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Album: The Rolling Stones Now!Released: 1965Charted:
This is a Blues standard written by Wille Dixon. The Stones first heard it from Howlin' Wolf and Sam Cooke.
While playing in Chicago, The Stones sent a car to pick up Howlin' Wolf when they found out he had not been invited to the show. The spotlight operator shined a light on him when he arrived, and the crowd went wild.
The Stones' manager, Andrew Oldham, wanted them to record this in order to keep their image as a tough, naughty band, essentially the opposite of The Beatles. Their previous singles in England were "It's All Over Now
," "Not Fade Away," and "I Wanna Be Your Man," all of which were successful, but moved them away from The Blues and into a more pop direction. Recording this raw Blues number was for their reputation.
Their record label, Decca Records, felt this was not commercial enough to release as a single, but it went to #1 in England because the Stones were so hot at the time. Advance orders for the single ensured that it would be a hit.
When this was released in the US, radio stations banned it for sexual content. They quickly released the more radio-friendly "Heart Of Stone" to replace it.
Brian Jones played the slide guitar. He died in 1969 after years of drug abuse.
Their album Flashpoint contains a live version with Eric Clapton on slide guitar. It was taken from a 1989 show in Shea Stadium, New York.
Sam Cooke released this as a single in 1963 with Ray Charles on Piano and Billy Preston playing organ. Their version hit #11 in the US.
Keith Richards explained on the BBC 4 documentary Blues Britannia: Can Blue Men Sing the Whites? why the Stones decided to release this as a single: "We must have been wearing brass balls that day, when we decided to put that out as a single. I think we just thought it was our job to pay back, to give them what they've given us. They've given us the music and the friendship, and let's stand up, be men, and give them a blues, and it went to #1. Mr. Howlin' Wolf, he didn't mind at all. It was maybe a moment of bravado, in retrospect, but it worked. We have been blessed by the music that we listened to, and let's see if we can actually spin it back around and make American white kids listen to Little Red Rooster. You had it all the time, pal, you know. You just didn't listen."
Mick Jagger defended this song in 1964: "I don't see why we should have to conform to any pattern. After all, wasn't 'Not Fade Away
' different from 'It's All Over Now
'? We try to make all our singles different, and so far every one has been in a different tempo. This time, I didn't want to do a fast beat number. If the fans don't like it, then they don't like it. I like it. It's a straight blues and nobody's ever done that. Except on albums. We thought just for a change we'd do a nice, straight blues on a single. What's wrong with that?... Course (it's) suitable for dancing. Charlie's drumming makes it good for dancing - you can double up the beat for dancing, I reckon."
This was engineered by Bill Farley, who engineered the Stones' debut album in London in 1964. When they did more work in London on their return from the States throughout 1964, he was also the engineer (songs like "Congratulations," "Grown Up Wrong," "Under The Boardwalk
"). He also engineered some Andrew Oldham Orchestra sessions that year.