What I’ve Been Listening To Lately: Between The Buttons

In 1967 I turned 11, and my aunt Dottie’s present was a copy of The Rolling Stones Between the Buttons.

It may be my greatest present ever, though I’m sure that’s a reckless statement. I’ve been gifted a lot, thank you totally.

The thing about Between the Buttons is it is not a Rolling Stones blues record. Though the blues are played, for sure. I’m terrible at these historical things, but the record seems to represent the apotheosis of Brian Jones. His influence is everywhere, and the music benefits from odd instrumentation and challenging harmonies.

It’s not like the 12×5 Stones were underachievers, but in many ways the Between the Buttons cuts are wilder and more creative than the more extravagant Beatles experiments at the same time. The Stones didn’t ever, I think, get totally absurd in their posture (even considering Gomper), while the Beatles got pretty mental in their days. In any case, Between the Buttons is an album of pop songs, some influenced by psychedelic experiences and styles of the time.

When I decided to write about this I had an “neglected elpee” angle, but everybody gives it five stars. Everyone considers Between the Button a masterpiece. So what I have to share are some clips, in case you didn’t know about masterpiece it is (it wasn’t really conceived as an album).

 

My two cents. These Stones are Brian Jones Stones. This is incredible music, orchestration, songs. The Stones went from great bluesimitators to pop meisters like the Beatles and the Kinks. Brian Jones was in charge of that.

We always think of Jagger and Richard, but this was a band that was led by Brian Jones, in the first part, and Mick Taylor in the classic part. And when Ron Wood came in the live magic didn’t end, but the songwriting and arrangements did.

Between the Buttons may be the high mark of the Brian Jones era. It’s a high mark indeed.

 

 

 

 

Because the Night

The story I remember is that Patti Smith was recording in the same studio as Bruce Springsteen, she heard this song and put out her own version. Without approval, just hijacked it.

I’ve read Bruce’s autobiography and Patti Smith’s books and I don’t know what the truth is. Maybe I knew once, but now, I like my memory. What I do know is that this is one of the Boss’s best songs. And one of Patti’s best songs. It has become a collaboration.

So, today I was listening to the Screaming Females, a New Jersey band who have made seven albums. I don’t know that much about them, but as a rock band they’re pushing a big rock up a steep hill.

And I stumbled upon their collaboration with 90’s indie band Garbage on a cover of the Boss’s song.

It’s still a good song, but I don’t know. This makes me want to hear Patti and her group.

 

The Temptations, Ball of Confusion

Dennis Edwards joined the Temps about the time their sound got harder, and the content of their songs political. Also when they became their most popular selves. He died earlier this week.

There are some great videos of the band singing this one, with psychedelic video, on YouTube, but the audio part of this version is the best.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction, 1969

The subject applies to so many things these days, but of course the subject is the name of a song. A Rolling Stones’ song.

It is a Rolling Stones’ song from the days of Andrew Loog Oldham, Brian Jones, and Nanker Phelge, attributed to Jagger-Richards. Recorded in 1965, it was the Stones’ first No. 1 hit. Mick Jagger said the song is the one that made the Stones different than other bands. He’s surely right, at least up to a point a few years later.

So it isn’t amazing or anything that the Stones played this song at their 1969 shows at Madison Square Garden. These shows became the meat of Get Yer Ya Yas Out, one of the great live albums of all time.

But what I found tonight was the video of the Stones playing the song at the Garden during those Ya Yas shows, mostly because I was looking for Janis Joplin things and she was standing beside the stage that night.

The original is a riff-based song where the music totally propels the satirical lyrics.

This live version introduces Mick Taylor to the band, and the results are not surprisingly magical. What is old becomes new. This doesn’t diminish the brilliance of what Mick and Keith started, and Brian Jones arranged, but how awesome to add lovely guitar solos!

I hadn’t heard this before. If you have, please be patient. I’m not saying it’s the best version. But it is a fantastic version by a band operating at peak effect.

And Janis Joplin, how I got here, is standing in the crowd.

Christian James Hand Breaks Down AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock

I learned about this from a Facebook post by my friends Annastasia and Herrick. Hand went to school with Herrick.

Hand takes songs and breaks them down into their component parts. Haven’t heard anything like this before, and don’t know how the he gets to the individual tracks, but it’s pretty neat. Here’s the show:

Here’s the whole song.

 

More Kevin Bacon

Good Old Boys made me think of Waylon Jennings and Waylon Jennings made me think of my favorite Waylon song, Honky Tonk Heroes written by Billy Joe Shaver.

If there’s a morality tale in this song I don’t know what it is and I don’t much care. I particularly like when it kicks in at about 1:30 and I like even better when it kicks out with the riff at 3:20.

It’s a testament to the musical world we live in that everybody has a Johnny Cash shirt, no one has a Waylon Jennings shirt and no one even knows who Billy Joe Shaver is. (No offense to Johnny Cash – it’s not his fault.)

Good Old Boys

Randy Newman’s first three albums are full of good songs. Songs that were hits for others, like Mama Told Me Not to Come, and songs that made his reputation as a song craftsman and satirist. But it was his fourth album, Good Old Boys, that I think is his masterpiece. Here the satire is scathing, and then the sentiment is true, and in a song like Birmingham, the two come together seamlessly.

Thinking about Alabama tonight, and thinking how in the 43 years since this great album came out, the same problems persist. Maybe things are worse.

If Roy Moore wins in the Alabama race for the Senate seat tonight (Ed. Note: He didn’t.), we should probably all sing Kurt Weill’s and Bertolt Brecht’s Alabama Song, something of a hit for the Doors back in the day, (Show me the way to the next whisky bar, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask way. Show me the way to the next little girl, oh don’t ask why, oh don’t ask why.), but in the meantime, these three songs from Good Old Boys will get you started:

Cooking with Little Willie John

I was making dinner tonight. Sauteed green beans and broccoli rabe with a creamy lime dressing, and some shrimps. For some reason I put on Little Willie John, who I see has been referenced on the site only once. His biggest hit, a John Cooley/Otis Blackwell tune called Fever, is no remnant. But I think we’ve been neglecting a great singer who sang great songs.

Mr. John, as the Times would say (no they wouldn’t), was a hit making machine for a while, and like many hit making abusers of alcohol, he died in jail.

His brother wrote this song.

This is a terrific song. This is the version I hear when I think of the song.

This is great.

So is this. This is the blues.

Charming interview with LWJ’s sons and biographer. A story of Detroit.