A History of the Rollings Stones and the Blues

by Paul Cashmere, Noise11

The Rolling Stones new album Blue & Lonesome is so much more than a blues cover album … it is a blueprint of the band’s DNA.

Any new band starting out today should be advised to check out the original versions of every one of these songs because as a new band starting out in 1961, this was what Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were listening too.

In Blue & Lonesome you have the musical building blocks of the Rolling Stones. The Stones began life as a blues covers band. There was only one original song on their self-titled debut in 1965, Tell Me. That album was covers of Willie Dixon, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Rufus Thomas, Chuck Berry and Holland/Dozier/Holland songs.

The second album The Rolling Stones No 2 in 1965 only had three original songs What A Shame, Off The Hook and Grown Up Wrong. It featured songs by Solomon Burke, Muddy Waters, Allen Toussaint and Chuck Berry.

The third album Out Of Our Heads was also mainly covers. Sonny Bono wrote She Said Yeah and Marvin Gaye wrote Hitch Hike. There was more Chuck Berry and one from Sam Cooke. Mick and Keith had three Heart of Stone, I’m Free and Gotta Get Away and the Stones as a group with Charlie, Bill Wyman and Brian Jones, wrote The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man under the non-de-plume Nanker Phelge. (Nanker Phelge was a collective for all of the band to share in the royalties).

The first original Rolling Stones album did not come until the band’s fourth British album Aftermath in 1966. Aftermath featured Lady Jane, Under My Thumb, Mother’s Little Helper and the incredible 11:13 blues Goin’ Home. This was the moment the Rolling Stones became The Rolling Stones.

Once Mick and Keith learnt to dress themselves the magic started to happen. Their defining moment in blues was the epic Midnight Rambler as they ended the decade in 1969 with Let It Bleed.

Through the 70s, they never left blues. Sticky Fingers in 1971 featured the traditional You Gotta Move, Exile On Main Street had Slim Harpo’s Shake Your HipsGoats Head Soup had their own Hide Your Love. It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It) dabbled in US R&B with the Temptations' Ain’t Too Proud To Beg. 1976’s Black and Blue centred on Soul and Reggae with Eric Donaldson’s Cherry Oh Baby and their original Hey Negrita.

All that was building up to what would become an absolute Stones classic with Miss You on Some Girls in 1978 where their Blues, Rock and R&B influences merged for the very first time. You can draw connections back from those very early days right to that moment. Some Girls continued its American R&B influence with another Temptations cover, Just My Imagination.

The first Stones album of the 80’s was Emotional Rescue in 1980 with the R&B fueled title track and the downright and dirty blues Down In The Hole. Next, on Tattoo You, Black Limousine was the blues moment but for the rest of the 80s the band exploref R&B, soul and reggae with blues songs occasionally surfacing as b-sides such as Fancy Man Blues on Mixed Emotions and The Storm and So Young on Love Is Strong.

The previous studio album, A Bigger Bang in 2005, featured one of the Stones best blues numbers Back Of My Hand.

The inner sleeve of Keith Richards’ biography Life features an image of his record collection. Looking down the sleeves you can see where this band is coming from.

The Rolling Stones could do an American songbook of blues songs. Lets hope that Blue & Lonesome is the beginning, not the end.

The track list:
  • Just Your Fool (Original written and recorded in 1960 by Little Walter)
  • Commit A Crime (Original written and recorded in 1966 by Howlin’ Wolf – Chester Burnett)
  • Blue And Lonesome (Original written and recorded in 1959 by Little Walter)
  • All Of Your Love (Original written and recorded in 1967 by Magic Sam – Samuel Maghett)
  • I Gotta Go (Original written and recorded in 1955 by Little Walter)
  • Everybody Knows About My Good Thing (Original recorded in 1971 by Little Johnny Taylor, composed by Miles Grayson & Lermon Horton)- Eric Clapton on guitar
  • Ride ‘Em On Down (Original written and recorded in 1955 by Eddie Taylor)
  • Hate To See You Go (Original written and recorded in 1955 by Little Walter)
  • Hoo Doo Blues (Original recorded in 1958 by Lightnin’ Slim, composed by Otis Hicks & Jerry West) - Jim Keltner on percussion
  • Little Rain (Original recorded in 1957 by Jimmy Reed, composed by Ewart.G.Abner Jr. and Jimmy Reed)
  • Just Like I Treat You (Original written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in December 1961)
  • I Can’t Quit You Baby (Original written by Willie Dixon and recorded by Otis Rush in 1956) - Eric Clapton on guitar
All tracks feature:
  • Mick Jagger: Vocals & Harp, Keith Richards: Guitar, Charlie Watts: Drums, Ronnie Wood: Guitar,
  • Darryl Jones: Bass, Chuck Leavell: Keyboards, Matt Clifford: Keyboards
Blue & Lonesome will be released on December 2, 2016.

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