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In the mid-seventies The Rolling Stones experienced another transition. The end of the Mick Taylor era is fraught with misunderstandings, accusations and innuendo. Then the band convened in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in January 1975, they had many musical idea but no guitarist to compliment Keith. Potential replacements included Wayne Perkins, Harvey Mandel, Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton and Ronnie Wood (given his close relationship to Keith would be the obvious choice).
The parade of guitarists reached to such an absurd length during the Black And Blue sessions that Richards later commented about the album, “rehearsing guitar players. That’s what that one was about.”
But the most intriguing candidate for the slot was Jeff Beck. Already famous for his work with The Yardbirds and two incarnations of the Jeff Beck Group (with future Stone Ron Wood), Beck himself was in one of his many transition phases at this time. His latest project Beck, Bogert & Appice dissolved in April 1974, and by the end of that year he began writing and recording instrumental tracks AIR studio with Max Middleton, bassist Phil Chen and drummer Richard Bailey with George Martin producing.
The AIR sessions would eventually be released as Blow By Blow, Beck’s seminal jazz-fusion and one of the classics of seventies rock. But he had a short excursion in Rotterdam jamming with the Stones with some though about actually joining the band. Years later he was reflected on the experience, stating that, if he had joined, “I could have been rich, but I could have not be happy.”
In describing the time, he related that “In those times, The Stones had been staying in Rotterdam, Holland, in relations to tax. One day, they called me and told, ‘Would you like to play your guitar on one or more songs?’ So I went there, but none of The Stones were there (laugh). After three days were gone and I was at the bar in the hotel, and I found pianist Ian Stewart. I told him ‘It’s about time I gotta go back to England.’ In the rehearsals room, there were hundreds of guitars with each players’ name on. I had no intention to try the audition. But Ian said to me that they decided me as a new guitarist for The Stones and therefore the auditions were cancelled.
“I had already decided to record Blow By Blow with George Martin then, and already had reserved the studios. To tell the truth, I had thought of joining the stones, but I had not been much fascinated with their music, so I finally declined their offer. I had never met any member of The Stones and left Rotterdam. I told Stu ‘Ronnie Wood might be the right guy’ but I don’t know that’s why Ronnie joined The Stones at last.”
The only real evidence of this collaboration were a few scattered recordings like “Lady (Sexy Nite)” and “Come On Sugar” found on such titles as Jamming With The Rolling Stones (Scarecrow 061), Black & Blue Sessions (Idol Mind Productions IMP-CD 005), Outtakes 1974-75 (Extremely Rare EXR 002) and Place Pigalle (VGP-362).
In February four hours of jamming from the Rotterdam sessions surfaced. The cassettes were remastered and posted online by CaptainAcid on the IORR website under the title Outside Looking In. Goldplate simply pressed Outside Looking In onto silver for those of us who prefer this format.
These tapes were recorded by two guys outside the mobile truck sticking the microphone into the truck’s mailbox. Under these secret and dangerous conditions, they were able to pick up what sound like playbacks from the day’s rehearsals, as well as the occasional passing truck and a short interview with Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts.
Rolling Stones Mobile Studio Unit At De Doeken, Rotterdam, Netherlands – January 22nd to February 9th, 1975
Disc 1 (62:20): Slow Jam (keef riff), Slow Blues, Slow Jam, 12-Bar Blues, Rock Rhythm #1 (with Jeff Beck), Rock Rhythm #2 (with Jeff Beck), English Rose (vocals longer version), Man Eating Woman (vocals), Funky Jam, Slow Blues, Boogie Jam #1, Boogie Jam #2, Boogie Jam #3, Boogie Jam #4, Jamming With Jeff Beck, I Love Ladies (try out), Outside The Studio – Mick and Charlie Interview
The first disc contains many long jams. These sound like the kind of warm-up exercise the Stones routinely employed when beginning sessions by finding a groove and repeating it with minor variations ad infinitum. The beginning slow warm ups go into straight 12 bar blues which in turn segue into a hard rock jam with Jeff Beck jamming along.
There are several songs with vocals, “English Rose” and “Man-Eating Woman,” a song they demoed in Jamaica in 1972.
The rest of the disc has yet more jam sessions. In the “boogie” jams, it sounds like the band are trying to play the old 1963 Martha And The Vandellas hit “(Love Is Like A) Heatwave.” Several more jams with Beck follow including a run through of “I Love Ladies.” The closing interview with Mick and Charlie is very distorted and hard to follow. It sounds like the tapers are following Mick down the street trying to have a conversation but Jagger is trying to escape!
