May of 1976 was a typically eventful time in the chronicles of the Rolling Stones. When they announced their run of six nights at Earls Court in London, more than one million postal applications were received. Then, just after they had played a three-night stand at the Apollo in Glasgow, the charts for 15 May showed them climbing to No. 2 in the UK with their new album Black And Blue — but going one place better in the US.
The band’s 13th UK studio album, and 15th in America, marked the arrival as an official member of Ronnie Wood, filling the void left by Mick Taylor’s departure after It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll. The flagship Black And Blue song, the soulful ‘Fool To Cry,’ was on its way to a No. 6 peak in the Stones’ home country, but nevertheless the album never quite made the top, its way blocked by ABBA’s Greatest Hits.
But there was no stopping Black And Blue in the States, where it removed Led Zeppelin’s Presence from No. 1 on the 15 May chart for a two-week reign. Then, after Wings had taken over for a week with At The Speed Of Sound, the Stones took the crown for another two, before Wings assumed the mantle again, this time for five weeks.
Rock, Latin and reggae
Other than ‘Fool To Cry,’ many fans saw the emotive ‘Memory Motel’ as the album’s chief highlight, while ‘Hand Of Fate’ is another track that’s warmly remembered. Wood was credited as the inspiration for ‘Hey Negrita,’ which had the band exploring both Latin and reggae flavours. Frequent contributor Billy Preston was similarly credited as the driving force behind ‘Melody.’ The album also gave the Stones a club favourite, and minor R&B chart entry, with ‘Hot Stuff.’ Black And Blue also topped the charts in France and went on to platinum certification in the US.
When Keith Richards spoke to Creem magazine about the new album, he was full of admiration for what Wood was bringing to the band. “Woody’s made for two guitars, but he just hasn’t had the chance to do it till now,” he said. “Woody’s strength, as is mine, is to play with another guitar player. None of that virtuoso clap trap. Now it’s starting to come out.”