The Rolling Stones - “I Wanna Be Your Man”
Single Release 1963, Available Here
Hard as it is to believe, Keith Richards turned 70 today. There’s not too much I can add to the general amazement over this fact that hasn’t been said by many, many others recently – it’s kind of cliché at this point to mention how he was one of those musicians people were privately (and not-so-privately) imagining wasn’t too long for this world back when he was still in his 20s. But clearly he’s a stubborn survivor, so hats off to him.
To celebrate, I was trying to think of some of my favorite Keith Richards performances. There were some of the obvious ones, like “Tumblin’ Dice” with its snaky, bluesy guitar intro, or “Happy,” the definitive Keith Richards pirate-rocker number. I actually came very close to posting “Gimme Shelter,” which has what I think is his finest, best-crafted guitar figures, and which Richards also wrote the entirety of. Such a lovely, well-executed song. But ultimately, I decided to post the Stones’ cover of “I Wanna Be Your Man.” Given to them by the Beatles when the Stones were still new to the charts and needed a hit, the Lennon/McCartney name on the label virtually guaranteed the record some notice, but it was the band’s primal performance that truly won it raves.
Even though it’s not a self-penned number, this track captures everything I love about the early Rolling Stones: the snarling vocals from Jagger, the stinging slide lead from Brian Jones, and the chugging rhythm, courtesy of Richards. They took a really slight song and gave it this delicious, lo-fi garage sound, playing the hell out of it, and making it exciting. That’s what Keith Richards has been able to capture on record at his best, and it’s why I’ve always loved this song, his playing, and the spirit he’s brought to his music. It takes a special talent to go into a studio and lay down music that jumps out of the speakers and just grabs you, but this guy has made a career out of it. Hopefully he’s been enjoying the day with some cake, some friends, and some good music….