
- In addition to the album, there was also a concert movie, directed by Hal Ashby, called “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” which was filmed at the 1981 Stones shows at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., and at the Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. The movie came out in 1983 and was shown in movie theaters.
- There was also a televised pay-per-view special with radio simulcast for the final show of the tour, at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. In 2014, this concert was released as a CD/DVD set, titled “From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum (Live in 1981).”
- Following the 1981 tour of the USA, the Stones went on a big tour of Europe in 1982. They did not tour again until 1989.
If you get the “Still Life” album, listen to the song Twenty Flight Rock and let me know what you think. Also listen to the song Let Me Go (from their 1980 album Emotional Rescue, which opens Side 2) and tell me if you can count the number of different ways Mick sings the word “hey” and how he turns that one word into a whole sentence just about every time he sings it. You might also get hooked on the opening song, Under My Thumb, or by Shattered, or by Let’s Spend the Night Together, which is played with guitars rather than on piano.
And then there’s their live rendition of Time Is On My Side, which is played and sung with such emotion. By this time the Stones had been performing so long together that his song had real meaning for them and their fans, yet I was just starting to get to know them.
If you know me well you know that I will always stop a conversation to point out when a Stones song like “Tumbling Dice,” “Hot Stuff” or “Emotional Rescue” is playing, and I will never leave a car or bar when one of these songs is still playing. Therefore — although I already have all the songs included on “Honk” on other albums and in other collections — I still got this on the first day it came out. I love it.
The lads usually put these compilations out before they go on tour, if they have not released a new studio album. So this is one of their many “best of” albums. Others include “Made in the Shade,” “Hot Rocks,” “Rewind,” “Jump Back,” “The Singles Collection,” “GRRR!” and “40 Licks.”
I got the three-CD edition of “Honk,” which includes two discs of “greatest hits” plus a bonus CD of songs recorded live, including several with special guests. What I like about this latest collection is its blend of big hits with some of their lesser-known songs. So, for example, on CD1 you get “Rocks Off” sandwiched between “Brown Sugar” and “Miss You.” CD2 includes some of their more recent but notable songs, including “Rough Justice,” “Rain Fall Down” and “Out of Control.” On CD3, the special guests on songs recorded live include Ed Sheeran on “Beast of Burden,” Dave Grohl on “Bitch” and Brad Paisley on “Dead Flowers.”
One song you won’t get on “Honk,” though, is “Honky Tonk Women.” That’s apparently because they are focusing on their studio albums released in 1971 and after. So, this is basically highlights from “Sticky Fingers” and thereafter.
If you don’t have any Stones albums and want to get just one, consider this one. The way I roll when I get a CD like this is stick it in and hit play, without looking at the packaging first to see what song is up next.
Listen to “Winter” — one of my favorite songs from a much under-appreciated album:
Keith Richards is 75 today. Think about that for a moment. Keith Richards is 75 YEARS OLD!!! Who coulda thunk, out of all the rock stars in the history of rock ’n’ roll, that KEITH RICHARDS would still be kicking it in 2018. And he’s still recording and playing live! The Rolling Stones are set to tour next year. It’s fucking hot if you ask me.
In honor of the occasion, here’s “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” from Side A of Sticky Fingers. Turn this up. You don’t have to play the whole song if you don’t want to. Just listen to the opening riff:
I scrolled down below the video to read some of the posted comments on YouTube. Here are some of the more colorful messages that people posted:
“I don’t listen to this song often. But when I do, so do my neghibors.”
“That guitar is so dirty. That guitar has been up all night drinking whiskey, smoking Marlboros, and there are two young ladies in a state of dishabille lying on the bed; and that guitar is about to go out to work and replace the transmission on a 59 Chevy Impala. That is how dirty that guitar is.”
“When you hear this song in a movie, you KNOW shits about to go down!”
“Went for heart surgery two years ago. The background music in the OR was classic Stones. I knew everything would be fine and, if by any bad luck I were to die, well that’s the way I wanted to leave this world anyway.”
