The Rolling Stones: Out of our heads: Same title, different albums

The Rolling Stones: Out Of Our Heads (London & Decca)

The Rolling Stones: Out Of Our Heads (London & Decca)

Released: July 1965 (US) and September 1965 (UK)
Produced by: Andrew Loog Oldham
(All songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except where noted).

Side One

1. “Mercy Mercy” (Don Covay/Ronnie Miller) 2:45
2. “Hitch Hike” (Marvin Gaye/Clarence Paul/Mickey Stevenson) 2:25
3. “The Last Time” 3:41
4. “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (Roosevelt Jamison) 2:25
5. “Good Times” (Sam Cooke) 1:58
6. “I’m Alright” (Bo Diddley) (Live) 2:25

Side Two

1. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” 3:42
2. “Cry to Me” (Bert Russell) 3:09
3. “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” (Nanker Phelge) 3:07
4. “Play with Fire” (Nanker Phelge) 2:13
5. “The Spider and the Fly” 3:39
6. “One More Try” 1:58

The Rolling Stones:

Mick Jagger – lead vocals, harmonica, percussion.
Keith Richards – electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals.
Brian Jones – electric and acoustic guitars, harmonica, organ, backing vocals, percussion.
Charlie Watts – drums and percussion.
Bill Wyman – bass guitar, backing vocals.

Additional musicians:

Jack Nitzsche – harpsichord, percussion.
Phil Spector – detuned “bass” guitar on “Play with Fire.”
Ian Stewart – piano.

Their U.S. label could not wait until autumn for a new Stones album.  They wanted it now, or rather yesterday.  The group had finally succeeded in topping the Hot 100 with “Satisfaction”, a single the group withheld in England (presumably because they feared it would compete with a new Beatles single, the Stones didn’t want another humiliation like the previous Christmas when “I Feel Fine” had kicked “Little Red Rooster” from the top spot with no problems at all).

The U.S. needed an LP, and they got it.  Six of the songs were fresh recordings intended for their next British album later in the autumn.  It would eventually sport the same title, but a completely different cover.  The rest of the 12 tracks were single A-and B-sides, a “live” EP-cut, and the mediocre “One More Try”, probably pulled out of a pile of rejects to fill the quota.

One wonders how seriously the group took LPs at the time – the later British version was also a patchwork, a mix of new recordings and leftover cuts from American releases.

Patchwork or not, the U.S. “Out Of Out Heads” outplays the British version, mainly because it contains stronger tracks in the singles including “The Last Time”, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and a B-side, the acoustic, dark and moody “Play With Fire”, a snide putdown of British upper class decadence, very Ray Davies in fact, long before Davies got there himself (I could stretch it even further and claim its topic makes it an older and simplified cousin of “Like A Rolling Stone”).

The frivolous erotic joke “The Spider And The Fly” is a dead pan, but light and humorous relief on an otherwise angry or aggressively love struck album (the song would end up on the B-side of “Satisfaction” in England).  “I’m Alright” (from the British EP “Got Live If You Want It”) is not much more than a gnawing circular riff, but in all its monotony also a winner, the band’s enthusiasm and the audience response to it cause an eruption of volcanic proportions.

None of the above mentioned tracks were included on the British version of “Out Of Our Heads” appearing in late September 1965.  The six that did were mostly cover versions of tracks made famous by the Stones’ heroes.  They do not add enough to the songs to make them their own, but they do reasonably good jobs with Marvin Gaye’s stumbling “Hitch Hike,” Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me” (compare it with the Pretty Things’ version, the Stones own them), Don Covay’s  funky “Mercy Mercy “(boosted by a fat fuzz guitar, and hey, I was wrong, this one is better than the original) and Mick’s wonderful rendition of “ That’s How Strong My Love Is “(which he probably found on an Otis Redding disc and not on O.V. Wright’s original).

On the other hand, Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” is just so so, while their own “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” is rock band satire directed against the local promoter, more evil than funny, and just immature and stupid after three spins.  The last cut is the aforementioned “One More Try”, which sounds like and probably is a demo – I really don’t see why it was included.  By the way it was not released in the UK until 1971.

