When the Rolling Stones gathered at London’s Olympic Studios in the summer of 1970 to work on Sticky Fingers, they'd already laid down several classics like "Brown Sugar" and "Dead Flowers" in previous months. But they weren't out of steam yet. During a jam with Charlie Watts, Keith Richards started experimenting with open G guitar tuning and knew he had something special. "My fingers just landed in the right place and I discovered a few things about that tuning that I'd never been aware of," Richards said in 2002. "I think I realized that even as I was cutting the track."
The track, "Can’t You Hear Me Knocking," went on to become one of the most swaggering, defining Stones epics. On this bare-bones early version – premiered on Buzzfeed and set for release for the first time on the Sticky Fingers deluxe reissue June 9th – you can hear the magic start to take shape. Richards feels his way through the riff – and a few riffs that didn’t make the final cut – as Mick Jagger improvises. "It was smiles all around," Richards wrote of the session in 2010’s Life. "For a guitar player it's no big deal to play, the chopping, staccato bursts of chords, very direct and spare."
This early, loose version is only half as long as the final one, lacking the song's second movement with Mick Taylor's Santana-style solo. "We didn’t even know they were still taping," Richards once said of that section. "We thought we’d finished. We were just rambling and they kept the tape rolling. I figured we'd just fade it off. It was only when we heard the playback that we realized, 'Oh, they kept it going.' Basically we realized we had two bits of music. There’s the song and there’s the jam."
The band hadn't tackled the challenging song live for decades before the Licks tour in 2002, and they've played it on and off in tours since – but chances are they will play it this summer on their Zip Code tour. "We're floating the idea of playing the whole album," Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone earlier this month. "At the very least, we'll play the songs we don't normally play."