Saturday, July 27, 2013

Some Girls Live In Texas

On June 10, 1978 the Rolling Stones embarked on their first US tour in three years, which was to last until July 26. The S.E.A.T. tour ('Seventy Eight American Tour') combined small theater shows with huge stadiums. The show at Will Rogers Auditorium, Fort Worth, Texas, with a capacity of 3,000, happened to be one of the smaller ones. In his liner notes to the concert DVD "Some Girls Live In Texas" author James Karnbach recalls:

"It was July 18th 1978, and the crowds outside the venue on that Tuesday evening were excited as well as anxious to get inside the relative comfort and cool of the Will Rogers Auditorium. Billed as 'The London Green Shoed Cowboys' - a ruse that fooled no one, tickets had sold out in the blink of an eye. Fans had lined up for hours before the show and many were about to see the band live for the first time in a relatively small setting.

The 1978 tour started out in Lakeland, Florida on June 10th, and by the time they arrived in Texas the Stones had played 19 shows - and as Billboard Magazine said 'No flash, no gimmicks, just rock-n-roll'. The band for the S.E.A.T. tour included Ian 'Stu' Stewart on piano (the day of the Fort Worth show was Stu's 40th birthday) and piano and organ player Ian 'Mac' McLagan.

When the band had rehearsed in Bearsville, New York they had Jamaican keyboard player Bernard 'Touter' Harvey with them. Unfortunately, his reggae style of playing didn't fit the rock and roll feel the band was looking for and Ron Wood had suggested he phone his old friend and former band mate from Faces, Ian McLagan, to ask if he wouldn't  mind flying to the USA to join the rehearsals and then go on tour. Mac had just two days of getting to know the material prior to the Lakeland gig but it turned out that he was the perfect fit and just what the band had been looking for".

As always, Stu played piano on some selected songs, among which Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and show opener 'Let It Rock'. The band had first played 'Let It Rock' on their 1970 tour of Europe, but this was the first US tour on which the audience was getting to hear it live. Watch the video (with a visible Stu!) below: the song sets the pace for a stripped-down, no-nonsense, fast and energetic rock-and-roll show!

Adapted from the following source:
James Karnbach, Anything But Shattered, liner notes to the 2011 DVD "Some Girls Live In Texas", edited by Richard Havers.

Fact Sheet: Some Girls

Again produced by the Glimmer Twins, with engineer Chris Kimsey, "Some Girls", the Rolling Stones' 14th studio album, was recorded during two sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris. The album got released in June 1978. Author James Hector puts the record in some fine perspective:

"A new permanent guitarist, a new six-album deal with EMI - and the shock of the new wave to contend with. But first there was the problem of Keith Richards' 1977 Toronto drug bust. At one point, with the prospect of a lenghty prison spell hanging over him, it threatened to rip the band apart: instead it sealed his reputation as Wasted One No.1, and helped to bridge the gap between the Stones as old farts and the blanked-out faces of the punk generation.

While no-one seriously believed that the band would convincingly reinvent themselves as punk rockers, "Some Girls" was their grittiest set of songs since "Exile", helping them through what were difficult times for long-in-the-tooth rock acts. With Richards being preoccupied with beating the rap and, more critically, beating a decade-long drug habit, Mick Jagger took the bait, took some guitar lessons from Ron Wood, and steered the band successfully into the next stage of their career.

Punk squeezed the last traces of R&B out of white guitar rock: blue notes were replaced by the furious white heat of endless on-beats, played so fast that there was little room for the syncopation on which the Stones had based their entire style. Nevertheless, the band proved remarkably adaptable. Claims that Jagger was more interested in costly cuisine and even more expensive girlfriends than he was in the band were roundly answered by the album".

"Some Girls" turned out to be an almost 'keyboard-less' album. Ian 'Mac' McLagan ended up on two tracks, playing Wurlitzer electric piano on 'Miss You' and organ on 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)'. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both played piano on 'Far Away Eyes'. Ian Stewart didn't appear on the album at all, for the first time since 1968's "Beggars Banquet". But Stu was present during the Pathé Marconi sessions, and most of the tracks he played on appeared on the 2011 "Some Girls" re-release.

Adapted from the following source: James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Suggested further reading:
David Quantick, Some Girls, The Ultimate Music Guide (from the makers of Uncut).
Sylvie Simmons, Women Trouble, The Rolling Stones - Inside The World's Greatest Rock 'n ' Roll Band, Mojo, 2003.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

British Museum of Popular Music

Here's a little bit more from Ian 'Mac' McLagan, recalling his stay during the 1978 Rolling Stones US tour: "Keith's room was the party room because he liked people around him, and liked to listen to music and get nicely toasted. It was my non-stop rock and roll university. We'd listen, and play, and talk for hours about the music. It was an ongoing education to me, and there was something to learn from each of the Stones.

