I've been buying Rolling Stones records since I was a little kid. And by that time they already had a large catalog of LPs to choose from. Anytime I was blessed with a little Christmas or birthday record store shopping spree cash, I always made a point to pick up one or two Rolling Stones albums until I was sure that I had them all. Confronted by an overwhelming selection of Stones titles to choose from in the bins, Charlie on the front cover of "Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out" was super intriguing right from the start so it was one of the first ones that I ever bought. And from the first time that I played it that day to just earlier this afternoon, I completely agree with Lester Bangs who said “I have no doubt that it's the best rock concert ever put on record” (but I still don’t like Phillip Seymour Hoffman).
Well, they've just released a brand new remastered deluxe version of this classic 1970 Rolling Stones live album with bonus cuts, an extra DVD with some “Gimme Shelter” movie outtakes and additional performances by the two opening acts, B.B. King and Ike & Tina Turner but to me, it’s kind of like adding teeth to the Mona Lisa or buying a copy of that Radiohead CD after you already downloaded it for free. Unnecessary! The original album is a perfect snapshot of the Stones on tour in America in 1969. Unfortunately it’s the only official Stones live album with Mick Taylor. This is my fave Stones live album and one of my favorite Stones albums period because it’s a true Mick & Keith album and I ain’t talking about Jagger.
The sloppy intros and missed outros, backwards backbeats and out of tune instruments played by a band at least twice as stoned as the audience. Brilliant! And while the bonus DVD and music on the new version are very nice, you can’t really improve an existing masterpiece.
So as long as you already have a copy, and it don’t matter if you have an original London or Decca vinyl or an ABKCO CD from the 80’s, you don’t have to rebuy it. Just play the one you have LOUD and even if it’s a sweet Tuesday morning it’ll feel like a dark Saturday night.
“Jumping Jack Flash” is a smoking opener and by the time Mick’s asking if you want his trousers to fall down, you’re sucked in like the stargazed crowd. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. Oh my hair’s getting good in the back.
Keith’s perfect tone and Chuck Berry mimicry is showcased on both “Carol” and “Little Queenie” (which the Stones never released as a studio version) and pay attention to Ian Stewart’s piano tinkling. The first 30 seconds of “Queenie” always totally captivates me when Keith and Charlie have their ‘ones’ reversed until Keith slides into first verse and Charlie turns himself around just in time. Every time I hear it, and I’ve heard it a million times, I still marvel at how they pull it together and every day of my life I wish I could be either one of them.
Mick Taylor’s fingers are flying on the monster that is “Stray Cat Blues” and switches to slide for “Love In Vain” and I can honestly say I’ve never heard Clapton do a Robert Johnson song this good. It's a quiet, slow riveting blues number in which the guy follows her to the train station and was even a sucker enough to carry her suitcase.
“When the traaaaain left the station, he had two lights on behind,
Yeah, the train had left the station, I’ll tell ya…he had two lights on behind,
Whoa! The blue light was my blues, but the red light was my mind.”
Purists can call me crazy but I prefer these two live versions over their studio versions on “Beggars Banquet” and “Let It Bleed” respectively.
“Midnight Rambler” and “Sympathy For The Devil” are lengthy jams full of stunning licks from both guitarists and Jagger’s attitude is so present, you can see him strutting, sweating and shaking all over the stage.
And no bitch, they are NOT going to play “Paint It, Black” tonight although I would’ve loved to have heard it too. I wonder what Mick Taylor would have done with “Paint It, Black???!!!”
“Live With Me” is another one that’s more energetic here than on "Let It Bleed" and while “Honky Tonk Women” and “Street Fighting Man” have no chance of ever equaling their studio recorded perfection, both songs move along nicely with the full excitement of an encore.
Charlie’s fuckin’ GREAT tonite now id-nee? Of course I’m well aware that the raw live tapes that were recorded in New York and Baltimore were subject to post-production studio overdubs (Jagger re-did a lot of the vocals and also guitars were touched up in a few places) but I dare you to name one GOOD live album that wasn’t. And besides, the Stones were creating the live rock album blueprint with this one, creating a standard to be lived up to forever.
HOT WACKS WITH LURCH
My fascination with bootleg LPs also started at an early age and another recording from the Rolling Stones 1969 U.S. tour (with absolutely no overdubs!) is heavily responsible for that. I had read about these unauthorized vinyl LP pressings in record collecting magazines. Many had paper insert covers and weird titles like “Kum Back” by The Beatles and Bob Dylan’s “Great White Wonder” which was a 2LP set featuring music from the “Basement Tapes” with The Band. Another well known one was a Rolling Stones LP called “LIVEr Than You’ll Ever Be” that was recorded in Oakland, California and was released in December 1969 and apparently sold enough copies to force the Stones to get their own “Ya-Ya’s” out and quick.
My father is a coin and antique collector so I was always going along with him to flea markets and secondhand shops looking for gems in that box of old dusty vinyl thrown in the corner. At one place there was an old grey-haired sailor-type guy who sold records and other junk out of his van and he told me that he had a storage building FULL of old records and gave me his business card (“Bill Smolka” New Castle, Delaware) and said call him and we could meet there and I could look through ‘em ALL if I wanted. My Dad drove me and he stayed outside in the humid Delaware heat talking to Bill Smolka in the driveway while I went inside this little shack and faced the thick air and thousands of unsorted 45s and LPs.
