Tag Archives: Charlie Watts

Rocks In The Attic #791: Aretha Franklin – ‘Rarities From The ‘60s’ (2018)

RITA#791The Amazing Grace film has been lost in development hell since it was shot in 1972. A problem with syncing the audio to the picture meant that it was shelved in the Warner Bros. vault for decades. There were attempts to release it in 2011 and 2015, prevented both time by Franklin suing the producer, Alan Elliot, for using her likeness without her permission. Franklin’s family arranged for the film to be completed and released after her death in 2018. I guess her family were less principled about the whole affair.

The film opens with the general pre-show hubbub of Los Angeles’ New Temple Missionary Baptist Church. The Queen of Soul is coming to record a live gospel record, over two nights, with the Southern Californian Community Choir. Director Sydney Pollack can be glimpsed talking to the crew, while the Reverend Dr. James Cleveland reminds everybody that they’re taking part in a religious service, before introducing Aretha up on stage. She floats down the aisle onto the stage and sits down at the piano. The second she starts singing, eyes closed, belting out her magical voice, it’s clear that this is something special.

RITA#791aMick Jagger and Charlie Watts, in L.A. to finish the recording of Exile On Main St, can be seen hanging out at the back of the hall. It’s not hard to imagine that they’re probably just as happy to see the duo of Bernie Purdie on drums and Chuck Rainey on bass as they are to see Aretha.

I’ve been looking for a copy of the album itself for as long as I’ve been collecting records, and have only ever come across scratched, beat-up copies. Considering it’s the best-selling gospel record of all time, I’m sure I’ll find a nice copy one day, and there’s always the Complete Recordings 4xLP box set if the hunt proves elusive.

This LP is a collection of demos and outtakes, presented as a bonus disc in Aretha’s Atlantic Records 1960s Collection box set from 2018. As always, it’s gold.

Hit: I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (Demo)

Hidden Gem: The Fool On The Hill (Outtake)

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Rocks In The Attic #527: The Rolling Stones – ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ (1967)

RITA#527.jpgPoor Brian. I’m just in the middle of Peter Norman’s 1980’s biography The Stones. There’s quite a large portion of the book involved with the mental (and professional) decline of Brian Jones, and it makes for quite upsetting reading.

For some reason, I had always mistakenly thought Jones was still a member of the band when he drowned in his swimming pool late one night after having too much to drink. He’d actually been kicked out of the band a couple of weeks prior to this, when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards visited him at his home to do the dirty deed. As Jones had by that time lost any trust in the songwriting pair, they took along the affable Charlie Watts in way of a neutral, calming influence.

Their Satanic Majesties Request is always seen as the black sheep of Stones albums, in much the same way that Brian Jones was the black sheep of the Stones themselves. I admit that it’s not one of their best. Their attempt to emulate the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s leaves them sounding amateurish, most likely because the record was self-produced after Andrew Loog Oldham walked out on them in his capacity as manager and producer. His loss – but their lightning-in-a-bottle four album run, just around the corner, could never have been achieved by Oldham in the producer’s chair.

Satanic Majesties might not be their best album – but it’s a far more enjoyable listen than its predecessor Between The Buttons, which found them completely bereft of ideas. I struggle to listen to Between The Buttons – a huge step down after the peerless Aftermath. At least Satanic Majesties finds them trying to do something different, whereas Between The Buttons was a retread of earlier accomplishments, following a tired formula.

I was pleased to hear the announcement the other day that there’s a new Stones studio album on the way – Blue & Lonesome. A blues album, I don’t expect it will be any better than Aerosmith’s woeful attempt at a blues-only record, but you never know. Somebody had a great idea in that they should have titled it Brian Was A Blues Guy, or something like that, as a nice nod to their former leader.

Hit: She’s A Rainbow


Hidden Gem: 2000 Light Years From Home

Rocks In The Attic #358: The Rolling Stones – ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out’ (1970)

RITA#358If nothing else, this album’s worth having just for the between-song banter.

Mick Jagger: “I think I bust a button on me trousers, hope they don’t fall down…you don’t want my trousers to fall down now, do you?”

Female audience member: “Paint It Black!……Paint It Black!……Paint It Black!………Paint It Black, you devil!”

Mick Jagger: “Well alright! Well alright! Well alright!…Charlie’s good tonight, ain’t he?”

The record also serves as living evidence that the Stones are the sloppiest live band around. Do they all need to play in tune? Nah. Does it matter? Probably not. It’s the moments of magic that count, when they finally hit the same groove. This might not happen on every song, but when it does, it’s well worth the wait.

I finally got to see the Stones recently (in Auckland on the last night of the 2014 tour, wrapping up the 50th anniversary celebrations nicely) and they didn’t disappoint. As I expected, they were shabbily fantastic. Nearly every song was started in a ‘name that tune’ manner, as Keith played something that approximated the start of a Rolling Stones song. Then the rest of the band come in, all disjointed, until the song actually starts to sound familiar midway through the first verse.

