NME Awards ceremony, 1964.
Having felt pretty much like a sucker for shelling out way too much money for the deluxe re-issues of Exile On Main Street (on the bonus DVD Robert Frank's Cocksucker Blues is cut down to 10 minutes? I mean, why bother?) and a Get Your Ya Ya's Out box set, I was delighted to find falling through my mail slot what is most definitely the greatest Rolling Stones bootleg ever assembled-- The Genuine Black Box 1961-1974 (Scorpio), a six CD set of studio outtakes, demos, radios show recordings and other rarities -- 144 tracks in all, by the same folks that gave us the best Dylan (Genuine Basement Tapes Vol.1-5 which they superseded with the sonically upgraded four CD A Tree With Roots box, Genuine Live 1966, an 8 CD collection of the entire '66 U.K. tour with the Hawks, and Genuine Bootleg Series Take 1-3, three triple CD set of the best un-issued tracks from all eras), Velvet Underground (the triple CD Dispatches From The Dream Factory) and many previous Stones boots over the years.
It's beautifully packaged and knowingly annotated (unlike the Exile re-issue which gets the words to Tumblin' Dice wrong among other minor but irritable errors), tons of ultra rare photos and ephemera, but it's the music what counts and with this baby I think I can throw away a good dozen or so earlier bootlegs since this comprehensive set not only beats what's been out there over the years for sound quality, I'm fairly actually astounded at how much excellent material is here that I didn't have. Being something of a completest (read: brain damaged) on the subject of vintage Rolling Stones (my cut-off point is '73 except for that great '81 session where Keith does his best Jimmy Reed impersonations which I posted last January) and the Keith produced rasta gospel group The Wingless Angels whose 1997 album was the best record Keith had been involved in since Exile. I have no idea where you can buy something like the Genuine Black Box, so don' ask me. And I have no idea how much it costs, but it can't be much more than the $145.00 I spent on my (count 'em) tenth copy of Exile. And you get a lot more for your money, both in music and packaging. Since the Scorpio folks were nice enough to send me a review copy and I assume they have to eat and pay off roadies, sound men and tape vault custodians, I'm not going to give away all six CD's for free (I haven't seen it on the web yet, don't mistake it for the Black Box triple CD that's all over the place these days, but if you check Captain Crawl every day for the next few months it's bound to show up). But I can tell you what's there, and since the Stones (and/or Abkco) seem to have no interest it making this stuff available legally, I'm not going to feel to guilty about it either.
So what do you get? CD 1 kicks off with Little Boy Blues & the Blue Boys, Mick's first group (with Dick Taylor on guitar) first demo, recorded in Taylor's parents living room doing Jimmy Reed's On Your Way To School, followed by three tunes done a month later, all from the Chuck Berry song book- Johnny B Goode, Little Queenie and Beautiful Delilah. The liner notes credit Keith Richard with playing guitar, but it's more likely Dick Taylor and Bob Beckworth. There supposedly 12 tunes on the original tape, I'd imagine Scorpio is saving the rest of future volumes. The Stones first demo session in Oct. of '62, (the line-up is Mick, Keith, Brian and Ian Stewart with Dick Taylor on bass and Tony Chapman on drums) are heard doing an ultra crude run through of Bo Diddley's You Can't Judge A Book, two more tunes were cut that day--Jimmy Reed's Close Together and a tune called Soon Forgotten but they have never surfaced anywhere that I know of. The classic Rolling Stones line-up (Jagger/Richards/Jones/Wyman/Watts/Ian Stewart) recorded their first five song demo at Regent Sound on March 11, '63 (engineered by Glyn Johns who would go on to engineer many of their best 60's LP's) and it's presented here in its entirety, and in the best fidelity I've heard yet-- on Diddley Daddy, Bright Lights, Big City, Honey What's Wrong, Road Runner and I Want To Be Loved we hear the Stones' sound rapidly solidifying, they haven't masted the studio yet, but they have arrived at their sound-- no doubt.
The rest of disc one is devoted the Stones' earliest attempts to make a great record along with some rare BBC Saturday Club recordings. An alternate take of their second UK 45- Fortune Teller is one track that is new to my ears. Early sessions from Regent Sound can be found here, including an incredible alternate take Not Fade Away from their first album, their first truly great recording. Two early originals-- the Beatles-esque It Should Be You is one ultra rarity found here along with the never issued anywhere Leave Me Alone. Of course classic bootleg stuff like Andrew's Blues, Mr. Spector and Mr.Pitney Came Too, et al are all here, again, in about the best sound quality yet committed to wax (or whatever CD's are made of). And some more ultra rare stuff like a version of Jimmy Reed's Ain't That Lovin' You Baby recorded for a Radio Luxembourg broadcast, the infamous Rice Krispies radio spot, BBC's Saturday Club recordings of Cops & Robbers, I'm Movin' On, and Beautiful Delilah, an extended version of Don't Lie To Me, different from the one that showed up on Metamorphosis (and December's Children), and the final track on the 33 tune first disc-- the long version of 2120 South Michigan Ave, it has an extra guitar solo not heard on the issued version (from the 5 x 5 EP), my buddy the late Bob Quine was convinced the extra guitar was played by Muddy Waters, me, I think it's Brian.
