The Rolling Stones ‘KBFH Broadcasts (Joe Maloney Archive)’ – Moonchild Records (MC-019)
Recorded live at London, 9 September 1973 & Brussels, 1st Show 17 October 1973
DISC 1 (Aired Sept. 29, 1974): Brown Sugar, Happy, Dancing With Mr. D, Angie, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Midnight Rambler, Rip This Joint, Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man, KBFH Outro
DISC 2 (Aired Nov. 24, 1974): Gimme Shelter, Tumbling Dice, Brown Sugar, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Heartbreaker, Angie, Honky Tonk Women, Midnight Rambler, All Down The Line, Street Fighting Man, Interview with Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts, KBFH Outro
DISC 3 (Aired June 29, 1975): Brown Sugar, Happy, Gimme Shelter, Tumbling Dice, Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Heartbreaker, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Dancing With Mr. D, Angie, Honky Tonk Women, Midnight Rambler, Rip This Joint, Jumping Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man, Interview With Mick Jagger, KBFH Outro
So, the $1973 question (a cheeky reference to the rigged game show the $64000 Question for all you young kids) is this: Do we, at this stage of the collecting game, really need yet another release of the obsessively-booted October 17, 1973 Rolling Stones’ Brussels show?
After all, over the years there seems to have been nearly as many incarnations of this legendary live show on LP and CD formats as Stones’ wives, girlfriends, and studded rhinestones on Mick Jagger’s jumpsuit (72 and counting, according to The Rolling Stones Bootleg Database site dbboots). The desire for new, “definitive” editions for new generations of listeners (or completist-minded old ones like me) is, apparently, insatiable.
And for good reason. When the Stones stepped on stage that afternoon of October 17 for the first of two shows at very nearly the end of a fall European tour in support of that autumn’s “Goats Head Soup” album (they had one date left two days later in West Germany), the unit was a spectacularly diamond-hard machine of interlocking performing parts.
The Stones, with engineer Andy Johns in tow, wisely recorded both the afternoon and evening shows on their mobile unit. The first of those concerts was broadcast on the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show several times, with a few variations, over the ensuing years. Re-broadcasts of the afternoon show in the late 1980s even featured remixes of the tracks by none other than frontman Mick Jagger himself. There had also been a few tracks added (most notably “Doo Doo Doo Doo [Heartbreaker]”, which wasn’t played during the first Brussels show), or switched in and out from the band’s terrific Wembley show a month earlier (e.g. “Gimme Shelter”).
The immediate conclusion, by those who were lucky enough to be there, and those who first heard and thankfully taped the radio broadcasts (as did Boston-based concert taper Joe Maloney, whose foresight can be found on this release), was that they represented the absolute apex of the Stones as a touring band. Along with the professionally recorded New York, Philadelphia, and Fort Worth shows of the 1972 U.S. tour – once planned, according to Jagger, as part of a part studio/part live album but ultimately unreleased (officially) – Brussels was easily the best recorded live document of the band’s then-ten year career.
And yes, to listeners like me, Brussels was astonishingly even better – and certainly more ferocious and electrifying – than 1969’s heavily overdubbed ‘Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out.’ In short, it was a breath-taking portrait of the Stones at the top of their game. That’s the delirious rush and flush of feeling I had when I first heard it as a teenager on my first batch of Stones bootleg LPs (you never forget your first, as they say), including TAKRL’s double LP “Nasty Songs” and single LP “Bedspring Symphony.”
The Stones themselves, of course, made many of us very happy indeed (some of us even looked out the window to check whether Hell hath really did freeze over) when in 2011 they finally acquiesced and released their own official downloadable ‘A Brussels Affair’ through the ‘Rolling Stones Vault’ merchandising arm of their website.
What made that release extra special was that the recordings were mostly taken from the second and decidedly less well-circulated Oct. 17 show, thereby giving collectors an additional soundboard-quality ‘73 show, newly mixed by longtime engineer Bob Clearmountain, that hadn’t been heard in that crystal-clear broadcast quality before. (Peculiarly, unlike all of the other Stones ‘vault’ releases, ‘A Brussels Affair’ remains unavailable on either vinyl or compact disc, save for a lavish but exorbitantly priced collector’s edition).
It’s debatable which of the two Brussels show was stronger. But I like to think the Stones, in opting to release the second, evening concert as ‘A Brussels Affair’ rather than the first already heard ‘round the world, knew that everybody who cared already had the other show, in some form or other. In my more charitable, deluded state assigning the band generosity, I imagine Jagger winking at guitarist Keith Richards and said, “Hey Keef, let’s toss ‘em a bone and give ‘em something different, eh?’
And for those of us/you who still haven’t yet heard, or gotten our/your hands on, that first, titular Oct. 17 show? Well, just as we’ve been told by none other than Keef that there will always be the sun, the moon, and the Rolling Stones, it’s entirely possible that there will forever be a new edition of that landmark concert launched into the hands of collectors in radio broadcast quality.
All of which brings us to the latest entry into the Brussels sweepstakes: Moonchild Records’ 3-disc set titled “KBFH Broadcasts,” which are apparently sourced from the Joe Maloney Archive (I’ll bet you were wondering when I was gonna get to it).
