Song of the Week – Back Street Girl, The Rolling Stones; Quicksilver Girl, The Steve Miller Band

Ignored             Obscured              Restored

Today’s post is the second installment of my recent concept called the Contrast Series.  This time I’ll share my views on “Back Street Girl” by the Rolling Stones and “Quicksilver Girl” by the Steve Miller Band.

Let’s start with “Back Street Girl.”

“Back Street Girl” was on the Stones’ UK version of Between the Buttons (1967).  But in the US it was on FlowersFlowers was one of those rip-off albums that compiled Stones tracks that were left off UK studio albums to create an “extra” album here in the US – much like the Beatles’ Yesterday and Today.  But IMHO, the album hangs together pretty well on its own.

Musically, “Back Street Girl” is a sweet little song!  It is basically an acoustic folk number, featuring acoustic guitar, accordion (played by Nick de Caro), and percussion (tambourine) in waltz time.

Lyrically… hmmm.  It fits into the misogynist category of several early Stones’ songs like “Under My Thumb” and “Stupid Girl” among others.  It tells the story of a mistress that Jagger wants to use but not acknowledge.

Please don’t be part of my life
Please keep yourself to yourself
Please don’t you bother my wife
That way you won’t get no help

Please don’t you call me at home
Please don’t come knocking at night
Please never ring on the phone
Your manners are never quite right

Don’t want you part of my world
Just you be my backstreet girl

Pretty harsh!

Let’s take a listen to “Quicksilver Girl.”

It too is a gentle ballad.  This one has an electric guitar and percussion but, like “Back Street Girl”, essentially no drums.  But lyrically, it couldn’t be more different.  In the Steve Miller Band’s song, the quicksilver girl is respected and appreciated for all that she does for her lover.

If you need a little lovin’
She’ll turn on the heat
If you take a fall
She’ll put you back on your feet
If you’re all alone
She’s someone to meet
If you need someone

She’s a quicksilver girl
A lover of the world
She spreads her wings
And she’s free

I don’t know who it was written about, but in my imagination, it was for a woman like the fictional Penny Lane from Almost Famous.  In the memoir called Last Girl Standing (2017), underground, feminist cartoonist, and “Lady of the Canyon”, Trina Robbins claims it was written about a couple of 15-year-old runaways from Sausalito that David Crosby asked her to let crash at her pad for a while.  One of those young ladies, Julia “Girl” Brigden, was later married to David Freiberg of Quicksilver Messenger Service, so it all makes sense.

The song was used in the film “The Big Chill” but, for the life of me, I can’t remember which scene.  Rickie Lee Jones did a nice cover version on her Kicks album (2019).

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Melody, Rolling Stones

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

In the first few years after college, my friends and I threw some epic dance parties.  We didn’t offer a lot.  There was plenty of cheap beer and wine, and some munchies.  But what we had in abundance was good vibes and great tunes!

A deep cut that was always a big hit on the dance floor was “Melody” by the Rolling Stones.

“Melody” comes from the Stones’ underrated 1976 album Black and Blue.  It is a smooth, sultry number that was credited as “inspired by Billy Preston.”  But let’s face it… we all know it was really written by Preston; but Jagger/Richards had the clout to deny publishing to “bandmates.”  (Just ask Mick Taylor!)  Further proof is the prominence of Preston’s jazzy piano playing and soulful vocal duet with Jagger.

Whenever I hear this song, I’m back on the dance floor with old friends in that magical house in Newton, MA.  Good times!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Drum Introductions in Rock Songs

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

I “wrote” today’s SotW using ChatGPT.  I decided I wanted to write about Rock songs with great drum intros and selected the songs that I wanted to feature.  I plugged that information into ChatGPT and “presto”, an essay was drafted within about 15 seconds!  It is pretty bland, but still pretty amazing.  The links and sentences in italics were added by me.  Otherwise, the essay is unedited intentionally to demonstrate to you what the software produced.  This was done today as an experiment.  I won’t be using ChatGPT again.

Drum introductions in rock music songs have long been used to capture the listener’s attention and set the tone for the rest of the track. Some of the most iconic examples of drum introductions can be found in songs like “Honky Tonk Woman” by The Rolling Stones, “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2.

