The Stones kicked straight into the first day of 1964 with an appearance on the very first edition of the new BBC pop show Top Of The Pops before embarking on their second nationwide tour of Great Britain two days later. On this outing, the Stones shared top billing with Phil Spector’s all-girl American group The Ronettes. The endless round of Odeon Theatres and ballroom appearances continued at a relentless pace for the next few months, with barely two days off in a row. There were two shows a night with each one as frantic as the one before. A fearsome pace that didn’t let up as their first album was released.
THE ROLLING STONES shot straight to number one, with a cover featuring a dark and moody close-up portrait of the group, by then, aspiring young photographer, David Bailey. The white bordered photograph on the sleeve had no graphics or title except the Decca record company logo in the top right hand corner. This was a risky, and pioneering step on part of Decca, implying that The Rolling Stones themselves, were bigger than their music. ‘That entire record,’ remembers Keith, ‘was virtually our stage act apart from one or two dubs thrown in. Most of it was straight from what we had played at Studio 51 or Richmond, but when we recorded it, we did it on a two-track Revox in a room insulated with egg cartons at Regent Sound. Under those primitive conditions it was very easy to make that kind of sound.’
It was also single time again. Oldham realised that if the success was to continue following their latest hit and number one album, they needed a healthy shot of commercialism in their choice of material to record. He also realised that the Lennon-McCartney songwriting set-up had taken The Beatles to new heights of acceptance and success. He set about developing an enforced songwriting partnership for Jagger and Richards.
‘I suppose really the credit for that must go to Andrew,’ recalls Keith. ‘Because I never thought of writing, it never occurred to me. I thought that was something else. It was like being a novelist, or it was like being a computer operator for all I knew. It was just a completely different field that I hadn’t thought of. I just thought of myself as a guitar player, and Mick hadn’t thought of it either. I suppose we dabbled with it occasionally when we were just sitting around with Brian. I remember a couple of times we just gave up in despair. It was really Andrew who forced us to sort of sit down and try it and got us through that initial period which you have to go through writing. You just write absolute rubbish, things you’ve heard, you just sort of re-write other people’s songs, until you start coming out with songs of your own, and it was Andrew who really made us persevere with that.’
Oldham knew that establishing the songwriting element within the band was essential. In fact, it was now the main objective. The band needed good commercially viable pop songs. It would be seen as a complete turnaround from the earthy Chicago Blues sound that had given rise to the band’s early popularity.
‘That period, if you remember rightly, which I very rarely do,’ says Mick, ‘everyone used to re-do hits that have been hits like standards, but no one heard except a few rock bands. For instance Money, and all of them. Some Other Guy, that was a good one, and Mashed Potato. But then you start to get the feeling that you had to write your own because you’re running out of them, so we just started writing. We never really wrote any blues numbers to start off with. The things we wrote were more like ballads or they were like pop songs, more in the that variety, which came more naturally to us rather than writing original blues which is very difficult to write actually – good original blues even now, ask any blues singer, whatever colour, it just is. Writing pop songs is were we started writing. The first song we ever wrote was called It Should Be You, I think.’
A newly signed Decca singing hopeful, named George Bean, covered that first song. Both song and artist were never heard of again. In the meantime, Oldham, determined to expand his publishing operation offered another Jagger/Richards song to Gene Pitney as a future new single. ‘I guess it was just prior to 24 Hours From Tulsa. Andrew was my publicist, and was managing The Rolling Stones, and having him as my publicist, we got to meet each other, and they had a song that I recorded, it was called That Girl Belongs To Yesterday, which they had written, but it’s funny, because they wrote it their own way, and it was probably a perfect opportunity for a winner song, but I changed the whole thing because it wasn’t… they weren’t right for the market at that time, really, the market hadn’t changed yet, and that song wasn’t right for the market at the time, and I put it into more of a ballad type thing that I was doing, my type of material, and I recorded that in the studio. Mick and Keith and everybody was there.
‘I guess the funniest thing that ever happened was when I stopped in from Paris one time and Phil Spector was in London, and Andrew called me at the hotel, and he said he was having a terrible time because they were trying to do, I think, it was the follow up to I Wanna Be Your Man, and all the boys hated each other that day, and they got them in the studio, a little dinky studio in Denmark Street, and he couldn’t get them to do anything, so I had five fifths of a coniac that I was bringing home, so I took a fifth of coniac over to the studio and told them it was a custom in my family that when everybody had a birthday, and I told them it was my birthday, that everybody had to drink a water glass of coniac until the bottle was empty. So we ended up with a hell of a session. I played piano on the date, and Phil Spector played an empty coniac bottle with a half dollar, clicking it, and we played on the B side, which was Little By Little.’
Little By Little first appeared on the B side of their third single Not Fade Away, but later as one of the twelve tracks on their first album that came out on the 29 May. Three days later the Stones flew to America for a whistle-stop promotional tour. ‘When I met them, nobody had really heard of them anywhere, not even in England, nor had the rest of the world,’ continues Gene. ‘And I was surprised when I met them only because of the hair, and the appearance. I remember I had a fellow with me who was in the Senate in the State of Connecticut. He was a Senator, and we took a picture of the boys with their arms around him, and when he got home, his wife asked him who the women were, who the ugly women were with their arms around him. That’s how uneducated the public was, especially the American public to that long hair and that type of look at that time.’