Smolka sold his albums for “a dollar and up” and he had some knowledge about Elvis, The Beatles and other collectable records (the first price guides had surfaced and Goldmine Magazine was a great source of info in those early record collecting years) but he didn’t really like rock & roll that much so you could sneak lesser known things by him easily. But I knew if I found a good Beatles or Stones record in one of his piles, it would be considered in the “and up” price range.
I started rummaging and before long I had a stack of goodies. I came across a plain white LP jacket that had “LIVEr Than You’ll Ever Be” rubber stamped in red on the front. Could it be? I pulled the album out and the red label listed the artist as “The Greatest Group On Earth” and had familiar song titles like “Carol,” “Gimme Shelter,” “Sympathy For The Devil” and six more. The record company name at the top of the label was called "Lurch Records," a classic, made-up bootleg name. SCORE! But I knew that if I told ol’ Smolka that this was a Rolling Stones live album he’d jack up the price so I decided to play it dumb and cool.
When I just couldn’t take it anymore I emerged sweating with black dust all over my fingertips. I handed Smolka my stack of desirables and he smiled at me like I was a sucker and he was about to tally up a small fortune. He started making price piles, sometimes staring at a label for a long time or psychologically asking me what info I knew about it and then deciding which pile it belonged to. When he flipped to my score of the day, he said out loud “Liver than you’ll ever be, what’s this?” pronouncing “LIVEr” with a short “i” like the vital organ. He stared at the low budget white jacket with no photos or information and I had to think fast.
“I’m not really sure what it is but I collect anything on Lurch Records.” Wait a minute, did I just tell him that I collect Lurch Records? Well, it worked. He slung that baby into the dollar pile and I had just purchased my first bootleg LP.
While I had been shopping through the dusty piles of vinyl, every time I wiped the sweat from my face I had unknowingly applied a streak of warpaint. I got into my Dad’s car and saw myself in the mirror with big black streaks across my face looking like I just walked out of a coal mine. When I got home the first record I played was the Stones bootleg. The sound quality was obviously lesser than the real thing but it was nice and raw and it was an 100% authentic Rolling Stones concert recording. Mick’s stage banter is a cool alternative from the common Ya-Ya quotes. There’s a slow and sexy version of “I’m Free” that starts out rough (but that song is supposed to “get out of time”) and later he calls out “Mr. Taylor, Mr. Taylor” for an inspired guitar solo from the other Mick.
During “Live With Me” Jagger impovs about “I think we got a problem” but I’m not sure if he’s talking about one of the band member’s technical difficulties or scuffling in the audience. There’s funny comments about “blues time” and how the crowd is dressed. And Mick’s “All right here we go, slowly rockin’ on” during a bit of dead air is classic.
By the time the band finishes “Little Queenie” on side two, the audience explodes in applause and their true enthusiasm is felt culminating with Mick commanding the San Fran crowd to “shake your asses” in the coolest lazy British accent. A true captured moment.
And like "Ya-Ya's," this bootleg has been “remastered” on CD with more tracks (and with the apostrophe added title of “Live’r Than You’ll Ever Be” which might help all of the Bill Smolkas of the world have a better chance to pronounce the title right) but again there’s nothing like the real thing, baby.
Since you’ve been so patient reading this, I thought maybe you’d like to hear some classic LURCH VINYL.
A few years later as a teenager I became aware of an incredible collector’s record store about 40 minutes from my house called Jeremiah’s Record Exchange complete with a large bullfrog (which Jeremiah was) on the front sign. The store sold new & used vinyl and had hundreds of different bootleg titles by all the popular rock artists. The bootlegs were pricey but many of the newest titles had full color covers and often improved sound quality compared to the older "white label" bootleg LPs. It was a real treat to add one of these rarities to your collection. Sometimes though, you’d get a real lousy sounding one and they were non-returnable because of that reason. And you never could tell-you’d buy a John Lennon demos album with a super deluxe cover but then brought it home to learn that it had atrocious sound quality. Luckily, there was a large paperback reference book from Canada called “Hot Wacks” which provided bootleg discography information and even sound quality ratings. “Hot Wacks” also published a quarterly magazine with updates of the latest bootlegs and reviews. It was also an interesting magazine because alongside the bootlegs were photos of scantily clad and topless women. “Hot Wacks” was the first place I saw Angelyne, the legendary L.A. nobody in a color foldout of her in panties. Like my “National Lampoon” magazines, "Hot Wacks" was 'dirty' enough to have to stash them in the bottom junk drawer of my dresser away from parental units.
GET YOUR KA-GA-YA-KE'S OUT!
BCR Live In Japan December 1976
Here's a SUPER RARE bootleg LP that I read about YEARS AGO in "Hot Wacks" but could never find a copy of until just this past year (the first one I've ever seen!!). WARNING: There are absolutely NO Ya-Ya's here...