Side One

1. “She Said “Yeah”” (Sonny Bono/Roddy Jackson) 1:34
2. “Mercy, Mercy” (Don Covay/Ronnie Miller) 2:45
3. “Hitch Hike” (Marvin Gaye/Clarence Paul/Mickey Stevenson) 2:25
4. “That’s How Strong My Love Is” (Roosevelt Jamison) 2:25
5. “Good Times” (Sam Cooke) 1:58
6. “Gotta Get Away” 2:06

Side Two

1. “Talkin’ Bout You” (Chuck Berry) 2:31
2. “Cry to Me” (Bert Russell) 3:09
3. “Oh, Baby (We Got a Good Thing Going)” (Barbara Lynn Ozen) 2:08
4. “Heart of Stone” 2:50
5. “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” (Nanker Phelge) 3:07
6. “I’m Free” 2:24

Now for the British version: Decca used a completely different photo on the sleeve, an iconic image in black and white with a cool shade of green.  The album repeats “Mercy, Mercy,” “Hitch Hike,” “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” “Good Times,” “Cry To Me” and “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” from the U.S. edition.  Then it adds two cuts from the US only “The Rolling Stones Now” (February 1965): “Heart Of Stone” and “Oh Babe (We Got A Good Thing Goin ‘)”.  And concludes with four fresh cuts: “She Said Yeah”, “Gotta Get Away”, “Talkin ‘’ Bout You” and “I’m Free” (all four would be included on the next US LP “December’s Children”, released in December , obviously).

The Rolling Stones: Out Of Our Heads (London & Decca)

The European fans were waiting as eagerly as the British for the new album, and one would expect that they’d all get the same record.  But not so.  Decca decided that the American version would fit Europe better and pressed it up in September (same content, same cover art, but with the Decca label and a glossy Decca sleeve) and exported it in truck loads.  Very confusing.

It took some years before I actually got to hear the British version.  It struck me as a weaker package, but through the years I’ve grown quite fond of it.  It wraps up their phase as a (mainly) cover-band in a neat way and reveals the first glimpses of what was to come.  They are less the R&B purists of 1963-64, the soul and Motown influences adds to the proceedings, their remarkable takes on Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding for instance are simply stunning.

The band had developed self-confidence in its dealings both with doing covers and writing their own material.  Sometimes they even exceeded the originals by trusting their own instincts and daring to push the songs in a fresh and different direction.

You don’t get a better example than the opening cut “She Said Yeah”.  Originally a piano-driven Larry Williams B-side that rocked nicely along and was so late 50’s.  The Stones turn the number into a roaring beast that storms through the speakers with tremendous force and at a breakneck speed.  It is the hardest and most powerful number recorded by the group until then, and it makes The Animals’ version sound like Val Doonican.

They keep it up with a fat, rolling version of “Mercy, Mercy” that completely overpowers Don Covays original.  It’s got so much bottom that the speakers struggle.

An acceptable take on Marvin Gaye’s 1963-hit “Hitch Hike” follows before they launch into “That’s How Strong My Love Is”, a song made famous by Otis Redding in early ’65, and even if the Stones don’t match him, how could they, they sure give him a ride for his money.  Impressive.

After these four very strong tracks the album starts to slack.  The version of Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” is rather lightweight, while the Jagger/Richards-original “Gotta Get Away” is charming enough and probably would do OK as a B-side, but nothing more.

Side 2 doesn’t have the same edge as the top side.  It opens with a rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Talkin ‘Bout You”.  Originally a full throttle Berry rock’n’roll-number, the Stones slow it down and create a completely different and darker groove.  They could have worked some more on this arrangement, but the initiative is commendable anyway.

Their wonderful take on the Solomon Burke-hit “Cry To Me” is of course a key track on both editions of the album.  But then things get a wobbly.  “Oh Babe (We Got A Good Thing Going)” is one of the two older recordings here, a charming rendition of Barbara Lynn’s original that would have fit in well on their first album, but it sticks out like a sore thumb on “Out Of Our Heads”.

“Heart Of Stone” was originally released as a single in the US in December 1964, an accomplished country blues written by Jagger/Richards with a lovely hook and a pure pop chorus.  Strong effort, but already a little dated this late in 1965.

“The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” is pungent satire, but immature and not that funny.  The Jagger/Richards-original “I’m Free” rounds off the album, almost a pop number, production somewhat flat and treble-happy.

And that was the British “Out Of Our Heads”.  I like the album very much even though I do admit that it is uneven.  They worked under pressure in 1965, and probably would have preferred to write their own stuff, if there had been time for it.  The Rolling Stones were ready to expand.  “Out Of Our Heads” rounds off the first phase of their recording career.  Next stop would be “Aftermath” and lay some six months ahead.

Even more information:  A new single was released in October 1965, “Get Off Of My Cloud” backed with “I’m Free” (in Europe and the US) and “The Singer Not The Song” (in the UK).  Decca decided to make the remaining three new recordings from the UK “Out Of Our Heads” and the UK only B-side “The Singer Not The Song” available to the European marked by releasing an EP simply called “The Rolling Stones” (Decca, SDE 7503), pressed and printed in Great Britain, but only for export.  That autumn turned out to be both expensive and exciting for Stones-fans.

First published in Pattaya Mail on April 26, 2013