Tape box with engineer Rob Fraboni’s handwriting
Jimmy Miller in Los Angeles by Meredith Day
Rob Fraboni at the console
The Golden Age of the Rolling Stones is what I call the Jimmy Miller/Mick Taylor period …and the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World lived up to their name. This is the Stones when they’re not competing with the Beatles. You see, after Let it Be and Abbey Road the Beatles got firmly into their solo albums phase while the Stones kept crunching along with the magic that they liked to spin. Exile on Main Street and Goat’s Head Soup, the latter being re-released with bonus tracks first week of September 2020, were just about the conclusion of their “golden era” with producer Jimmy Miller and guitarist Mick Taylor. Taylor stayed on for “It’s Only Rock & Roll” but the band was changing again and things would be vastly different.
The radio friendly pop/blues material with Taylor is a major shift from that which “Dandelion,” “She’s a Rainbow” and “Under My Thumb” offered music lovers. Those three melodic songs are all vital, transcendent masterpieces, as were the Brian Jones/Keith Richards blues based compositions from the earlier days. And as the hardcore Stones fans knew, more songs were recorded for each album than saw the light of day. The quality of the outtakes? As one fan writes on YouTube “some bands would kill to have a song like the ones that the Stones discarded.”
“Fast Talking, Slow Walking” is one of the Jimmy Miller productions from Kingston Jamaica as is “You Should Have Seen Her xxx” and both are brilliant compositions. Like the dude said, some bands would kill to get ahold of stuff this good. But those two songs are not on the new four disc set. That kind of tells me that they’ll box up yet another with the original mixes we all know and love along with more gems for some mammoth sixty year anniversary come the years 2032/2033.
An intriguing bit of marketing by one of the smartest music business executives on the planet, Mick Jagger, is three different versions of “Scarlet,” which appears to be a post-Jimmy Miller production.
One features young actor Paul Mescal dancing around in a video to the album track. It’s all in good fun and does what Mick wants: keeps the Stones contemporary, even with a track almost 50 years of age. The others are clever remixes – one entitled “Scarlet – feat. Jimmy Page [The Killers & Jacques Lu Cont] while yet another is the “War on Drugs Remix.” Keep in mind that this is one of three bonus tracks, and Mick Jagger and Co. are just putting it out there for free on YouTube beating potential bootleggers at their own game. Let’s face it, YouTube is a giant radio station, and as “Angie” and “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” were free on the airwaves for you to cassette tape back in the day, the Stones’ goal is to get you to know the song. It is brilliant marketing by a veteran group. They take it one step further by releasing simultaneously another outtake, “Criss Cross” with the Miller/Fraboni team that brought you the aforementioned “Heartbreaker.”
“Scarlet” was recorded around the time of Goat’s Head Soup in Ronnie Wood’s house, 1973 ish, Mick Jagger talks about it in a recent interview: “… and Jimmy Page turned up for some reason and various other musicians. We ran through this amongst other things, someone said Ginger Baker on drums…Jimmy Page remembered everything, it wasn’t Ginger Baker…”he’s very sweet and he remembered the whole thing.” Page himself turns up on the same interview on the BBC and stated “Yes, some things I do remember, especially if it is something special, and this was. From scratch, and the following day putting the guitar solos on. More recently Mick got in contact and sent me the finished version. It is cool, it always was, my memory’s clear because it was very special.
Jagger talks to Radio 2 on the Breakfast Show
When it comes to the Stones this writer can “Ramble On,” Mr. Page…so let us consider this part one of what could be a three or more part series on this amazing new release.
Produced by Jimmy Miller
Engineered by Rob Fraboni
Rob Fraboni engineered the session at the L.A. Recorder and I asked Rob on the phone if he felt, as I did, that this composition was out of character for the Stones? Rob’s opinion was the opposite of mine, that it was very much in character for Mick and Keith and the boys. To this writer and a bit of a Stones historian – my first roundtable interview as features editor of my high school newspaper was the Maysles Brothers when they were promoting the film Gimme Shelter – felt the lyrics were a far cry from “Dandelion,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” et.al. And for a cool band like the Stones, their song about heroin had a more uptempo rock and roll sound than the Velvet Underground plunging through the dark recesses of “Sister Ray” on White Light/White Heat.
Even the actual title of Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) is a dramatic departure from “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Sympathy for the Devil,” however the instrumental is simply amazing. So, musically, Mr. Fraboni is right, the tracks – guitar, bass, drums, horns – pure Rolling Stones. Mick Taylor the perfect complement to Keith Richards. The instrumental is included on this new release, Goats Head Soup 2020.
That being said, the live rendition of Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) London Sept 9, 1973 at Wembley Stadium is outrageously wonderful. Five minutes and five seconds of guitar magic https://youtu.be/r6bbnKBVIws Find that gem on YouTube.
“Silver Train” on the album is like Stevie Wonder giving Beck, Bogert and Appice the song “Superstitious” to put out first. The legendary Johnny Winter got to release “Silver Train” from Goat’s Head Soup before the Rolling Stones rendition and – if you think about it – a terrific marketing strategy again from the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the world. The Winter version features my good friend, the late Moogy Klingman on piano. The energy level is remarkable under boy genius producer Rick Derringer…and it is simply an amazing piano from Klingman … and it isn’t musical sacrilege to say that Winter’s version eclipse’s the Stones themselves with this gem of a take.
What many people do not know is that the late Jimmy Miller lived in Medford in the apartments directly behind Kappy’s Liquors and Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn’s office. Part II will explore more of Goat’s Head Soup, the album, and some of Jimmy’s escapades here in the Medford/Somerville/Malden area.