Thursday, November 8, 2012

(45th in a series of) Stepping Stones: "100 Musical Highlights in Stones History"

Song: 19th Nervous Breakdown
Album:  Released as a single
Released:  February, 1966

I’d like to make a declaration:  With a few more weeks to wrap things up, I can already say that it is very likely I’ve listened to more Rolling Stones music in 2012 than anyone else alive.  Actually, let me qualify that statement:  I’ve listened to more of a range of Rolling Stones music than anyone else.  I’m not sure how to prove it, and frankly I have no idea what this all means.  But I do know it puts me in somewhat of a unique position to quantify some findings.   So, below I have compiled a list of 100 of the greatest individual moments in Stones songs.  There are a few ensemble bullets, but most of these are centered on someone in or around the band who really stepped to the plate for a given song.  This list is in no particular order.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, and Ronnie Wood are primarily referred to on a first-name basis.  The other Mick (Taylor) needed his surname added to distinguish him from Jagger (who I could have called “Sir Mick”, but that would have just pissed off Keith).  Anyone else is referenced with their full names. 

1)      Bill’s “dive-bombing” bass line at the end of 19th Nervous Breakdown (this week’s Stepping Stone).  Mr. Wyman was trying to replicate what a nervous breakdown must sound like (never mind a 19th one).  Pretty convincing:
2)      Charlie’s drum beat during the bridge to She’s So Cold.  Charlie Watts could cover a range of genres.  Here he adds Disco to the list:
3)      Brian’s sitar playing throughout Paint it Black.  Who would have thought a Far-Eastern instrument could be incorporated into a Rock song:
4)      Ronnie’s guitar playing during the bridge to Rough Justice at the 1:32 mark of the attached video.  This is Rock n’ Roll at its purest:
5)      Brian’s trumpet playing in She’s a Rainbow.  There’s a connection with beauty here that is oh-so-rare to capture in song:
6)      Keith’s guitar in Love is Strong.  Mick’s harmonica is great, but the song does not kick into high gear until Richards knocks off a masterful riff at the 1:16 mark of the attached url:
7)      Mick’s vocals for the bridge to Waiting on a Friend at the 2:39 mark of the attached video.  Few songs about friendship have come across as authentically:
8)      Bill’s bass playing for the homestretch of Rocks Off.  The perfect conga line for this moment consists of the following: The rest of the band in front, horns in the middle, Mr. Wyman in the back:
9)      Mick’s vocals for the bridge in Loving Cup.  The entire song is magical.  If this is what happens when you are in exile, I can make that sacrifice:
10)   Wayne Perkins guitar work on Hand of Fate.  The sequence starting at the 1:34 mark captures the violent mood of this song remarkably well:
11)   Mick Taylor’s guitar solo on the instrumental portion of Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.  An entire Stepping Stone (# 19) is dedicated to this one:
12)   Ronnie’s bass playing on Emotional Rescue.  Yes, this is Ronnie Wood, not Bill Wyman:
13)   Keith Richards’ and Mick Taylor’s throwaway riffs at the end of It’s Only Rock n’ Roll (But I Like It).  The first fresh riff comes in at the 4:04 mark of the attached url.  The second at the 4:26 mark:
14)   Mick’s vocals on Shattered, particularly the verse  Friends are so alarming, My lovers never charming, Life’s just a cocktail party on the street, Big Apple, People dressed in plastic bags, Directing traffic, Some kind of fashion”:
15)   Merry Clayton’s support vocals in Gimme Shelter.  How do you combine strength and vulnerability?  Ask Ms. Clayton.  She did it.
