On December 18, 1932 my late mom was born. Looking online, other folks born Dec. 18th were Steven Spielberg, DMX, Joseph Stalin, Brad Pitt, Christina Aguilera and the riff-king – Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. December 2020 Keith turned 77 (and Mick Taylor turns 71 Jan. 17th) so this seems like a good month to salute cover versions of songs written by Keith and Mick Jagger. For a group that has been going since 1962, The Stones have generated far fewer covers than the songs of The Beatles, but there are still some goodies.
1.Humble Pie – Honky Tonk Women
Reportedly the late Steve Marriott could be difficult due to his issues with drugs and alcohol, but man could that dude sing rock and roll. My pal DC and I caught Marriott’s band Humble Pie a few times in concert in Denver and they rocked like mad. In 1973 they released the double LP Eat It with one side being live. One of the live songs that captured the raw ear-numbing Pie was their cover of the 1969 Stones single “Honky Tonk Women”. The original #1 single apparently started life as a country song, but thankfully Keith rocked up the guitar riff and turned it in to a classic. It was their first single with new guitarist Mick Taylor and was released in the U.K. the day after original guitarist Brian Jones had died, a member of the ‘dead-at-27 club’. Sadly Marriott died in a housefire after falling asleep with a lit cigarette in 1991 (age 44).
2.Johnny Winter And – Jumpin’ Jack Flash
The late Johnny Winter (1944 – 2014) was known mostly for his blues guitar work, but he could rock as well. With Rick Derringer (The McCoys), he put together a short-lived rock and roll band called Johnny Winter And which released the popular Live album in March of 1971. The #1 1968 Stones single was the last of the Brian Jones era.
3.Ellen Foley – Stupid Girl
As the B-side to “Paint It Black” (#1 1966), this was a serviceable track bogged down by a cheesy organ played by 6th Stone Ian Stewart. The misogynistic lyrics take on a totally different feel when sung by a female (Ellen Foley on the Night Out LP-’79). Ian Hunter’s band (especially guitarist Mick Ronson) really amp up the rawness making this way better then the original. Foley was mainly known as a backing singer throughout her career – Blue Oyster Cult, Ian Hunter, Joe Jackson and The Clash to name a few. Her best-known work was with Meatloaf on Bat Out Of Hell and despite Karla DeVito miming to her vocals in the video, it was Foley on “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”.
4.The Searchers – Take It Or Leave It
Before their April 1966 Aftermath LP The Stones were known more for their cover versions, but with this album Keith and Mick became a song-writing force. The U.K release included “Take It Or Leave It” but apparently their U.S. company (London) decided to omit it before finally including it on the 1967 odds and ends compilation Flowers. The Searchers released their cover of this song around the same time as the U.K. Stones LP and was a 45-only release till appearing on compilations. The song didn’t chart in the U.S., but did hit #31 in England and emphasized the baroque feel of the original.
5.The Moonrakers – I’m All Right
The only act to contest The Astronauts for Colorado-band supremacy during the mid-60s was The Moonrakers. Denny Flannigan turns in a suitably snotty vocal over the fuzzed-out guitars for this late ’65 Tower records single. While it didn’t chart nationally, here in Denver on 950 KIMN-AM it climbed as high as #2. The first record album your Dentist ever bought was The Rolling Stones LP Out Of Our Heads which here in the U.S. included “I’m All Right” taken from a live U.K. EP. As can be seen from the label, the writing credit is given to the name Nanker Phelge which is a pseudonym used by The Rolling Stones, but that is really not correct. I’m cheating and including this as a Stones cover, but really its a Bo Diddley song that first appeared on his 1963 live album Bo Diddley’s Beach Party.
6.David Bowie – Let’s Spend The Night Together
Guitarist Mick Ronson gets his 2nd inclusion on this list playing this time in David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars backing band. Following Bowie’s break-through with the Ziggy Stardust… LP, Aladdin Sane (or A Lad Insane) was a big April 1973 hit (#17 U.S., #1 U.K.). Bowie makes the song harder and faster. Near the end David lets you know what the song is about adding a very sexual section before the hard rock comes back in. The Rolling Stones released this as a single in Jan. 1967 as the flip to “Ruby Tuesday”. While both sides were successful charters in the U.K., American radio was scared of the lyrical content and mostly played the other side of the record which meant “Let’s Spend The Night Together” could only hit #55. Ed Sullivan wouldn’t let them perform this on his TV show till they changed the lyric to “Let’s spend some time together” which they did while looking disdainful.
