It's been a year since Allan Klein had anything to do with representing their corporate interests. Their recording contract with Decca has lapsed. On their European tour, they were accompanied by Marshall Chess, the son of the good Jewish businessman who established and ran Chess Records. His presence on the English tour signals the start of something new for the Stones — incorporation on a scale no band except the Beatles has ever undertaken.
The Rolling Stones record label will most likely be distributed by Kinney National, which owns Atlantic, Warners-Reprise and Elektra. The deal has been in the works for months but the contract still remains unsigned. The Stones label will be run by their own international corporation based in Geneva, with branches in London and New York.
Marshall Chess and the Stones will direct activities. The Rolling Stones record logo will be a stuck-out tongue and the first album to carry it has a cover designed by Andy Warhol featuring a pair of bluejeans with a zipper that really works.
Entitled Sticky Fingers, it will be the first entirely new Rolling Stones album in the 17 months since Let It Bleed. The album has ten tracks: "Bitch," "Brown Sugar," "You Got To Move," "Dead Flowers," "I Got The Blues," "Sister Morphine," "Keep A-Knockin'," "Wild Horses," "Sway," and "Moonlit Mile." Only "Wild Horses" has been heard before, as a part of the Gimme Shelter soundtrack and as the final cut on a Burrito Brothers album.
The album should be out by the third week in April but there are still some vocals that may be re-recorded. A year of work has gone into it, about £42,000 (over $100,000) of time and effort.
Forthcoming albums should include solo efforts by Bill and Keith, Keith possibly together with Gram Parsons, the ex-Byrd and Burrito. The Rolling Stones' corporate assets also include Mick Jagger's house in the English countryside, left vacant by his move to France. It is being outfitted as a total live-in recording studio complete with cooks, fireplaces, and round-the-clock facilities. It can be rented for £2500 ($6,000) a week.
There is also the "rock truck," £100,000 ($250,000) worth of 16-track equipment packed into a large trailer truck that has been painted flat khaki ("For camouflage," Marshall Chess says). The truck converts any building it is parked outside into a studio. It rents for 1500 quid ($3600) a week.
Much of the energy and direction for what the Stones are about to get into comes from Marshall Chess, who bubbles nearly all the time and gets so knocked out by the music the Stones make, it sometimes seems he might be doing it all even if there was no money involved.
The Stones have spent their lives listening to Chess records. Now, with 29-year-old Marshall Chess to advise them, they're going to make their own.
* * *
Empty King's Cross Main Line station on a cold, clear Thursday that feels like November in New York. One penny for the toilets and the pay phones don't work. The twelve o'clock train for Doncaster, York, Darlington, Newcastle, Dunbar, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen leaving from track eight.
Pianist Nicky Hopkins, who went to California for a week and stayed two years, is on board and off again, and again, snapping pictures of anything that doesn't move, the station, Cadbury chocolate wrappers, as long as it's typically English. Mr. Session Man, with a beautiful hangdog face and a camera always dangling from his neck. Bobby Keys and Jim Price, the Texas Horns, most recently on the road with Delaney and Bonnie and Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Bill Wyman and his lady, Astrid. Charlie Watts, dapper, being seen off by his father: "Awrite, Charlie, I don't wanna go. Let me off."
A trainman with a green flag in his pocket comes down the line closing doors. The two Micks, Jagger and Taylor, catch a later train. Keith misses that one too and is driven up. Sudden small flake snow comes swirling as the train eases out of the station to the North.
Newcastle, a gray, scruffy, soulful city on the Tyne River, in the part of England nearest Scotland. Without any sound tests and only a week of rehearsal, the Stones begin the tour there with two concerts. They are still one of the killer bands of all time.
Opening with "Jumping Jack Flash," Mick in a pink sateen suit and a multicolored jockey's hat. Then into "Live With Me," "Dead Flowers" off the new album, "Stray Cat Blues," "Love In Vain" with Mick Taylor doing two totally controlled solos that soar nightly. Then, "Prodigal Son," Keith picking and stringing on an acoustic guitar as Mick stands next to him and sings.
"Midnight Rambler," as it breaks down, is six, eight, ten, or 12 bars of basic blues, depending on how long it takes Keith to sling one guitar over his head and get another on and tuned and launch the song's driving riff. Then, everybody pushing to one ending and the psychodrama begins, with just the bass pulsing away and the lights blue and eerie in Mick's face.
Off comes the studded black belt, Mick is down on his knees, "Beggin' with ya bay-bay, uh, uh . . . Go down on me bay-bay, uh, uh." Rising slow and sinister to "Wahl, you heard about de Boston . . .", stretching and stretching the second syllable, dangling the belt up behind his shoulder, then slashing it to the floor as the band crashes it in back of him and all the lights come up. "Honey, it's not one a' those."
Every night, there's this sharp intake of breath, nervous giggles, little girls finally getting hip to what it's all about as that belt crashes down and the band hits everything in sight as the lights come up on Mick, hunched over and prowling like an evil old man. Then "Bitch" with Bobby Keys and Jim Price blowing circles you can stomp in. "A song for all the whores in the audience," "Honky-Tonk Women," followed by a long, unrecognizable intro that always fools everyone because it leads into "Satisfaction."
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