They had forgotten more about the music they loved than most people ever learn. Bill Wyman had an amazing collection of early rock 'n' roll, blues and folk-blues recordings, and he could answer most questions I'd ask without having to look anything up. Charlie's first love is jazz and he could fill you in on that subject, or point you in the right direction.

Mick and Keith knew about the blues, rock 'n ' roll, rhythm & blues, country and country blues, and Stu knew his boogie-woogie better than anyone. Woody had two older brothers, Art and Ted, who played him Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Armstrong when he was growing up, as well as turning him on to the blues, so being around them all was like having the British Museum of Popular Music reference library at your fingertips.

They were all well-rounded listeners. Well, maybe not Stu. He was more of a purist. With him, there were sharply defined lines that could never be crossed. He had no time for country and western music, and wasn't a particular fan of Elvis or the hill-billy sound, but apart from him, their ears were open, and mine too. I was exactly where I wanted to be with exactly the right people".

Adapted from the following source: Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Sweet Little Sixteen

The Rolling Stones finished recording and mixing the "Some Girls" album in March 1978 at Atlantic Studios, New York City. Rehearsals for the band's first US tour (June 10-July 26) in three years began close to two months later in the end of May. This time around the Stones gathered at Albert Grossman's Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York, along with Peter Tosh's band, who would be opening the set.

During the rehearsals the band, with Ian Stewart as a sixth member, were a tight and unison sixsome. They enjoyed playing numbers from the past such as Chuck Berry's 'Sweet Little Sixteen' and a whole lot of Eddie Cochran tunes. As it turned out, only 'Sweet Little Sixteen' would be played on the tour. Here's a version from the July 18 Fort Worth show, with Stu on piano, enjoying his 40th birthday.

But, as always, Stu only played on selected songs, so there was still a need for another keyboard player. Thoughts of sharing Peter Tosh's keyboard player, Bernard Harvey, were soon dropped. At the very last minute a call was made to England for Ian 'Mac' McLagan to join the band and after working with The Rich Kids he jumped at the chance to appear with his idols. Mac, who arrived 48 hours before the tour was due to commence, recalls:

"They'd wanted a flavour of reggae in the show, and as Stu wasn't into it, they got Bernard 'Touter' Harvey to sit in with them. He's a great player, especially for reggae, but when it came to rock 'n ' roll, he just didn't have the chops. Of course, I couldn't play reggae at all, but the guys had figured it would be easier to get me to learn how to skank if they needed it, than the other way round".

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Petrol Gang

The Rolling Stones' 2011 "Some Girls" re-release ends with 'Petrol Blues', a nearly two minute track with Mick Jagger on vocals and piano. The vocals revolve around the petrol crisis (remember, it was 1978 at the time) and the lack of fuel as the petrol manufacturers stockpiled it. Mick Jagger asks President Jimmy Carter for help since he does not want to sell his new Cadillac.

The original version of the track was called 'Petrol Gang', and had Mick Jagger on vocals and Ian 'Stu' Stewart on piano, as can clearly be heard on the demo tape: "Play it faster Stu, bit behind there dear, two miles behind me"!

Adapted from the following source:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.

In The Shade

On "Some Girls", which turned out to be an almost 'keyboard-less' album, Ian McLagan ended up on two tracks, playing Wurlitzer piano on smash-hit 'Miss You' and organ on the Temptations cover 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)'. Ian Stewart doesn't appear on the album at all, for the first time since 1968's "Beggars Banquet". But Stu was present during the Pathé Marconi sessions, and most of the tracks he played on appeared on the 2011 "Some Girls" re-release.

Hank Williams' 'You Win Again' is pure country of course, while 'Claudine' (see last post) and the 'Dead Flowers'-like 'Do You Think I Really Care' are two more or less country-and-roll tinged songs. 'So Young', which got an earlier release as a B-side in 1994, contains Stu's trademark boogie woogie piano, while 'Petrol Gang' has a story of its own (see next post).


The Rolling Stones' recording sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris proved to be very inspired and fruitful; all in all more than 50 tracks were recorded, 10 of which made it to the new album, "Some Girls". Ian 'Mac' McLagan continues: "Eventually Keith picked up his Telecaster and started to play. Charlie followed, and then Woody and Bill. I sat down at the Hammond and noodled along with them. It felt good to be playing with them. No, it felt great, and it made me want to play. Simon Kirke was over behind Charlie, smacking the congas, and Stu sat down at the piano.

Mick stood in the middle of the floor at the microphone singing and howling, and I'd forgotten how good his harp playing was. We went through several tunes, a couple I knew from somewhere, and another that sounded somewhat familiar, and then it was all new from then on in. We took a break for a bite to eat later that night, and then went back to the hotel.

