Author: Bruce Jenkins Date Posted:14 May 2021
Spinning records. It’s great whatever your gear. Maybe it’s the simple entry-level turntable your Grandparents just gave you for your sixteenth birthday. Or the vintage Thorens from the top of the wardrobe that you just had serviced. Perhaps you’ve been vinyl all along and just purchased a new high class Technics deck (from the Discrepancy range, of course).
Just looking at this wonderful piece of analogue apparatus you are excited about exploring some of the classic sounds of the last three generations. Well here’s one that deserves inclusion in any self-respecting collection, a truly timeless collection of early Rolling Stones hits called Hot Rocks 1964—1971. There have been too many Stones compilations to count, but this, one of the early ones, is amongst the best and has rarely been out of print.
Originally released in December 1971, a few months after Sticky Fingers—the LP that proved the band really could put together a consistently brilliant album (as distinct from brilliantly consistent singles)—Hot Rocks picks up the Stones story as they transitioned from covers to original songs. Previously, their singles had drawn on numbers by Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Lennon-McCartney (yes, those Beatle chaps offered Jagger and Richards “I Wanna Be Your Man”, a gift they gladly accepted and took to #12 in the UK in late 1963).
One early Mick and Keith original was overlooked for this collection (“Tell Me”), mainly because it did not trouble the British singles chart. Paradoxically, the opening cut of this 2LP set is “Time Is On My Side”, not a Jagger-Richards composition. It was, however, Top 10 in the US, explaining its inclusion here.
The hits keep coming. The querulous stomp of “(I can’t get no) Satisfaction” leads into “As Tears Go By”, one of the finest Jagger-Richard ballads and also a US Top 10 hit for Marianne Faithfull in 1964. Side 2 opens with the lesser known “Mother’s Little Helper”, a swipe at suburban drug use from a songwriting team peeved at their harassment by British law enforcement agencies eager to right royally bust them. A favourite of the writer is “Paint it, Black” (May, 1966) whose Eastern touches and dark lyrics were a counterpoint to the whole Summer of Love thing. What’s extraordinary about the song is that, despite its sombre themes, it reached #1 on singles charts in at least half-a-dozen countries, including Australia. It’s important to mention that the Stones were also capable of objectionable misogyny, exemplified by the jaunty tune but abusive lyrics of “Under My Thumb”. It is a relief to move on to the baroque pop glory of “Ruby Tuesday” and the honest raunch of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”.
On side 3 the songs are both hot and rocking: “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Street Fighting Man”, “Honky Tonk Women”, “Gimme Shelter”. These were the glory days of the Rolling Stones. The one live track included is a concert version of “Midnight Rambler”, opening the final side. It’s followed by “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Really, Mick?) then the swagger of “Brown Sugar”. Unexpectedly, yet satisfyingly, we head for the runout groove with another top class ballad, the magnificent “Wild Horses”.
All in all, this is a rock solid compilation of hits from the period and a fabulous reminder of those brilliant singles (if you are of “My Generation”) or an introduction (for a new generation). It’s still hot, fifty years after release.
© Bruce Jenkins 2021