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by Justin Farrar

November 6, 2013

The Stones Play the Blues

by Justin Farrar  |  November 6, 2013

The Rolling Stones were most dedicated to playing the blues in their formative years. It was at London's Marquee Club in 1962 and '63 that the shaggy upstarts cut their teeth on the music of Chicago masters Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Howlin' Wolf. Much of what they performed live at the time would find its way on to the Stones' earliest full-lengths: "Honest I Do" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You" on The Rolling Stones; "I Can't Be Satisfied" on The Rolling Stones No. 2; and "Confessin' the Blues" and "Good Times, Bad Times" on the American-only collection 12 X 5.

Though the group's reliance on outside material would dissipate by 1965, nearly every album they've released since has contained a blues number or two. Many of them are covers, like their ghostly interpretation of Robert Johnson's "Love in Vain" on Let It Bleed (check out [Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! The Rolling Stones in Concert] for the live version), or the guttural rendition of Fred McDowell's "You Gotta Move" closing out the original Side 1 of Sticky Fingers. Numerous others, meanwhile, are original compositions. One of the most notable is "Goin' Home," which anchors 1966's Aftermath. Along with The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's "East-West," released the same year, the 11-minute workout is one of the first recorded examples of jam-based psychedelic music. Another key example is "Ventilator Blues"; if you want to know where the punk-blues aesthetic of Don Howland, Jon Spencer, Jack White, The Black Keys and countless others comes from, look no further than this grungy, snarling throw-down from [Exile on Main St].

The Rolling Stones of the 21st century continue to pay homage to their roots. In fact, it's when they tear into a chestnut like Muddy Waters' "Rock Me, Baby" (see 2004's Live Licks) that the classic-rock icons sound most youthful and alive.

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