Rolling Stones Soundalike Albums

In the inevitable Beatles vs. Stones (straw man) debate, I intensely resent having to pick sides, since the very idea of one without the other is laughable at best.  Nevertheless, this lifelong Beatles fan takes a certain fiendish thrill in devoting an entire blog post to those albums in which non-Stones groups play nothing but Rolling Stones tunes.

Kicking off this Stones-ploitation trend, appropriately enough, is their manager and svengali, Andrew Loog Oldham, who would arrange “polite” instrumental versions of early Stones songs for 1965’s The Rolling Stones Songbook under the name Andrew Oldham Orchestra. The Verve, you may recall, sampled the album’s final cut – “The Last Time” – for use in the dramatic opening strains of their huge 1997 hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony” but would not get to enjoy any of the royalties generated (sales, Nike ads, sporting event performances) due to the hardball tactics of the composition’s holder of copyright, ABKCO’s Allen Klein — as this exclusive excerpt from Fred Goodman’s new biography makes clear.

Rolling Stone imposter-Andrew Oldham OrchJoe Pass – as noted early in this blog’s existence – would release his seminal survey of mid-60s Stones, Stones Jazz, the following year in 1966.  But a couple of other notable ‘Stones-centric’ albums would hit the marketplace that same year:  (a) Baroque ‘n’ Stones by The New Renaissance Society and (b) A Tribute to The Rolling Stones by The Pupils.

BAROQUE ‘N’ STONES:  hanna-Barbera Records  +  THE PUPILS:  Tribute to the Rolling Stones

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How fascinating to discover that ‘The Pupils’ were, in actual fact, cult “mod” band The Eyes, whose 1966 (UK-only) EP sells for hundreds of pounds/dollars at auction (and would include their cheeky retort to The Who — “My Degeneration“).

“19th Nervous Breakdown”     The Pupils/The Eyes     1966

Four years hence,The Winstons would record their unabashed tribute to the Rolling Stones, notable primarily for its provocative “jail bait” cover, while two years later, The Collection would issue the only album of their career — a musical salute to the Stones, naturally — with a similarly risque front cover image.

     The Winstons     1970                                   The Collection     1972

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1972 would also bear witness to one more cash-in effort, Rolling Stones Vol. 2 (unclear whether Vol. 1 was ever issued), by the confusingly-possessive Monkey’s Pop Group, whose only known LP was issued on French label, Les Tréteaux.Rolling Stone imposter-dd11973 would bring five (count ’em) Rolling Stone tribute albums, including —

(1) a pair of delightfully kitschy covers from the “group” Rockery:Rolling Stone imposter-e1Rolling Stone imposter-ee1

(2) the one and only recording from The HotShockers released on German label, Auditon:Rolling Stone imposter-g1(3) the stylish and slyly misleading cover for Rockin’ Stones Party from France’s (not Jamaica’s) Fabulous Five:Rolling Stone imposter-f1(4) Million Copy Hits Made Famous by the Rolling Stones by The Flash (Starring Denny Jones):

magnification not included

Rolling Stone imposter-i1(5) a tribute album by a Dutch musical ensemble that departed at recording’s end with such frenzied haste, history never had a chance to record its identity:Rolling Stone imposter-h1By the 1980s, unfortunately, it was clear that Stones-ploitation’s Golden Age had passed.  Flash would issue Keep on Rolling in 1981 – impressively on CBS imprint, Epic – while that same year would see the release of Rolling Hits’ one and only album, Rolling Hits Medley, incredibly on major labels (Mercury, Polydor, Philips) in at least 10 countries, including Peru.

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I was perhaps five when I encountered my first soundalike cash-in album in the form of a Beatle knockoff group, The Liverpools (as previously recounted), and then again not long after when I got suckered by one of those TV ads for 18 Golden Hits of 1971, as rendered by The Sound Effects (though it is possible I fell for the previous year’s 18 Golden Hits of 1970, which does not even bear the name of the artist-for-hire).

Golden Hits of 1971UDiscoverMusic, similarly, writes of a curious and confounding time “when cut-price soundalike recordings ruled the British charts” — 45 years ago, to be precise, when there was a brief change in the chart eligibility rules, and before you knew it, Top of the Pops 18 was dislodging The Moody Blues’ Every Good Boy Deserves Favour from the #1 spot!

