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The Rolling Stones – Complete Woodstock Tapes (Original Master Series OMS:001-4)

Complete Woodstock Tapes (Original Master Series OMS:001-4)
(outer slip cover)

The Rolling Stones finished recording and mixing Some Girls in March 1978.  Rehearsals for their first US tour in three years began close to two months later in the end of May.  The band gathered at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, New York along with Peter Tosh and his band who would be opening for the Stones.

Todd Rundgren and Utopia are most closely associated with Bearsville Studios, and some sources write that the Stones rehearsed at Rundgren’s studio.  Actually, it was opened and maintained by Albert Grossman and served many different acts.

It is fortunate that the Stones were in the habit of recording and filming their rehearsals dating back to the 1972 tour.  It offers a glimpse, not only of the idea they had in their presentation and setlist, but also what songs they liked to play in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Various fragments from the rehearsals were pressed onto several one-CD titles including The Rolling Stones (NP 7381), The Woodstock Tape 1978 (Idol Mind Productions IMP-CD-003), Hip Shake 1978 (Melody ML001) and The 1978 US-Tour-Rehearsals in Woodstock (Mighty Diamonds MD 2007).  A longer tape filling two CDs was issued on 1978 Tour Rehearsals / Back to the 50’s (The Glimmerpub 19007/18001) and Pearls at Swine (TOTR 002).

Two four disc titles followed with The Complete Woodstock Tapes (Red Devil RED001/002/003/004) and The Complete Woodstock Tapes (VGP-130).  This new release is a straight copy of the Vinyl Gang including the cover photograph and little paragraph on the back of the artwork.  OMS use a slip cover for the jewel case with the artwork from the NP release.  Otherwise, this is an excellent yet unoriginal release. 

Bearsville Studios, Woodstock, NY – May 27th to June 8th, 1978 

Disc 1 (70:04):  Miss You, Respectable, Love In Vain, Play With Fire, No Expectations, Instrumental Jam, Blues Jam #1, Blues Jam #2, Blues Jam #3, Blues Jam #4, Blues Jam #5, Gimme Shelter, When The Whip Comes Down, Miss You

The first disc begins with a short, jazzy instrumental warm-up before the band rehearse “Miss You.”  This was the big hit from Some Girls and it makes sense they would practice this song first.  For seventeen minutes they run-through the song several times.  The big question in this rehearsals is the role of the keyboards.  At some points the electric keyboard plays a more prominent role than others, even taking the melody at one point.

One take of “Respectable” shows the band pretty much nailing it for live performance.  The pianist (either Ian MacLagan or Berhnard Harvey, depending upon when it was recorded) contributes a boogie piano to the punk tune.

A five minute rehearsal of “Love In Vain” follows.  It hadn’t been included in the live set in five years when Mick Taylor was still in the band.  They play an up-tempo rock arrangement of the song.  Ron Wood handles the slide capably, but Jagger flubs the lyrics in the middle.  The run-through ends with a bit of Beethoven played on the piano.  

Two surprising numbers follow.  “Play With Fire,” which was last played on May 1st, 1966 at the NME poll winners concert in Wembley, is given consideration.  It is followed by “No Expectations,” a song which had never been played live up to that point and wouldn’t find its way to the stage until the Licks tour. 

Several blues jams follow in quick succession.  Some are longer than others (the shortest lasting just over a minute), and they show different forms.  Some are slow blues, one is fast and one is even more country / western.

Ninety seconds of “Gimme Shelter” follows.  The first hour of rehearsals ends with a run-through of “When The Whip Comes Down” and a seven minute rehearsal of “Miss You.”  This take focuses upon Keith and Ronnie working out the guitar arrangements for the stage show.  

Disc 2 (74:04):  Don’t Look Back, Instrumental Jam, Beast Of Burden, C’mon Everybody / Summertime Blues, Rocket 88, Drum Solo, Crazy Mama, Star Star, Gimme Shelter, Don’t Look Back, Beautiful Delilah

For the second hour, they start with a rehearsal of The Temptation’s hit “Don’t Look Back.”  Although the Stones didn’t play it during the tour, opening act Peter Tosh did and many times Jagger joined Tosh onstage and sing it as a duet. 

From the sound of the seven minute rehearsal, they were thinking about playing this song as a medley with “Beast Of Burden.”  Several times they segue into the Some Girls track, practicing the transition.  This was an idea probably inspired from the previous tour when they paired “If You Can’t Rock Me” with “Get Off Of My Cloud.”  It doesn’t really work and thankfully they didn’t go ahead with it.  

