The Rolling Stones “Metamorphosis”

For reasons unexplained, officially-sanctioned outtakes from the Rolling Stones’ Decca (a.k.a. London) period remain as rare as rocking-horse manure. Was the Glimmer Twins’ quality control really so good that they recorded little more than those tracks that appeared as singles or on albums? Or were they so perfectionist that almost all the other stuff was immediately wiped, Paul Dukas-style, rather than being archived? Although to date no fewer than 23 compilations of their ’63-’70 material have been issued worldwide, the number of cuts on these which were not used on the scheduled studio releases can just about be counted on the fingers of one hand – with one notable, noble exception.

At first glance, Metamorphosis, with its Kafka-derived cover art, is just one of the many “exploitation” back-catalogue collections issued by Allen Klein’s ABKCO Music in the wake of the Stones’ defection to Virgin. But where Metamorphosis differs is that it consists completely of studio material unavailable elsewhere – including possibly the meagre sum total of the album-session outtakes remaining from the sixties. These include a cracking cover of Chuck Berry’s “Don’t Lie To Me” with rollicking piano by Ian Stewart, and the stomping, Motownish original “Try A Little Harder”, both of which inexplicably got left off their 1964 LP releases; a strange alternative take on “Heart Of Stone” with pedal steel (by Jimmy Page?); a funky alternative punt (to that used in performance and subsequently issued as a UK-only Mick Jagger solo single) at “Memo From Turner” featuring Al Kooper and possibly Steve Winwood; and three unused cuts from the sessions for Let It Bleed plus one each from Aftermath, Beggars’ Banquet and Sticky Fingers. For rarity freaks these include the gloriously sloppy “Downtown Suzie”, one of only two Bill Wyman songs ever committed to tape by the band, with open-G guitar supplied by Ry Cooder, and a fine cover of Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why” taped the night Brian Jones died and featuring slide guitar solos from both Keith Richards (recorded earlier) and Mick Taylor (overdubbed later). Taylor also makes a confident early declaration of intent on the studio version of the live concert favourite “Jiving Sister Fanny”.

And that’s only half the story. Almost half the album consists of demos of songs penned by Jagger and Richards but intended for other artists to record, during the Twins’ first fertile period as writers around 1965 (several songs from that year’s Aftermath album were similarly covered). These were cut under Andrew Oldham’s tutelage with Jagger vocalising and backings provided by sessioneers and studio guests including Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Clem Cattini, John McLaughlin, Tony Hicks and Graham Nash. Jagger sings “Out Of Time” over the actual string-laden backing track used by Chris Farlowe for his UK no. 1 and “Each And Every Day Of The Year” over that used by Bobby Jameson, and on demos of “Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind”, “I’d Much Rather Be With The Boys”, “(Walkin’ Thru The) Sleepy City” and “We’re Wastin’ Time” which were realised with new backings respectively by Dick And Dee Dee, the Toggery Five, the Mighty Avengers and (honestly) Jimmy Tarbuck.

So how worthwhile are the sixteen genuine rarities here? Well, the demos are all pretty good, the songs certainly strong enough and the backings sophisticated enough to have made it as single releases under Jagger’s name, apart from the uncharacteristically wimpy “I’d Rather Be With The Boys” (credited to Oldham rather than Jagger as co-writer). And it’s genuinely hard to decide why the excellent band originals here were sidelined in favour of the tracks that made it on to the albums. The schizoid chronology of this collection (mostly 1964-65 and 1969-70) makes it an uneven rather than a homogenous listen, but any serious collector of the Stones’ oeuvre needs to own these tracks.

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“Don’t Lie to Me”

:) Original | 1975 | ABKCO | search ]
:D Reissue | 2002 | ABKCO | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • jesselun

    When did the Stones ever play Jivin Sister Fanny live?

  • Anonymous

    Dear Len:

    You need to search out some of The Stone’s bootlegs of sixties material. There are dozens if not a hundred unreleased outtakes and alternate versions of songs by the band.

    Seek and you shall find music far better then Metamorphosis’ meager musical output.


  • Len Liechti

    Thanks, guys, and I take both points. Research glitch concerning “Fanny” – I could have sworn they opened with it at Hyde Park, but actually it was “I’m Yours, She’s Mine” (and I was there! Perhaps it’s true what they say about the Sixties). As regards other outtakes, I did specify “officially sanctioned” – however, the sheer volume of boots confirms that lots of other outtakes weren’t wiped, just fell into “unofficial” hands. Interestingly I just read that the Stones didn’t want Metamorphosis released either, but by then Klein had them over a barrel and could do what he liked. One lesson for me here – if you stray off the path of rarity and into areas where there’s a whole raft of information around, you need to do your research at far greater length. In the case of the Stones there’s a lot of big fans out there who know a whole lot more than I about them; I’m just someone who always got off on their music, until Mick Taylor quit anyway. As always, I’m happy to be corrected by those more deeply “in the know” – one of the pleasures of life is that you never stop learning.

  • Chris

    I liked the rocking horse manure line.

  • Louder than Milk

    Jagger should be suitably proud of Memo for Turner. A classic.

    Child Of The Moon is a real 60’s Stones treat. They did a pretty weird vid to accompany it too. Claudine from around Some Girls time is damn fine in a wacky sort of way for those on the obscure trail.

  • Nik

    Dig the review, always been one of my most regularly played Stones albums, odd as it is. Too bad that the American copies cut out two tracks, including Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind. The recording of Heart of Stone here is a real lost treasure in the band’s catalog though, and Family one of their most eccentric masterpieces…

  • barrytheb

    you should find the bootleg “Necrophelia” much better than metamorphosis, anyway all great stuff!

  • Len Liechti

    Just to confirm that the word “performance” relating to “Memo From Turner” in the above review should have appeared as “Performance”, capitalised and in italics, referring to the movie of that name in which the track was featured. There’s no indication that the Stones ever played this song on stage.

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