In “Honky Tonk Woman,” the drum introduction is simple yet effective, consisting of a steady, pounding beat that immediately sets the mood for the song. This drumbeat, along with the slide guitar riff that follows, perfectly captures the gritty, bluesy feel of the song.  Charlie Watts is drumming with Jimmy Miller on cowbell.  They are out of sync, but Keith Richards comes in at the right spot and turns the screw-up into a “happy accident.”  Another “happy accident” is how the tempo of the recorded performance of “Honky Tonk Woman” speeds up by the end.  All of this “sloppiness” are consistent with the honky tonk feel that the Stones wanted to capture.

The drums in “Superstition” also serve to set the mood, with a funky, syncopated beat that perfectly complements Stevie Wonder’s soulful vocals.  An interesting tidbit about the drum intro on “Superstition” is that as iconic as it is, it was conceived by the late, great guitarist,  Jeff Beck.  You can read my post from May 22, 2021, for the full story.

“Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin also features a powerful drum introduction that sets the stage for the rest of the song. The drums in this track are played with a raw, powerful energy that perfectly captures the spirit of rock and roll.  But what really captures listeners is the way the beats are counted.  We mere mortals simply can’t figure it out!  That confounding twist is what lures us in.

The drums in “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2 are also notable for their energy and intensity. The drums in this song are played with a driving, urgent feel that perfectly captures the song’s political themes.  The intro, played by drummer Larry Mullen Jr. has the feel of the military marching into battle (the Irish Republican Army?).  Like “Rock and Roll”, the magic is in the counting.  Mullen uses the hi-hat and snare against the steady rhythm set by the bass drum.

In conclusion, drum introductions in rock music songs like “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Superstition,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” are powerful tools for capturing the listener’s attention and setting the tone for the rest of the track. These introductions are simple yet effective, perfectly capturing the mood and spirit of the songs they introduce. Drummers have always played an important role in rock music and the introductions in these songs are one of the ways they make their mark.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Sweet Black Angel & All Down the Line, The Rolling Stones

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones’ classic double album, Exile on Main Street.  I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to verify the exact date of release.  I recently read a review by Robert Greenfield that was in Rolling Stone magazine dated April 27, 1972.  In the article, he says that the album will be out on May 7th.  But it’s very plausible that the release was delayed after he wrote that.

An article in the WSJ claimed the release date was May 12, 1972.  Wikipedia says it was May 22nd.  I think part of the confusion may be related to the US versus UK releases.  It could have been the 12th in the US and the 26th in the UK.  I guess it doesn’t really matter!

The backstory of the making of Exile is well known so I won’t be pedantic in telling it.  The short version is that the Stones were living in France in 1971-72 as tax exiles from England.  Unable to find an acceptable recording facility in France, the band decided to record from the basement of Keith Richards southern France villa (Nellcôte) using their mobile studio.

Describing this arrangement, Keith said “It was nice for me making this album.  At the end it got a little hectic in the house what with playin’ all night in the blazin’ heat… but with the 16 track truck always outside and ready, we’d go downstairs whenever we felt like it and work on a riff.”

My choices for SotW are the b-sides to the two singles released from Exile.  “Sweet Black Angel” was the flip to “Tumbling Dice” and “All Down the Line” was on the other side of “Happy.”

“Sweet Black Angel” was written in support of Black activist Angel Davis.  At the time, Davis was on trial for murder because she had purchased the gun used in the courtroom killing of a judge and the three black defendants (The Soledad Brothers) on trial for killing a prison guard.

But the gal in danger
Yeah, de gal in chains
But she keep on pushin’
Would ya take her place?

She countin’ up de minutes
She countin’ up de days
She’s a sweet black angel, woh
Not a sweet black slave

For a judge they murdered
And a judge they stole
Now de judge he gonna judge her
For all dat he’s worth

I skipped one verse that makes me cringe and probably makes the song unplayable in concert for the same reason “Brown Sugar” is avoided.  It just ain’t politically correct.

Ten little niggers
Sittin’ on de wall
Her brothers been a fallin’
Fallin’ one by one

“All Down the Line” is an R&B influenced rocker.

It features some smokin’ horns and a bluesy, rockin’ slide guitar solo by Mick Taylor.  It was originally recorded in an acoustic version during the Sticky Fingers sessions and is available on bootlegs.  I’ll include it here because I can.

Clearly, the Stones made the right decision to table it until they could record a version worthy of release!