Afterwards they have an instrumental run-through of “Beast Of Burden” followed by a long Eddie Cochrane rehearsal.  They play “C’mon Everybody” and “Summertime Blues.”  The latter features lead vocals by Jagger.  They follow with long jams on “Rocket 88” and the rarely played “Crazy Mama” (a song recorded for Black & Blueand played at El Mocambo the previous year, but not played again until much later). 

A more complete and quicker tempo version of “Gimme Shelter” follows.  Since they never played it during this tour, it is interesting to hear the stripped down and “punk” arrangement.  The tape ends with the old song “Beautiful Delilah,” not played since 1964.  At the start Jagger says “if  you’re serious, play it” almost as if he’s daring the rest of the band to play it. 

Disc 3 (71:52):  Cocksucker Blues, It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, All Down The Line, Honky Tonk Women, Brown Sugar, Tumbling Dice, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Memory Motel, The Fat Man, Beast Of Burden, Hot Stuff, Something Else, Sweet Little Sixteen, Hi Heel Sneakers, Play With Fire, Crackin’ Up

The third hour of rehearsals contain many more songs that would be regularly played on the 1978 tour including “All Down The Line,” “Brown Sugar” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”  They also rehearse “It’s Only Rock And Roll,” a song common from the previous tour but not included on the current one.

But there are also several rarities and curiosities mingled in.  “Cocksucker Blues” is their infamous final single for Island Records in 1970, a piece of obscene smut.  Whether they seriously considered adding it to the live repertoire or not is debatable, but they give it a serious and extended performance in the studio. 

“Memory Motel” is the excellent Black & Blue track that was also considered for this tour but abandoned.  It wouldn’t be played live until the Voodoo Lounge tour in 1994.  It is followed by “The Fat Man,” the first Fats Domino single from 1951 which ranks as one of the earliest rock and roll songs.  

“Hot Stuff,” another regular from the previous tour, is given a two and a half minute instrumental workout before being dropped.  The disc ends with  their final attempt at “Play With Fire” and a rehearsal of “Cracking Up,” the Bo Diddley number they played in El Mocambo in 1977 and included on Love You Live.

Disc 4 (73:25):  Tell Me (You’re Coming Back), Shake Your Hips, Respectable, Don’t Look Back, Instumental Jam, Sweet Little Sixteen, Let It Rock, Shattered, Memory Motel, Far Away Eyes, Let’s Spend The Night Together, Tumbling Dice, Happy, Prodigal Son, Brown Sugar

The fourth hour of rehearsals starts with a serious attempt to bring the first Jagger/Richards single to the stage.  “Tell Me” was only performed a handful of known times in the sixties before being ignored by the band.  It is interesting to hear, fifteen years later, a polished rendition.  The wouldn’t play it on the 1978 tour, however.  They rehearsed it again in the 1997 rehearsals for Bridges To Babylon, but it still remains a song that has never been played live. 

An impromptu rendition of “Shake Your Hips” follows, the old Slim Harpo tune recorded for Exile On Main Street in 1972.  This had never been played live, and the loose feel of the recording suggests it wasn’t seriously considered for the stage.

They follow with a standard run-through of “Respectable” and the final attempt at “Don’t Look Back” with a stronger reggae beat.  A five minute instrumental jam follows which starts off slower and dominated by the electric piano before speeding up, turning into an expected slice of Rolling Stones rock and roll.

Chuck Berry has two covers in their setlist in 1978, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Let It Rock,” and the Stones worked extensively to get them both tight.  After a run-through of “Shattered,” one of the new songs to anchor the set, they try “Memory Motel” again. For twelve minutes they give the song several tries, working on the intonation of the lyrics and getting the Richards / Wood guitar interlude right.  It is an intriguing piece, but was dropped probably due to its similarity to “Beast Of Burden.”

In the last half hour they practice four songs, “Far Away Eyes,” “Happy,” “Tumbling Dice” and “Brown Sugar” that would be included in the Some Girls setlist.  “Let’s Spend The Night Together” is given serious consideration.  After the song’s release in 1967, it was given scant attention, appearing only in the Knebworth set in 1976 and El Mocambo in 1977.  It wouldn’t be played in 1978 but would become an important track in 1981 and afterwards.  

Also interesting is “Prodigal Son.”  It was part of a two song acoustic set in 1969, and they played with the idea of bringing it back in 1978 as a full band electric number.  The rehearsals feature Ronnie on slide guitar weaving the melody over Keith’s strumming.  It would have been a great number to include in the set, but it unfortunately they decided against it.