16)   Mick’s singing of the repeating line “Have you seen the lady fairer” in She’s a Rainbow.  Nothing makes me feel like I’m at the Monterey Pop Festival more than this:
17)   Charlie’s evolving drum sound on Sway.  As much as anyone, Mr. Watt’s upped the ante as the Stones “Imperial Era” began:
18)   Keith’s opening riff to Rough Justice.  The Stones are coming in from the cold here after 8 years of inactivity.  Mr. Richards reins things in… a hurry:
19)   Keith’s guitar playing during the “get down” moments of Street Fighting Man.  The Stones proved often that when it came to “getting down”, no one could do it better:
20)   Nicky Hopkins piano playing in She’s a Rainbow.  One of the rare moments when a non-core-member of the Rolling Stones just about stole the show:
21)   Mick Taylor’s guitar playing on Moonlight Mile.  Being able to do “that Japanese thing” proved his versatility to the band and all of us:
22)   The anonymous high backing vocal repeating the refrain throughout Star Star, but most noticeably at the 3:48 mark of the attached url.  I keep picturing the Stones getting support from the Muppets.  Hilarious:
23)   The London Symphony Orchestra at the end of You Can’t Always Get What You Want.  It would take an entire chorus section for Mick Jagger to finally get upstaged:
24)   Nicky Hopkins (piano) and Keith Richards (guitar) eerie 1-2 punch at the beginning of Monkey Man:
25)   Keith Richards fast paced bass guitar playing on Sympathy for the Devil, starting at the 39 second mark of  the attached url.  Yes, this is Keith playing bass, not Bill:
26)   Mick’s vocals in She Was Hot.  The last minute starting at the 3:42 mark require lots of volume:
27)   Lisa Fischer’s backing vocals on Plundered My Soul.  The first time I heard this I was blown away.  I still am.  And of course, there’s that magnificent video to top it off:
28)   Bill’s ‘vrooming bass’ at the end of Paint It Black.  Later he was content to keep in the groove, but Wyman was very creative in the early years:
29)   Mick’s vocals on I Am Waiting.  A uniquely fay delivery that would never be repeated by the Stones again:
30)   Keith’s riff on Jumpin’ Jack Flash.  This solidified for the Stones a sound all their own:
31)   Charlie’s drumming on So Devine (Aladdin Story).  Mr. Modest actually shows off a little here:
32)   Brian’s recorder playing on Ruby Tuesday.  This is a musician in the moment:
33)   Ry Cooder’s bottleneck guitar playing on Sister Morphine.  Everyone stepped it up a notch on ‘Sticky Fingers’.  The hired guns were no exception:
34)   Ronnie’s fade in/out guitar on Undercover of the Night.  A cutting edge sound in a not-so cutting edge era:
35)   Keith’s vocals on Little T&A.  This is Richards’ most confident lead vocal delivery:
36)   Ronnie’s heavy guitar bridges on Laugh, I Nearly Died.  A mood is cast with this special effect:
37)   Mick’s backing vocals on Before They Make Me Run.  Done with empathy to lift the spirits of a good friend:
38)   Brian’s marimba playing on Under My Thumb.  How many instruments could this guy play anyway?
