They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!
The most famous alumnus of the London School of Economics, the original frontman and arguably the first capital ‘R’ rock star, Mick Jagger turns 68 years old today. His path veered away from business studies when he, by chance, met up with an old school acquaintance, Keith Richards, at a train station and formed a rhythm and blues band in 1960. Becoming The Rolling Stones in 1962, they went on to become the greatest rock and roll band of all time, with 10 of their albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
In a culture that has seen so many artists fall by the wayside, Jagger has proven his mettle as a survivor in every way. Perhaps his early business training helped him financially navigate an industry that notoriously rapes its artists, leaving them with little to show for their talents. And don’t forget that Jagger may only fall one or two steps behind bandmate Keith Richards in drug and alcohol consumption from the late ’60s through the debaucherous ’70s and he still manages to look damn good for his age (did you see him on the Grammy’s a couple of months ago?). So raise your glass and salute Sir Michael Jagger, and enjoy this collection of covers we’ve compiled of some of his largely less well-known tracks, both alone and with The Rolling Stones.
MP3: The Ramones – Out of Time (The Rolling Stones cover)
Originally found on the Stones’ Aftermath, Jagger produced a cover of this track by Chris Farlowe that hit number 1 in the UK. The Farlowe version featured a percussive string arrangement, whereas the original had a more subtle riff played on marimba. Here, The Ramones draw inspiration from the original, substituting a keyboard marimba, in a surprisingly understated (for them) cover. This came out on their second last album, the all-covers affair Acid Eaters.
MP3: Dramarama – Memo From Turner (Mick Jagger cover)
Jagger made his acting debut in 1970’s Performance, and contributed this song to the movie’s soundtrack. Produced by Jack Nitzsche and featuring Ry Cooder on slide guitar, the track also appeared on a couple of Stones compilation albums, where most fans probably heard it. L.A.-based Dramarama recorded it for their 1991 album Vinyl, with a big, bluesy, Black Crowes style arrangement. Considering the sound prevalent at that time, the recording sounds remarkably fresh and warm – no drum machines here.
MP3: Alvin “Youngblood” Hart – Sway (The Rolling Stones cover)
1970 found the Stones at the top of their game, coming off a mostly successful U.S. tour and hitting peak after peak with their musical output. Sticky Fingers, recorded that year and released the next, proved itself as another musical high point, featuring the hit single “Brown Sugar.” Though credited to Jagger-Richards, “Sway” was actually written by Jagger and Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. Richards didn’t even play on the track. Alvin “Youngblood” Hart gives us a fairly straightforward and faithful cover of the tune, even aping Jagger’s trademark drawl in his vocal, and providing a smokin’ slide guitar solo.
MP3: The Concretes – Miss You (The Rolling Stones cover)
By 1978, Richards was fully ensnared in an addiction to heroin that stifled his creativity and limited his contributions to the band’s album Some Girls. Jagger took the reins, writing eight of the album’s 10 songs, including the classic, disco-inspired “Miss You.” Here, Swedish indie-popsters The Concretes appear to completely deconstruct the song by stripping it of the bouncy bassline and driving beat so familiar to us all. Many other features of the song remain, however, and the odd juxtaposition of an indifferent vocal singing a lyric of desperate obsession seems to work somehow.
MP3: Alejandro Escovedo – Evening Gown (Mick Jagger cover)
Keith Richards often gets painted as the only country music fan in The Rolling Stones, mainly because of his association with country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons. Though many thought 1978’s “Far Away Eyes” just made fun of the genre, Jagger demonstrated his own love of country on his critically acclaimed 1993 solo album Wandering Spirit with the track “Evening Gown.” Alejandro Escovedo shows us that there’s more to Jagger than the Stones with his raw, rootsy cover of this unheralded solo classic.
Find more Mick Jagger on his website.