By Brian Ives
The Rolling Stones are preparing to release their first album in over a decade: Blue and Lonesome is due out December 2. It sees them returning to classic form: it’s a collection of all blues covers.
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have proven to be one of the best songwriting teams in the history of rock music, but the Stones actually started out as a covers band: their 1964 self titled debut (titled England’s Newest Hitmakers when it was released in the U.S.) was mostly covers. Here are some of our favorite song interpretations by the boys.
“Come On” (1963)
Let’s start at the beginning: the first Rolling Stones single was, appropriately, a cover of the artist that may have been their biggest influence: Chuck Berry. This jubilant blast lasts less than two minutes, and features great harmonica playing by the late Brian Jones.
“I Just Want to Make Love to You” (1964)
From their first this was one of a handful of Willie Dixon songs that the Stones would record, and it was one of many blues classics that the Stones would introduce to their American fan base. Part of the magic of the Stones was that they exposed an American audience to American blues artists that they’d never heard of.
“It’s All Over Now” (1964)
From 1964’s 12×5 (their second album of the year) this is one of the Stones covers that has become one of their greatest hits; some fans may not realize that it’s not a Jagger/Richards composition, but rather one written by the late Bobby Womack. Bill Wyman’s bass propels this song, and is a good example of why he’s one of rock’s most underrated four-stringers.
“Time is on My Side” (1964)
A 1963 hit for Irma Thomas, the Stones covered it a year later, and released it on 12×5. And like “It’s All Over Now,” has become one of their (many) biggest hits. It’s also something of a mantra to them, given that they’ve been going on for over fifty years now.
“Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” (1965)
A 1964 hit for Solomon Burke, this one (from 1965’s The Rolling Stones, Now!) really gave Mick Jagger the chance to vamp, while the rest of the band holds down a loose, loping groove behind him.
“Hitch Hike” (1965)
A 1962 song by Marvin Gaye, the Stones covered it for 1965’s Out of Our Heads (their second album of 1965; they worked at a furious pace back then). At that point, any songs that were on the charts — R&B, blues or rock and roll — were fair game for the Stones to put their spin on. This one is pure garage rock heaven.
“Love in Vain” (1969)
A cover of of a song by iconic blues figure Robert Johnson, this one saw the Rolling Stones put their unique stamp on a standard: they recorded it for their Let It Bleed album, and it featured the country flavor that the band had begun experimenting with at that time.
“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (1974)
A 1966 hit for the Temptations, the Rolling Stones covered this for their final album with second guitarist Mick Taylor, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll. The album came out ten years after their debut, and although they’d progressed a lot in the years since, they never lost their blues and R&B influence.
“Harlem Shuffle” (1986)
A 1963 hit by the R&B duo Bob & Earl, this is one of the band’s most obscure covers, and when it was released as the lead single to 1986’s Dirty Work, many fans may not have even realized that it was a cover. It’s not secret that the Stones weren’t getting along well during this era (it’s often referred to as “World War III” by those in the Stones’ camp) but they seemed to be having fun here.
“Just Your Fool” (2016)
On the band’s Blue and Lonesome, the Stones are going for lesser known songs; this one dates back to 1953, when it was recorded by Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra; harmonica legend Little Walter gave it a blues update, recording his own version in 1960. On the Stones version, Mick Jagger gets to show off his harmonica skills.