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The Rolling Stones: “All Down the Line”

“All Down the Line,” a great Rolling Stones song, probably is in the band’s second tier in terms of popularity and recognition. It’s not “Honky Tonk Women,” “Satisfaction” or “Paint It Black,” but it’s classic by any measure. It’s pure Stones.

Though Ronnie Wood is pictured below, the clip (which is from 1972) features the great Mick Taylor on slide guitar. The Stones have been around forever, of course. It’s possible to argue that its salad days were when Taylor was in the band. It’s just an opinion, of course. And not a knock on Wood, who of course is a great guitarist. It’s a matter of timing (of both the band and rock overall) and everybody being at their peak.

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The Stones a few mile later on down the line.

“All Down the Line” has an interesting history, as most songs do. An acoustic version of the song was recorded in 1969 for the “Sticky Fingers” album but not used. An electric version was recorded and was the first song completed for “Exile on Main Street” three years later. It was potentially the first single off the record, but lost out to “Tumbling Dice.”

The band likes the song: Wikipedia says that it has been a staple of the live shows since it was written. Songfacts relays a story told by Andy Johns, who was the engineer. The band was unsure if “Down the Line” should be released as a single. The band, which was in Los Angeles, decided that the best way to decide was to actually hear it on a car radio. The tapes were given to a local radio station which, of course, was thrilled to have unreleased music from the Stones. They played it — apparently more than once — while the band cruised up and down Sunset Strip in a limo listening.

I’ve always been a bit cynical about The Rolling Stones, especially as they got older and the teen rebellion marketing got creepier and creepier. There is no doubt, however, that they were the best, and are the most important, rock and roll band ever (as opposed to The Beatles, which was the best and is the most important band).

Songfacts and Wikpedia were used to write this post.

There is so much available by and about The Rolling Stones that it is difficult to know precisely where to start. The two albums mentioned in this post are “Exile on Main Street” (click here or on the image for Amazon; here it is iTunes and Sticky Fingers (Amazon and iTunes). Here is “Get Yer Ya Yas Out,” (Amazon’s deluxe boxed set and iTunes) a live album that captures the group at its height. My personal favorite is “Beggar’s Banquet” (iTunes and Amazon). Here is a book with the self-explanatory title “The Rolling Stones: All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track.”

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Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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