Exile has survived the test of time. Upon its 1972 release the messy, beautiful album was met with mixed reviews.  Rock journalist Nick Kent summarized his review with this:

On Exile the Stones have picked up on the old idea of ‘when in doubt, get back to your roots’ – there is no spirit of adventure or any real variety and for a double album that’s bad.  But by concentrating on what they’ve always been good at, they’ve proved once and for all their capabilities as rockers.  For that alone, Exile on Main Street should not be ignored.

Exile is often in the top 10 of lists of the greatest albums of all time. In Rolling Stone’s most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (October 2020) Exile earned the #14 slot.  Not bad!

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Scarlet, The Rolling Stones

Ignored           Obscured            Restored

In 2019, The Rolling Stones released a 50th Anniversary edition of their classic album Let It Bleed.  It came in a variety of multi-format packages but had no alternate versions or outtakes.  What the hell was the purpose of that?  As great as that album is, how many copies do we need?  That reeks to me of a money-grabbing rip off.

Fast forward a year to 2020 and the group released a “Super Deluxe” boxed set of Goats Head Soup (1973).  Now this one was done right.  It has a remixed version of the original album on one disc.  A second disc has rarities and alternative mixes including three previously unreleased tracks.  One of them, “Scarlet,” is today’s SotW.

Devoted Stones fans have always heard rumor that there was an unreleased track that features Jimmy Page.  Well, here it is!  Of “Scarlet,” MOJO magazine said: “A mesmerizing groove, propelled by three interlocking guitar riffs, this bafflingly-shelved gem points towards the crunching ‘80s Stones of Start Me Up.”

A third disc contains a previously unreleased, complete concert — The Brussels Affair recorded live at the Forest National Arena in October 1973.  Goats Head Soup has been underappreciated.  This set proves that it is worth reevaluation.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Street Fighting Man, Rolling Stones; Peace Frog, The Doors; Peace Dog, The Cult


Did anyone watch the four-part series on CNN called 1968 – The Year that Changed America? It was very good and highlighted the turmoil that gripped the country the same year that saw the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy as well as marches against the Viet Nam War, the violent clashes at the Democratic National Convention and the civil rights protests by American athletes at the Summer Olympics.

And the strife wasn’t confined within the borders of the US. Events that took place in the summer of ’68 converged in rock music.

“Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones was written about Tariq Ali, a British Pakistani political activist, after he marched on the American embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square in 1968 in a demonstration against the Vietnam war.

Keith Richards guitar part on “Street Fighting Man” was famously recorded using an acoustic guitar overloaded onto a cassette tape. No electric guitars are on the cut.

It took another 18 months for the Doors to weigh in, but they contributed “Peace Frog” from their Morrison Hotel album.

Wikipedia says the “lyrics were adapted from a couple of Morrison’s poems, one being entitled “Abortion Stories”. Guitarist Robby Krieger has told the story of writing (and then recording) the music for “Peace Frog,” and then working with Morrison to look through his notebooks of poetry until the lyrics came to the song.”

But many listeners interpreted the song as a response to the Chicago Convention protests or to Morrison’s arrest in New Haven for lewd behavior onstage. (He does refer to New Haven in the lyrics.)

I’m all in on the Chicago Convention theory because the first and last verse say:

There’s blood in the streets, it’s up to my ankles (She came)
Blood in the streets, it’s up to my knee (She came)
Blood in the streets in the town of Chicago (She came)
Blood on the rise, it’s following me
Think about the break of day
She came and then she drove away
Sunlight in her hair

We could use more of this 50 years later, in 2018!

I don’t really know if The Cult’s “Peace Dog” has anything to do with The Doors recording but the stylistic and title similarities will forever connect these two songs in my mind. So I’ll throw that one in here too, for good measure.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Good Times, The Jay-Bees


In late 1964 the Rolling Stones released their second album in the US, 12 x 5. It included a couple of their early hits — “Time Is on My Side” and “It’s All Over Now,” both covers of American R&B songs. But by this time Jagger and Richards were already dipping their toes into the songwriting waters.

One of the originals on 12 x 5 was “Good Times, Bad Times.” It’s a decent slow, country blues. It may remind you of their version of Fred McDowell and Gary Davis’ “You Gotta Move” from Sticky Fingers.

In 1968 a garage band from West Virginia called the Jay-Bees took the song, converted it to a minor key and created a proto punk classic. (They also shortened the title to “Good Times.”)

The creepy laugh that continues throughout the song adds to the haunted house effect of the cut.

