August 7, 2019

The Rolling Stones No. 2 (UK) (January 15, 1965)

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The Rolling Stones No. 2


1A. Everybody Needs Somebody To Love (Solomon Burke)
2A. Down Home Girl
3A. You Can’t Catch Me (Chuck Berry)
4A. Time Is On My Side (Jerry Ragovoy)
5A. What A Shame (Jagger/Richards)
6A. Grown Up Wrong (Jagger/Richards)

1B. Down The Road Apiece (Don Raye)
2B. Under The Boardwalk
3B. I Can’t Be Satisfied (Muddy Waters)
4B. Pain In My Heart
5B. Off The Hook (Jagger/Richards)
6B. Susie Q

While London Records rushed to deliver on demand for more Rolling Stones R&B in America, releasing 12×5 in October of 1964 — mere months after releasing The Rolling Stones (England’s Newest Hitmakers) — Jagger and company took almost a full year to release the follow up to their eponymous debut in the UK: The Rolling Stones No. 2.

As the saying would later go, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll,”, and boy did the Stones know it. No. 2 was recorded in chunks, using their scanty spare moments amidst an enervating, non-stop tour schedule. Sessions began in Chicago’s Chess Studios on June 1964, during the Stones’ first American tour, then continued in September, at Regent Sound, back in London during their fourth British tour, only to pause, and resume back in America at Hollywood’s RCA Studio’s during the band’s second American tour. Recording wrapped up where it began, in Chess Studios at the tail end of the same tour.

The result was a soulful, blues and R&B record, that didn’t explore any new musical territory but perfected everything off the band’s debut album. They eschewed weaker attempts like Marvin Gaye Motown covers (“Can I Get a Witness”) in favor of sticking to their strengths: Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry; coupled with a few formidable Jagger/Richards originals.

If you’ve grown up with and stuck to the Stones’ American discography, you’ve likely never heard this album. You might’ve heard most of the songs on it, but never in this exact sequencing. Unfortunately, this album was never remastered or released on CD either, making it that much more obscure to newer, more casual fans of the Stones. Although the tracks on No. 2 are riddled throughout the grooves of 12 x 5 (US, 1964) The Rolling Stones, Now! (US, 1965), you still can’t fully compose this LP for a few reasons: “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love” was released in the US on The Rolling Stones, Now! however, it was a shortened version that sounds more like an early demo than anything. “Time is On My Side” is likewise far superior on this album, to the odd, organ opening single they released in America. The bleak organ is traded in for a twangy Keith Richards guitar lick, before Mick Jagger tears into the opening vocals.

And did I mention “I Can’t Be Satisfied”? If you want to hear what great blues, bottleneck slide guitar sounds like, look no further than Brian Jones on this track. Here’s the real kicker: this song was never released in the US! It’s not on any American studio album, the only place you’ll find it is on the compilation album, More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies).

The rest of the material is great too. Their first original on the A-Side, “What a Shame” is just beautiful musicianship. Superb blues harp playing from Mick Jagger, coupled with Ian Stewart’s boogie-woogie piano, Bill Wyman’s bass, and of course, Brian Jones sliding up down the neck of his six-string. Everything just comes together perfectly.

On “Down The Road Apiece” Keith Richards is clearly outplaying Chuck Berry. The Stones’ version is faster, and more aggressive. It’s Chuck Berry elevated to a new level.

The only weak track on this album is “Under the Boardwalk”, but even that became a hit in Australia.

The Rolling Stones No. 2 is probably the greatest casualty of the UK/US discography split. It’s a fine-flowing, cohesive record of white-boy R&B and blues that, in 1965, wasn’t available anywhere else. If the Stones’ debut album was a statement proclaiming their ability to play American blues, this album affirmed that they can make that music their own.

Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and Ian Stewart had all come together under the Rolling Stones banner with one main goal: to bring American blues back home to Europe. This album accomplished just that.