Happy Birthday, Keith!
When the lads were on tour in 2015, they decided to perform an entire album in concert, and “Sticky Fingers Live At the Fonda Theater” documents this complete show — on both DVD and also a companion music CD.
Released in 1971, “Sticky Fingers” is one of the best albums the Stones ever put out. It has “Brown Sugar,” “Wild Horses” and Bitch” on it. It’s also the one featuring a close-up picture of a man’s crotch, complete with a working zipper! Back when people bought records, this was a really cool gimmick. Andy Warhol designed the cover, and I had always assumed it was Mick Jagger’s junk bulging out. But as we learn in some behind-the-scenes interviews on the DVD, it was actually a picture of a male model. In the interviews, two different guys claim to be the crotch-man. The world will never know.
Anyway, fast-forward to 2015, and the Stones are still touring — and they decide to perform this whole album in one show. For me, it’s a real pleasure to see the Stones play these songs in a smaller venue. They don’t go in order of the track listing on the album itself, but they do perform ALL the songs. There are many different kinds of songs, from hard rockers to slow blues and even some country songs. Many of the tracks on “Sticky Fingers” are not ones they usually play live. Some of my favorites on this particular concert DVD/CD set are “Sister Morphine,” “I Got the Blues” and “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
Before they play the Sticky Fingers songs, they open with “Start Me Up,” and at the end they throw in an encore that includes a rollicking version of the BB King song “Rock Me Baby” in which Mick plays harmonica.
This is one of the many offerings in the “From The Vault” series from the Stones.
Back in the early 1960s, the BBC had a regulation in place that restricted the number of records they were allowed to play. It was called “needle time,” and there was a limit. So they got recording artists to come in to the studio and actually perform live for radio broadcasts. The Rolling Stones, who got their start during this era as a cover band playing mainly Chicago blues, classic R&B — and even, yes, country music! — were cut out for this. On each visit the BBC wanted them to play at least three songs, sometimes as many as five, including their latest hit.
Released late last year, “ON AIR” is a two-CD collection of these in-studio recordings. Each one of the songs is the band actually playing live. And they are really good. My personal favorites include “Route 66,” “Down the Road Apiece” and “2120 South Michigan Avenue.”
But it gets even better, because this special collection also includes eight — yes, eight! — songs that the Stones had never officially put out on any studio album. These songs are:
- Hi Heel Sneakers
- Fanny Mae
- Roll Over Beethoven
- Cops and Robbers
- Memphis Tennessee
- Ain’t That Loving You Baby
- Beautiful Delilah
- Crackin’ Up
Of course, a live version of “Crackin’ Up” is on Side 3 of the “Love You Live” album on the El Mocambo side. (What’s the the El Mocambo side, you ask? That’s a whole ’nother story.)
Up until now, you could only find these rare Stones songs on bootlegs with lousy sound quality. Now you can hear these songs as an official release, in really good audio. So if you want to have a complete collection of the Stones, “ON AIR” is a must. This is your chance to hear the lads at the height of their early prowess.
I went to the Rolling Stones “Exhibitionism” on opening day (Nov. 12) and again today (Feb 19) with my friend Steve. This is awesome. There are replicas of the lads’ messy apartment in London from the early 60s, a “backstage area” and even a reproduction of a recording studio. There’s a section on album artwork, another with scale models of their elaborate stage sets from the Steel Wheels, Bridges to Babylon and Voodoo Lounge tours. A whole room of Andy Warhol artwork, another featuring stage costumes spanning their entire career. Lots of video and audio displays and a 3-D movie at the end of “Satisfaction.” You can also see their guitars, a drum kit and notebooks with Mick’s hand-written lyrics to “Miss You,” “Lies,” “Some Girls” and many other songs. My favorite part was a mixing board where you can put on headphones and turn each band member’s instrument playing track up or down on about 10 different audio tracks, including “Start Me Up,” “Angie,” “Rocks Off” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Click the pictures to see them bigger: