Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Let's be honest, who knew that there was a story behind every Rolling Stone song?
Of course we can discern important themes, especially in their early years: Play With Fire (class consciousness); Get Off Of My Cloud (consumerism), Satisfaction (consumerism, sex), Under My Thumb (role-reversal, misogyny), Mother's Little Helper (prescription drugs) and so on.
Later there would be Street Fighting Man (social disruption, inchoate rage and frustration), Jumping Jack Flash (satanism), Midnight Rambler (serial rape) . . .
But does every Stones song – right up to 2020 – have a story behind it?
Well yes, as these two Paris-based writers prove . . . by expanding “the story” to mean how the songs were written then created in the studio, who played what, matters of production and chords, instrumentation, feuds within the ranks and more.
For many of the well illustrated entries in these 750 large-format pages the authors also include In Your Headphones which draws attention to audible mistakes or oddities in production (Brian Jones playing the wrong note on marimba at 3.08 in Under My Thumb).
There are also snippets For Stones Addicts which give further details on the originals of the covers the Stones recorded, chart positions in odd countries, cover versions (Liz Phair and jazz guitarist Joe Pass both did Mother's Little Helper, will.i.am remixed Rain Fall Down off A Bigger Bang) and more.
Each chapter which prefaces a new album also has an essay which places the music and the band in the context of the time (Aftermath: The Soundtrack of Swinging London; Between the Buttons: The Emblematic Album of the Counterculture; Emotional Rescue: The First Cracks Appear) and there are separate sections on Marianne Faithfull, Brian Jones' often under-rated musical contributions, fellow travellers like Bobby Keys, Nicky Hopkins, Chuck Leavell . . .
This is a massive and essential book for Stones fans which fills in gaps, makes you want to hear some of those songs which went past in a blur decades ago (the chapter on the Undercover songs is fascinating) and seemingly includes every original and cover they recorded (and some which appeared on bootlegs).
The authors are fans but also critics and are dismissive of lesser songs, poor playing and digressions which didn't work out.
They also note when the Stones plagiarised (or borrowed) riffs, bass lines or melodies.
A shelf-filler at its very size (it's a large block) but a fascinating, well-written read as well as an invaluable reference book which has that desirable effect for any book. It sends you back to the music with fresh ears and curiosity.
For more on the Rolling Stones at Elsewhere start here.
.THE ROLLING STONES; ALL THE SONGS, THE STORY BEHIND EVERY TRACK by PHILIPPE MARGOTIN and JOHN-MICHEL GUESDON. Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, $80