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’65 Stones Tune Known by Few

Richie Unterberger confirmed my hunch in his review of Rolling Stones B-side “Sad Day” for AllMusic:

“‘Sad Day’ is one of the least-known early Rolling Stones songs.   It was never even issued in their native U.K. until 1973, and it didn’t make it onto an American album until it appeared on the 1989 box set Singles Collection: The London Years.”

The song originally came to my attention due to the use of the quirky and futuristic “Rugby” typeface on a 7-inch picture sleeve released in Italy — eight years after it was recorded.

Rolling Stones 45-aAmusing to consider how out of place time-wise this 1965 track must’ve sounded in 1973, given pop’s explosive growth between those eight years — a particularly fertile time for popular music:

“Sad Day”     The Rolling Stones     December, 1965

Musician credits (and also here)

Mick Jagger:       Vocals
Keith Richards:  Guitar & Backing Vocals
Brian Jones:       Guitar
Bill Wyman:         Bass
Charlie Watts:     Drums
Ian Stewart:         Organ
Jack Nitzsche:    Piano & “Nitzsche-phone”

Even more amusing to note that “Sad Day” would be the A-side in 1973 over “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”(!), not only in Italy but all of the other international markets indicated below — except Japan, for reasons that will likely never be known.

Netherlands                                                     Sweden

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France                                                            Belgium

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Germany                                                        Denmark

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Yugoslavia                                                        Japan

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Those who pay attention to detail are no doubt wondering – what, uh, is a “Nitzsche-phone”?  As former Stones manager (and co-founder of the UK’s first great indie label, Immediate) Andrew Loog Oldham would explain in an obituary written for Gadfly Online:

“And then there was the nitzschephone, that mythical instrument!  I made that up for the credits on those Stones albums—it was just a regular piano (or maybe an organ) miked differently.  It was all part of this package that was created around the Stones.  People believed it existed.  The idea was meant to be:  ‘My god, they’ve had to invent new instruments to capture this new sound they hear in their brains.’  And they were inventing fresh sounds with old toys—therefore, it deserved to be highlighted—it was the read-up of creation, of imagination—getting credit for a job well done.  I mean you wouldn’t, for instance, have found a “nitzschephone” on a Freddie and the Dreamers record.”

Kevin Swift would chronicle this December, 1965 recording session at RCA’s Hollywood Studio in a 1966 issue of Beat Instrumental (via Ian Stewart Sixth Stone music blog):

“Keith Richards and Mick Jagger acted as musical directors until the others got the gist of the numbers and then it was a free-for-all with everyone chipping in with their own particular ideas.  Charlie Watts was in great form and played the bongos and conga drums like a native.  He also tried his hand on a set of gigantic timpani which an orchestra had left behind.  Brian Jones, Stu and American session player Jack Nitzsche took it in turns to play the harpsichord, piano or organ.  Brian told me that there is a keyboard instrument on every track recorded.  He and Stu handled the groovy numbers while Jack Nitzsche played on the slower tracks.

On ‘Sad Day’ and ‘Ride On Baby’, two rather obscure tracks dating from these December 1965 sessions, Ian Stewart and Jack Nitzsche even handle the keys together.  Nitzsche plays some piano on both tracks, while Stu plays piano on ‘Ride On Baby’ and organ on ‘Sad Day’, some kind of a rocked-up ballad, which ended up as the US flip-side for the band’s next single release, ’19th Nervous Breakdown’.”

Greg Prevost, in 2014’s Rolling Stones Gear, would pull back the lens and reveal the carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the Stones on their musically fruitful recording expedition to Hollywood (courtesy of Rock N Roll Freaks music blog):

Tiger Beat magazine reported: ‘The normally quiet corner of Sunset and Ivar was transformed into a wild impromptu teenage street carnival for days and nights while the Rolling Stones were taping in the RCA-Victor building there.’  Visitors at the session read like a Hollywood ‘Who’s Who,’ and, to make things even more chaotic, the Monkees were recording in another RCA studio.  DJ and Hollywood hipster Rodney Bingenheimer, who was attending the Monkees session, wandered into the Stones’ studio and recalled:  ‘It was chaos.  It was very crowded.  There were a lot of kids outside, hanging around, a lot of kids everywhere.  Someone brought a big white duck into the studio, and it was wandering around!  Brian Wilson was there too; the Stones invited him down . . . As all this is going on, The Monkees were recording in the same studio at the same time as the Stones were recording.  The Stones in one studio at RCA, The Monkees in another.’”

