The Rolling Stones – December’s Children (And Everybody’s)

December’s Children (And Everybody’s) (1965)

B

1. She Said Yeah 2. Talkin’ About You 3. You Better Move On 4. Look What You’ve Done 5. The Singer Not The Song 6. Route 66 7. Get Off My Cloud 8. I’m Free 9. As Tears Go By 10. Gotta Get Away 11. Blue Turns To Grey 12. I’m Moving On

 

The third Stones album released in 1965, clocking in at a skimpy 29 minutes, is not so much an album as a collection of outtakes and mostly second-rate, hastily recorded new material thrown together by Andrew Loog Oldham in a bald ploy to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. I mean, it’s right there in the title: December’s Children. December! You Know What’s In December? Christmas! Buy Me! Buy Me Now! 1965 was the Year of the Rolling Stones, after all, and one should hardly be surprised that their manager wanted to squeeze every penny he could out of it. But he had to scrape the bottom of the barrel a little bit in order to do it… the material here was recorded starting as far back as 1963 and, aside from a few songs, mostly consists of leftovers from previous sessions. Thus, there’s some stuff one might’ve thought they had matured past by this point, like solid but unspectacular Chuck Berry covers (“Talkin’ About You”), solid but unspectacular blues covers (“Look What You’ve Done”) and mom-friendly non-rock covers of the sort the Beatles used to do back in 1963 (Arthur Alexander’s “You Better Move On”).

But, perhaps surprisingly, there are the same number of Jagger/Richards tunes here as there were on Out Of Our Heads, with the biggie being the follow-up single to “Satisfaction,” “Get Off My Cloud,” which follows the basic formula of its predecessor and “The Last Time,” i.e. “repetitive guitar riff + sing-along chorus.” Brian plays the whining riff, Mick on lead shouts… it’s no “Satisfaction,” but the call and response chorus is memorable and it rocks. All the other originals are mid-tempo pop – mostly pretty catchy but lightweight. Other than on the melodic early hippie anthem “I’m Free,” which you may know from a credit card commercial, Mick and Keith sound a little out of their element writing straight pop songs, which they hadn’t really done before, and in doing so they came a bit too close to being the Beatles rip off artists that people like to stupidly accuse them of having been in the mid-60s.  “The Singer Not The Song,” for instance, rips off Lennon/McCartney’s “Not A Second Time,” but at least features some nice harmonizing between Mick and Keith. And I have no doubt that “As Tears Go By” would never have appeared on a Stones album if the Beatles hadn’t done “Yesterday” first. “Tears” was actually the first Jagger/Richards song ever, the result of Andrew Oldham locking the two of them in a room with a guitar and a pad and paper and instructing them not to come out until they had a song written. Improbably, they emerged with this puerile pop ballad that became a huge hit for Marianne Faithful, Mick’s future squeeze and Mars Bar repository, in 1964. It was at first deemed unacceptable for the Stones, of course, since it didn’t fit their ragged, tough, bluesy sound and image at all. But, funnily enough, once the Beatles made a hit out of a string-laden acoustic ballad, the Stones suddenly had room for a string laden acoustic ballad. It’s a nice song. Interesting that 21-year old Mick would write his first lyric from the point of view of an old man. Naturally, the band waited until he was an old man to actually perform it live (it made its stage debut on the A Bigger Bang tour). It made more sense then.

The problem with December’s Children is that with all the middling pop songs, there’s almost no room for real balls out rock. Other than “Get Off My Cloud,” there’s nothing like that besides the warp speed, 95-second blues punk “She Said Yeah,” which is a hell of a kick in the teeth to start things off. There’s also a couple of live cuts, only one of which is actually a new song (Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On”) – the other being “Route 66.” Like “It’s Alright” on Out Of Our Heads, the screaming girls are at times louder than band, but the tunes prove that, unlike the Beatles, the Stones could actually keep rocking and play coherently in front of the shrieking Boeing 747 that was their audience. And for that, they deserve some credit, and we can forgive them for spreading themselves a bit thinly when putting out three albums in a year. And who would be able to avoid that? Besides Ryan Adams, I mean. No, no wait… including Ryan Adams. I forgot that he sucks sometimes.



One Comment

  1. Ben wrote:

    I’m glad you like “She said yeah” as much as I do. It’s up there with one of the better covers they’ve done. If it weren’t for “Get off of my cloud”, that would be my favorite song here. As you pointed out, the cashing in is getting pretty obvious. Their version of Muddy Waters’ “I can’t be satisfied” was never released in the US, and it’s funny how whoever was assembling this album totally overlooked that.

    I didn’t notice the “Singer not the song”/”Not a second time” similarities until it was pointed out to me a couple years ago. “I’m free” also sounds a bit like “Eight days a week”. As you rightly pointed out, “As tears go by” wasn’t ripped from “Yesterday”. As lame as the version here is, Nancy Sinatra (of all people) does a better rendition of it.


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