The Rolling Stones

How Britain Got the Blues

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Although the kind of Rolling Stones fan who buys this will almost inevitably already have a good portion of the music on other bootlegs, this CD boot is a good compilation of obscure 1961-1964 recordings, mostly taken from 1964 BBC sessions. Twenty-four of these 32 cuts come from such BBC sources, but what will pique the hardcore Stones aficionado's interest the most are the first eight tracks, which have rarely if ever before surfaced. The first four songs are labeled as dating from a tape of Little Boys Blue, a just-pre-Rolling Stones lineup of the group, recorded (probably at a private rehearsal) in late 1961. Dick Taylor (later of the Pretty Things), guitarist Bob Beckwith, and Allen Etherington (on maracas) were also part of Little Boys Blue on this recording, according to the cover. While the track listings are vague as to what actual future members of the Stones also participated, it's certain that Mick Jagger's on lead vocals, and virtually certain that Keith Richards is on one of the guitars. These are the very earliest Rolling Stones recordings to have appeared on a bootleg. The recording is crude, and the accompaniment primitive (particularly the drums, which aren't even included on all the tracks). Yet the similarity to what the Stones would become is unmistakable, with Jagger's singing sounding almost exactly similar to his style on the earliest Stones records, and a Chuck Berry chug already present in the guitars, though the rudimentary amplification produces some odd fiddle-like sounds. Three of the four songs ("Little Queenie," "Beautiful Delilah," and "Down the Road Apiece") are Chuck Berry covers that the group would release or perform for the BBC in their early days; the fourth, "I Ain't Got You" (a Billy Boy Arnold song covered by the Yardbirds in 1964), would not. The next four tracks, in far better though somewhat hollow fidelity, are also extremely interesting, three of them dating from a November 1963 recording session. These include unreleased versions of the Jagger-Richards compositions "It Should Be You" (tougher than the one released as an obscure cover by George Bean, though it's still not much of a song) and "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday," covered with some success by Gene Pitney. There's also "Leave Me Alone," a Jagger-Richards original not released by anyone, which sounds like an energetic rip-off of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say." And, completing the rarest material here, there's also the unreleased studio effort "Goodbye Girl," a routine blues-rocker dated as having been recorded in November 1964 and written by Bill Wyman. Quite fascinating for the Stones fanatic, then, though actually the subsequent 24 BBC session tracks are better music. Those BBC performances include many songs that showed up on the group's early releases, as well as some surprise covers that didn't, like "Roll Over Beethoven" (a different version than a more commonly circulated one also recorded around this time for another BBC session), "Meet Me in the Bottom," Jimmy Reed's "Ain't That Loving You Baby," "High Heeled Sneakers," and Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up." The fidelity on these is generally okay (though not great), and the performances good and different enough from the studio versions to make them pretty interesting. In case you're assembling Rolling Stones BBC material for the first time, though, note that there are a good number of BBC tracks that don't show up here, including some ace ones like their covers of "Memphis, Tennessee" and Diddley's "Cops and Robbers."