39)   Jimmy Miller’s production work on Sweet Black Angel.  Simple and divine:
40)   Ian Stewart’s piano playing on Silver Train.  The Stones could still boogie with the best of them in 1973, much to the credit of this man:
41)   Bill’s bass playing on She’s So Cold.  Along with Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman had mastered the Disco beat.  Listen to the transition at the 2:16 mark of the attached url…. It’s bass driven:
42)   Charlie’s drums on Let’s Spend the Night Together.  Such a tremendously up-tempo sound:
43)   Bobby Keys saxophone during the instrumental bridge in Brown Sugar.  Keith Richards best buddy steps to the plate here:
44)   Mick’s harmonica (harp) playing on Midnight Rambler.  A song Keith Richard’s has referred to as a “Blues Opera”:
45)   Keith’s backing vocals on Memory Motel.  She got a mind of her own, and she uses it mighty fine”.  Oh, and it’s Nancy’s favorite Stones song:
46)   Ronnie’s opening acoustic guitar on One Hit (to the Body).  Temporary group leader would be a new role for Mr. Wood here:
47)   Whoever makes that strange noise in Dance Part 1.  The first occurrence is at 2:31 of the attached video:
48)   Nicky Hopkins harpsichord on Dandelion.  For a non-member, this guy sure had his share of highlights:
49)   The heavy instrumental transitions on Laugh, I Nearly Died (the first at 1:16 of the attached url).  The protagonists realization he’s being laughed at by someone he trusted:
50)   The buildup to the “I Go Wild” refrains on the song of the same name.  For example, “On life support, tubes in my nose, tubes in my arms, shot full of holes” (1:39 of the attached url):
51)   The beautiful gospel singing (Clydie King, Vanetta Field, Shirley Goodman, others) at the end of Let it Loose.  Proving that at one time at least the Rolling Stones connected with fervent religious emotions:
52)   The imagery projected through the lyrics of Shine A Light.  The song is said to be written by Mick Jagger regarding his feeling of helplessness at how to deal with the deteriorating state of Brian Jones in the late 60s.  An inability to brush off the flies.  Unable to “get a line on you”. Angels sighing:
53)   Wayne Perkins’ guitar solo on Worried About You.  Giving Jagger the follow up ability to pick up the intensity in his vocals:
54)   Mick Taylor’s lead guitar during the bridge on Shine A Light (starting at 2:41 of the attached url).  Unmistakably “Taylor Made”:
55)   Oh, the psychedelia… from every direction!  2000 Light Years From Home:
56)   Mick Taylor’s guitar solo on the last 2 plus minutes of Time Waits For No One.  A bit overboard perhaps, but this was after all Mr. Taylor’s swan song:
57)   The backing vocals in Fool to Cry.  Repetitive, but somehow more and more effective as the song progresses:
58)   Ronnie’s “Inspiration” for It’s Only Rock n’ Roll (But I Like It).  A classic song, which includes some improvisation.  Whatever ways he inspired, though…. it worked:
59)   The Chops Horns on Too Much Blood. A nice touch to a truly freaky song:
60)   The Jagger/Richards tag-team-lead vocals on Something Happened To Me Yesterday.  Jagger sings the verses, Richards sings the chorus.  A fun interplay:
61)   Bill’s driving bass on Mother’s Little Helper.  When allowed to add to the creative process, this man showed what he was made of:
62)   Charlie’s drumming on Dead Flowers.  By this time, Watts had mastered most all the musical genres:
63)   Mick’s vocals for the bridge to Just My Imagination.  Every night I hope and pray…..”.  Everything else tones down here for Jagger to weave his magic:
64)   Keith’s multitasking work on Happy.  Bass, guitar and vocals.  Jimmy Miller added the drums, Bobby Keys the maracas, and whataya know; a Stones song with just one Stone:
65)   Keith’s guitar playing on Love in Vain.  Man, this guy loves the blues and may have on his own turned me on to Robert Johnson:
66)   The backing vocals on Almost Hear You Sigh.  By this time, the Stones were using hired guns to support Mick Jagger.  Often, as is the case here, it works:
67)   Keith’s master riff on Satisfaction.  Again, as stated for its own Stepping Stone, there’s no leaving this one off the plate:
68)   Charlie’s drum roll on Sister Morphine at the 2:42 mark of the attached url.  The song shifts here from Heavy to HEAVY:
69)   Mick’s vocals on Torn and Frayed.  Jagger somehow morphs his singing style into a Richards-like persona here:
70)   Brian’s harmonica playing on Not Fade Away.  You can hear the enthusiasm ooze its way through Mr. Jones harp:
71)   Those gospel singers again (Clydie King, Vanetta Fields, Dr. John, Shirley Goodman, Tammi Lynn), this time on Sweet Virginia.  How can a song sound so soulful while using the refrain “Got to scrape that shit right off your shoes”?
