With the coming of the LP there followed the EP, and in the 1950s and 1960s these were very important releases for any successful artists. With money not as plentiful back then, they filled a gap between the single and the album and in many cases they were specially crafted collections of tracks that could not be bought elsewhere.
After their chart-topping debut EP released in early 1964 The Rolling Stones followed it with another in August of the same year. Suffice to say this is a very special record, one that paid homage to their blues roots and at the same time helped establish the band’s ‘sound’. It was recorded on 11 June 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 in that Ian Stewart plays organ on a couple of tracks including the band composition ‘2120 South Michigan Avenue’, which is of course the address of Chess Records.
The sound that was created by Chess engineer, Ron Malo, was perfect, when added to the ‘young guns on hallowed ground’ approach of the Stones. 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’ and while they were recording it, 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 Soloman Burke. The fifth song on the EP was ‘Empty Heart’, another Nanker Phelge tune – this being the writing credit the band gave to group compositions.
On 7 August 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 Beatle’s ‘Twist and Shout’ EP which made No. 4 in August 1963. The Beatles and the Stones were the only two bands in the sixties to achieve such strong sales with their EPs. The Five By Five EP made No.1 on 29 August 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.
The Rolling Stones’ Five By Five can be bought here.