The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the Los Angeles area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some L.A. TV execs and do a spin-off. In this series we once more examine previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. In this edition we discuss The Rolling Stones’ Big Hits (High Tides and Green Grass).
Just in case y’all live under a rock, The Rolling Stones are a Brit rock band founded in 1962. (Yes, boys and girls, the group is almost as crusty as your crusty chronicler and the members themselves are even more so!) The first lineup included Brian Jones (guitar, sitar, harmonica, keys and backing vocals), Ian Stewart (keyboards), Mick Jagger (lead vocals and harmonica) and Keith Richards (guitar and backing vocals). Bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts would soon follow to complete the original band roster.
The group is named after a Muddy Waters track titled “Rollin' Stone”. The band has released nearly two dozen studio albums in the US and UK. They also put out approximately ten live concert albums in the US and UK and many compilations. Big Hits (Tides and Green Grass) is the first official compilation album. The Stones brought in Phil Spector to assist on percussion and Jack Nitzsche to help out on with percussion and keyboards on part of this twelve-track platter.
The material here was recorded between May 10, 1963 and September 2, 1966. The LP opens on the now classic cut "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". This one is from 1965 and includes lyrical references to both commercialism and (more obviously) sexual frustration. Ironically, Richards's driving three-note guitar riff was meant to be only temporary and was supposed to be replaced with horns on the finished recording.
The second selection is the lesser known song "The Last Time". This is also from 1965. It’s also the first Jagger-Richards composition.
The next number is another 1965 song. Titled "As Tears Go By", it was first a hit for Marianne Faithfull in 1964. Jagger and Richards worked with their manager Andrew Loog Oldham to come up with this hit.
It’s followed by the band’s cover of "Time Is on My Side". The song was written by producer Jordan "Jerry" Ragovoy under a pen-name. It was first recorded in 1963 by jazz trombonist Kai Winding and his Orchestra. It was also covered by soul songstress Irma the next year when the Stones also released it.
Next is another cover. It’s the Stones tuneful take on Bobby Womack’s "It's All Over Now". It was first done by The Valentinos and became the Stones first number one hit in 1964.
The closing cut to Side one is the oft’times forgotten "Tell Me (You're Coming Back)". This is significant because it’s the first Jagger-Richards composition the group put out as a single A-side. It was also their first tune to make into the US Top 40.
The flip side opens on the famous "19th Nervous Breakdown". Jagger and Richards wrote this while on tour in 1965. It was released the following year. It would inspire other artists such as Paul Revere and The Raiders and The Monkees.
"Heart of Stone" follows. It was released in different formats in both 1964 and 1965. It’s a soulful ballad that includes the slightly droning, discordant guitar that would become a near trademark of the band.
The hit "Get Off of My Cloud" quickly picks up the pace again. Highlighted by the drum intro and twin guitar work, this was meant to be a follow-up single to "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". The band first released it in 1965.
The shortest song follows. It’s a less than two-minute cover of a song by Norman Petty and Charles Hardin titled "Not Fade Away". It was first made popular back in 1957 by Buddy Holly and The Crickets.
"Good Times, Bad Times" further demonstrates the songwriting abilities of Jagger and Richards. It also shows how the band was so quickly able to musically mesh early in their career. The closing cut here is "Play with Fire". It is credited to Nanker Phelge which in actuality marks it as a song that was actually written by the entire band. Oddly, only Jagger and Richards appear on the actual track.
With a running time of over 36 minutes the London label platter hit American record racks on March 28, 1966. It included a cover shot of the band in Franklin Canyon Park in L.A. The same picture would be used on the back of the ABKCO label UK release several months later with a slightly different playlist. It included songs not yet ready for release when the US version hit stores such as a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Come On” is one example here.
The platter climbed to number 3 in the US and camped out there for two years. It would make it to number 4 in the UK. Not to be forgotten, it would be released on CD in the US in 2002 and would feature remastered, stereo mixes of the now classic cuts: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", "Time Is on My Side", "It's All Over Now" and "Heart of Stone".
The Rolling Stones’ critically-acclaimed Big Hits (High Tides and Green Grass)/Lon. NPS-1 is both beautiful and brutal. It features the first album appearance of “19th Nervous Breakdown” which actually set the stages for the psychotic signature sound that would clearly dominate the band’s passions through much of its future career. Despite the obvious absence of "Mother's Little Helper", it captures the true essence of the early Rolling Stones and also includes the cream of the crop of the first US releases.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that's the bottom line.