The Rolling Stones Play “Waiting On A Friend”

Rolling Stones Tattoo YouListen to this song by early ’60s London blues-boom quintet turned ’80s stadium-filling champeens The Rolling Stones. It’s “Waiting On a Friend”, a smash single from 1981’s equally smash-success full length record, Tattoo You. This new record would be their last (to date) to hit the top chart positions internationally. The album would also make several “best records of the 1980s” lists by the end of the decade. This would be pretty ironic, considering the album’s origins.

By the end of 1980, and after something of a hiatus period as a live act, the Stones were eager to tour again, and to do so behind a new record. Of course, the timing was a bit tricky. It takes time to make an album, and to write new songs. So, with the help of Chris Kimsey who served as co-producer on their previously successful album Some Girls, and their not-as-successful predecessor to this new one Emotional Rescue, they raided their own vaults for some bits and pieces to turn into new tracks. From here, lead singer Mick Jagger wrote a few new melodies and lyrics to shore up that earlier material as well as lay down some new vocal tracks. This song came out of that process, with the original backing track dating back to the late 1972 Goats Head Soup sessions, complete with parts from former Stone Mick Taylor on guitar, and stalwart sideman at the time Nicky Hopkins on piano.

This cobbling together of old material from a previous decade rushed out in time for a tour doesn’t sound like a likely recipe for a landmark album, does it? Well, it was anyway, with this song being a high point. So, what is the secret to its success? Read more

Happy Birthday, Mick Jagger: 10 Musical Moments

Mick Jagger 1964These days, the role of the rock frontman is well established. Many musicians have approached this role differently over the years, of course. But, the role itself was not one that was defined in quite the way we know it today, before Michael Phillip “Mick” Jagger (born this very day in 1943) came along and helped to lend a certain vocabulary to the guy upfront who sings, fronting one of the defining acts of the 1960s – The Rolling Stones.

Jagger took notes from the greats early on on how to present rock music in terms of pure spectacle. James Brown, TIna Turner, and Jackie Wilson all provided the raw materials to Jagger’s approach. The results were revolutionary.

In addition to providing a template for rock frontman presentation, Jagger was a singular figure who provided an avenue for British musicians hearing and loving American R&B, to reinterpret it using their own voices. He  did so by providing his own take on it without reservation and beyond the reverent imitation of blues and soul styles undertaken by other bands, and other singers, on the early London R&B scenes. He was one of the finest examples to band who would follow – Them, The Pretty Things, The Yardbirds, and beyond.

Here are 10 musical moments of my favourite Jagger-as-vocalist songs that helped to get the Stones, and to get us all, into the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll music in the latter half of the 20th Century.

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Mick Jagger Performs ‘Memo From Turner’

performance-soundtrackListen to this track from the soundtrack of Donald Cammel’s and Nicholas Roeg’s 1970 film Performance, as performed by the star of that movie, one Mick Jagger.  It’s “Memo From Turner”, a song which can be found on The Rolling Stones’ The London Years, and credited to Jagger/Richards. But, this tune was Jagger’s first solo piece, also released in 1970, even if it was recorded in mid-1968 during the filming of the movie, with none of the other Stones featured on the song.

Still in the thrall of his own Byronic image, and presenting it so winningly that he was immediately noticed for cinematic appeal, Mick Jagger took the role of the burned-out rock star Turner in the Cammel/Roeg film that would capture something of the dark side of 60s London.  Faced with his first role in a film, and coached by his actress-singer girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, Jagger decided not to play himself, but rather to amalgamate the dueling personalities two of his colleagues at the time; laconic Keith Richard (later to be known of course as “Richards”, his actual surname), and paranoid, drug-beleaguered Brian Jones.

The film is a dark, impressionistic achievement, marrying the glamour of both rock musicians and 60s gangland London together, revealing the two to be the mirror images of each other.  The tonal darkness to be found here in the movie is perhaps helped along by the fact that the project proved to be a stumbling block for the Jagger/Richard partnership, then at a crucial turning point, creatively speaking.

Jagger’s steamy scenes with Anita Pallenberg, his partner’s girlfriend at the time, which depicted allegedly unsimulated sex between the two, didn’t sit well with Richard.  So, when it came to writing a song for the movie, Jagger found himself abandoned by a fuming Keith Richard.  The full details of this account of the events can be read in Victor Bockris’ Keith Richards biography.

Yet, with the help of studio musicians under the leadership of producer Jack Nitzche, and supplemented by a truly incendiary slide guitar from a 21-year old Ry Cooder, Jagger’s first solo single was something to celebrate.  And in the end, Richard got his musical credit anyway. Despite the unusual circumstance which tested it, their partnership as a creative unit remained intact.

This is just as well, seeing as many of the songs they’d write together to be celebrated as classics of the era were still ahead of them.  Also ahead of them of course would be a real clash between the rock world and the world of organized crime – the free concert at Altamont raceway , captured as it was in another film Gimme Shelter, in which Jagger finds himself in quite a different role as the wide-eyed, sheltered rock aristo in a sea of violence, mayhem, and murder that is well beyond him.

Learn more about the film Performance by reviewing the Performance Wikipedia page.

Enjoy!

A lesser-known Rolling Stones track – “Winter” from Goats Head Soup

The Rolling Stones Goats Head SoupHere’s a song which I always thought sounded like it should have gone directly to Van Morrison’s creative inbox – “Winter” from 1973’s Goat’s Head Soup. This album of course is looked upon by many as the beginning of the band’s decline, when the heroin began to bump the telecaster out of Keith’s hand. Yet, this track and a number of others on this record showed that the group still had plenty of juice.
Check out this clip to hear this tune and judge for yourself. This track on which Jagger performs without Keith Richards (who was absent from the session), and Mick Taylor shines on lead guitar, betrays Jagger’s tendency to be current instead of distinctive, perhaps. Yet, his languid delivery is still pretty compelling.

Enjoy!