The Rolling Stones – 12 x 5

12 x 5 (1964)


1. Around And Around 2. Confessin’ The Blues 3. Empty Heart 4. Time Is On My Side 5. Good Times, Bad Times 6. It’s All Over Now 7. 2120 South Michigan Avenue 8. Under The Boardwalk 9. Congradulations 10. Grown Up Wrong 11. If You Need Me 12. Susie Q


If England’s Newest Hitmakers was a singular achievement for its time—an early 60s R&B album devoid of any schmaltzy Tin Pan Alley covers and/or weak originals—then 12 Songs By 5 Smelly, Funny Looking Honkys hews closer to conventionality. However, if some of the material is slightly weaker here, the band itself sounds invigorated by its trip to their Mecca – much of the album was recorded at legendary Chess Studios in Chicago. Keith insists he saw Muddy Waters painting the ceiling when he got there, which seems highly unlikely… perhaps dear old Keef was just trying to provide an allegorical account of how he felt the spiritual presence of his Chicago blues heroes there. Lord knows he’s been known to exaggerate from time to time.

Whatever authentic feel they achieved by recording at Chess, the locale didn’t much help out their songwriting, which still isn’t quite there yet – of the Jagger/Richards tunes, “Good Times, Bad Times” is fairly convincing lazy back porch blues (and for your information, all Jimmy Page ripped off from it was the title), but “Congradulations” is mopey and hookless (not to mention misspelled!) and “Grown Up Wrong” is half-written but at least smartly utilizes Brian’s slide guitar. At this point, the band could start up a spontaneous jam and have it come out with more hooks and energy than Mick and Keith’s concerted songwriting efforts… look no further than the two Nanker Phelge tunes for proof. “Empty Heart” is spunky as hell, motoring along on a jiving Keith riff and Brian’s harp… Keith’s auxiliary “yeah yeah yeah” vocals must’ve been fodder for the screaming teenage girls back then. “2120 South Michigan Avenue” is a rare Stones instrumental, and the star of the show is none other than the forever-unsmiling Bill Wyman, who lays down the killer bassline the song is based on. Bill and Charlie were never the flashiest of rhythm sections, so in the face of Moon/Entwhistle or Bonham/Jones or whoever, they’ll never get enough credit for how locked down and tight they were together. Especially in the early days, Wyman & Watts, Attorneys at Law, anchored the band.

So once again, the success of a Stones album comes down to the quality of their cover selection process. And if their song choices were nearly perfect on Hitmakers, there’s at least one highly suspect cut here: the Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk,” which the Stones very unfortunately try to render faithfully, only to reveal that they are completely out of their element. It was Andrew Loog Oldham’s suggestion, of course – the same guy that tried to get the band to wear matching houndstooth jackets around this time. But don’t begrudge him; he was just trying to get the boys in better shape for the pop charts and mainstream public consumption. It’s just that he might have briefly lost sight of the fact that they were more likely to get there by sticking with the Chuck Berry covers like “Around And Around,” on which Keith practically out-Chucks Chuck. Besides, they got their pop hit with the soulful ballad “Time Is On My Side,” their first top 10 hit in the States. The greatest covers are usually the ones that make people forget who the original performer was… “Time” is certainly one of those cases. Poor Irma Thomas. The version found here is the slightly inferior “organ version,” as opposed to the version you hear on the radio, recorded slightly later, which is more guitar heavy.

Did somebody say guitars? I like guitars. So do Keith and Brian. “Confessin’ The Blues” utilizes their dual lead/dual rhythm “ancient form of guitar weaving,” which makes for a veritable smorgasbord of tasty licks. “Susie Q” is more about the guitar tone – stinging, grimey, shitkicking guitars. Keith is essentially the band’s “lead guitarist” at this point, but Brian takes the jangly lead on “It’s All Over Now,” which for my money is their best pre-“Satisfaction” single. It’s even better than the masturbatory Rod Stewart version! And though it must be shocking to hear the words “Rolling Stones” “better” and “Rod Stewart” in that order, it’s, unbelievably, true. Because 12 x 5 doesn’t need to ask if it’s sexy. It knows it is.


  1. Name * wrote:

    If only for the superb cover of Chuckie B’s Around And Around; the classic Jagger/Richards originals
    Time Is On My Side and It’s All Over Now, and the less well-known but plaintive and beautiful J/R ballad Good Times, Bad Times, “12X5” deserves an “A”.

    • Jeremy wrote:

      Time Is On My Side was written by Jerry Ragovoy and first performed by Irma Thomas in 1964. It’s All Over Now was written and performed by Bobby Womack in 1964. Interesting that you’ve been under the impression that they were Jagger/Richards songs for the last 47 years.

  2. Ben wrote:

    Not much going on here. This is like “England’s newest hitmakers” but worse. Once again, the actual music is pretty good, but Mick’s voice is pretty irritating. The only songs here I really like are “Time is on my side”, “Its all over now” and “2120 south michigan avenue”. “Around and around” and “Susie Q” are okay too.

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