Just two and a half years since releasing their self-titled debut album, The Rolling Stones had gone from being “England’s newest hitmakers” to rock’n’roll’s most notorious bad boys. Released in the US on 10 December 1966 (and subsequently entering the album chart on 17 December), Got LIVE If You Want It! captured the Stones on stage just a few months before, in autumn ’66 (the sleevenotes claim London’s Royal Albert Hall, on 23 September – the group’s first live UK appearance in over a year; others have claimed that it was recorded at gigs held in Newcastle Upon Tyne and Bristol in October ’66).
The results fully justify the Stones’ reputation as one of the British Invasion’s finest – and not only in relation to their supercharged hot-wiring of the Delta blues. A full 30 seconds of screaming greets the listener before any music is played, as British blues stalwart Long John Baldry struggles to make his introduction heard above the fracas; the atmosphere is more reminiscent of a war zone than a concert hall. Indeed, when the Stones kicked off with ‘Paint It, Black’, fans stormed the stage and the concert had to be stopped. (Though not included on the live recording, video footage of this was later used into the promo video for ‘Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?’)
When order was restored – such as it was – the Stones still had to fight to be heard above the maelstrom. The results are proto-punk par excellence: Charlie belting at his kit to drive the band forward on ‘Under My Thumb’, Keith and Brian’s guitars jagged under Mick’s snotty vocal. They sound almost disdainful of the fans’ reaction, as if sending a message to the hysterical hordes: the Stones have not come to hold your hand, they’ve come to plunder.
There’s no pause for breath before they pummel into ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’, and even when they drop the tempo, on ‘Lady Jane’, the fans don’t let up. In fact, Got LIVE… isn’t just a document of the Stones in ’66, it also serves as a historical artefact. Touring equipment at the time didn’t have the power required to overcome a rabid audience, and so the Stones, having whipped the crowd into a frenzy, then find themselves trying to play louder than the screams that beset them.
It also, in its 33-minute running time, serves as a reminder that, back in the mid-60s, bands didn’t play the marathon live sets that they do today. In fact, the group only came away with about 28 minutes’ worth of usable material, and so tucked away at the end of Side Two of the original vinyl pressing were studio versions of ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ and ‘Fortune Teller’, with audience noise overdubbed on top. Compared to the remainder of the album, the results don’t really convince – though that says less about the studio recordings than it does about the raw energy of the bona fide live tracks. The seeds of punk lay in the 60s and, at its best, Got LIVE If You Want It! has moments that sit alongside Nuggets and Love’s ‘7 And 7 Is’ in pointing the way towards the following decade’s notoriously gobby uprising.