"(This is THE STONES new disc within. Cast deep in your pockets for the loot to buy this disc of groovies and fancy words. If you don't have the bread, see that blind man knock him on the head, steal his wallet and low and behold you have the loot, if you put in the boot, good, another one sold!)"-- Andrew Loog Oldham, liner notes for The Rolling Stones No. 2 (Decca, U.K., 1964).
I'm glad Andrew Loog Oldham has never been sentenced to that retarded institution of senility, the so called Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. I guess it's nice that they finally decided to ordain the Stooges. For this, along with a $2 Metro Card will allow any of the Stooges to ride the subway in New York City from the Bronx Zoo to Coney Island, one way. They can sit along side such rock and roll greats as Art Garfunkel, James Taylor and (also inducted this year) David Geffen. I have long expressed my hatred for that ill conceived and corrupt institution. If it truly represented rock'n'roll Andrew Loog Oldham (and the Stooges, not to mention never will get ins like Link Wray, Art Rupe, MC5, Wild Jimmy Spruill, Mickey Baker, Jack Nietzsche, and the Bihari Brothers) would have been in there by the second year. But they will never induct Andrew Loog Oldham, even though his achievements have been far greater than those of Abba (whom he once co-authored a bio of, he must have needed the cash that day), Metallica, and Tito Jackson, for he was never one for respectability, and he may have beat the shit out someone on the nominating committee at some point past. It's not likely he gets invited to Jann Wenner's place in the Hamptons. But isn't this is just another reason to love him?
Well, let's not mention that hollow institution again, let us take this time to honor Mr. Oldham, who truly deserves great honors and more, for without his life, ours would have been much duller. For Andrew Oldham was every bit as important to what would become the "Greatest Rock'n'Roll Band In The World-- The Rolling Stones", transformed from a much better than average R&B cover band known as The Rollin' Stones, as Mick, Keith or Brian, and probably more important than Bill Wyman. And better looking. If you don't believe me, just ask him. Or better yet, read his two-volume autobiography-- Stoned: A Memoir Of London In The 1960's (St Martin's Press, 2000) and 2Stoned (St. Martin's Press, 2002). These book(s) shine a 1000 watt light bulb on the man who was perhaps the only really mysterious figure in the orbit of the Rolling Stones (unless you count that strange looking Count and alchemist offspring of Balthus, a one time member of Vince Taylor's Playboys, whose is one of Keith's best friends, and Brian's former roomate, who has always fascinated me-- Stanislas Klossowski). My old pal David Dalton was originally brought on board to help Oldham write the book(s) but soon left the project (he would go on to help Marianne Faithful with her autobiography, which is excellent), and whenever I ask him about Oldham a look comes over his face that is commonly referred to as the "thousand yard stare", then he changes the subject. Andrew Loog Oldham is not a name that brings a lukewarm response, people either love him or loathe him, the sure sign that he's done something right. I never want to meet him.
What's left to be said about the Rolling Stones? Andrew's take on their personalities, at least in print, is what you might've guessed-- Keith and Charlie are basically likable, what you see is what you get types, Brian was an ogre, Bill somewhat dislikable but harmless, and deep, down, inside, Mick is quite shallow. Of course Ian Stewart hated Andrew's guts, and could you blame him? What more do you need to know, or rather, have reinforced? Let's face it, the life of a musician is mostly pretty boring to read about. They spend their lives getting to and from "the gig", and the rest of it in the recording studio. Once in a while they go on vacation, or fall out of a tree. While it's certainly more fun than anything this side of leading armies into battle, playing three chords, having sex with nubile Lolitas and taking lots of drugs, is pretty much all there is to it. Fun to do, getting dull to read about. Can you stand to read another book about the Stones? (If somehow you've avoided such things, the best is Stanley Booth's The True Adventures of The Rolling Stones, back in print as a Vintage paperback). Oldham's life is another story. He had the vision that turned a bunch of blues fans into a Clockwork Orange fantasy set to music. Younger than the Stones themselves, he lived his life with more reckless abandon than any musician this side of Charlie Parker. And he not only remembers most of it, he remembers what he was wearing while he was doing it. Really, I don't think my description is doing these books justice, but they're easy to find, and well worth your time and money. Keep in mind it was Andrew's little touches, like hiring David Bailey to shoot their first two album covers, the classic "would you let your daughter go with a Rolling Stone" hype, and of course, locking Mick and Keith in a kitchen until they wrote an original song, that pushed the Stones to the level of success they could have only dreamed about when they were learning to play Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley tunes. Without Andrew they would probably still be playing Jimmy Reed covers on Sunday nights in a pub with the Downliners Sect and the Bo Street Runners.
