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The Last Time by The Rolling Stones

Album: Out Of Our Heads (U.S.)Released: 1965Charted:
9
1
  • This was inspired by a 1955 Gospel song called "This May Be The Last Time" by The Staple Singers. The Stones changed the meaning of the song, making it into a stern message to a girl. The Staples version had a more uplifting message and was much more spiritual.
    Many Gospel fans felt The Stones ripped it off, since The Staple Singers never got any royalties from it. Since it is a traditional song (meaning no one owns the rights to it), many artists have recorded it, but The Stones were a very high-profile band that had success reworking songs by black artists into hits. Many people believe The Stones should have compensated The Staple Singers because it was based on their version of the song.
  • In the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards wrote: "We didn't find it difficult to write pop songs, but it was VERY difficult - and I think Mick will agree - to write one for the Stones. It seemed to us it took months and months and in the end we came up with The Last Time, which was basically re-adapting a traditional Gospel song that had been sung by the Staple Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time. I think I was trying to learn it on the guitar just to get the chords, sitting there playing along with the record, no gigs, nothing else to do. At least we put our own stamp on it, as the Staple Singers had done, and as many other people have before and since: they're still singing it in churches today. It gave us something to build on to create the first song that we felt we could decently present to the band to play... The Last Time was kind of a bridge into thinking about writing for the Stones. It gave us a level of confidence; a pathway of how to do it. And once we had done that we were in the game. There was no mercy, because then we had to come up with the next one. We had entered a race without even knowing it." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • This song did have some clear antecedents in black American music, in particular the 1964 James Brown single "Maybe the Last Time," which was itself based on ideas found in a traditional gospel song that had been recorded, but not written, by the Staple Singers. Some have accused the Stones of literally stealing from their black heroes, but "The Last Time" is clearly different from and more rock-oriented than the tracks recorded by James Brown and the Staple Singers, although there are some similarities in approach and the use of the title lyric. (thanks, Joel - Chicago, IL)
  • The Stones recorded this in Los Angeles on a one day tour stopover on their way to Australia. The Stones were on a grueling American tour, but in order to capitalize on their success they wanted to keep cranking out singles, especially in England because they were not there. As a result, they frequently recorded in between American shows.
  • Phil Spector assisted with the production. You can hear his "Wall Of Sound" approach on the recording.
  • The opening guitar riff repeats throughout the song. This was an innovative device for a pop song at the time.
  • A 1997 song called "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve sampled an obscure orchestral version of this track. The Stones' former manager Allen Klein, who owns the publishing rights to The Stones version of "The Last Time," received extensive royalties, as "Bittersweet Symphony" was a radio hit and even used in a Nike commercial.
  • This was the first song Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote that was an A-side single. The Stones played a lot of covers before they learned to write songs.
  • The Who recorded this in 1967 as a show of support when The Stones were being held in England on drug charges.
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Comments: 24

On May 2nd 1965, the Rolling Stones performed "The Last Time" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
Two months earlier on March 21st, 1965 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #79; and on April 25th it peaked at #9 (for 2 weeks) and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100...
And on March 13th, 1965 it reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
On the same 'Sullivan' show Tom Jones performed "It's Not Unusual"; and it was this song that the Stones knocked out of the #1 spot in the UK with "The Last Time"...
The B-side of "The Last Time" also charted, "Play With Fire", it reached #96 on its one week on the Top 100...
R.I.P. Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974) and Brian Jones (1942 - 1969; he played lead guitar on "The Last Time").
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The main riff features Brian Jones on his trademark "teardrop" Vox guitar, probably through a Fender amp. It's an extremely clever riff, played up around the 7th fret while making use of open strings at the same time. I have yet to see a cover band to get this riff right! Well done, Brian.Tom - Freiburg, Germany
May 28, 2012: I had not previously heard of "This Could Be the Last Time" (The Staple Singers), so I need to check it out. The guitar riff repeats like what we hear in the Beatles' "Day Tripper", released late 1965. Also, that was December 1965 when Keith Richard was (NEARLY) electrocuted at Sacramento. (Another Keith -- Keith Relf of the Yardbirds -- was electrocuted in 1976.)Carl - Apg, Md
Bruce Springsteen and The E Street band performed this by request at the last concert ever at Giants Stadium on October 9, 2009. Bruce called it a perfect request for the night. Awesome cover. Bruce and Steve Van Zandt are Rolling Stones fans.Matt - Ft. Lauderdale, Fl
The guitar work is reworked Pop Staples--See Freedom's Highway, which was released in 1965.Nick - Chicago, Il
Funny what people hear. I used to review music books for Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, the trade industry journals. Back in the early 90s a new book about the Stones came out (am too lazy to look up the title), and it stated that The Last Time was the first original tune the Stones wrote--they were under pressure to come up with something new rather than continue to do covers, the writer said, went into a locked room and finally came up with this tune.

