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by Justin Farrar

November 30, 2011

Classic Rock Crate Digger: The Rolling Stones' U.K. Discography (1964-'67)

by Justin Farrar  |  November 30, 2011

These days, rock fans around the world expect a certain level of discographic homogeneity from their stars. U2 might release different EPs, singles and even greatest-hits packages in various countries around the globe, but in when it comes to indentifying their primary releases (The Joshua Tree, War, All That You Can't Leave Behind, et al.) just about everybody in the world is in agreement.

This wasn't always the case. Before the 1970s, it was quite common for the discographies of rock stars to differ from nation to nation, market to market. Hardcore record collectors specializing in Beatles and Rolling Stones memorabilia know this all too well. Many of the groups' most iconic albums underwent radical alterations when making the trip from the United Kingdom to the States. This was due to crass commercialism, quite honestly. London Records, The Stones' American label, wanted to saturate the American market with as much product as possible. Thus, they made a habit of removing songs from albums (released in England on the Decca label originally) and coupling them with single-only tracks in order to produce even more albums to hawk. (Interesting aside: back in the day the British record-buying public thought it bad form to include singles on albums, as well as to pull singles from albums. They were seen as independent media.)

Between 1964 and '69, The Stones released eight albums, two greatest-hits collections and a pair of EPs in the U.K. Here in the United States, the numbers were 10 albums, two greatest-hits collections, a live record and a full-length, 1967's Flowers, that fell somewhere between album and compilation. As a result, old-school American fans have fond memories of titles the Brits didn't even know existed: England's Newest Hit Makers, The Rolling Stones, Now!, December's Children (And Everybody's) and, of course, the aforementioned Flowers.

I'm of the belief the original British versions are the better records. First off, London Records forced us Yanks to purchase a lot of music twice. The American Out of Our Heads consists of 12 tracks, four of which were also released via the 45 format: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man," "Play with Fire" and "The Last Time." That means we paid full album price for just eight new songs. Then there's the issue of artistic quality. This becomes quite evident when comparing the U.S. versions of Aftermath and Between the Buttons to their U.K. counterparts. The latter are so much more cohesive and fully realized that they're practically different records. Between the Buttons in particular is an interesting case; because London Records gutted the thing, American rock critics failed to embrace it quite like the British pop press did; different versions spawned different legacies.

Because I'm a bigger fan of the U.K. catalog, I've compiled, in chronological order, the original British versions of the albums and EPs London Records mangled during the time in question. If you're a big rock nerd like me, then you'll surely enjoy exploring a fresh perspective on such a classic discography.

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