‘Out Of Our Heads’: The Rolling Stones On The Brink Of Insanity

With their ‘Out Of Our Heads’ album, The Rolling Stones penned their first truly classic song and found themselves thrust into the mania of global stardom.

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Cover: Courtesy of Decca Records

With their 1965 album Out Of Our Heads, The Rolling Stones exuded confidence and discovered a personality and panache in their songwriting that would help them become one of the greatest bands in history. In America, London Records released the first version of Out Of Our Heads on July 30, 1965, and the album became the Stones’ first No.1 on the Billboard charts. The UK version, issued by Decca Records, came out two months later, on September 24, and featured some significant differences in the tracklisting.

The background

The Rolling Stones started out as a blues band in 1962, playing small venues such as The Ealing Club in London, and by the summer of 1965 they were one of the most popular bands in the UK. On July 29 that year, the Stones visited Decca’s offices in London to sign a new recording contract. They had been with the label for two years and had already justified the faith placed in them by A&R man Dick Rowe. In Decca’s boardroom that day was their chairman, Sir Edward Lewis – then 65 and a man who never really understood the group – along with various other executives.

Each member of the band received a check for £2,500, as a guarantee against their first year’s earnings; the deal went on to provide them with ten annual payments of $7,000 from Decca Records. The day after the band’s meeting with the label, The Rolling Stones’ fourth US album was released. Out Of Our Heads had been recorded between November 1964 and May 1965 at sessions in Chess Studios in Chicago, Regent Sound Studios in London, and RCA Studios in Hollywood.

Listen to the US version of Out Of Our Heads.

The US version of Out Of Our Heads

The US version of the album opens with a raw take on Don Covay’s “Mercy Mercy,” one of six songs that would also appear on the UK pressing. Four other crossover songs were covers of hits by soul singers – Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike,” Solomon Burke’s “That’s How Strong My Love Is” and Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” and “Cry To Me” – along with a song the band had written together called “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man.”

That song was credited to Nanker Phelge, a pseudonym the band used for group compositions. In his book Rolling With The Stones, Bill Wyman, who played bass and sang backing vocals on the album, said that the made-up name was a blend of Nanker (a name the band gave to the gurning expressions guitarist Brian Jones sometimes pulled) and the surname of a former flatmate (Jimmy Phelge). The song “Play With Fire,” which featured Phil Spector playing downtuned electric guitar, and harpsichord by Jack Nitzsche, was also given the pseudonymous credit.

The breakthrough element of Out Of Our Heads, however, came with three songs the Stones wrote themselves and which bore the (misspelled) “Jagger; Richard” stamp: “The Last Time,” “The Spider And The Fly” and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” “The Last Time,” which became the Stones’ second Top 10 hit in America, was a swaggering joy, and “The Spider And The Fly” was a sensuous treat. It was, however, “Satisfaction” that marked a true turning point for the Stones.

The Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (Official Lyric Video)

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On “Satisfaction,” Jagger found the theme – petulant dissatisfaction – that best suited the persona he had been developing, and Richards created the first of many guitar lines that would soon see him hailed as “The Human Riff.” The British music weekly Melody Maker reported Jagger saying at the time, “We cut ‘Satisfaction’ in Los Angeles… We liked it, but didn’t think of it as a single. We weren’t too happy about the single, as we hadn’t thought of it that way, but now, of course, we are happy.”

The song seemed to capture the spirit of the times. After being released as a single in America, it knocked Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” off the top spot and remained at No.1 for a month.

As well as a live version of Bo Diddley’s “I’m Alright,” which had featured on their Got LIVE If You Want It! EP, the US version of Out Of Our Heads included the two-minute bluesy Jagger-Richards’ pop song “One More Try,” which showcased the dynamic drumming of Charlie Watts.

The whole album encapsulated the sound of a band having fun – a contrast to the moody black-and-white photo, taken by leading British photographer David Bailey, that appeared on the album cover.

The UK version of Out Of Our Heads

When Decca released Out Of Our Heads in the UK that September, The Stones had become a global sensation – their concert at Dublin’s Adelphi Theatre earlier that month had been abandoned after 12 minutes because so many fanatical young fans stormed the stage. With Out Of Our Heads already out in the US, the album’s UK release was eagerly anticipated and it quickly reached No.2 in the charts.

For the UK version, Decca retained six songs from the US edition (“Mercy, Mercy,” “Hitch Hike,” “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” “Good Times,” “Cry To Me,” and “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man”) and included six new Stones songs that would appear in the US on later albums.

Among the UK-only songs that featured on Out Of Our Heads was “She Said Yeah,” which had originally been released by Larry Williams in the late 50s. It was a popular choice of cover for British bands in the 60s, with The Animals recording a version and The Beatles also being big fans of the song.

“Talkin’ About You” was a cover of a Chuck Berry hit for Chess Records, while “Oh Baby (We Got A Good Thing Going)” was written by American blues musician Barbara Lynn, and had already appeared in the US on the group’s third stateside album, The Rolling Stones, Now! The three other new songs to feature on the UK Out Of Our Heads were all Jagger-Richards originals: “Gotta Get Away,” “Heart Of Stone,” and “I’m Free.”

The UK album cover

The cover for the UK album was a photograph by 19-year-old Gered Mankowitz, who was chosen by the Stones’ producer/manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, because David Bailey had been unavailable to do a bespoke UK shot. Mankowitz’s close-up photograph of the Stones helped cement their image in the mid-60s.

“My work with the Stones was based on honesty, a desire to communicate something about the Stones as people and not try and mask their personalities with any sort of technical or theatrical embellishments,” Mankowitz said in 2015. “I think that that’s why Andrew Loog Oldham liked the pictures and why the band were happy to work with me for such a long period of time, because I photographed them as they were.”

Out Of Our Heads was a stunning success on both sides of the Atlantic and paved the way for 1966’s Aftermath, an album that was full of original compositions by Jagger and Richards – who by now had become assured songwriters in their own right.

Buy the UK version of Out Of Our Heads on vinyl.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. craig mccauley

    February 27, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    I love all the blues music!

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