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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The best first album ever made is fifty years old today

It's fifty years this week since the first Rolling Stones album was released.  It's still the best first album ever put out by anyone.

Most of the songs were rhythm and blues favourites, which would have been unfamiliar to their UK audience.  There wasn't much chance of Rufus Thomas's "Walking The Dog" or Jimmy Reed's "Honest I Do" being played on the Light Programme or Radio Luxemburg.

Blues purists, who like to spoil people's fun, said the Stones' versions of Bo Diddley's "Mona" and Chuck Berry's "Oh Carol" weren't as "authentic" as the originals. What they missed or deliberately ignored was the way their hopped up versions of Muddy Waters "I Just Wanna Make Love To You" or Slim Harpo's "I'mA King Bee" suddenly turned this middle-aged braggadocio into what the MC5 later called teenage lust.

It was the first great party album of the sixties. You simply had to put it on the Dansette and you unleashed something elemental into the most staid suburban sitting room.

It was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham who was making it up as he went along. And recorded in a tiny room on Denmark Street where, as they like to recall, the tape machine was attached to the wall and insulation provided by a bunch of egg cartons. It was, as Keith Richards later recalled, the ideal space in which to make that album and no use at all when it came to making anything else.

That doesn't matter to me. What they produced was perfect. They never made a record with quite the same buzz ever again. To borrow a line from Roy Carr's sleeve notes to a later Stones compilation, don't go looking for a better first album than this. It hasn't been made.

13 comments:

viewpointofview said...

I beleave my life would not change in any significant way if someone went back in time and stopped the Rolling Stones from ever forming or releasing music.

The same can not be said for The Beatles or The Beach Boys, to name just to of their conteporaries.

Rog said...

Fair enough. And Let it Bleed was by far the best 8th Album ever made.

John Medd said...

That's fighting talk David. I take your point but I'm guessing there'll be one or two naysayers who may not.

Mark JF said...

"Can't Buy A Thrill" by Steely Dan is my Best First Album Ever Made. What a belter!

Gareth said...

Perhaps as interesting as that album is the fact that we are looking back at it after 50 years. Had we done that in 1964 we would have been looking at the beginning of the Great War.

Andrew Greenhalgh said...

I've never been able to love the Stones and as for first albums, for my money Arctic Monkeys' can't be beat. And I'm 41

Stuart Penney said...

It may be a case of “you had to be there” but I agree with David’s claim. Here was a bunch of snotty white English punks taking some of the most important black music of the time and mutating it into something fresh and new. They turned British kids onto black R&B and then most audaciously of all, they sold American music back to America. The first Stones’ LP may seem like a modest affair from this distance, but its importance echoes loud and clear down the decades.

David said...

The best helping hand I had in getting into the Stones was my parents reaction to them. Long-haired, simian, unwashed, wild, uncaring, anti-establishment. Not like those nice Beatles! Like The Who, a lot of the attraction to the Stones was their attitude. No-one really rebelled openly until they came along and that's why the establishment tried to put them down. The first Stones album is still a great listen today. And we are now living in a very different society in the UK. Thank goodness for both,

. said...

The first World War was much better than the sophomore effort IMHO. Those battles still stand up today.

Front of Store said...

The Rolling Stones themselves have never seemed, latterly, to care too much about their original sixties albums. Perhaps it was a legacy of their dire relationship with Decca, or a side-effect of climbing into bed with Allen Klein. Or perhaps their early move to US studios, hanging out with Phil Spector and Gene Pitney, created a confusion in their minds as to which album was what - Flowers, December's Children and the rest.
Whatever the reason, their fine debut is unavailable on CD outside Japan, and only the bastardised "England's Newest Hitmakers" (ie "Meet the Rolling Stones") is on catalogue here or in the US.
Having collected all the Decca albums when they were still laminated with Clarifoil manufactured by the British Celanese Company, it was (amongst other things) the Rolling Stones' commitment to their music and to their individual forms of album, EP and single that impressed me so much. Unlike any other act, they kept the three formats separate. Singles and B sides weren't on albums, EPs were standalone tracks. As far as I know, no one else did this, and they kept it up right through to their first own-label release, Sticky Fingers.
I do wonder whether the Glims themselves choose not to acknowledge how hardcore their self-imposed credibility was, in their peak years. After all, it didn't make them rich - they had to reinvent the rock'n'roll game for that to happen. (Stomps off to listen to 5x5.)

Anonymous said...

Too old for The Clash then?

bob reams said...

Are you sure it's better than the first Led Zeppelin?

David Hepworth said...

There's a simple reason why this is better than anyone else's first album. All the songs but one had been rhythm and blues hits, for people like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Rufus Thomas, Slim Harpo and the rest. They were all brilliant songs. Any album made up of a band's own songs won't be as good.