Lonely At The Top (Dog N Cat DAC-096)
(65:50): Living In The Heart Of Love, Drift Away, Sweet Home Chicago, Dancing Girls, Munich Reggae, Lonely At The Top, Munich Hilton, What’s The Matter, Gangster’s Moll, Hang Fire, Claudine, We Had It All, Let’s Go Steady, Save Me, Drift Away
For the number of rare and unreleased songs and of their interest, Lonely At The Topranks among the top three Rolling Stones titles of outtakes along with Bright Lights Big City and Accidents Will Happen. The vinyl Lonely At The Top (Nondon Records Ling Records KOK 1-5831) first surfaced in 1983 and has been copied onto several compact disc titles in the following years including on Vinyl Gang Product (VGP-057), The Swingin’ Pig (TSP-CD-199), Dandelion (Dl 040), and Home Entertainment Network (HEN 033) as a digipak.
The vinyl release contained nine songs (and under various different alternate names such as “Living Is A Harder Love” instead of “Living In The Heart Of Love” and “Linda Lu” for “Dancing Girls.”) To the original nine, DAC add on six more songs to fill out the disc all in excellent sound quality. They range from sessions in over a seven year period, dating from early 1972 to the latest tracks from 1979.
The first two songs come from the same sessions in February 1974 in Munich. These were recorded at the same time they were working on the LP It’s Only Rock N Roll and feature Mick Taylor on guitar (in fact, these would be his final sessions with the Stones). “Living In The Heart Of Love” is a predecessor to “Luxury,” sharing a common melody.
“Drift Away” was a big hit for Dobie Gray at the time. While it’s not at all surprising to hear the Stones cover the song (they did like to keep current), given there are two studio takes indicates they played with the idea of officially releasing the track. Nicky Hopkins plays piano and Billy Preston organ in the recording. The first take is a rudimentary runthrough. The second recording, included by DAC as a bonus, was recorded later that year at Stargroves and is more polished.
The next two tracks date from Emotional Rescue sessions in early 1979 in Nassau. “Dancing Girls” is a great piece of Rolling Stones rock and roll which uses the “Brown Leaves” riff in the verses from the previous year and “Sweet Home Chicago” is not a cover of the Robert Johnson classic, but sounds like an original blues with Jagger saying to his woman “I’d sure hate to see you go…sweet home Chicago.”
“Munich Reggae” is a Black & Blue outtake recorded in in the March, 1975 Musicland sessions. The actual tune is a basic reggae rhythm with very little development in the melody. Wayne Perkins, who was working with the band in the interim between Mick Taylor and Ron Wood, can be heard playing.
“Lonely At The Top” comes from the same Emotional Rescue as “Dancing Girls” and “Sweet Home Chicago.” It’s a mid-tempo thumper which Jagger would later use for his first solo album She’s The Boss (and even sing it on national TV at Live Aid that summer). The Stones recording is a bit slower with longer guitar passages in the middle. It is also interesting to note that this recoding actually came out two years before Jagger’s recording.
“Munich Hilton” comes from the same sessions. This versions has basic lyrics, but it never developed into anything. It’s interesting to note how several months later the New Barbarians rehearsed the song in preparing for their only tour that summer. The melody of their arrangement is carried by saxophone.
“What’s The Matter” dates from the early 1979 sessions and is an unreleased mid tempo blues. There are very basic lyrics (Jagger singing “hey, what’s the matter?” in the chorus) and Jagger shouts out the keys during the transitions.
“Gangster’s Moll” is the last song from the original LP. Recorded in the summer 1979 sessions for Emotional Rescue, it’s a mid-tempo ballad with country and western influences in the slide guitar. Jagger shouts out the chords and other directions as he sings the songs of the gangster’s moll, a reference to perhaps one of their groupies or other hanger-on in the Rolling Stones entourage.
“Hang Fire” dates from the same sessions as “Gangster’s Moll.” This is the third take, very close to the version as it appears on Tattoo You.
“Claudine” dates from the early 1978 sessions for Some Girls at Pathé Marconi. A ballad about Claudine Longet, this is the second of two arrangements of the unreleased song existing in the tapes. The first version is an eight minute long slow version, but this is a three and a half minute version taken at a very fast pace. Richards gives the song a melodic two-step melody and solo.
“We Had It All” is a cover of the Troy Seals/Donny Fritts, a big hit for Waylon Jennings in the early seventies and which has become a standard. There are several takes on tape, but this one is the most polished of them all. Keith Richards handles vocals on this, and Sugar Blue plays a haunting harp below the mix. Some have suggested that Richards’ is the best cover of the song, but his vocals are too limited and stiff to handle the weight of the tune and it sounds too stiff and insincere. The Stones were smart to bury this recording.
“Let’s Go Steady Again” is another song which dates from the early 1979 sessions. It’s a cover of the J. W. Alexander song with Richards on vocals. It wouldn’t be released by the Stones, but would be included in the New Barbarian tour later in the year.
“Save Me” (aka “Criss Cross,” “Criss Cross Mind,” and “Criss Cross Man” depending upon what you think Mick is singing in the chorus) dates from the Dynamic Sound Studio in Kingston, Jamaica in late 1972 and is a raunchy piece of unreleased Rolling Stones smut.
Lonely At The Top was released in March 2010 and is the first of their current obsession with Rolling Stones outtake bootleg LPs from the eighties. They duplicate the cover art on the front and back inserts. Many consider this to be a vast improvement over the older CD issues of the same disc, a judgement that is always disputed in the world of Rolling Stones recordings. Whatever the case, the sound is really nice and it’s worth having.