A couple of tunes to help pay tribute to our subject-- one is the Stones, Gene Pitney, Phil Spector along Alan Clarke and Gram Nash of the Hollies (also in R&RHOF this year) jamming out a tribute to the man-- Andrew's Blues , it was recorded at Regent Sound, Feb. 4, 1964. The other tune is familiar from Metamorphosis. It is one of the few early tunes not credited to Jagger-Richards, but Oldham-Richards, so it's safe to say Oldham wrote the lyrics to this pop nugget, his take on the girl group sound-- I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys, I've always dug it. It's not the Stones, just Mick and some studio musicians (Andy White, Joe Moretti and John McLaughlin supposedly) on this demo, but it would have sounded right at home on Between The Buttons, or even U.S. only early compilations December's Children or Flowers. The place-- Decca's studio in London, date is usually sited around Feb. of '65. I remember Johnny Thunders and Wayne Kramer's band Gang War used to do a cover version of it.
While I'm on the subject, when will they get around to re-issuing the U.K. versions of the Stones albums? Vinyl only would be fine with me. In those beautiful, laminated Decca covers, without the ugly graphics that marred the American LP's. I've always preferred them (I'm listening to Rolling Stone No. 2 right now, since I had to pull it off the shelf to get the liner note quote right, it still sounds great, clicks, pops and all). Why did their American label-- London screw with the track line ups? Actually, I can explain that. The UK versions didn't contain the tracks that were already released on 45's or EP's, giving the fan maximum value, the US versions were always a hodgepodge of LP, EP and 45 a and b sides. I think the first album that didn't mess with the track listing was Satanic Majesties Request, one of their most underrated discs, don't you love Citadel and 200 Light Years From Home? I'm really not much of a fan of psychedelia except for the 13th Floor Elevators and the Chocolate Watchband and a dozen or so 45 rpm singles, but when it comes down to it, the Stones were the best psychedelic band of all time, think about it, in addition to those two tracks add Please Go Home, She's A Rainbow, Dandelion, Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Goin' Home, Paint It Black, Child Of The Moon, Gomper, I'm missing a few I'm sure but you could put together an album (or, since this is the 21st century, playlist) and make the greatest psychedelic album of all time from it. I'm getting way off the track I guess, except of course that Andrew Oldham produced all those records, which counts for something, in fact, counts for a lot. He was a great record producer, manager, conceptualist, fashion plate and all around nut in the greatest tradition of British eccentrics. His non-Stones productions, mostly on his own Immediate label deserve a separate posting, which I may get around to some day. Not today.
These days Andrew Loog Oldham lives in Bogota, Columbia, and of course, like all shut ins, he has a blog, it's called Everyone Must Get Stoned. I won't bring up Scientology or Sirius Radio, eerrr....except I already did.
Addendum: There's an interesting aircheck of Mick and Keith playing blues dj's on a Danish radio station circa 1970 posted over at Hardluck Blueschild blog. They play some obvious choices (Robert Johnson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters), and some surprising ones (Barbecue Bob and Laughing Charlie, Bertha "Chippie" Hill). It's a lot of fun to listen to.
Addendum #2: As an afterthought I think I should throw in this one, it's from The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra plays the Rolling Stones Songbook LP, yes, it's the version of The Last Time that the Verve sampled for Bittersweet Symphony (one of the best singles of the 90's). Allen Klein made plenty of trouble for the Verve, forcing them to give up 100% of the publishing and writing (even though the Stones only wrote the verses and the opening guitar riff to The Last Time, the tune itself is a gospel standard that had been recorded by everyone from the 5 Blind Boys Of Alabama to the Staple Singers to James Brown, Bittersweet Symphony is now credited to Jagger-Richards with lyrics by Richard Ashcroft, despite the fact that Ashcroft wrote the entire tune, and cleared the sample with Oldham before the disc was released). Klein came close to having the single and the LP pulled off the market just as the record was topping the U.K. charts in 1997. Still, it seems appropriate to include it with yesterday's post. I also really like the version of Play With Fire from that album. In fact, I like the whole album. If you want the whole thing try here.