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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Sometimes the Stones surpassed the old masters

In yesterday's Times Richard Hawley said that the Chuck Berry original of Around and Around "pisses on the Stones version from a massive height". He's making a point about them trying to copy something and ending up with something of their own. This is valid but he's picked a rotten example. The Rolling Stones' Around And Around is far better than Chuck Berry's original. It has an electricity that Chuck's doesn't. It has a rhythm guitar, which Chuck's doesn't. It's sung from the point of view of an 18-year-old who doesn't want the night to end. Chuck on the other hand seems to be checking his watch. Look. He put it on a B-side.

I once sat on a panel at an American university talking about the British Invasion. The American rock critic Robert Christgau said that the early r&b cover versions of the Stones were terrible but they had "ironic distance". Simon Frith, who was on the same panel, leaned towards me and said "I think they were trying to make the best sound they could". I agreed. At the time it was one of the best sounds I'd ever heard in my life. It still is.