72)   Keith’s guitar on Prodigal Son.  A classic Biblical story put to music.  And Mr. Richards “Hey!” near the end of the song adds a perfect exclamation point:
73)   Mick’s singing on Heaven.  Perhaps the most extreme-sounding Jagger vocals ever:
74)   The banter between guys and gals near the end of Where the Boys Go (3:20 of attached url).  If the Stones ever do a musical, this song should be included:
75)   Daryl Jones strong and steady bass beat on Saint of Me.  The Stones knew what they were doing when the hired this guy to replace Bill Wyman:
76)   Keith’s guitar solo on Honky Tonk Woman.  Richards rarely saw a place for a guitar solo in a Stones song,  but on rare occasions such as this, boy did he make it work :
77)   The entire band’s build up through the bridge on She Smiled Sweetly (1:30 of the attached url).  A great example of a band evolving:
78)   The lyrics to Sympathy For the Devil.  A history lesson in the perils of evildoing:
79)   Bill’s bass playing on Hot Stuff.   Funky beat!:
80)   Charlie’s drumming on Tumbling Dice.  This song is representative of Watts’ steady day-in, day-out contributions on the entire ‘Exile on Main St.’ album (and for that matter, the entire Stones career):
81)   Keith’s guitar intro to Gimme Shelter.  Is there any doubt the Stones ‘Imperial Era’ could be defined as the personification of Keef himself:
82)   Bill’s bass playing on Respectable.  This is about as fast paced as you are going to hear Wyman’s playing.  Oh, and a nice uncovered video I've never seen before:
83)   Charlie’s drumming on Complicated.  Everyone was improving as musicians during this period.  Watts clearly was adapting to the more sophisticated sounds:
84)   The band’s ability to suck the air out of the sound during Monkey Man at the 2:35 mark of the attached url.  It was done even more impressively live:
85)   Keith and Ronnie’s guitar interplay on Doom and Gloom.  Just the fact these cats can still write good music after 50 years is explanation enough here:
86)   Keith’s high pitched backing vocals on Mercy, Mercy.  By the late 60s this ability was lost.  But it’s all there on record from 1965:
87)   Jack Nitzsche’s harpsichord performance on Play with Fire.  A late night recording session with just Mick and Keith awake had session man Nitzsche join in for this final cut:
88)   Ian Stewart’s Piano Instrumental (Secret Track) at the end ‘Dirty Work’.  Hey, there needed to be something authentic on this album, which was dedicated the then recently deceased Stu.  No link found, but hey, it is after all a “secret track”.
89)   Darryl Jones ominous single bass notes just before each of the “Anybody seen my baby” refrains on Anybody Seen My Baby.  Proving it does not take much to set a mood:
90)   The Master Musicians of Jajouka and their Moroccan instruments on Continental Drift.  Here are the Stones at their most exotic:
91)   Mick acting out paranoia on the phone with a woman friend toward the end of Fingerprint File.  This guy is as comfortable behind a microphone as you can possibly be:
92)   All the great ivory playing on Memory Motel by Mick (concert piano), Keith (electric piano) and Billy Preston (string synthesizer).  Mystical, magical, and masterful:
93)   The repeating chorus on Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker).  Based on the title of the song, you can probably guess what that chorus repeated:
94)   The spiritual intensity of I Just Want To See His Face.  The Stones were doing a lot of soul searching on ‘Exile’:
95)   Mick’s singing on Ventilator Blues.  You can feel the stifling heat of Keith’s basement:
96)   Brian’s slide guitar on No Expectations.  Jones was losing interest (and his mind) by this time, but still managed to pick up and play any instrument that fancied him at any given moment:
97)   Keith’s singing on You Got the Silver.  Particularly as the pace picks up near the end:
98)   Pete Townshend’s backing vocals on Slave.  Just because:
99)   The Mick and Keith exchange at the beginning of Dance Part 1.  I just find it funny how Richards brushes off Jagger’s inquiries.  Classic Keith:
100)    Bobby Keys solo saxophone during the instrumental portion of Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.  Setting the stage for the young buck, Mick Taylor, to do the same on lead guitar:

-          Pete

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