Released in 1964, 12 X 5 was the second album released by The Rolling Stones in America. The album was recorded primarily at the legendary Chess Studios in Chicago and the other tracks were from recording sessions taken from Regent Sound in London. The album had its beginnings from an EP that was originally released in the UK. The EP was entitled Five By Five, but since EP’s did not sell well in the US, the EP was expanded into a twelve track album which resulted in the title 12 X 5, twelve songs by a band made up of five musicians. As a whole, the album exemplified The Rolling Stones early R&B/Blues Rock based sound as well as advancement in their song writing abilities. 12 X 5 featured several original compositions alongside cover songs. There were three Jagger/Richards compositions (“Good Times Bad Times”, “Congratulations”, “Grown Up Wrong”), as well as two tracks (“Empty Heart”, “2120 South Michigan Avenue”) accredited to Nanker Phelge which was a pseudonym used by the band when it was a group composition, it was used from 1963-1965. 12 X 5 was not released in the UK it was instead released separately, on the Five By Five EP, the It’s All Over Now single and in part on the The Rolling Stones No. 2 album. UK and US releases were at the time released with different track listings and titles. US releases were different usually to include charting UK singles in hopes that they would sell better.
The album 12 X 5 starts off with “Around and Around” a song originally by Chuck Berry, while it may not have been the first Chuck Berry song for the band to cover it is often called their best Chuck Berry cover, it had been at the time one of the energetic staples of their live sets. The second track found on this album “Confessin’ The Blues” is a slow Blues groove, along with “Good Times Bad Times”, the album also features the UK hit “It’s All Over Now”, which is a rocked up Soul song originally by Bobby Womack that would reflect the bands future Garage R&B sounds. “Time Is On My Side” is another highlight found on the album, and it was yet another hit in the UK, in the US it was their first top ten single. The version of “Time Is On My Side” differs from the single version, it is referred to as the “organ version”, this version features prominent organ parts as opposed to the other version which features more electric guitar, the song was originally by Jerry Ragovoy, that had been covered by Soul artist Irma Thomas.
In terms of The Rolling Stones original compositions found on this album, many people say that it is the band coming into their own, but that they are not so strong. “Empty Heart” is often attacked, but the song is often overlooked for its endearing qualities, the song features a Bo Diddley tremolo-like rhythm with soulful organ and Blues parts added to it, “Congratulations” is the Stones attempt at an early Pop song, while “Grown Up Wrong” bashes along with an Elmore James influenced slide guitar parts, but it is as with other songs found on this album whether covers or originals, reflections of the bands early influences. To have been recording an album at Chess Studios in Chicago which produced many recordings by artists that had a big influence on the band must have had an impact. In fact there is a song found on the album entitled “2120 South Michigan Avenue”, it is not only a rare instrumental from the band but also the address of the legendary Chess studio.
Lyrically the songs were starting to mark the beginnings of the lyrical subject matter that the band would be known for in the late 60's, "Mother's Little Helper", "Satisfaction", "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadow?", and "Paint It Black" come to mind, they exposed the underside side of suburban life. And while "Empty Heart" may have seemed like filler to some the lyrics "Empty heart is like an empty life" and the lyrics to "Grown Up Wrong" serve as the embryonic structure that was forming within the band context, as Mick, Keith and co. started to questions the very make up of society. Taking into consideration also that at that point in time in 1964, there were very few bands releasing original material it was not only a huge feat for the band, but also something new at the time. It should however,also be noted that the bands covers were not just merely replications of the originals, "It's All Over Now" exemplifies this best. They took what they knew and made it their own.
12 X 5 has a certain flow to it, a certain synchronization that can be seen as a representation of the band past and future. While the Chess recordings ooze with Blues and Soul the album progresses to the ender “Suzie Q”, yet another cover song. This song is perhaps an important ender because this rocked up version of the Dale Hawkins song ends the album on a loud note, it has an almost Dave Davies-(of The Kinks) like guitar tone quality. And it may be true that this album was mostly put together from two separate recording sessions done at Chess Studios and Regent Studios, but The Rolling Stones are just starting out here, just starting to break out of the cover song mould and they are advancing their sound with better production techniques than their debut album England's Newest Hitmakers. It would be some time before they released an album having all original songs (that would be 1966’s Aftermath), but The Stones would progress from their Blues and Soul influences into their own brand of R&B Rock, which is still today this day trying to be emulated. 12 X 5 marks the beginning of the Jagger/Richards song writing partnership that would dominate the bands music, not unlike the Lennon/McCartney song writing partnership that would dominate their music, it was a sign of things to come.
This Week's Play List:
1. The Visitors - Living World
2. Teenage Head - Top Down
3. Tranzmitors - Concrete Depression
4. Sebadoh - Gimme Indie Rock
5. Sugar - Changes
6. Dog Day - What She Says
7. Craig Martinson - Heartbeat
8. Woods - Military Madness
9. Swans - The Daughter BringsThe Water
10. The Spooky But Nice - Sun Goes
11. Elk - Flowers
12. The Howlies - Stunned
13. King Khan & The Shrines - (How Can I Keep You) Outta Harms Way
14. Kyuss - Hurricane
15. Japandroids - Evils Sway
16. Wolf Parade - You Are A Runner…
17. Tom Waits - Make It Rain
18. Reigning Sound - Shaw
19. Mystics - Can't Be Happy
20. The Rolling Stones - Confessin' The Blues
21. The Rolling Stones - Empty Heart
22. The Rolling Stones - 2120 South Michigan Avenue
23. Light Bulb Alley - Pepper Spray
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for September 4. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.