Why this track never made it onto one of the Nuggets compilations is a mystery to me. Someone needs to contact archivist Lenny Kaye to try to get the answer.

But no matter… I’d guess the Stones — the original punks — would approve of the Jay-Bees treatment.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – Moonlight Mile, Rolling Stones & Blue, Jayhawks


A “rock death” escaped me at the end of 2017. On November 7th, Paul Buckmaster passed away at the age of 71. As yet, the cause of death has still not been disclosed.

I first became aware of Buckmaster’s work through the liner notes for Elton John’s string of six outstanding albums from Elton John (1970) through Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973). Throughout his career, Buckmaster arranged 52 songs for John.

But he did so much more than that. He arranged the strings on David Bowie’s first breakthrough hit, “Space Oddity.” He worked on other mega hits in the early 70s including Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” and Nilsson’s “Without You.” He sweetened the Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station” and played cello for Miles Davis. (Davis credited Buckmaster with introducing him to the work of 20th century, avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

He also made his mark on the last minute of “Sway” from the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers. But his work on that album’s “Moonlight Mile” is more noteworthy.

Mick Jagger worked with Mick Taylor on this song as Keith Richards was MIA. It was Taylor’s idea to ask Buckmaster to gin up a string arrangement for the song. Taylor expected (some would say promised) a song credit for his contributions. But upon release the credit went to the Jagger/Richards team.

Buckmaster continued to work with pop and country artist and in the mid ‘90s he contributed to “Blue” by the Jayhawks.

The songs most prominent feature is its soaring harmonies. But Buckmaster adds a subtle string arrangement that perfectly complements the emotion of the song.

Before his passing, Buckmaster worked with everyone from Counting Crows to Train, Heart to Guns N’ Roses, Carrie Underwood to Taylor Swift, Something Corporate to New Found Glory (and plenty more). His legacy will live for generations!

Enjoy… until next week.

Extra Song of the Week – Let’s Spend Some Time Together, The Rolling Stones

It was 50 years ago tonight that the Rolling Stones appeared on Ed Sullivan and changed the words to Let’s Spend the Night Together to Let’s Spend Some Time Together in order to satisfy Sullivan’s puritanical ethics.

Due to copyright issues the televised Sullivan performance isn’t available on YouTube, but a bootleg taping of the rehearsal is. Here it is but you have to watch “Ruby Tuesday” first (and tolerate the girls’ screaming).


Song of the Week – Down Home Girl – Alvin Robinson, Rolling Stones, Taj Mahal, Nic Armstrong


Today’s SotW is another installment in my ongoing “evolution” series. This one is solidly in the category of you can’t ef up a great song.

“Down Home Girl” was written by Jerry Leiber and Artie Butler and first recorded by New Orleans based Alvin “Shine” Robinson on the Red Bird Records in 1964. Red Bird was a label founded by Leiber and Mike Stoller after their long, successful run at Atlantic Records. They hit their stride with the Dixie Cups “Chapel of Love” and a series of hits by the Shangri-Las.

The original Robinson recording has a vocal that is reminiscent of Ray Charles’ singing style and was produced by Leiber & Stoller.

A year later, in 1965, the Rolling Stones covered the song.

Before Jagger and Richards began to have success as songwriters, they had an uncanny sense for selecting great songs to cover. Irma Thomas’ “Time is on My Side” and Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” are a couple of fine examples. The Stones use a harp to color the song a little more blue and translate the original’s distinctive horn riff with a guitar. Mick’s vocal is especially strong on this cut that was on the British album The Rolling Stones No. 2 and Now! in the US. Check out the movie Charlie My Darling for a cool, full live performance of the song.

“Down Home Girl” continued to attract more artists to take a run it. Later in ’65 the Astronauts, a Colorado based surf band, recorded it. The Coasters, who may have been the best interpreters of Leiber/Stoller songs, recorded yet another version in 1967.

Almost 30 years later, in 1993, Taj Mahal revived the song on his album Dancing the Blues.

Mahal expands the arrangement with a full horn section that’s featured about 2 minutes in and a sax solo that takes it through the fade out.

In 2004, retro rocker Nic Armstrong released his own version of “Down Home Girl.”

Armstrong’s take is similar to the Stones’. The novelty in his version is in the middle section where a guitar references Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman.” Do you hear it?

I’m aware of another, slower, country take by the Old Crow Medicine Show that came out as recently as 2006. And I’m equally sure we will be hearing new versions for years to com.

Enjoy… until next week.