I threw my bag in the room, and caught up with Charlie and Woody in Keith's room, who was keen to play me some of the tracks they already had on tape. He put on 'Claudine' and the whole band were in classic form, but Mick's 'live' vocal floored me. At the end of the song he asks the question, 'Am I in my right mind to be locked up with this people?' My answer would be 'Yes!' It was my favourite band playing at their peak".

The exiting, country-and-roll like 'Claudine', with Stu on piano, was a finished take, but it was shelved due to potential legal problems. The track eventually got released on the 2011 "Some Girls" re-release. The song was inspired by the case of Claudine Longet - the ex-wife of sixties crooner Andy Williams, who was convicted of shooting her lover.

Adapted from the following sources:

James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Pathé Marconi

September 1977 the Rolling Stones released their double live album "Love You Live", which was largely drawn from their 1976 Paris shows, and from the El Mocambo gigs earlier in the year. Since Billy Preston had played on all album tracks he wanted a cut of the royalties and, much to Mick Jagger's annoyance, this was agreed. It is striking that Preston never toured nor recorded with the Stones again, with the exception of 1997's 'Saint Of Me'.

Early October the band entered Pathé Marconi Studios in Paris to record a new album. Pathé, the official EMI studio in Paris, had an old-world charm and atmosphere. The actual room used by the Stones was a rehearsal room rather than a normal studio. In fact the sessions, often referred to as the 'More Fast Numbers' sessions, were split into two parts, the first one running from October 10-December 21, 1977, and the second one from January 5-March 2, 1978.

Because of his friendship with Ron Wood, Faces keyboard player Ian 'Mac' McLagan was invited to play during the first sessions. Mac recalls: "Pathé Marconi is an old established studio originally designed for recording large orchestras, and Woody was just inside the huge studio door, a smile on his face, as I walked in. He showed me around the room, took me over to the grand piano and handed me a straw. Laying out two lines on the piano lid, he shouted across the room:

'Hey, Keith, look who I've got here'. 'Oh, it's him!' Keith gave a gap-toothed grimace. 'Oh, I see Woody's taken care of you then?' He laughed as I wiped the residue from my nose, then led me into the control room. Stu appeared, all chin and pockets, and an easy smile. 'Hello, stranger. How's things?' I told him everything was fine, and asked him how they were doing. 'Oh, pretty good, you know. If these buggers would only get on with it, tsk!' No one could ever get a swelled head around Stu. The salt of the earth, he always had his feet on the ground".

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Ian McLagan, All The Rage, Pan Books, 2000.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Around The World

July 1977 Ronnie Lane and his friend Eric Clapton started recording sessions with the Rolling Stones Mobile unit at Lane's Fishpool Farm in Hyssington, Wales. Ian Stewart produced the sessions, which were eventually aborted because Lane and Clapton decided to go on tour instead. Clapton's manager Roger Forrester invited Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance to be Clapton's support act around the UK and Europe.

Seven tracks from the sessions got eventually released on a couple of compilation albums ("Plonk", "Lucky Seven"). Stu played piano on one track, Fats Domino's 'Around The World (Before I Grow Too Old)', in a line-up consisting of Ronnie Lane (vocals, guitar), Eric Clapton (guitar), and (then) Slim Chance members John Porter (guitar, mandolin), Charlie Hart (accordion), Brian Belshaw (bass) and Hughie Flint (drums).

Great Western Boogie

Part four of yesterday's "Boogie Woogie History" documentary contains a performance by Bob Hall, George Green, Big Joe Duskin, Axel Zwingenberger (all piano), Dave Green (bass) and Charlie Watts (drums), under the name Rocket 88. The recordings were made in January 1986, a month after Ian Stewart's untimely death. Bob Hall, a long-time collaborator of Alexis Korner, and Stu had started working together in June 1977. It all started when Hall got fed up with the company he was working for in Swindon.

He agreed to do a farewell concert at Swindon's Art Centre and recruited a band for the occasion. Stu joined and brought along one Charlie. The one-off concert on June 12, 1977 by a band that even had no name was a great success. Says Bob Hall: "I don't think the band had a name by then, it was just my farewell concert. I remember I played the first half of the concert either solo or with George Green or Stu on second piano, bass and drums, because we didn't have enough brass arrangements for a whole evening".

The concert was entirely recorded on Ronnie Lane's mobile studio, and some tracks appeared on the album "Jammin' The Boogie" (released 1978). Ian Stewart produced the album, and played piano on one released track, 'Great Western Boogie'.
Line-up: Bob Hall (piano, vocals)/George Green (piano)/Ian Stewart (piano)/Nick Dean (bass)/Charlie Watts (drums)/Colin Smith (trumpet)/John Picard (trombone)/Al Gray (tenor sax).

