The Rolling Stones- England's Newest Hit Makers (1964)
Updated: May 9
The Rolling Stones - England's Newest Hit Makers
Released in the U.S. in May 1964
Recorded between January 3 through February 25
The Rolling Stones began with a school hood friendship between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1950. Jagger and Richards grew inspired by American bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and Chuck Berry. The two began playing local gigs with another friend, bassist Dick Taylor as the Blues Boys. By 1962, Jagger and Richards had moved to London, where they met guitarist Brian Jones, drummer Charlie Watts, and keyboard player Ian Stewart. At the time, Jones served as the group's leader, and under his direction, they named the group The Rolling Stones (after a Muddy Waters Song). By the end of the year, bassist Bill Wyman had replaced Dick Taylor, who left to return to art school and later formed the band the Pretty Things, which had some success but compared to the Stones; his group was more of a pebble.
By 1963, Andrew Logg Oldham, an ex-publicist for the Beatles, began managing the Rolling Stones. In 1963, he successfully publicized the Rolling Stones as a crude and more hardcore alternative to the Beatles. He also encouraged the band to fire keyboardist Ian Stewart because he didn't fit the group's image and felt that six members were too many for people to remember. Ian Stewart became the group's road manager, driver, and sometimes studio keyboardist. Somehow he seemed okay with that role. Oldham then successfully began a media blitz introducing the band with extraordinary claims the Stones were England's hottest band.
The Stones released their first U.S. record, England's Newest Hit Makers, in 1964 and briefly toured the U.S. At that time, they were not met with close to the same fanfare as the Beatles, and the tour was not an overwhelming success. The album reached 11 on U.S. Billboard Charts, and the only U.S. single to chart in the top 40 from the record was "Tell Me," which reached only #24 on the charts. While England's Newest Hit Makers failed to make the Rolling Stones "America's Newest hitmakers," the Stones began to roll into America slowly, and the Stone eventually grew into a boulder that continued to rock and roll for nearly 60 years. Awards- Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, Songwriter Hall Of Fame (Jagger and Richards.)
(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)
Track 1- "Not Fade Away" - Was written by the great early rocker Buddy Holly and recorded with his group the Crickets in 1957. The song is noted for a specific rhythm known as the "Bo Diddley beat." Diddley was an impactful earlier figure in blending blues and rock and roll. "The Stones" version became the group's first top 10 hits in the U.K., charting at #3 but only reaching #48 on the U.S. charts. Take notice of Jagger's double-tracked voice and Brian Jones' harmonica work. The group's version was considered hard-driving for its time and is one of the best songs on the album. The Rolling Stones did "not fade away.' (*+)
Track 2 "Route 66" is an R+B classic written in 1946 by Bobby Troup after a long 10-day drive from Pennsylvania to California, where Troupe and his wife traveled Route 66. It's a tune that mentions a lot of American towns and cities and the thrills of hitting the open road. Nat King Cole (who is amazing!) first recorded the song the same year it was written and made the tune a huge hit. The Stone's version is a little more rocking than Cole's and is one of the album's bright spots. Keith Richards's signature rhythm guitar playing, a showcase of the band, is fully displayed in this tune. (+)
Track 3- "I Just Want To Make Love To You," plays into the Stones' raunchy, hard-driving image. It's fast, noisy, and bluesy. The song was written by the upright bassist and blues songwriter extraordinaire Willie Dixon (I'm a big fan!). In 1954 Muddy Waters (also a fan!) had a hit with the tune, and the Stones loved Muddy Waters. It just made sense! The lyrics are easy to figure out. The narrator says, " I don't care what you do, or if you're lazy as hell, "I just want to make love to you." Brian Jones plays a pretty killer harmonica on the song. (+)
Track 4-"Honest I Do" was written by American bluesman Jimmy Reed. The guitars are so out of tune on this track that it makes me hate it, honestly I do.
Track 5 -"Now I've Got A Witness" is a simplistic instrumental credited to Nanker/Phelge, a pseudonym given to mean The Rolling Stones. The only genuine interest comes from Brain Jones's harmonica playing, and they let Ian Stewart play on the track. Keith Richards' lead guitar work could be more impressive.
Track 6, "Little By Little," was written by the Stones and producer Phil Specter who plays maracas on the track. Spector was one of the premier producers and writers of early rock and roll. Unfortunately, he was also a nut who was convicted of murder in 2007. This song is one of the group's best early recordings. It's bluesy and raw. The producers paid more attention to this track recording as they brought in pianist Gene Pitney to play keys (again, a diss to Ian Stewart). Singing backups are Graham Nash and Allan Clarke from the band the Hollies. Nash later found massive success with Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Track 1 -"I'm A King Bee" was released in 1957 by bluesman Slim Harpo. The tune is an overtly sexualized syrupy blues and maybe the best track on the album. I would still rather hear the original artists' versions, but this is authentic, and it showcases Brian Jones on the slide guitar and Jagger on the harmonica. Sting It! (+)
Track 2- "Carol" is a high flyer written by Chuck Berry from 1958. Berry tended to rewrite new lyrics to the same song repeatedly. "Carol" is basically "Johnny B Good." The Stones do a pretty solid job on this one.
Track 3- "Tell Me" is the first A-side single written by Jagger and Richards. Interestingly it's not a blues. It's also pretty annoying on the chorus, and the lyrics sound desperate after the bravado of "I Just Want To Make Love To You" and "Bumble Bee." "Tell Me" is about a guy begging his lover to return. The chorus is winey and annoying. I'm glad she left. The song hit #27 on the Billboard Charts. The Belgians and Swedes loved the song, making it a #1 hit in their markets. (*)
Track 4- "Can I Get A Witness" was written by the all-star writing team of Hollan/Dozier/Holland in 1963 and recorded by the great Marvin Gaye. His version is much better, but the Stones make a reasonable effort. Welcome back, Ian Stewart. They allowed him to play and not just "witness."
Track 5 - "You Can Make It If You Try." was a lesser-known hit in 1957 for R&B vocalist Gene Allison. The Stones missed the mark with this one. They didn't quite make it, and I'm not sure they did "try."
Track 6- "Walking The Dog." This song was written and recorded in 1963 by Rufus Thomas and became a novelty dance hit. The Stones sure do like to add clapping to their earlier music.
Conclusion: England's Newest Hit Makers is an impactful album, not because it's perfect (it's actually quite rough) but because it's the first U.S. release by a rock band that had incredible success and longevity. The album showcases a division between the talents and output quality of the Stones compared to the Beatles and other British Invaders. While the early Stones are raw, there is a certain charm in hearing them work it all out on this and other early releases. Awards and positions #11 on the Billboard Charts, Gold Record.