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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.