Many thanks to 45Cat contributor Deltics for posting this hilarious and withering review from NME (New Musical Express) in 1973:

“Sad day indeed, oh my little brothers.  This track dates from 1966, when it was the American B-side of ’19th Nervous Breakdown’, and apart from Jagger’s singing and a couple nice lyric touches, it doesn’t really stand out.  It’s a little laid-back by current Stones standards, and presumably Brian Jones [Jack Nitzsche] is responsible for the electric piano touches.  I can’t see Mick, Keith, and the lads being too happy about this resurrected oldie.  The B-side is ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ which was on the B-side of ‘Honky Tonk Women’.  For archivists only.”

Puzzled by other similarly dismissive statements made online about “Sad Day” – a song that gets better with each listen – Zero to 180 would help settle the matter by bringing in 45s historian extraordinaire, So Many Records So Little Time, to speak authoritatively on the legacy of this proud and mighty B-side:

“A terribly under rated and overlooked Rolling Stones classic, ‘Sad Day’ got played as much as A side ’19th Nervous Breakdown’ in my bedroom growing up.  It wasn’t even name checked on the US picture sleeve [below], and never included as part of a proper album.

Rolling Stones 45-bSomeone at Decca UK had the seemingly good sense/terrible judgement to make it a British A side in April ’73.  Huh?  Must have been a featured track on one of the many, theme-less compilations Decca were shoveling out at the time.

Corinne hates that I put my foot down recently and situated a small, 45 only, early 60′s RCA stacker on the headboard of the awesome blond Hollywood bedroom set I found at a house sale almost twenty years ago, in factory fresh condition.  And ‘Sad Day’ has gotten many more plays in the past few weeks than it’s equally fantastic A side.  Just for the record.

Always scour sleeves in used vinyl shops for jukebox tabs.  It’s amazing the ones you will find, and the shops could care less about them.  A warning though, once you start you’ll have a hard time stopping.”

Rolling Stones jukebox tab“Sad Day” would originally back “19th Nervous Breakdown” in 1966 for the US, Canadian & Uruguayan markets, while in Australia, “Fortune Teller” (by the late great Allen Toussiant) would be used as the A-side instead.

Chart-wise, 45Cat contributor My Friend Jack asserts with respect to the song’s reception in the UK:  “Three weeks on the Breakers list from 12 May 1973, peaking in 2nd place.”

                       1966 EP – Uruguay                    “19.o Colapso Nervioso” + “Dia Triste” (Sad Day)

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Mid-60s Stones enthusiasts should seek out classic Joe Pass 1966 album Stones Jazz — subject of an early Zero to 180 piece from 2013.

Rolling Stones 1964 Cereal Advert

According to Video Beat, Brian Jones wrote this Rolling Stones Rice Krispies jingle (shown only in the UK) with the J. Walter Thompson ad agency, who created this 30-second spoof of pop music TV show, Juke Box Jury:

Billboard reported in its April 2, 2012 edition:

“On Sunday’s Mad Men, Heinz executive Raymond Geiger (John Sloman) suggests to Don Draper (Jon Hamm) that he get the Rolling Stones to sing a version of ‘Heinz is on my side’ set to their hit song ‘Time Is on My Side’ for the commercial promoting the company’s baked beans.

Draper and Harry Crane (Rich Sommer) set off in pursuit of the Rolling Stones, managing to set up a meeting backstage at their concert at the Forest Hills Tennis Club.  Don is dubious but Harry says, ‘The manager sounded greedy.’

Once they arrive at the concert, the meeting keeps getting delayed and Harry and Don end up talking to a couple of college women who managed to get backstage.  When one expresses skepticism to Don that the Stones would do a commercial, he says, ‘They did one for cereal in England … three years ago.’  The coed rolls her eyes.”