The Rolling Stones – Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis (1975)


1. Out Of Time 2. Don’t Lie To Me 3. Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind 4. Each And Everyday Of The Year 5. Heart Of Stone 6. I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys 7. (Walkin’ Thru The) Sleepy City 8. We’re Wastin’ Time 9. Try A Little Harder 10. I Don’t Know Why 11. If You Let Me 12. Jiving Sister Fanny 13. Downtown Suzie 14. Family 15. Memo From Turner 16. I’m Going Down


Fucking Allen Klein. People say Yoko broke up the Beatles, but I blame that slimy lawyer a-hole more than anyone outside the band. And he nearly did the same to the Stones. Fortunately, the boys weren’t overly sensitive whiny prima donnas like the Beatles were in ’68 and ’69 so they didn’t let their business problems break them up like their Liverpudlian buddies. But did you ever notice how many Stones songs from the 60s there are in stupid commercials and/or names of bad chain restaurants? That’s because Allen Klein—or, more accurately since his death, his estate—owns the rights to the Stones’ entire pre-1971 output. Just like how Michael Jackson used to own all the Beatles songs before he died after choking on a tuna fish sandwich and his own vomit while having a heart attack in the bathtub (wait, no, that was Amy Winehouse. Sorry. Michael Jackson got killed by his plastic surgeon or something. I forgot). So any time Mick and Keith want to put out a new compilation or live album (i.e. every two weeks), they have to ask permission to release their own songs. And the reply isn’t always in the affirmative.

Metamorphosis is one prominent example of the clusterfuck that is the rights to the songs of the Rolling Stones. It began life as a comprehensive 60’s outtakes collection entitled Black Box. But when Allen Klein saw the proposed tracklist, he refused to give it the go-ahead because it apparently it had too many covers on it and he wanted more Jagger/Richards songs so he could make more money. This desire was very difficult to fulfill, since there were scant few leftover Jagger/Richards songs that were recorded by the Stones to go around from before 1966 or so. But, asshole that he was, he figured out how to do it. Other than “Don’t Lie To Me” (a predictably solid Chuck Berry cover recorded in 1964 featuring Stu doing his best Johnnie Johnson impression), the entirety of side 1—tracks 1-9—are not Rolling Stones songs, but rather demos of Jagger/Richards songs featuring Mick singing along to booming Spector-esque arrangements as played by session musicians, which were recorded with the sole intent of selling them to other artists. In fact, Mick is the only the Stone to appear on these tracks. But hey, Jimmy Page is on most of them – he was London’s most in-demand session guitarist long before he was its most scarecrow-looking junkie, after all!

All I can say about these songs is, if you thought “As Tears Go By” was oddly corny for the Stones, get a load of this shit. You’ll recognize weak alternate versions of “Out Of Time,” done up with a ridiculously overblown orchestral arrangement, and a soul-inflected “Heart Of Stone” (which, to be fair, features some nice guitar by ol’ Pagey). But, without the presence of Mick’s voice, I’d be hard pressed to believe that any of this material has anything to do with the Stones. Mostly because 1) it doesn’t, having been recorded by session musicians and all, and 2) where on earth was this schmaltzy pop stuff coming from on the part of Mick and Keith? It has nothing to do with the music they were into or where they would eventually go. Songwriting is a mysterious fig, I guess. Especially when you first start. But these tunes are mostly pretty horrid, if occasionally perversely enjoyable in a “so bad it’s hilarious” kind of way (the Richards/Andrew Loog Oldham-penned gay anthem “I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys”). Though I admit I ‘m somewhat partial to the pleasantly country-tinged “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind” and “Try A Little Harder,” which at its core is close enough to cheery, repetitive garage rock that I can actually imagine the Stones doing it.

The songs on Side 2, thankfully, are actual Stones recordings, and while they hardly represent the cream of the crop of the outtakes the band had accrued over the course of the 60s, they’re still pretty badass, being from the BeggarsBleedSticky era and all (excepting the Between The Buttons sessions strummer “If You Let Me,” which reiterates how incredibly hooky Mick and Keith’s writing was during the ’66-’67 era, even in their lesser moments). The standout is the brooding Stevie Wonder cover “I Don’t Know Why” – legend has it the band was in the studio working on it when they got the news that Brian Jones had died. Mick Taylor plays some damn fine slide guitar in his stead, but Mick is the real star here – his pleading anguish puts his mid-60s attempts at emulating Otis Redding to shame.

I guess I’ll just go song by song here. Why the fuck not. I’m tired. “Jiving Sister Fanny” is a great lost basic Stones rocker that was lost mainly because Mick obviously made up the lyrics on the spot (“Jiving Sister Fanny got the brain of a dinosaur?” Huh?). The swampy oddball “Downtown Suzie” is the second and final contribution to the Stones catalog by Mr. William Perks, aka Bill “I Love Groupies” Wyman. And while not quite as awesome as “In Another Land,” it’s another winner! Maybe throwing him a bone every once in a while wouldn’t have been such a terrible idea, eh? “Family” is an ugly rip off of the Kinks ripping off Dylan that I could probably live without. “Memo From Turner” is the Stones’ recording of the Mick Jagger solo song from the soundtrack of the batshit 1970 movie Performance, which Mick starred in. Mick’s version, which features Ry Cooder playing some of the filthiest slide you’ll ever hear in your life, is one of the dirtiest blues-rock performances of time, while the version here, by comparison, is laughably sloppy. But darn it all if, when listened to back to back, the scraping guitars and thwacking Charlie drums of the Stones version makes the Performance version sound somehow empty. That’s the magic of Charlie, I guess. And finally, “I’m Going Down” is a nondescript rocker from the Sticky Fingers sessions written by Mick Taylor but mis-credited to Mick and Keith that sounds exactly what you would expect a nondescript rocker from the Sticky Fingers sessions written by Mick Taylor but mis-credited to Mick and Keith to sound like (loud, lumbering chordal guitar riff, jazzy “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’”-esque percussion and sax).

I have the worst cold. My nose hurts.

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