Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 121
Thurs. May 30, 2013
The Rolling Stones
The first thing you’ll notice about this funky Sticky Fingers track, besides its nefarious title, are the very groovy Memphis like horns on “Bitch.” After living in New Orleans, I’ve become a fan of the brass. I loved it when the Stones added more horns to their vintage guitar based melodies. Those brass sounds always take me back to those Southern nights when those funky horns would literally melt my blues away.
Charlie Watts talked about the addition of horns to the more traditional Rolling Stones rock sound when he said, “Sticky Fingers was the first time we added horns – that was the influence of people like Otis Redding and James Brown, and also Delaney and Bonnie, who Bobby Keys and Jim Price played with. It was to add an extra dimension, a different color, not to make the band sound any different.” Saxophonist Bobby Keys talked about how he joined the Rolling Stones inner musical circle when he explained, “I was staying with Mick for a brief period of time, and they were working on Sticky Fingers. I think Otis Redding and the Memphis sound was big on everybody’s minds at the time and the Stones wanted to do something that had horns on it. Jim Price and I were available, we did a couple tracks, then they said, Let’s do a couple more. One thing led to another and 40-some years later here I am.”
Talking about how 1971’s Sticky Fingers came to life in the studio, guitarist Mick Taylor explained, “[The Stones] degree of preparedness varied from album to album. On Sticky Fingers, most of the material had some shape or form before we went in. They never used to go into the studio without any ideas, but I can’t remember any occasions when they would actually go into the studio with a completely finished song, with words and everything. Most of the time we’d just be jamming and playing riffs and the tape would be rolling and then we’d listen back to things and say, Why don’t we work on that and make it a bit different?” Mick Jagger saw The Stones modus operandi in the studio like this, “Sometimes we run things down… sometimes we get an idea for a song from, say, a rhythm that Charlie and Keith have played together or something, or like Bitch that Charlie and Bobby (Keys) and me played. Quite often, we go into it without the song being written – which annoys me intensely. But that’s the way we record sometimes.”
“Bitch” didn’t start out as an instant Memphis Horns inspired classic, Andy Johns explained how Keith Richards turned a complicated chaotic arrangement into an almost perfect take when he said, “Instantly (when Keith walked in the studio) it went from not very good, feels weird, to BAM and there it is. Instantly changed gears, which impressed the shit out of me. When we were doing Bitch, Keith was very late. Jagger and Mick Taylor had been playing the song without him and it didn’t sound very good. I walked out of the kitchen and he was sitting on the floor with no shoes, eating a bowl of cereal. Suddenly he said, ‘Oi, Andy! Give me that guitar. I handed him his clear Dan Armstrong Plexiglas guitar, he put it on, kicked the song up in tempo, and just put the vibe right on it. Instantly, it went from being this laconic mess into a real groove. And I thought, Wow. THAT’S what he does.”
Keith Richards talked about the moment “Bitch” became the vintage Memphis tribute on Sticky Fingers when he explained, “Maybe listeners knew a year or 6 months later that the beat turned around (in Bitch), but at the moment I wasn’t conscious of that. It comes so naturally, as it’s always happened, and it’s always given that extra kick when the right moment comes back down again. That’s what rock and roll records are all about. I mean, nowadays its rock music. But rock and roll records should be 2:35 minutes long, and it doesn’t matter if you ramble on longer after that. It should be, you know – wang, concise, right there. Rambling on and on, blah blah blah, repeating things for no point… I mean, rock and roll is in one way a highly structured music played in a very unstructured way, and it’s those things like turning the beat around that we’d get hung up on when we were starting out: Did you hear what we just did? We just totally turned the beat around (laughs). If it’s done in conviction, if nothing is forced, if it just flows in, then it gives quite an extra kick to it.”
Keef is so right, rock and roll records should all be less than 2:35 minutes long. Although, “Bitch” is a song that slightly exceeds Richards’ limit but this Sticky Fingers cut has the horns, the riffs and that mythical Stones sound that takes you over and literally inspires you to immediately break out your air guitar and shake your groovy thing. What more can you ask for a classic Stones rock and roll song? Get ready to let loose on this Memphis brass inspired beauty with Sticky Fingers most wicked song? Go ahead, I dare you… From 1971, “Bitch” is back and she’s ready to shake, rattle and roll for you.