I happened to be a fan of The Staples; to me the tunes are more or less identical, though the Stones' version isn't very interesting. So I called around, found out who the Staples' agent was, got Pops' number from him and called. He told me that the Stones had flat ripped him off, but that he had only recently heard the tune, contacted his lawyer, and had been told that there was a 10 (15?) year statute of limitations and nothing he could do.

Pop tunes are built upon other pop tunes, on existing music--there's no getting around it. But to me this tune is a pretty blatant appropriation of a black idiom for which the original artists were rarely adequately compensated. Incidentally, Pops' wonderfully enigmatic guitar sound found its way into a LOT of Stones tunes, and into Keith's style generally, as for many guitar players. There's more than a little irony, no matter what your view, in the idea that this was the Stones' big breakthrough from being a covers band to an original one.
Matthew - Detroit, Fl
This song was on the Stones album "Out of Their Heads". Satisfaction was also on the LP. I realize Satisfaction brought them their first US #1 and was the song that made them famous but for some reason I always preferred "The Last Time".Alan - Sault Ste. Marie, On
I remember seeing the Stones perform this on TV, and Brian Jones played the signature riff on his Vox white oval guitar - I wanted one. I wanted to be the Stones at that time (I was 15). Where's the bass on the recording? Was Bill Wyman there, or was he drowned out in the "wall of sound"?D. Ray - Oklahoma City, Ok
I heard the song was written in the kitchen of Andrew Loong Oldham's house after mick and keith were forced in their unable to come out untill their wrote a song.
-ashley stone,IL
Ashley - Quincy, Il
It was many moon's ago,but this was the song the stone's were starting when Keith got electrocuted.
He went down hard. Sacramento,Ca 65
Bob - Roseville, Co
While this song may have been influenced by the Staples Singers it is in no way similar in any way to it. Just listen to both songs.Andrew - London, England
The Orchestral Version of The Last Time is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn8MxicsFAw ... Do The Verve only use 5 notes from this ????Andrew - London, England
Johnny Smash- you're talking about Keith's lead solo, right? That's just an electric guitar, with plenty of reverb, playing 2 notes that are slid into from below. Specifically, the 2nd and 3rd strings at the 9th fret- bar them, and slide into them from below. Then play the 1st string, 12 fret with the 2nd string, 9th fret. Then the D chord: 1st str., 10th fret, with the 2nd & 3rd strings, 7th fret; a D-form chord for the A: frets 9-10-9, strings 1-2-3; and finally, play frets 7-9-9 on the 1st 3 strings. This figure repeats, alternating with short blues-based leads. What may be confusing you is the brilliant droning part played by Brian continuing in the background.Andrew - New York, United States
The basic idea for this song was taken from the Staples Singers "This may be the last time".Mike - Berkeley, Ca
The part for "bittersweet symphony" was lifted from an obscure orchestral version of this song. its supposedly only 5 notes so it should be hard to hearThedude - Illinois, Il
This song came out before the Who A Legal Matter.Anne - York , England
To Alejandro from Mèxico: I can notice the similaraties between "Bitter Sweet Symphony" and "The Last Time". It happens when the ending vocals of the phrases seem to turn to chorus parts. Its really true.Homero - Monterrey , Mèxico
Hey Johnny,
Do you mean at the beginning of the guitar solo? If so it just sounds like heavily overdriven speakers to me, with maybe some open strings ringing. It also sounds like it could be a 12 string electric... this is all just speculation, but that's what it sounds like to me!
Sam - Shanghai, China
"A Legal Matter" by the Who has a nearly identical riff/tune as "The Last Time". In fact, durning the verses the lyrics are practically interchangable. This song also came out in '65, but i was wondering if anyone knows which song came first, or if anyone has noticed this. Thanks.Spencer - Rhode Island
maybe its just me, but I cant identify the similarities between this song and bittersweet symphonyAlejandro - Mexico D.f., Mexico
I never knew Phil Spector produced a song of the Stones, but with his talent, he can do anything.
The next time I hear it on the radio, I'll listen to hear his famous "Wall of Sound".
Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
Anyone know how they made that guitar sound like that, right after 1:33 into the song? I'm pretty sure that's a guitar... I'm interested to know how they did that, I'll be checking back here every once in a while to see if anyone knows ;DJohnny Smash - Tucson, Az
This has also been recorded by a Country artist but I've forgotten who he was.Kathy - Jasper, Al
The lead guitar was played by Brian Jones(great riff),but guitar solo and rhytm guitar were played by Keith Richards.Simon - Brno, Czech Republic