After their chart-topping debut EP in early 1964, The Rolling Stones followed it up with another in August of the same year. Suffice to say, Five by Five is a very special record, one that paid homage to their blues roots and established the band’s “sound.” It was recorded on June 11 at Chess Studios in Chicago, and is a mix of band originals and blues and R&B covers.
Cunningly entitled Five by Five, there are five tracks by the five man Stones. It is a little white lie that Ian Stewart plays organ on a couple of tracks, including the band composition “2120 South Michigan Avenue.”
The sound that was created by Chess engineer, Ron Malo, was perfect. As the band’s manager, and producer, Andrew Loog Oldham says in his liner notes, “This new EP was recorded in Chicago during their recent American tour and is yet another showcase for their exciting vocalising and unique instrumental sound. And by way of saying ‘thank you’ to you, their friends and fans, we have included an extra track on this their latest disc outing.”
The Stones pay tribute to Chuck Berry by way of “Around and Around.” While they were recording the song, the Chess legend visited the studios, keen to see his song covered. When they finished playing he said, “Swing on, gentlemen, you are sounding most well, if I may say so.” Also featured is “Confessin’ The Blues,” a song that was a hit for Chuck Berry, although not written by the guitarist. Along with these was a Wilson Pickett song, “If You Need Me,” that was covered by Solomon Burke. The fifth song on the EP was “Empty Heart,” a Nanker Phelge tune. (Nanker Phelge was the writing credit the band gave to its group compositions.)
On August 7, 1964, the NME announced that sales of the band’s latest single, “It’s All Over Now” (also recorded at Chess), had reached the half million mark in the UK, and the advance orders for Five by Five were 180,000. The EP even reached No.7 on the NME singles chart and failed by just three places to emulate the Beatles’ Twist and Shout EP which made No. 4 in August 1963. The Beatles and the Stones were the only two bands in the 60s to achieve such strong sales with their EPs. The Five By Five EP made No.1 on August 29, 1964 and stayed there for the next 15 weeks.
In their review of the EP, the NME said, “This EP is full of vitality, appeal and authority.” It’s hard to disagree.