Blue and Lonesome /The Rolling Stones
review by Will Brennan
December, 1964 – London
Mick and Keith were back from the Stones second American tour, a spot on the Ed Sullivan show, and their blues cover single, “Little Red Rooster” was on the top of the charts, number one in the U.K. With a few precious days off to relax, they decided to go out and hit the London clubs, see who was playing in town. They were debating whether to see their old mates in the Alexis Korner band, Blues Incorporated.
“Fuck, what I’d really like to see is some old blues geezers, you know?” Keith said, torching a cigarette.
“Yeah, royt. I ain’t heard anything ‘bout John Lee Hooker being in London, mate.” Mick grinned.
They walked ahead down the dimly lit street, turned the corner, and a voice came out of the dark. “Hey, boys. Looking to hear some real blues?”
They walked over. A man in a dark suit smoking a cigarette leaned against the wall next to a red door.
“Shit yeah,” Keith said. “Who?”
“Real deal, that’s who.”
“Yeah? How old are they?” Mick sneered. Keith grinned. “Yeah, man, how old?”
“Old and blue.” He opened the door and the light from within glimmered. “Go on in and see.”
Mick looked at Keith and shrugged and they walked inside. Music was playing in the near distance. A high harmonica and a bluesman’s howl. A guitar screamed piercing high notes.
“Aww right,” Mick said, clapping his hands in time with the music. Keith’s head bobbed, his face tight and serious.
They walked down a long hallway, but it wasn’t like the grimy entrances in London’s music clubs. It was clean and brightly lit. The music got louder.
When they stepped into the club, it wasn’t. It was a recording studio. Four old geezers were responsible for the sound, along with younger guy on bass. He was black, but the rest where white. They were so aged and wrinkled that it wasn’t until the singer began to sing that Mick realized it was him.
The guy in the dark suit was standing beside Mick and Keith. “Don’t worry,” he said, “they can’t see you.”
The band was The Stones minus Bill and Brian, the second guitarist was a hawk beaked bloke with a rooster haircut. Old Mick was blowing harmonica to a slow blues, a Little Walter song, Blue and Lonesome. Young Keith was rapt watching him. “Damn,” he said, shaking his head. "You're playin' like Little Walter!" Mick elbowed Young Keith. “Hey, listen to you, listen to that guitar sound!” Keith shook his head. “Nah, I can’t look at him… I -he looks like he’s dead.”
They watched and listened as the band made their way through a dozen songs - Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit a Crime,” Magic Sam’s “All of Your Love,” Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” Jimmie Reed’s “Little Rain.” Others, all great, Old Mick bringing out his inner Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Old Keith playing some of the most elemental blues riffs young Keith ever heard. The hawk nose rooster head bloke tore off solos that pierced the eardrums like Buddy Guy.
“Fuckin’ hell,” young Keith said. “We turn out to be godamn bluesmen, mate.”
Young Mick was nodding vigorously. “What we always said we’d be. Hey, Charlie looks like a mortician.” Mick guffawed at his own joke, but Keith looked spooked. “Let’s get out of here.”
“We can’t tell anybody about this,” Mick said, “especially not Brian and Bill.”
“I need a drink,” Keith nodded, “or something stronger.”
“Hey, we sounded fookin’ great, man,” Mick grinned. “Old geezers and fookin’ great.”
Keith was staring straight ahead. "Never thought I'd make it to there, mate," he growled, and lit yet another cigarette, the red glow shining in his eyes.
Will Brennan is a writer, songwriter, singer, musician. A few of his songs can
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