A Blast from the Past, Rarities Edition – Part 2

| May 2, 2020

In 1971, the Rolling Stones released their album Sticky Fingers. It’s generally considered one of their four best. It’s also the third in a run of four albums that are all considered classics and among the best rock albums ever recorded (Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street). Arguably, the four collectively form perhaps the best 4 album “run” of all time in the rock-and-roll genre.

But the backstory to Sticky Fingers – and the Stones’ final message to their first record company, Decca – is almost as interesting as (and IMO, far funnier than) the album itself. So here ya go – we’re off on another (hopefully) entertaining trip “down the (musical) rabbit hole”. Follow along or not as you like. (smile)

. . .

The Rolling Stones recorded for Decca Records (released on the Decca subsidiary London Records in the US) from the beginning of their recording career until the end of 1969. At the time, Decca was like many labels – controlling, and highly mindful of its corporate image. In particular, like most other labels Decca exercised veto power over album covers, songs included on albums, single releases, and the like.

The Stones chafed at the restrictions imposed by Decca. So when the end of their agreement came at the end of 1969, they formed their own record label – Rolling Stones Records – and went their own way. (Their label lasted until the band signed with Virgin Records in 1992). But while doing so, they ran into a couple of major issues.

The first was that, early in their career, they’d hired an American named Allen Klein as their manager. (The Beatles did the same later in their career, and like the Stones they eventually came to regret doing so.)

Klein is much reviled today, but by the standards of that era he was hardly the “two-horned barbed-tailed devil” he’s been made out to be in later years. In truth, he dramatically improved the financial situation of most if not the vast majority of his clients in the music industry.

Prior to Klein, most artists in the music business received truly shabby treatment from their record labels, being paid a pittance and often being outright defrauded. Klein’s mode of operation got recording artists a substantially greater share of the income from their work that would have previously been the case. And it also had major tax advantages for artists from areas (like the UK) with truly confiscatory taxation.

However, Klein’s improvement came at a price. I’m not going to discuss the somewhat complex mechanics of Klein’s method of operation; see the linked article above concerning Klein if you’re interested. But one result was that at least some artists ended up signing away some or all of the rights to their catalogue to Klein.

That was precisely the case with the Stones. When their agreement with Decca ended, they also ended their association with Klein. To their chagrin, they found out they’d signed over the US copyrights to their entire 1960s catalog to ABKCO – a company owned by Klein.

To add insult to injury: a couple of the tunes from their upcoming 1971 album Sticky Fingers had been written and recorded in late 1969; ditto a few tunes that were later included on Exile on Main Street. Since they were written while Klein was still their manager, Klein also ended up with US rights to those tunes as well. The tunes in question from Sticky Fingers? “Wild Horses” and “Brown Sugar” – both of which were released as singles in the US, the latter topping US charts. Ouch.

Needless to say, the Stones were kinda p!issed when they discovered how badly they’d been “had”.

. . .

The second stumbling block was that at the end of 1969 the Stones were one single short of fulfilling their contractual commitment to Decca. As it turned out, in 1970 Decca held hard and fast on demanding that additional single.

Well, this really torqued the Stones. So they decided to give Decca that single – as well as a big musical finger. Presumably that musical finger was also directed at Klein.

The contractually-required single was duly provided. It was the legendary (and infamous) 1970 Stones song “Schoolboy Blues” – also known as “C**ksucker Blues”. It’s unclear which was the tune’s original title. But since the Stones equally-raunchy 1973 tune “Star Star” was originally titled “Starf**ker” until the owner of the company handling US distribution of Rolling Stones records demanded its name be changed, either is plausible.

What, you say you’ve never heard “Schoolboy Blues”? You can’t find it on a Stones album? Well . . . unless you’ve done some serious digging, that’s no surprise. It was never officially released.

You see, Jagger had written the lyrics to “Schoolboy Blues” in a calculated attempt to ensure Decca would reject the single. They were (by the standards of the day) simply too . . . explicit.

