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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.


  1. I can remember 'doing a Du Noyer' in '73 and flipping Bowie's Drive I Saturday over and finding a real diamond in the rough; for what it's worth, The Dames's version of Round and Round pisses on both versions mentioned above. But, hey, what I know and tuppence wouldn't get your hair cut.

  2. ...unfortunate metaphor for Richard Hawley to use, given Berry's well known proclivities....

  3. That is genuinely funny.

  4. If anything, their version of Bye Bye Johnie (Rolling Stones E.P.) and the versions of Carol and Little Queenie (Both on Get Your Ya-Ya's Out!) are the ones that really tower over the originals

  5. Not sure about "Bye Bye Johnny". Don't you find the variation in speed a little disconcerting? I could even hear it when it first came out.