The Rolling Stones released their second American LP, 12 X 5, in October of 1964. It was a hastily thrown together affair consisting of tracks recorded at the legendary Chess studio in Chicago plus some other tracks put together in London.
Despite its hasty nature the album showed that the Rolling Stones were progressing musically. While 12 X 5 still contained a large number of covers (7), Mike Jagger and Keith Richards has begun to regularly write their own material. The cover songs were still taken from the rhythm & blues idiom but the Stones were gradually moving their sound toward straight rock and roll.
“It’s All Over Now,” originally penned by Bobby Womack, would become an early Rolling Stones signature song and make the American top 40 charts when released as a single. The Stones took this classic R&B song and remade it in their own image. The sound, including Mick Jagger’s vocals, are very rock & roll and it holds up well over forty years later.
12 X 5 contains an early version of “Time Is On My Side” This track featured an organ sound rather than a guitar. Mick Jagger’s voice also comes across with less urgency than the final release. The song was re-cut in London with a Brian Jones guitar line and new vocals which became a lasting Rolling Stones classic.
The single, “Time Is On My Side,” was the first Rolling Stones record that I ever purchased. It even came with a picture sleeve that portrayed the Stones in all their ugly, grungy glory.
The flip side of the single was “Congratulations” which I remember playing as much as “Time Is On My Side.” “Congratulations” featured some excellent acoustic guitar by Brian Jones and is a reminder of just how good a musician he could be when not completely under the influence. This sarcastic love song accurately reflected the attitude the Rolling Stones were trying to present to the public.
The cover of “Susie Q” has some good and bad. The good, the song is one of the first to feature dual guitars laid against each other. This sound would become a Rolling Stones trademark during the Mick Taylor years. The bad, Mick Jagger’s vocal was not that of Dale Hawkins original. Interestingly Jagger and Richards borrowed from “Susie Q” in style with their “Growing Up All Wrong.” Brian Jones slide guitar would then take the song in a country direction at least instrumentally.
“Around and Around” and “Confessin’ The Blues” have to be two of the most different songs to ever start a Rolling Stones album. The Stones crank up the sound and tempo on Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around” and charge through the song at a frenetic pace. Mick Jagger is usually on safe ground with blues oriented ballads. “Confessin’ The Blues” is an excellent vehicle for Jagger’s voice.
“2012 South Michigan” is a rare Rolling Stones original instrumental. The song title is the address of Chess records in Chicago and here the Stones pay homage to this institution that housed many of their early influences.
12 X 5 marked the beginning of the modern day Rolling Stones process of creating an album. Jagger and Richards would write a song and bring in the other members to lay down their instrumental tracks. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were also starting to write songs on a regular basis and this would begin to push Brian Jones into the background. The Rolling Stones were quickly becoming the property of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.