Disc two picks up the story in 1964 at Chess Studio in Chicago (where 2010 S. Michigan was recorded) and from that session are five outtakes High Heeled Sneakers, the killer instrumental Stewed & Keefed, Look What You Done, How Many Times and Meet Me In The Bottom, the rarest tracks from the session that produced their first U.S. hit-- It's All Over Now. The other twenty five tracks are a mix of BBC and studio outtakes including alternate versions of I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys, Suzi Q., a take on Little Walter's arrangement of Big Bill Broonzy's Key To The Highway from an early session at RCA Recorders in L.A., where much of their best work was done, the amazing Fanny Mae (which they'd re-write as Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man) which I'd never heard (only the BBC recording has previously surfaced), the wonderful Looking Tired, a version of We're Wasting Time with a guitar solo, Bo Diddley's Crackin' Up from a BBC broadcast, and more. These first two discs alone would make this one of the most essential Stones bootlegs ever, but sixty six songs later we're not even at the halfway point!
By 1966 the Stones had mastered the recording studio and the art of making records and disc three's twenty four tracks start near the beginning of the golden era, opening with 19th Nervous Breakdown (with a different lead vocal track) and two alternate versions of Have You Seen Your Mother Baby (Standing In The Shadow), both with different lead vocals over a very different mix of the basic track, the second has a piano intro not heard on the final version. Also present are Get Yourself Together (two alternate versions, one with an added electric guitar), demos for Yesterday's Papers and Dandelion (the latter is Keith's home demo with him singing lead), alternate mixes of We Love You and 2000 Light Years From Home, the infamous Gold Painted Nails (the last time Andrew Oldham would set foot the studio with the Stones), Did Everybody Pay Their Dues? which is Street Fightin' Man with its original lyric and vocal track, many alternate mixes of Begger's Banquet era tracks, the version of Jumpin' Jack Flash from the short promo film they made to promote it (very different but every bit as great as the issued 45), along with a few tracks familiar from other bootlegs-- Family, Blood Red Wine, Highway Child, finishing up with an outtake version of Mick's first solo disc-- Memo From Turner from the film Performance (Keith refused to play on it because of Mick and Anita's sex scenes, encouraged by Donald Camell, bugged him, so Mick recruited Ry Cooder, Stevie Winwood, Al Cooper and Traffic's Jim Capaldi and had 'em sounding just like the Stones by the final take).
Disc four covers more of the same ground in the years 1968-69. Opening with another alternate version of Child Of The Moon (the b-side of the Jumpin' Jack Flash 45), more alternates of Memo From Turner and Family, a fantastic nine minute jam on Muddy Waters' Still A Fool, the demo for Sister Morphine, alternate mixes from Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed, including Gimme Shelter with Keith singing lead and You've Got The Silver with Mick's lead vocal, both over the familiar final backing tracks (they couldn't quite decide which tune would be Keith lead vocal debut until the last minute, acetate test pressings of Let It Bleed were even pressed with the reversed vocals). The final track on this disc is the acoustic demo for Exile's All Down The Line, recorded in L.A. in '69.
Discs five and six round up the goodies from their final glory days, opening with 1969's Got A Line On You (which by '72 would become Exile's finale Shine A Light, why wasn't this on the Exile box?). Of course Cocksucker Blues is here as well as the version of Brown Sugar with Clapton on slide, alternates of Wild Horses, Sway (no strings, different guitar solo) and Bitch. The highlights for me on disc five are the alternate versions of Exile's two covers'-- Robert Johnson's Stop Breaking Down (different vocals and slide guitar, no harmonica) and Slim Harpo's Shake Your Hips (a completely different version) and Who Am I?, again, these should have made it to the Exile deluxe package. There's also a nice alternate take of Dead Flowers (Suzie started life as Lucy in the lyric), probably their best country song ever (unless I'm Movin' On from the Got Live If You Want It EP counts).
The final disc rounds up the rest of the Exile era outtakes, opening with Let It Rock from the UK Brown Sugar three song EP, there's Exile On Main Street Blues (from the NME flexi-disc), I Ain't Lyin', I Don't Care and both early takes of Lovin' Cup (Ian Stewart thought the first '69 version was the best thing they ever recorded). These tracks sound better here than on the Exile box where it's obvious they'd been tampered with recently. Goats Head Soup outtakes finish things off, the best being a ragged but right cover of Dobie Grey's Drift Away and 'Til The Next Goodbye, Mick Taylor's final recording with the Stones.
Probably because everything they recorded before Sticky Fingers is owned by the estate of the late Allen Klein (a truly vile human in a business full of venal and despicable people, he did time for stealing from the money raised by George Harrison for the staving children in Bangla Desh), the Stones have given little thought to their back catalog. The CD's of their old LP's have always sounded like shit, and they've never issued even one bonus track until first the Get Your Ya Ya's Out box, then the aforementioned Exile package, leaving these things to the bootleggers. The Scorpio crew have always been at the top of the heap when it comes to Stones boots (and Dylan, Neil Young, the Velvet Underground, et al), but with the Genuine Black Box, the Scorps have outdone themselves. If you only own one Stones' bootleg, it would have to be The Genuine Black Box, it's worth every penny (or shilling).