They’ve earned the right to do this. The very fact that Keith Richards is still alive, ducking and swooping around the stage at 71 means he can do whatever the fuck he wants. Charlie Watts is, and always will be, a machine. You could set your watch by him. Ronnie Wood seems to be the happiest man in the world, and nothing ever looks better than somebody who seems to be having a laugh, all the time. Finally, Mick Jagger never stops. He swaggers around the stage, throwing moves only he could get away with. I was really surprised to hear him blow some mean harmonica, when we say him. I knew he could play but…I don’t know…I just wouldn’t have been surprised if he had someone else to do that for him. I was also lucky to see my favourite Stones guitarist, Mick Taylor, join the band for a couple of numbers (Midnight Rambler and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction).

For me, one of their rare flashes of brilliance is Honky Tonk Women. When they played this in Auckland, I could have died right there and then. Boom. Thank you. Good night.

Hit: Jumping Jack Flash

Hidden Gem: Live With Me

Gathering No Moss…In Auckland

Saw the Stones in Auckland last night. My first time, and possibly my last chance. It was the last night of the 2014 tour to mark the 50th anniversary celebrations.

Here are my top 10 moments:

1. The triumvirate of Honky Tonk Women, Jumping Jack Flash and Brown Sugar. Boom. Good night!

2. After Start Me Up, the band did seem to go into a six-song lull (excluding  Tumbling Dice which, like anything off Exile On Main St., is fantastic; and It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll is really only a load of waffle built around a catchy chorus). They then came back with Honky Tonk Women. Then, after that song ended, the guy behind shouted ‘Play something we know!’. After Honky Tonk Women! What a buffoon!

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3. Over the whole tour, you got a chance to vote online for the audience choice. Instead of the untouchable Street Fighting Man, which I voted for (many, many times), the stupid idiots – like the Honky Tonk Women heckler – chose Like A Rolling Stone. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song – when Dylan does it – but the Stones’ version is so dull. Why oh why couldn’t they have chosen Street Fighting Man???

4. The moment Keith first spoke to the crowd. “Hello Auckland…they nearly buried me here…” (Richards had to have emergency brain surgery in Auckland after falling out of a coconut tree in 2006).


5. You know you’re at a Stones gig when the old guy in front of you crouches down, takes off his leg, gives his knee a bit of a rub, and clamps his leg back on.

6. The moment ex-guitarist (and the Stones guitarist) Mick Taylor came on mid set, for a long rambling version of Midnight Rambler. I lean over to Willow and shout “Whoo hoo! It’s Mick Taylor!” Willow looks confused: “Who? The fat guy? Wasn’t he there before?”

7. Charlie Watts’ mis-start to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. Don’t worry Charlie, you’ve only been playing the song for 49 years. You’ll get the hang of it one day.

8. Mick Taylor’s pointless second appearance of the night on Satisfaction – the last song of the encore – on an acoustic guitar. If there’s one song in the world that does not need an acoustic guitar part, it’s Satisfaction (although admittedly there is one – barely audible – on the original recording).  What a wasted opportunity. Give the guy a Les Paul!

9. The well appreciated fact that I could move around at will – especially during the big late ‘60s singles – as the show didn’t sell out. Really? Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift can sell out 3 or 4 nights in a row, but we can’t fill a stadium with Stones fans? Tut tut Auckland. ‘New’ doesn’t always mean ‘good’, you know.

10. Sympathy For The Devil and Gimme Shelter. No comment required.

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Rocks In The Attic #328: The Rolling Stones – ‘Dirty Work’ (1986)

RITA#328If record covers are anything to go by, this should be the worst Rolling Stones record in the world, if not the worst record by any band ever. In a horribly misguided attempt to look relevant in the mid 1980s, the band is photographed on the cover of the album wearing an array of garish pinks and yellows, draped over a disgusting green couch. Charlie Watts – battling heroin and alcohol addiction at the time – is sat on the floor, wearing a similar colour shirt to the floor. The apathy dripping off his face is matched only by his obvious desire to blend into the background. Not surprisingly, this is the last time the Stones would appear on the cover of a studio album until 2005’s A Bigger Bang.

The album finds themselves still attempting to reinvent themselves for a new generation. U2 producer Steve Lillywhite is brought into co-produce alongside Mick and Keith, which at least makes them sound less ‘classic rock’, and they even try their hand at a bit of reggae, a cover of Half Pint’s Too Rude, which sounds very much like something The Clash would do. In the end though, the album seems to replace melody with energy and tempo, and like most of their ‘80s albums they just sound like they’re trying far too hard.

The album is dedicated to long-time pianist and road manager Ian Stewart who had recently died of a heart attack. That’s one of the things in the Stones story that always makes me a little sad – Stewart was one of the founding Stones, but was removed from the official line-up by Andrew Loog Oldham because his square jaw didn’t fit with the band’s image. Great – kicked out of the band because of his looks – and they say bands like One Direction are image-obsessed. People always talk about the 5th Beatle (or the 37th Beatle as Mitch Benn has recently claimed to be), but Ian Stewart probably has more right to claim to be the 6th Stone.

Hit: Harlem Shuffle

Hidden Gem: Key To The Highway