This handsome new set of KBFH tapes is presented in a streamlined case with a spare but evocative selection of era-appropriate photos (although the front cover has a reverse picture image, a pet peeve) and black-on-silver discs. Each CD has been neatly divided into the program’s three air dates of September 29, 1974, November 24, 1974, and June 29, 1975, complete with KBFH program intros and outros, in what we can assume is the original broadcast track list running order. Issuing the music as it was originally heard on the airwaves represents a somewhat rarer choice than what we’ve grown accustomed to – a sometimes truncated, mix-and-match re-organization of the running order for whatever reason.
Additionally, the latter two discs also feature brief interviews from the broadcasts. The first is a humorous Peter Cook-Dudley Moore conversation with Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts that first surfaced on Totonka’s double-disc “Headin’ For An Overload” KBFH set more than 20 years ago; the second is WNEW’s Scott Muni chatting with a dazed but cordial-sounding Mick after a Boston date in 1975 (Muni loved the show, apparently).
The decision to present the three discs in original broadcast order means that there’s some overlap and redundancy of tracks between the programs that aired (for example, “Brown Sugar,” which opens Disc 1, is the same Oct. 17 Brussels version that’s placed third in the radio program set list on Disc 2). A bit more distracting (for me, at least) is the occasional fade and bleed from one spliced bit of Jagger stage banter that ends one song and starts another.
Here and there you can actually hear a smidgeon of the opening chords from a number that is then faded down quickly in favor of a different number; sometimes even two Micks overlapping in their remarks bleed into one another. But that’s a minor quibble – and it’s a flaw that’s always existed in the broadcast track mixing and sequencing, as far as I know, so not much to be done about that. The important thing is how rich, full, balanced, and vividly powerful the whole shebang sounds.
There are some interesting sleights of hand and venue to listen for: The Brussels version of “Street Fighting Man” that closes Disc 1, for instance, is replaced as a finale by the Wembley version on Disc 2, and that latter version in particular stands as one of the fiercest, almost metallic versions of the song ever recorded. Rarely did the Stones hit with more fast, full-throttle power than here. If Jagger sounds out of breath as he’s blurting out the lyrics by song’s end – and he does – it’s because the sheer force and dizzying maelstrom of the performance, of the entire show, in fact, has pushed him to the brink of coherence and exhaustion. Plus, he’s too busy jumping, dancing, and grabbing buckets of water with rose petals with which to douse the crowd and himself.
Elsewhere, a torrid “Gimme Shelter,” also from Wembley and featuring a mesmerizing solo by lead guitarist Mick Taylor, supplants the Brussels version (which was, in fact, recorded but initially passed over). Jagger reportedly preferred the Wembley version, and it would take another thirteen years before the Brussels version of “Gimme Shelter” found its way into a broadcast of Brussels highlights, also by KBFH, in 1987. (My review of Moonchild’s follow-up, ‘KBFH Broadcasts 2,” which contains this and other versions of Stones classics from the 1978 and 1981 U.S. tours, will be forthcoming).
Speaking of white-hot highlights, there are many: a scorching “Jumping Jack Flash”; a soaring, Taylor-soaked “Angie” with some gospel accents by keyboardist by Billy Preston. It’s a big, teary ballad made bigger, less resigned, and more painfully desperate in tone. You can clearly hear Keith chiming in with Jagger on the plaintive but hard-bitten chorus to a stately “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” before Taylor and saxophonist Bobby Keys step in to the fray to trade expressive solos (Taylor takes two) between the five and eight-minute mark. The performance is so tremendous, really, that after hearing the definitive live renditions of “YCAGWYW” from the 1972 and ‘73 tour eras, it really is difficult for me to listen to any live attempt since.
But the piece de resistance here has to be “Midnight Rambler,” an incendiary show stopper and galvanizing concert centerpiece. “Quite quick aren’t we?” Jagger asks rhetorically as he blows a few bars on a harmonica that sounds as if it’s at your elbow (his hard, muffled breath does too). This deliciously dark, fun house of horrors goes from brisk gallop to sauntering strut to a blitzkrieg of decibels and momentum that, to my ears, manages to best the previously definitive live “Ya Ya’s” version.
We get nearly 13 minutes of preening, prowling, belt-whipping rock theater by Jagger, surrounded by Keith and Mick T.’s blistering twin guitars shoveling out riffs and doling out licks as though they were slabs of rapidly hardening molten lava. Meanwhile, the consummate back line rhythm section of drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Bill Wyman lean into the task of feeding the furnace. As a whole, it is one of the purest, most magnificent distillations of climax-building rock ‘n’ roll catharsis the Stones (or any other band, for that matter) ever put to tape.
Hearing this assemblage of tracks blasting out of the speakers anew, it strikes me that I’ve answered my own question of whether another Brussels broadcast is necessary. For collectors who already have any number of versions of these shows, is Moonchild’s release mostly redundant? Yes. But, knowing that every unofficial/underground release eventually goes out of print (sooner rather than later), leaving historically critical, transcendent music in a limbo yet again, do we need another reissue of Brussels? Unequivocally, yes.