The Rolling Stones

I Wanna Be Your Man/Stoned

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The Rolling Stones' second single marked a major leap forward in terms of the band's grasp, not only of music but of what they recognized was necessary for them to do with it. Like their first two single sides the previous summer, the A-side is a cover -- but instead of a Chess Records-generated number, this one came from the pens of British rock & roll's two top performer/songwriters of the moment, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The Stones had met their Liverpool rivals socially, and the two composers had given the up-and-coming London band the song, which was due to turn up in late November -- sung by drummer Ringo Starr in a frenetic enough version -- as one of the better rock & roll numbers on their own With the Beatles album in late November of 1963. But in mid-October, the Stones went into the studio and cut a slashing, savage rendition that betrayed not a trace of Beatlesque cuteness, Brian Jones', Keith Richard's, and Bill Wyman's amps were seemingly turned up to "11" while Mick Jagger turned the lyrics -- which sounded like bold yearnings in Ringo's voice -- into what could have been a prelude to sexual assault. That performance, coupled with Jones' distinctive (And equally savage) slide guitar work, said volumes about who the Stones were (versus the Beatles), even as it marked them as British rock & roll's premiere stylists, and put them out there on the cutting edge of what could even get played. And it did get played, and did sell -- as a cover of a Lennon-McCartney song (released three weeks before the Beatles' own version), at a moment when anything about rock & roll from Liverpool would get a chance at a hearing, and anything to do with the Beatles demanded extra attention, the song made it to number 12 in the U.K. in the hands of the Rolling Stones. This wasn't as high as they were aiming, but with the attendant publicity and exposure, the record more than did its job. And it was good enough to end up as the B-side of their first U.S. single, "Not Fade Away," released in March of 1964. As for the U.K. single's B-side, "Stoned," it was almost as important, though not in any way that was obvious at the time. "Stoned" was a slow blues that also featured the presence of "sixth" Rolling Stone Ian Stewart on the piano, and had Jagger's voice, sounding almost larger-than-life, pronouncing the words "Stoned -- out of my mind...." It wasn't much of a song, but it was a great record, and about as bold a B-side as anyone aiming for pop success released in England in 1963. Equally important, it marked the debut of the "Nanker Phelge" copyright, the pseudonym under which the bandmembers would compose collectively. In the year they'd been working together, the band had learned the importance of generating their own material, and if they were quite ready to come up with anything worthy of an A-side, they were at least able to stop giving the B-sides of their singles away to others. And like its predecessor, this single would remain a relative obscurity in America for a decades -- though "I Wanna Be Your Man" did surface on a U.S. single five months later, it wasn't until the 1989 release of The Singles Collection that either side of this record had a permanent place in the Stones' U.S. catalog.

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