This one-off event turned out to be a success and lead the band to book further concerts at the Swindon Art Centre, the first of which took place on February 1, 1978. Now called Bob Hall's Swindon Skiffle Group, the band continued with the same basic line-up featuring Charlie Watts and Ian Stewart. Dave Green, a childhood friend of Charlie's, replaced Nick Dean on bass and Dick Morrissey replaced Al Gray on tenor sax. This new line-up carried on till early 1981, changing the band's name a few times along the way. To be continued.

Adapted from the following source: Eddy Bonte, Rocket 88: Jammin' With Charlie (read the full article here). Read a little bit more on Bob Hall right here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Interlude: Boogie Woogie History

Boogie Woogie History.....I suppose Stu would have liked it. Discover parts 2-4 of this documentary on the Internet.

Sing Me Back Home

Early 1977 plans were well underway for a live Rolling Stones record, with most of the tracks being taken from the 1976 Paris concerts. Both the British and American music scene were evolving fast, with an emphasis on a harsher back to the roots music. Mick Jagger always had a feel for contemporary music and suggested that the Rolling Stones return to their roots and record some songs in a club, just like in the old Windsor and Richmond days.

After some research the El Mocambo club (capacity 500) in Toronto was booked, the intention being to record five gigs and place some of the tracks on the forthcoming live album. Plans were disrupted when Canadian police visited Keith Richards' hotel suite, and arrested him with a charge of intent to drug trafficking. All events were temporarily put aside for the band's two (March 4-5, 1977) remaining sets at the El Mocambo club, which both were inspired and electrifying.

On March 12, 1977, Keith Richards, while technically detained in Canada on bail pending a decision on the charges following the drugs bust, went into Toronto's Sounds Interchange Recording Studios, to record some tracks Gram Parsons taught him. Keith: "It was quite likely that jail time was on the cards. It was Stu who suggested that I should use the waiting time to put down some tracks of my own - put something down to remember the man by.

He hired a studio, a beautiful piano and a microphone. We just did all the country songs, nothing different from what I do any other night, but there was a certain poignancy about it because at that moment things looked a bit grim. I played the George Jones, Hoagy Carmichael, Fats Domino things I'd played with Gram. Merle Haggard's 'Sing Me Back Home' is pretty poignant anyway. The warden is taking the prisoner down the hall to his execution".

Adapted from the following sources:
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.
Keith Richards, Life, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2010.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rough Mix

Late 1976 Ian Stewart got involved in recording sessions with his old mates Ronnie Lane and Pete Townshend, who had joined together to make an album. Faces biographer Andy Neill recalls: "The sessions for what became "Rough Mix" continued intermittently throughout September and November '76 and into the New Year with a cast of friends including Charlie Watts, Ian 'Stu' Stewart, Charlie Hart, Billy Nicholls, Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle. Playing a significant part was Eric Clapton, with whom Lane had recently become acquainted.

Ian Stewart called Ronnie one day and mentioned, 'Oh, by the way I ran into Eric the other day and he asked how you were'. Ronnie was mystified: 'What the fuck does Clapton want, I don't even know him that well'. Stu kept saying Eric's been asking after you so Ronnie asked Stu for his number. Ronnie made the call, and that's what started Ronnie and Eric's whole friendship. Glyn Johns, who produced the album: "Rough Mix" was a perfect title, because it had never appeared to me that Ronnie and Pete would ever work together and I don't think it had ever occurred to them either.

They were good friends through their mutual interest in Meher Baba but they were completely independent in their careers although they respected one another. I'd known both of them for a long time independently and had a friendship as well as a working relationship with them. The album was released in September 1977 to critical appraise but modest sales. As far as I'm concerned "Rough Mix" is a fantastic album. Pete and Ronnie worked together well and it was a great vehicle for both of them. It's one of the best records I made in my career, yet it was the one that got away".

Though central to the scene, knowing all musicians well, Stu played his trademark piano on only one album track, the basic barroom boogie 'Catmelody', a 'fun' song of Lane's. Line-up: Ronnie Lane (vocals, guitar)/Pete Townshend (vocals, guitar, bass)/Ian Stewart (piano)/Mel Collins (saxophone)/Charlie Watts (drums).

Ronnie Lane also wrote the heart melting 'Annie', one of the most touching songs I've ever heard. Stu doesn't play on the track, but I've included it as a bonus song. If you also like the song, please let me know! Line-up: Ronnie Lane (vocals)/Eric Clapton (guitar)/Graham Lyle (guitar)/David Marquee (double bass)/Benny Gallagher (accordion)/Charlie Hart (violin).

Adapted from the following source: Andy Neill, Faces - Before, during and after, Omnibus Press, 2011.