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The Rolling Stones- Out of Our Heads (1965)

The Rolling Stones- Out Of Our Heads

(U.S. Release, on London Records)

Recorded between 1964 and 1965

Release July 30, 1965

Like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or at least their management liked to confuse people with different editions and releases between the UK and the US. There are some legal reasons for this, but basically, it's just annoying. For our purposes, we will deal with the US edition on London Records, not the UK Decca Edition. You know the band members at this point: Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, and the member who was not really a member but kind of was pianist Ian Stewart. Like the other Stones releases, the record blended blues and soul covers with original material. The album became the first number one on the US Billboard Charts and contained what Rolling Stones magazine (go figure) lists as the second greatest rock and roll song of all time “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” According to the magazine, the top song is Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” also released in 1965.

With the chart success and the hit single, The Stones were rolling closer to catching up to the Beatles. What’s cool about the Out of Our Heads is that the best songs were the ones the Stones wrote. The choice of covers is also great, but as I continue to relay in regards to Stone’s covers, the originals were better. That is not meant to disrespect the Stones; it’s just that they picked incredible songs. Most important regarding their covers is that they inspired and introduced people to some great artists, primarily African-American artists, which helped raise awareness among those who looked beyond the Stone’s version. More than any other band, their fame helped to introduce caucasian American’s to their domestic music and to the power of pure blues and R&B, which, of course, connects to the African and African American experience and heritage. The blend of European melodies and harmonies and the African rhythm tradition makes American music unique; The Rolling Stones helped to introduce a larger audience to that blend.

Side 1

(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)

Track 1- “Mercy, Mercy: was recorded in 1964 by Don Covay and became a hit. The Covay session was one of Jimi Hendrix’s first dates as a sideman. The Stones' version is poorly recorded, and you can hear an abundance of microphone bleed-through on the track. Jagger’s vocals are strong, and the guitar riffs are pretty raw. The track was recorded in the legendary Chess Records studio in Chicago. Chess was known for producing countless electric blues classics and promoting artists who influenced The Rolling Stones, like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and Chuck Berry.

Track 2- “Hitch Hike” was a 1962 song by Marvin Gaye. It was Gaye’s first top 40 pop single. The song sparked a short-lived dance craze in 1963. The track is about hitchhiking to find a girl who has left. The song is consistent with early Rolling Stones releases. It includes the signature hand claps that were included in many of their earlier releases.

Track 3- “The Last Time” is the first song of note on the record, and it is one of Jagger’s and Richard’s first great original songs. Well, it was kind of an original. Although "The Last Time" is credited to Jagger and Richards, the song was partially adopted from a traditional gospel tune, "This May Be the Last Time," a traditional gospel song recorded in 1954 by the Staple Singers. In 2003, Richards acknowledged this, saying, "We came up with 'The Last Time,' which was basically re-adapting a traditional gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily, the song itself goes back into the mists of time." “Last Time” was the Stone's first A-side release that was not considered a cover. The track was recorded at RCA studios in California and it is noticeable that more production details were paid to the track. The tune reached number one in the UK charts—the Who recorded the song in 1978 In support of Jagger and Richard, who were dealing with a drug arrest that year. (*+)

Track 4- “That’s How Strong My Love Is” was written by Roosevelt Jamison and made famous by Otis Redding. Redding had such a golden voice, and the fact that Mick Jagger felt he could match or surpass his version just shows how incredibly ballsy he was. Jagger is pretty awesome on it, but Redding’s version is the gold standard.

Track 5- “Good Times” was written by Sam Cooke, and it was released as a single by the smooth-voiced singer the same year he was murdered. It might be the Stones's best cover on the record. It's a fitting tribute to Sam Cooke, one of the absolute greats. (*)

Track 6- “I’m Alright” is a simplistic Bo Diddley tune that was first included on the Stone’s Got Live If You Want It! E.P. It's an incredibly sloppy, repetitive vamp with many screaming teens overwhelming the track. It’s basically Jagger repeatedly saying, “It’s all right.” The track is an obvious filler. Adding this song was not all right.

