Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Rolling Stones' finest hour - "Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out"

This hour long recording, originally made for the BBC at Leeds University on 13th March 1971, and bootlegged in the 1970s on vinyl as "Get Yer Leeds Lungs Out", is easily the finest unissued live music by the Rolling Stones. In fact the last 45 minutes from Midnight Rambler on is arguably some of the best music they ever recorded.

After the hysteria and drug busts of the mid 1960s and the death of Brian Jones still overshadowing the band, the Rolling Stones returned to touring in 1969 with new guitarist Mick Taylor in tow. Taylor, fresh from John Mayall's band, added a virtuosity to the Stones' music which put them on a par with contemporaries like Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton and other blues wailing guitar heroes of the day. The Stones were now a band with a blues maturity they had previously, in their mid 60s pop incarnation, lacked.

The 5 years which Taylor spent with the band can be seen as their most artistically creative (Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup, and It’s Only Rock’n’Roll were all recorded during his tenure). As a live band, they were at their tightest and most energetic and Mick Jagger was at his youthful demonic peak. The 1969 American tour saw the band reinvent themselves as “the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World” and although terminating in the disastrous Altamont festival, the tour was highly successful and put the band back on the rock center-stage along with Dylan, the Who and the recently separated Beatles.

The Rolling Stones played Leeds University in the spring of 1971 on the penultimate date of their first UK tour since 1966. Recorded in the Refectory in front of (presumably) less than a thousand slightly stoned hippy students, it has an intimacy and informality that the later Rolling Stones' arena shows lack. It sounds like a band in a club. Jagger talks to rather than shouts at the audience. The Watts / Wyman / Richards rhythm section has the funky looseness soon to be recorded on Exile On Main Street and there is a tight rhythm guitar / lead guitar interplay between Richards and Taylor, both of whom instinctively know when to leave space for the other. Taylor’s playing is arguably better on the '72 American tour however on that tour the band tended to pay everything too fast and a lot of the funk present here was lost. This is a recording of a band with a virtuoso lead player who is however playing within, and functioning as a part of the band, rather than in front of it, as Eric Clapton, Alvin Lee or Johnny Winter would have done. It isn’t about the guitar player it’s about the music. It’s about the “roll” as well as the “rock” as Keef said. This is a prime recording of the "roll" in the Rolling Stones.

And this is the dirtiest, rawest, rudest guitar sound Keith Richards ever achieved. His amp sounds as though the speakers have gaping holes in them. Midnight Rambler burns and crackles and Brown Sugar is far more incendiary here than on the single version. The flick knife intro precedes a guitar sound which is the aural equivalent of rusty razor blades. Jagger still sounds as though he is interested in what he is singing and makes an effort to put some life in the words as opposed to the breathless barking and yelping he would be making on the 1972 tour and for quite some time thereafter. The version of Satisfaction here is slower than the single and has a much funkier arrangement that seems to owe a lot to James Brown and Otis Redding. However the overwhelming climax here is Chuck Berry's Let it Rock. It is everything you ever wanted from the Rolling Stones. Richards and Watts appear to take inspiration from the opening lines "In The Heat Of The Day Down In Mobile Alabama, working on the railroad with the steel driving hammer" and pound and hammer their way through the song to bust through into a moment of true magical inspiration when the band takes off and appears to become energized and overtaken by some higher power. Their own momentum overtakes them and it's the song itself that seems to be playing the band. I swear about half way through they all sound like they are levitating...

It'll leave you breathless.

I have no idea how often I have listened to the last 45 minutes or so of this show over the years. For me Midnight Rambler through to Let It Rock it is the quintessence of the Rolling Stones. It has all the rawness, grace, swagger and danger of what rock music was supposed to be about in the early '70s. The Stones were soon to lose their ability to conjure up those qualities but should anyone now too young to know ever ask you who were the Rolling Stones and what was all the fuss about...
Play them this.

Note; The track list for the hour long BBC broadcast is Dead Flowers / Stray Cat Blues / Love In Vain / Midnight Rambler / Bitch / Honky Tonk Women / Satisfaction / Little Queenie / Brown Sugar / Street Fighting Man / Let It Rock (the band opened with Jumping Jack Flash however the early part of the show is missing)

Midnight Rambler starts below at 14:45


  1. Great write up. I've been listening to it non-stop for a about two weeks. For me, that Street Fighting Man cut is just immense (talk about incendiary). Everything came together on that one and then to close with Let It Rock? I mean, just... damn.

  2. I very much appreciate the post; where I DIFFER is that Taylor's two stratospheric slide solos on "Love In Vain" are the SINGULAR display of his very beautiful virtuosity. Apart from that, I think your assessment is DEAD ON.

