The Rolling Stones, ‘Surrey Rehearsals 1968’ (No Label)
Stray Cat Blues (Instr.) / Jam 1 / Stray Cat Blues (Riff) / Unknown Song / Jumping Jack Flash (Instr.) / Jam 2 / Short Jam / Hold On, I’m Coming / Rock Me Baby / My Home Is A Prison / Slow Blues Jam / Phone Ringing Jam / River Deep, Mountain High / Interview
As previously released on the imaginatively titled VGP release, ’Surrey Rehearsals 1968’, this tape appeared again posted on to the internet in September 2019 on a well known torrent site. The linage was fully explained in the upload notes as Waz from Oz wrote thus;
“Hi all, What you are listening to or about to listen to IMHO is the best version one will get to hear of the Surrey Rehearsals 1968.I’ve had this version in my possession since late 1975. My fellow Sydney Stones collector mate, Kim met a well known overseas Stones collector who was on holidays here in Sydney in early 1975.
They remained in contact for a while & in late 1975 Kim received from him a batch of Reel To Reels of the Stones concerts from the not long ended June / July 1975 US Tour.
The Reels were Washington 1st July, Boston 11th & 12th July, New York City 22nd July, Los Angeles 9th, 10, 11th, 12th & 13th July
(don’t think these are Mike Millard recordings) & San Francisco 15th July. And surprise, surprise on Side Two of the reel to reel with the incomplete recording of Los Angeles 9th July 1975 was the Surrey 1968 rehearsal. All the Reel to Reels had the set lists either written on the front of the boxes if there was space or written on sheets of paper & put inside the boxes.
The info regarding the Surrey recording simply states it is in Mono recorded at 7 1/2 IPS & is pretty crummy -Ha Ha Ha.
I remember Kim telling me that the overseas collector told him someone at R.G Jones studio sold it for either 50 or 100 pounds. Don’t know who that was but the version we have on the reel to reel can’t be that far off from the tape that was sold.
Sometime in the early 80’s we borrowed a Reel To Reel Player & transferred all reels onto cassette. Around the same time Kim gave me all the Reel To Reels to keep which I still have after many moves but these days they reside somewhere up at my parents house – an aeroplane flight away.
Haven’t sighted them for years but I do remember that some of the tape boxes are damaged & have no idea of what condition the actual reel to reels are in these days.”
After you’ve compared the different versions from VGP to the LP that exists, you’ll have to agree that Waz is right, despite these tapes being of dubious quality (IE; Not the sort of thing you’ll be pulling out at dinner parties unless your guests are of a certain type that they revel in Stones minute as well), they are musically historically sound. A lot of this material is music only with only the scant notion that Mick is around to sing, he IS there, it’s just that the tape reels are picking up the music more.
Stray Cat Blues (Instr.) / Jam 1 / Stray Cat Blues Riff – Both seem to come from the same space, ’Stray Cat Blues’ is the longest track here, an uneventful jam on the riff, it forms nothing but just wanders around in it’s own time, looping, ‘Jam 1’ does essentially the same thing, however, it is broken up with a little guitar byplay. When we return to ’Stray Cat Blues (Riff and guitar)’, it’s much less the sum of it’s own parts as it falls apart almost immediately as a unstuck plate of ideas.
Unknown Song / Jumping Jack Flash (Instr.) – Sounding like a Stones workout, the ‘unknown song’ features all the hall-marks of a late ’60’s RS track, SOUNDS like a take on ’Stray Cat Blues’, however, it isn’t as identifiable as such and so remains a mystery at the moment. Rather thrillingly, ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ sounds like it is played like it’s life depends on it – despite the over blown crunch of having the amps turned up far too loud, it’s every bit as thrilling as a cherry bomb in a tin bin and possibly just as loud. It’s brevity is possibly a good thing for the ears though it could go on for twice, three times as long for all I care.
Jam 2 / Short Jam – These two jams are of the kind kind of standard as the first. Keith throws out a few riffs and plays his way around as the rest of the band
Hold On, I’m Coming / Rock Me Baby / My Home Is A Prison – This lovely little triumvirate of classic tracks is obviously well placed just to have the band let off a bit of steam – ‘Hold On ..’ was initially determined by it’s riff, however, when you catch just what Mick is singing, it becomes more obvious, the second two are a little more rounded and more easily identifiable.
Slow Blues Jam / Phone Ringing Jam – Highlighted as a very, very early version of ’No Expectations’ by nzentgraf, the very bud of an idea is there are Keith starts to riff upon slide guitar. Nothing much happens within and it’s a very tenuous link to the “Beggars Banquet” track. ‘Phone Ringing Jam’ can be identified just as that, a phone rings in the background as Keith and Charlie riff oblivious to anything else. ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ – This has a very strange marching beat – It is more of a jam for the first 1:19 (Though you can hear Mick shouting out the lyrics), however, Keith starts to play the repeating phase from the song and then it all becomes much clearer.
Interview with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Jimmy Miller, conducted by NME journalist Keith Altham – A lovely long group interview with the band that starts off with a little bit of loose chatter, the band seem to be discussing the demise of an unknown band. Once the interview starts, Keith Altham does his best to build the scene and starts by discussing the future of the Stones (Mick discusses the future might be that the Stones appear on stage on wheel chairs), the where about of Brian Jones (“He’s in Paris, having his birthday”), the reasons why the Stones are actually in the recording studio (They have to rehearse, otherwise they’ll forget how to do what they do, when asked if they’re considering their next tour, Mick seems to groan). Some of the interview is marred by the sound of air on the microphone, as Jimmy Miller is brought to the foreground to be interviewed, someone obscures his words by playing classical piano in the back ground). As Jimmy mentions producing the new album, the conversation becomes more lively and the band start to josh around with him because of some of his ideas.
Back to Mick who is asked his reasoning over the decision of employing Jimmy over self producing their own album, Mick gives his reasons mentioning the job done of the last Traffic album (Despite the fact that he wasn’t keen on it) and the extra effort that’s involved in producing themselves.
Keith is then asked the same question and also asked about his quote regarding the suggestion that some of the songs on the last album were “frightening” to which he observes that it was ” .. Frightening the time it took” and reflecting on the fact that it might have been a little too complex. Unfortunately the noise on the tape begins to increase and the last of his answers are lost under the fuzz, the tape soon cuts out after that, however.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)
The No label staff have done a great job with the covers – Some very simple colour and black and white studio shots over which they’ve used white text to brilliant context, it’s streamlined to the point of pure modernism but, dang, it looks good. Bearing in mind the music inside and the relitivley short running time however, it’s obviously for the more discerning collector than the mildly curious.