Side 2

Track 1- “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is a monumental hit and easily Mick Jagger and Keith Richard's best original song to date. When it comes to early rock and roll, “Satisfaction” is indeed satisfying because it has all of the elements: a spirit of teenage angst, a classic riff by Richards, and a hard-driving groove provided by Bill Wyman on bass and Charlie Watts on drums. The song was first released as a US single and then added to the album. It took some time for the track to gain attention as it was only played on pirate radio stations. The major stations refused to air it because they thought it was too sexually aggressive. Keith Richards wrote the music in a dream and recorded the riff on a home tape recorder. A few days later, Mick Jagger added the lyrics. Although it was considered highly controversial, the single’s returns were highly satisfying, reaching number one in Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, and the US. In other countries' markets, it reached at least number five. In the US, it reached gold record status with over a million singles sold. With the success of “Satisfaction,” the Stones solidified their status as one of the most impactful bands of the mid-1960s and beyond. (+*)

Track 2- “Cry To Me” was first recorded by soul legend Soloman Burke, written by Bert Burns, who also wrote hits like “Twist and Shout” and “Hang On Sloopy.” It’s about a dude who is depressed about being away from his “baby.” The narrator has some significant separation anxiety. According to studies, women cry an average of 5.3 times a month, while men cry an average of 1.3 times per month.

Track 3- “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” is a stupid title but a pretty great blues song credited to Nanker Phelge, a pseudonym that Jagger and Richards sometimes used. Jagger plays some good harmonica on this one. I cannot say much more about this one except that I recommend it. (+)

Track 4- “Play With Fire” is another early display of Jagger and Richards's development as songwriters. The one-line chorus, “Don’t play with me because you're playing with fire.” is combative and fits into the group’s no-nonsense image. The song was recorded with the help of studio legend Phil Spector. In fact, Spector played bass on the track, and Jack Nitzsche, Spector’s right-hand man in the studio, played the harpsichord on the track, connecting the song to the traditions of early Baroque music. Jagger sings and plays tambourine on the cut, and Richards plays the acoustic guitar. The rest of the Stones did not play on it at all. The lyrics are about the narrator's relationship with a high-society girl. In a 1995 interview with Jan Wenner for Rolling Stone magazine, entitled "Jagger Remembers," Jagger said, "'Play with Fire' sounds amazing—when I heard it last. It's a very in-your-face kind of sound and very clearly done. You can hear all the vocal stuff on it. And I'm playing the tambourines, the vocal line. You know, it's very pretty." Despite being one of the Stone’s early masterpieces, “Play With Fire” reached only 96 on the US. Charts. In 2008, ABKCO, who owns the Stones' early catalog, sued rapper “Lil Wayne” for copyright infringement when Wayne released “Playing With Fire.” The matter was settled out of court. Lil Wayne was playing with fire. I can’t say he wasn't warned. (*+)

Track 5- “The Spider and the Fly” is another Jagger and Richards original, offering a fine blend of country and blues. The title takes its name from the 1829 poem by Mary Howitt. The song served as the B-Side to (“I Can’t Get No”) Satisfaction. Jagger explained in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, "I wasn't really that mad (excited) about it, but when you listen to it on record, it still holds up quite interestingly as a blues song. It's a Jimmy Reed blues with British pop-group words, which is an interesting combination: a song somewhat stuck in a time warp.” The lyrics speak about what the band, especially the leader, will do after their gig is over:

Sittin' thinkin' sinkin' drinkin' Wondering what I'll do when I'm through tonight Smokin', mopin', maybe just hopin' Some little girls will pass on by

The Image of a spider catching a fly in a web is compelling. One spider eats about 2,000 flies in one year!

Track 6- “One More Try” is a short, catchy, rudimentary skiffle blues by Jagger and Richards. Brian Jones plays a solid harmonica solo on this one. It’s not a fantastic tune, but thankfully, Jagger and Richards “kept on trying.”

In Conclusion

Out Of Our Heads was a critical release for The Rolling Stones as it was their first number-one record in the US. Musically, it showed Mick Jagger and Keith Richards's development as songwriters with tunes like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Play With Fire,” “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” and “The Spider and The Fly.” Additionally, the covers create some strong content, but there is also some filler with songs like “I’m Alright” and “One More Try.” So, as an album, it's a bit uneven, and like all Stones releases to this point, it's a record that is more of a collection of songs than a fully functioning concept album. Some pieces are strong, while others are not. The most significant difference is that the strongest material comes from Jagger and Richards originals, which is not true of earlier albums by The Stones.

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