7.Marianne Faithfull – As Tears Go By
This was always a fave song to sing and play on acoustic guitar back when your Dentist did such things. While her eventual boyfriend Jagger didn’t get around to recording this with The Stones till 1965, Faithfull’s first single (U.S. #22) came out a year before theirs when she was 17. This was one of the very first songs composed by Jagger and Richards and did chart for The Rolling Stones in the U.S. for them at #9 as 1965 gave way to ’66. Faithfull’s version is more fleshed out with a prominent part played by the deeper oboe relative, the cor anglais while The Stones did it mostly on acoustic guitar with string quartet.
8.Merry Clayton – Gimme Shelter
The December 1969 Let It Bleed album still stands as one of the best by The Stones. The opening track “Gimme Shelter” (“Gimmie Shelter” on the LP) is a classic. The moody original builds adding a female vocal (Mary Clayton on the record) that screams the lyrics “rape, murder – it’s just a shot away – it’s just a shot away” which really gives the performance an edge. Called late at night to sing, Clayton was pregnant and after the session had a miscarriage that has been ascribed by some to her intense performance. NOLA born Clayton started recording as a 14 year old. In 1970, Clayton recorded this song making it the title track of her album and charting the single at #73. In 1973 she did vocal backing on Ringo’s “Oh My My”. In 2014 my friends Ted and Nancy took me to see the excellent film about backing vocalists titled 20 Feel From Stardom in which Clayton is featured. She reportedly lost both her legs the following year in a car crash.
9.Flamin’ Groovies – Paint It Black
If quality meant anything, America’s Flamin’ Groovies would be 12-string superstars but instead they are only worshiped by power-pop fans. Their 1976 Sire LP Shake Some Action was a classic of that genre with the follow-up 2 years later Now nearly as good. It contained a couple of fine Stones covers in “Blue Turns To Grey” and “Paint It Black”. It didn’t hurt that both were produced in the U.K. by Dave Edmunds who knows a little something about making a great retro-sounding record. The Stones’ May 1966 single was the first #1 to feature sitar (played by Brian Jones). The pumping bass part was done by Bill Wyman on the pedals of an organ.
10.Del Shannon – Under My Thumb
Casual fans only know Shannon from the classic “Runaway”, but Del had a much longer career sadly ended by suicide at age 55 in 1990. The former Charles Westover’s last big hit was the #9 “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)” in late ’64 on Amy. After moving to Liberty records he tried several covers including “Under My Thumb” which had been on the 1966 Rolling Stones Aftermath album. Del’s version barely moved in to the charts at #128 in the fall of ’66 with his a mostly straight cover of the Stones’ even down to the marimba riff. This is one of the few ’60s Rolling Stones album tracks played by oldies radio and is notable for the riff as played by Brian Jones. As someone who believes in woman’s rights, the lyrical content does annoy your blogger.
11.Airlift – Tell Me
“Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” was the 2nd U.S. chart 45 for The Rolling Stones making #24 in the summer of ’64. Oddly it wasn’t released as a single in England. The sound is very different from the blues and rock you associate with them as it’s a pleading pop ballad. Wish I could tell you more about the 1976 wall-of-sound version by Airlift, but other than what is on the label of my 45 I have nothing to give.
12.Gene Pitney – That Girl Belongs To Yesterday
Jagger and Richards took a page from the Lennon and McCartney book by writing songs for other performers they didn’t intend to record themselves (though not nearly as successfully). When Mick and Keith started trying to write, their first results were surprisingly poppy compared to the music of The Rolling Stones. This only got to #49 here in the U.S. for Pitney in January of 1964 and is notable for being the first cover of a Jagger-Richards song to chart here. At the same time, he attended the recording sessions for their first LP and is credited in the notes for playing piano. As heard on bootleg, The Stones recorded an early version but rejected the song in Nov. 1963. The late Pitney (1940 – 2006) was a successful singer and songwriter inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002.
