Thursday, March 17, 2011

1966-Could You Walk On The Water?

Could You Walk On The Water? (< click) is one of those great, mythical "almost was" records. It was completed in late 1965 and the band hoped to release the record early in 1966.  It was set to include ten tracks, nine of which had just been recorded at RCA studios in Hollywood in a session that lasted from December 3rd - the 8th of 1965.  The tenth track "Looking Tired", perhaps referencing Brian (check out those bags), was recorded in an RCA session in September of 1965. Having suffered in the U.S. from patchwork albums that featured randomly thrown together tracks recorded in different studios at widely different times, this would have been their first of a piece record and the first that consisted of all original material, showcasing the rapid growth of the Jagger/Richards songwriting team. 

Decca balked at releasing a record with such an openly blasphemous and controversial title and by the time the band realized their label wasn't bluffing, they had recorded enough new material to fill out a very different record, which became that Summer's Aftermath.  In America in February of 1966 "19th Nervous Breakdown" was released as a single with the amazing "Sad Day" as the b-side.  Of the 10 proposed tracks for Could You Walk on the Water? only three, "Think", "Doncha Bother Me" and "Going Home" ended up on the American version of Aftermath, which continued the tradition of butchering the original British track sequencing for U.S. consumption.  The British version of Aftermath, released in April of 1966, included five of the ten songs, "Mother's Little Helper" and "Take It Or Leave It" in addition to the three aforementioned tracks that made it on the American version.

The proposed cover of Could You Walk on the Water?, taken at a water reservoir in Los Angeles (Franklin Canyon where the Sounds of Silence cover was also shot) and capturing the Stones at their visual mid-60's peak, was used in the U.S. that Spring for the nicely titled compilation Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass).  Many believe the color pictures included in the booklet for Big Hits were also supposed to be part of the packaging for Could You Walk on the Water. The cover features Brian Jones at his iconic best; bright red corduroys, black turtleneck, perfect hair, and very noticeable bags under the eyes.  Brian was still very much in the forefront of the band, Jagger's shrinking a bit behind him in baby blue and Keith's even further back with the nice suede jacket and hands folded demurely.  But Brian is right up in the camera, mouth slightly open, staring right into the lens, heavy eyed, wasted and defiant, basically encapsulating and embodying the whole Stones mythos.

The Stones output from 1964-1967 is my absolute favorite period of the band, in large part due to the presence Jones brought, first to their original image and R&B covers (high energy slide and harp), and then later the expert way he colored in their more pop and psychedelic excursions with exotic instrumentation that often makes the song; the dulcimer on "Lady Jane", the marimba on "Under My Thumb", the sitar on "Paint It Black", the recorder on "Ruby Tuesday", the mellotron on "2000 Light Years From Home" the list goes on.   With a band as well known and over exposed as the Stones it seems to strange to talk about under appreciated work, but for many of their fans the band really begins with trio of Beggar's Banquet, Let It Bleed and Sticky Fingers (great albums to be sure) and the material before this is known mainly in cursory fashion for the bigger hits.  Especially neglected then are the deeper album tracks and b-sides from 1965-1967; "Who's Driving Your Plane", "Sad Day", "Blue Turns to Grey", "The Singer Not the Song", "Complicated", "Please Go Home", "She Smiled Sweetly" "Citadel", "We Love You", "Dandelion" and the like. These songs and records such as December's Children, Aftermath, Between the Buttons, Flowers, and Their Satanic Majesties, display a pop and psychedelic influence and sound that, perhaps because of the loss of Brian Jones, the Stones would sadly never revisit.

Though Aftermath is a overall a stronger record it's fascinating to think about this record, with this cover, title and track listing being released at the beginning of 1966 and the impact it might have had.  It definitely hangs together well as an album and illustrates how quickly the band was developing from their R&B roots to original and imaginatively arranged and produced pop/rock.  The title alone might have unleashed, similar furor to Lennon's comments on Christianity which resulted in death threats and record burning in the U.S. later in '66 and contributed to the Beatles decision to stop touring.  And in retrospect the title seems entirely appropriate for the amazing year of music that 1966 turned out to be, it certainly feels like some of these bands were approaching levels of miraculous inspiration. Consider just a partial run down of records released in 1966; Blonde on Blonde, Pet Sounds, The Byrd's Fifth Dimension, The Lovin' Spoonful's Daydream, Revolver, Face to Face, The Psychedelic Sounds of the13th Floor Elevators, Love, Buffalo Springfield and The Monkees.  And that's just scratching the surface.

I'm unsure whether or not the edited or full length version of "Going Home" would have been included on this record but I've chosen to go with the edited version as I find it increases the appeal of the song considerably, as their attempts to stretch out on that one fall somewhat flat.  So here for your consideration and the POP daydreaming potential of a period that passed far too quickly is Could You Walk on the Water?  

1. 19th Nervous Breakdown
2. Sad Day
3. Take It Or Leave It
4. Think
5. Mother's Little Helper
6. Going Home (edited)
7. Sittin' On A Fence
8. Don't You Follow Me (aka Doncha Bother Me)
9. Ride On, Baby
10. Looking Tired

No comments:

Post a Comment