After sitting and listening for almost five hours, it is apparent how much care and concentration the Stones gave in getting ready for the tour.  It provides an interesting contrast to the live performances in 1978 which have received much criticism for being sloppy and uncaring.  Hearing the Woodstock tapes offers a rare opportunity to hear the Stones applying themselves during a troubled time. 

Nothing is really achieved with this release in terms of new material.  But the sound is excellent, and for those who cannot find or afford the old Vinyl Gang set, this is a viable alternative.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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  1. Yes, mine says “Saugerties Complete” and is made to look sort of like a Vinyl Gang release. Weird, I don’t remember noticing that defect when I bought it but it was a number of years ago.

  2. Thanks very much for telling me that, jerrythebarman – greatly appreciated. I assume/presume that each of your discs, like mine, say “Saugerties Complete” on it. The defect seems so unusual to me – esp. considering that I’m fairly sure that mine is a factory-pressed gold original rather than a gold 4-pro-CD-R.

  3. I just checked my copt of the OMS version and yes, mine has the same defect from about 1:40 to 2:00 on High Heel Sneakers on Disc 3.

  4. All that I’m really looking for is just 1, maybe 2, people who have, or at least know about the existence of, the same strange defect that I have (approx. 1:40 to approx. 2:05 into Track 14 (“High-Heel Sneakers”) of Disc 3). If there’s still no one at all able to help me, then I guess I might as well stop posting or submitting anything at all to contribute here & just go back to lurking for my own personal needs, as I once did a while ago.

  5. Hello? Anyone? Is there really not even just a single person out there able to help me, besides solly? I find that quite hard to believe, very disappointing, & even a little disturbing.

  6. No problem DLee, and good luck.

  7. Solly, thanks for letting me know that & your kind offer, as they’re certainly appreciated, but I’d really like to at least hear from those who actually have the OMS version first before I accept your offer. Thanks again, & to all the others, please let me know ASAP.

  8. Mr. DLee,
    I own the factory pressed Red Devil addition of this set which was released several years prior to the above referenced set and , which I beleive was utilized to create all subsequent releases of this material. I’ve have listened to the track in question and there is no anomoly that you reference.So the defect is not on the original release. I would gladly make you a copy of disc 4 if you would like.

  9. On the factory-pressed gold original that I just got, there’s some strange skipping or clicking noises from approx. 1:40 to approx. 2:05 into Track 14 (“High-Heel Sneakers”) of Disc 3, but the disc appears to be in perfectly new/mint condition. Furthermore, when I ripped the track to my PC’s hard-drive using EAC (Exact Audio Copy), EAC reports that there are no suspicious points anywhere in the track, even though playback of the track results in the same skipping/clicking noises in its questionable part. So could those of you who have this particular Stones 4CD release please let me know, as soon as reasonably possible, whether or not yours is likewise? Thanks.

  10. ter-jack wrote: “The Cocksucker Blues “single” was submitted to English Decca when the label claimed the band owned them one more track before they departed to Atlantic. There are at least two distict versions.”

    Don’t know what you’re heading at there.
    There’s only ONE version of CS Blues recorded/available from 1970.
    The “other one” is taken from these 1978 rehearsals.

    The bootlegers might want you to think there’s “an electric and an acoustic 1970 version” out there, but that’s just a lie.

  11. Mr. Oldman24, you are correct. This release on OMS initially became available in September of 2002.

  12. The Cocksucker Blues “single” was submitted to English Decca when the label claimed the band owned them one more track before they departed to Atlantic. There are at least two distict versions.

  13. Of course you are correct, sir. What was I thinking of ?

    Rock’n Roll Circus 1968, Hyde Park 1969 and LA 1973 all features No Excpectations.

    Sorry for any confusion.

  14. Erik, it’s been a long time since I watched R ‘n’ R Circus but I’m looking at the cd credits right now and No Expectations is listed on there and I could swear I recall Brian sitting down playing the slide part. Am I getting this wrong? Is it listed erroneously on the cd?

  15. The review suggests this is a new title released in 2011, but is that true? Looks more like 2002 or 2003 or am i wrong?

  16. Thanks you Erik. Coming from you, the compliment means a lot.

  17. “No Expectations” was performed in Hyde Park 1969, but not at Rock’n Roll Circus.

    I forgot to say that the review is really good, and I agree that Prodigal Son would have been terrific, if performed live and electric in 1978. Hi Heel Sneakers and Crazy Mama would’ve been excellent as well (please edit my 3 comments into 1 post, Gsparaco – thank you)

  18. Great review as always. Just to split hairs a touch (thta’s what we do here, right?), No Expectations had been played live before: at the Nicaraguan Benefit Concert in L.A. in January ’73 as well as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus TV show.

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