January 3-February 25, 1964: Regent Sound Studios, London, England
Engineer: Bill Farley
Released: May 1964
Original label: London Records (Polygram)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Gene Pitney, Phil Spector.
Not Fade Away
I Just Want to Make Love to You
Honest I Do
Now I've Got a Witness
Little By Little
I'm a King Bee
Can I Get a Witness
You Can Make It If You Try
Walking the Dog
We're about halfway through the first album and we're trying to finish it in the next couple of months. But what with touring and everything else, we can't say when it will be done. Carol, Mona and Route 66 are on it, and we plan to include some numbers that people wouldn't associate with us.
On the first album, we cut everything in mono. The band had to record more or less live in the studio so what was on our record was more or less our act, what we played on the ballroom and club circuits. It was really just the show you did onstage recorded in one take - as it SHOULD be.
Our first album reflected what we used to play at the Crawdaddy - a regular diet of Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, with some Slim Harpo. The album was basically the cream of the set! We cut the album in a room full of egg boxes, using a two-track Grundig. The only concession to professionalism was that the tape recorder was hanging on the wall instead of sitting on a tabletop... We would sit around in playback and go, Sounds good or Stop it, let's do it again and then Yeah, that's it. It was either a yes or a no. We were using a two-track or four-track machine and there's not a lot you can do with that. To overdub you had to do what they call ping-ponging between the tracks, which was not a great thing because you actually lost generations of sound quality.
When they arrived, no one had any thought about arrangements. They just busked it until they got the feeling of the number. There was no dubbing. They just told me exactly what they wanted as soon as the number had been worked out. How it turned out so well in the end I never really knew.
Many of the English punk records sound like our early records and that is very hard to achieve nowadays with sophisticated technology, 24-track studios. We did our early records on a 2-track Revox in a room insulated with egg cartons at Regent Sound. It was like a little demo in Tin Pan Alley, as it used to be called. Denmark Street in Soho. It was all done on a 2-track Revox that he had on the wall. We used to think, Oh, this is a recording studio, huh? This is what they're like? A tiny little backroom. Under those primitive conditions it was easy to make the kind of sound we got on our first album and the early singles, but hard to make a much better one.
We did the first album in about 10 days. We'd decide to do a tune, but Mick wouldn't know the words, so Mick would run around to Denmark Street to Carlin Music to pick up the words to something like Can I Get a Witness? He'd come back 25 minutes later and we'd start.
Basically, we released everything in mono - up to Aftermath - because we always liked the mono sound on the original R&B records. You don't have that polarity you get with stereo, that spreads out the sound. With stereo you lose a lot of the guts of the sound. We liked the RAWNESS of mono back then. On 2-track you couldn't do much anyways. For one thing, it couldn't be released in stereo. The band was on one track, the vocals on the other, and you couldn't mix stereo on 2-track. In any case, in '64 stereo was just coming into use, it wasn't in people's homes until '66. Also, you couldn't mix a single other than mono at that time because if it was mixed in stereo and you played it on a mono machine the sound was not balanced.
I'm knocked out by the LP. I didn't expect so much from it. I know you expect an artist to talk like that about his own record, but I have tried to listen to it impartially. I hope people will accept it as a good LP by the Rolling Stones and a good R&B record as well... It is very good. That's not just from my point of view because I happen to be on it, but because it reflects the Rolling Stones, which is what we intended to do.
I like the way it sounds. I don't think my contribution is all that fantastic, but the LP has got our sound. When I say it is very good, I mean we are pleased with the way it has turned out.
It's the kind of stuff we like playing. I think the real R&B fans will know what we're doing on it and even others should. We've tried to get the kind of sound we like and I think we've done that.
It covers a big range of the type of music we play and we are very pleased with the end product.
It like it really, you know. I think it is good. It is something we have always wanted to do, to record these numbers, and I hope we'll be proved right. The market is wide open.
Yeah, well, you KNOW the ones I like. The first album was good. Beggars Banquet was good. That's about it.
Yeah... Roy Carr (a rock critic) said that was probably the best first album by any band. Ever. Between us, throughout the years, we've never kind of run that - We've run certain albums down and said, I HATE Between The Buttons or I don't think Aftermath was very good but nobody ever criticized that first album. It was our stage show in a way, or a lot of it. We just went straight in from playing these things onstage and we just recorded them.
It's like a lot of people's first albums are great if they've been played around, because really all you're doing is putting your tried and tested best stage numbers on record. It's very easy - you've got the material, you know it by heart, you know... What comes hard is the second or third album. Now, OK, now what are you going to do? You've run out of material!
Believe me, it is fantastic! I will go as far to say that if it doesn't take over from the Beatles at the top of the LP chart I will eat my chocolate-flavoured record player.
It is the classic album of white rock, because, like Presley's Sun sessions, it was the first of its kind and it has the startled, breathless intensity of doing it for the first time. It pointed pop music in a new direction.
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