Disc 2 (68:30): Warm Up Jam, Worried About You #1, Worried About You #2 (rock rhythm), Slow Ballad, Funky Stuff #1, Funky Stuff #2, Freeway Jam #1 (with Jeff Beck), Worried About You, Freeway Jam #2 (with Jeff Beck), Freeway Jam #3 (with Jeff Beck), Rock Rhythm, English Rose (vocals), Man Eating Woman (vocals), Funky Jam (vocals), Slow Blues (vocals), Wind Call #1 (playback), Waiting On A Friend (playback), Save Me (playback), Wind Call #2 (playback), Wind Call #3 (playback), Tops (playback)
The second hour of rehearsal tapes begins with more warm up jams. Much of the disc is occupied with rehearsals and play backs of several songs that wouldn’t surfaced unto Tattoo You in 1981. “Worried About You” was written at this time. The first run through sounds much like it would in its finished forum, but the second take is much smoother with a rock rhythm. By the end of the disc they play other Tattoo You tunes like “Waiting On A Friend” and “Tops” along with other rarities like “English Rose,” “Man Eating Woman” and “Save Me.”
But the interesting jams are in the middle. Instead of playing the new Rolling Stones songs, they jam on the new Jeff Beck tune “Freeway Jam.” One of Beck’s most well-known and melodic pieces, it takes on a new life with the Stones. They first play it straight, as it would be recorded for Blow By Blow later in the month. But they transform it into a Rolling Stones tune.
First introduced is a boogie rhythm on the piano, Beck fits the familiar melody into a boogie woogie and, later on, plays it as a twelve bar blues.
Disc 3 (77:35): Crazy Mama (playback), Crazy Mama (playback – instrumental), I Got A Letter (playback – vocal overdub), Cherry Oh Baby (playback – vocal overdub), Act Together (playback), Act Together (playback – guitar overdub), Fool To Cry (playback with vocal), Melody (longer version – demo vocal), Boogie Jam (hardly audible vocal), Vagina (Slave) #1, Slow Riff, Long Jam, Slow Ballad, Jamming With Jeff Beck, Freeway Jam (with Jeff Beck), Shame Shame Shame, Vagina (Slave) #2, Boogie Jam #1, Boogie Jam #2, Boogie Jam #3
The third disc begins with a bit of dialogue. Someone, Jeff Beck perhaps, states he’s been here for two weeks. Following is about a half hour of playbacks in the studio. Audible are runthroughs of “Crazy Mama,” “Cherry Oh Baby” and the unreleased songs “I Got A Letter” and “Act Together” (more polished takes can be found on Place Pigalle).
The recording becomes more interesting by the end when Beck jams more with the band including another stab at “Freeway Jam.” Unfortunately the tapers were distracted by someone and had to turn the recorder off several times. The final tracks include playbacks of “Slave” and the boogie jam found on the first disc.
Disc 4 (78:16): Monkey Man (riff), Vagina (Slave) #1 (guitar only), Vagina (Slave) #2 (run through different beat), Vagina (Slave) #3 (run through different beat), Vagina (Slave) #4 (guitars only), Vagina (Slave) #5 (run through different beat), Vagina (Slave) #6 (run through different beat), Vagina (Slave) #7, Vagina (Slave) #8, Vagina (Slave) #9, Funky Riff #1, Funky Riff #2, Funky Riff #3, Slow Blues #1, Slow Blues #2, Funky Stuff, Vagina (Slave) #10, Boogie Jam, 12-Bar Blues #1, 12-Bar Blues #2, 12-Bar Blues #3, Funky Rhythm, More Funky Rhythm, Blues With Jeff Beck (12-Bar Blues)
Disc four contains more than an hour of rehearsals focusing on “Slave.” Richards starts off with the main riff and gives it a try in many various tempi with Watts on drums. The session continues with standard blues figures which dissolve into funk. The final track on the disc a blues jam with Jeff Beck joining in with the band.
Black And Blue Rehearsals is manufactured by the Goldplate label, a product of the same people who used to make MBE, Exile, and other related labels. This is certainly an interesting release with a fascinating glimpse into an obscure and misunderstood period in the history of The Rolling Stones. However, given the sound quality and repetitiveness of the material it appeals to the hardcore Stones archeologist.