13.Cheek – So Much In Love
Had to look at the charts to prove that indeed when everything British was taking over the U.S. airwaves, Ian & The Zodiacs could only take this song to #131 in mid-1965. That album is in your Dentist’s collection and frankly that version of this song isn’t as good as the more produced U.K. single from ’64 by The Mighty Avengers that charted at #46 and apparently had some Australian success. They were managed by Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham. In 1977 the group Cheek released a new recording with more guitar and handclaps which made it an Aussie hit and put it on our list. Disparate versions were also done by The Herd with Peter Frampton and a Brit going by Charles Dickens whose version isn’t bad either. There doesn’t seem to be a Stones recording of it.
14.The Dead Daisies – Bitch
This is the newest cover on our list appearing on the 2018 Burn It Down album, their 4th. Aussie David Lowy in a pretty interesting guy being an acclaimed aviator, a businessman and a guitarist. He formed The Dead Daisies in 2013 and they have been more of a collective of moving parts revolving around Lowy. The currently listed band is Doug Aldrich (guitar), Deen Castronovo (drums), Glenn Hughes (bass, vocals) and Lowy. The original song was on the flip of the #1 Stones single “Brown Sugar” and both were taken from their 1971 classic Sticky Fingers.
15.The Who – The Last Time
When Mick and Keith were put in prison in 1967 on drug charges, The Who recorded “The Last Time” and “Under My Thumb” to release as a single in support of their friends. The record was only on a U.K. single and charted there at #44 in June ’67. Reportedly bass is handled by Pete Townshend as John Entwistle was not available. The 1965 U.S. #9 Stones 45 is far superior and is one of my fave Stones songs. Brian Jones played the main riff with Keith taking the solo.
16.Julian Lennon – Ruby Tuesday
There are several excellent covers of this Stones record that hinges so much on the recorder played by Brian Jones. Rod Stewart did it as did The Rotary Connection. Nazareth released a fine version on The Catch (1984) and Scorpions had a harder guitar take on Comeblack (2011). For sentimental reasons gonna go with John Lennon’s son Julian and his cover from the 1989 soundtrack to the TV show The Wonder Years. A #1 in 1966, this is mostly written by Keith and supposedly Brian Jones who wasn’t given credit.
17.Rod Stewart – Street Fighting Man
This controversial Stones single was the U.S. release between “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women” when they were really on their game putting out potent 45s. That it would only get to #48 in ’68 had less to do with the quality of the song and more to do with the lyrics causing radio to shy away from playing it. This was the lead track from the excellent Beggars Banquet album and strangely wasn’t released as a British single till 1971 at which time as old news it still made it to #21. Rod included this on his first solo album (titled in the U.S. as The Rod Stewart Album), perhaps his best ever. His take includes Ron Wood on bass and slide guitar several years before joining The Stones.
18.Gov’t Mule – Brown Sugar
Well here is a Stones cover likely not heard by any but the biggest fans of Warren Haynes’ band away from The Allman Brothers – Gov’t Mule. This was taken from the April 2015 set Stoned Side Of The Mule Vol. 1&2 which is a vinyl set that comes from a live Halloween show in 2009. The original record is the next single in line after “Honky Tonk Women” and was from Sticky Fingers (1971), their first for their own label. For a #1 single, the lyrics were pretty controversial about slavery, whipping and sex.
19.Quireboys – Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)
Quireboys are a throwback to the days of guitar-based hard rock and are still going with only leader Spike left from their mid-80s original line-up (long serving guitarist Guy Griffin is still a member too). Produced by Jim Cregan who played with Rod Stewart, this live track was also overseen by Ron Nevison who also worked with Led Zeppelin and Bad Company. This song appeared first on the Goats Head Soup record and was lifted as a single which got to #15 early in 1971. Billy Preston who had recorded with The Beatles played clavinet for The Stones.
20.Linda Ronstadt – Tumbling Dice
Your Dentist admits to running hot and cold on Linda Ronstadt simply because she build her career covering songs I preferred by the original artists plus I like harder rock and roll. At this point in her career (Simple Dreams 1977) she was starting to finally rock a bit and covered this 1972 Exile On Main Street #7 hit. Ronstadt charted at #32. It is said that the Stones version took forever to record with as many as 150 takes. On that track Mick Taylor played bass while Mick and Keith played guitar.