  3. Though I'd quibbled a little here or there, and oddly enough it's the six and one half minutes PRIOR Midnight Rambler mesmerizes me, David Mainwood seems to have offered one of the finest and most commendable running commentaries on any show that we're aware of.

    "The Stones were soon to lose their ability to conjure up those qualities but should anyone now too young to know ever ask you who were the Rolling Stones and what was all the fuss about...
    Play them this."

    That's a great point; only minor discrepancy is that around this time the Bleed and Sticky cuts (on album) are SO strong and SO deep and SO groovy that exposure to the hot as fuck "Monkey Man" (e.g., rather than "Brown Sugar") might occasionally be preferable to the live action. So, perhaps BOTH are REQUIRED listening for anybody newby to (post FM?) Stones and digs real music. "Sweet Virginia" from Exile was never bettered live, either.
    It's discretionary as all get out, but David makes numerous stellar observations regardless.
    So I CANNOT understand how such a great band in the early seventies would GET AWAY with playing so poorly live for so many decades after - but that's the rule not the exception and even Martin Scorcesse seems to have been duped into tagging along with the post-Taylor Stones, which is a joke beings Marty could and should have known better - embarrassing after having put great Stones tunes in his very interesting films.
    How can anybody EVER understand the POPULAR lure of a band, that even by '74, was an absurdly pallid, flatly lame, husk of a shell of its earlier sheer glory?
    No other act delighted boogie-blues fans so much (by contrast) for a few years, and then disgusted and disappointed so acutely following (by comparison) - for what seems like eons afterward. Se la vie. Rock 'n the blues and boogie with a beat has probably always been the young man's game - and always will be.
    Jagger strutting like a pouting, pusillanimous little chicken-wing chump of a cock-a-doodle-doo did NOT help matters. He became more offensive and more a distraction than Robert Plant ever was, and to many, even rabid fans, esp. those nonplussed at falsetto, that is actually saying something.
    Can't we just cancel out of existence and consciousness all of Mick the dick-of-a-liver-lip after about 1973?

    Mr. Mainwood nicely presents favorite collector & trader tapes ... *minus* only one heretofore neglected club date (PRISTINE format DVD) at the Marquee Club w/ best A/V quality - pro-shot or amateur. I think the sax solo on the opener "Live with Me" is on par with best I've heard for instance.
    Since "Brussels Affair" and e.g., a couple good gigs (Ft. Worth, TX?) from America '72 tour apparently made it either into *Ladies & Gentleman* {I was lucky enough to catch *L & G* midnight-matinee cinema [around 1980 or '81 or '82?] when another type minor blues-revival was reflected in the existence of American audiences [late-teenage or early college mostly?] newly hungry for Doors/Stones/Who type vintage performances. I think S.R.V. electric Texas blues guitarist emerged out of that "era".
    Anyhow, though a bit of the musical momentum captured at Altamont (regarding "Sympathy For The Devil" performance) - or particularly Leeds '71 or L & G film '72 (also Brussels's Affair around then or bit later?) are each, in ways, maybe a little more convincing because more "thoroughly complete" in terms of overall sophistication; nonetheless, pound-for-pound "if the video component is accounted for," as any item comprising less than an hour, "The Rolling Stones: (from the vault) The Marquee live in 1971" is the single most transparent representation I'm aware of, measured against the overall quality of musical performance coupled with the clarity and intimacy, taken as a whole, of this well produced pro-shot video. From a certain vantage point,
    is a bigtime blast-from-the-past, at intervals, though since it's just weeks prior the release of Sticky Fingers album, it's not quite as "required listening for every little moment from start-to-finish" as organic whole as we might like. Yet in terms of "what seeing them and being there was like" during the period of blues-drenched and country-infused Stones (relatively young & early) heyday. As a musically "mature" and innovative outfit, in one respect this rivals anything they ever recorded. The editing isn't the best, and apart from the absence of slightly later numbers like "Sweet Virginia" and/or "All Down the Line" or "Torn and Frayed" which was almost impossible anyway w/o Exile sessions man Perkins there on stage playing such beautiful Steel Pedal, and taken in context, the assessment is: superb.
    Given, the horns are tight, Taylor plays some good guitar - not his all-around-finest - but pretty good by any standard. He's easily the standout - and Jagger gives his all at singing and playing harp, without any dancing (prancing) around, so this is about as good as I've ever seen (for about 1/2 an hour straight) of the Stones on video.

    1. I tend to agree Jo. The Marquee show is my favorite too. btw you might be interested in this post too.