Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Some Stones Covers"
AIN'T TOO PROUD TO BEG
This was during the denouement, when the Rolling Stones were the World's Greatest Rock And Roll Band, but their recorded efforts were spotty, their rep was based on their live show, and the hits of yore. I'll posit that "It's Only Rock 'n Roll" is better than its predecessor, "Goats Head Soup," but at this late date you only need to hear "Time Waits For No One," with Mick Taylor's exquisite guitar work and this, a cover of the Norman Whitfield/Eddie Holland song made famous by the Temptations.
"I know you wanna leave me
I refuse to let you go"
It's the guitar and the piano accents that push this over the top. It comes on like a freight train and settles right into the groove, I won't say it tops the Temptations' take but it's just not a raw copy, it stands on its own, the Stones' version has its own magic.
The version from "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!"
It's the guitar tone!
Of course, the band covered the Chuck Berry number on its debut, and that version is good, but it's a tear, this live take is...LIVE! Slower, yet a romp. The band seems to be having fun.
Once upon a time "Ya-Ya's" was seen as a definitive live album, one of the greatest, only eclipsed by the Who's "Live At Leeds," back before everybody redid their parts in the studio and perfection reigned. But what makes "Ya-Ya's" so great is the feel. Listen.
GOING TO A GO-GO
From the forgettable 1982 live album "Still Life." This is the best thing on the LP. You'd think a Miracles cover would be superfluous, and on some level it is, but you get that live feel, which is remarkable today, when everything is either faked or studio perfect. That's right, the roughness, the imperfections, result in the magic of this track.
JUST MY IMAGINATION (RUNNING AWAY WITH ME)
I liked "Some Girls," but didn't consider it the triumph the press did. Of course "Miss You" is great, albeit a period piece at this point, but my favorite cuts on the album were "When The Whip Comes Down" and "Beast Of Burden," which no one ever talked about, and this. Listen to Mick sing NEW YORK! You feel you're in that city. It's slow and groovy and if you don't like this you've got no soul. Yes the Stones take is slow, although not as slow as the Temptations' original, they make it rock, it's played by people who know their roots.
STOP BREAKING DOWN
All these years later, "Exile On Main Street" is unlistened to, despite its reputation, but it's my go-to Stones album these days. And I'd like to say that "Stop Breaking Down" is integral, but the truth is it's superseded by everything else on side four, especially my favorite, the underrated "Soul Survivor." The best track on side four is "Shine A Light," "All Down The Line" is the most famous, but the guitar on this Robert Johnson cover does its best to keep up. The Stones never recovered from the loss of Mick Taylor, that's the truth, just listen!
SHAKE YOUR HIPS
A Slim Harpo cover, that's nearly identical to the original, except for...the feel, the mood, it sounds like it was cut in a basement on drugs, as if the audience didn't matter, and they were just doing it for themselves. Who do we credit for this incredible sound, the long departed Jimmy Miller, half-brother to the disgraced "New York Times" reporter Judith Miller? A minor track on "Exile On Main Street" that adds flavor even if it doesn't dominate. Whew!
This is how bad "Dirty Work" was, this unheralded 1963 minor hit by Bob & Earl was the single. And the Stones' iteration was overbaked, but it locked into a groove and satisfied the more you listened. The Stones brought the song back from the dead, I don't think anybody can do that with the rest of "Dirty Work."
YOU GOTTA MOVE
The best thing I've heard live all year. Wherein the Stones didn't worry about production, but did their best to nail a cover of this Mississippi Fred McDowell track at the Fonda. Their performance evidenced their roots and their skill and their devotion to the blues all at the same time. Used to be you played because you loved the music, the girls and dope and alcohol were extras, as for money and fame...are you kidding me?!
You didn't know it was a cover, did you? Of a Robert Wilkins track. Between Keith and Mick, it's all you need, back when the music was enough. Of course "Beggars Banquet" gets respect, which it deserves, but the focus is rarely on this but "Sympathy For The Devil" and "Street Fighting Man." But every single cut on the LP is magic, including this, which fits right in.
My favorite cover is Depeche Mode's, I don't think anybody can top that. But way before that band even formed, the Stones were recording the Bobby Troup classic both in the studio and live. My favorite is the studio take on the band's debut. It's simple and almost archaic, but truthfully, listening now is like going into a time tunnel and seeing what it was like in Merrie Olde England back in the day...and let me tell you, I WANNA GO!
AROUND AND AROUND
So I'm in London and "Ziggy Stardust" is all the rage. So I buy the album and go to see David Bowie at the Music Hall in Boston. And the concert ended with all the lights on and Bowie doing this song. That's my favorite cover, but the recording that was ultimately released years later didn't measure up. But my favorite STUDIO version of "Around And Around" is the one that opens up "12 X 5." I bought the album just to hear it, back before the days of YouTube and Spotify, when if you had a hankering to hear something you had to buy it, oftentimes the whole LP.
The joint used to be rocking. When we as a nation exited our domiciles on a regular basis, to hear live music, to be amidst the crowd, before we became addicted to Netflix and our mobile phones. That's right, once upon a time you heard a record like this and you had to buy a ticket to hear it up close, you were thrilled when your local band covered it, but...the highest experience in the church of rock and roll occurred at the gig where your favorite recording artist played the songs you knew by heart.
We knew the songs by heart.
And so did the Rolling Stones.