Airplay would have been entirely out of the question. The song’s lyrics were so foul that they might conceivably have been deemed legally obscene in some parts of the US, particularly after the SCOTUS allowed “contemporary community standards” to be considered in determining legal obscenity.

Decca shelved the tune; they released “Street Fighting Man” from Beggars Banquet as a single in the UK instead (it had previously been released as a single in the US, but not in the UK). And they refused to put the new track on any Stones album to be released by Decca.

And then, to spite the Stones, Decca announced plans to release a compilation of Stones material that had previously been unreleased in the UK (during the 1960s, US and UK album and single releases were often very different). The new compilation would be titled Stone Age, and would be released at just about the time that the Stones would be releasing their upcoming album Sticky Fingers. (As it turned out, Stone Age was released about a month and a half earlier than Sticky Fingers.)

The Stones in turn took out full-page ads in multiple UK music publications denouncing Decca’s upcoming compilation album. The ads made it clear that Stone Age was being compiled by their former label without the Stones’ consent or input.

Sidebar: FWIW, both albums ended up being very successful. Stone Age peaked at #4 on UK charts, while Sticky Fingers topped the charts in both the US and UK. I guess that proves there really isn’t any such thing as bad publicity when it comes to record sales. (smile)

And that would have been the end of things, except for what some would call a fortuitous mistake.

. . .

In 1983, some sources say that a Stones compilation was released in Germany called The Rest of the Best. Early versions of that compilation allegedly included “Schoolboy Blues”. The collection was then supposedly recalled and reissued about 4 weeks later, with the reissued version omitting the tune.

Other sources say the tune was instead released unofficially (AKA as a bootleg) on “flexidisk” in Germany at about that same time. Which is the truth? Dunno. And I don’t really think it matters that much. (See note below.)

In any case, the tune leaked – and it’s not going to go away now. It’s widely available on the internet, including the substantial (but apparently unauthorized/bootleg) double-CD “Sticky Fingers Revisited”. (smile)

Below, should you care to hear it, is the original version of the Stones “Schoolboy Blues”. I prefer to think of it as their final musical “finger” to their former record company Decca – and, presumably, to their former manager Allen Klein as well.

OBLIGATORY WARNING: THE TUNE IS EXCEPTIONALLY CRUDE; IT HAS VERY EXPLICIT LYRICS. IT IS ABSOLUTELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR AROUND PRUDES, CLERGY, OR CHILDREN.

The Stones don’t appear to have ever publicly performed “Schoolboy Blues”. However, they were recorded performing it on one occasion as a more typical Stones “rock-and-roll/blues” number (the original was in acoustic blues style with Jagger singing and performing solo on an acoustic guitar). This second version was apparently recorded during a 1978 concert rehearsal.

That version differs greatly from the original, though it’s still explicit as hell, and has much better sound quality. It may be found here if you’re interested. The warning above applies to this version, too.

. . .

OK, that’s enough humorous rock-and-roll history for today. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

—–

Note: a third source I’ve found indicates that about 100 promotional singles for “Schoolboy Blues” were pressed in the US, and that this is the source for the tune. While I suppose that’s possible, I find it implausible.

I simply don’t believe Decca would have gone to the trouble of having promotional singles for the tune made in another country for a song they had no intent to ever release. I guess that it could have been done before Decca decided to shelve the tune, or by mistake. But neither of those seems at all likely to me. The German accidental release or bootleg “flexidisk” theories each seem far more likely correct.

I do, however, think the tune was likely intended by the Stones as a message to Klein as well as Decca. (smile)

Category: Historical, Humor, Pointless blather, Who knows, YGBSM!!

Comments (10)

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  1. AW1Ed says:

    Damn Hondo, you weren’t just a-woofin’!

    Jagger comes through very clearly, but here’s a link to the lyrics so you can see what you’re in for before hitting ‘Play.’

    Schoolboy Blues Lyrics

    • Hondo says:

      In case anyone was wondering, the NSFW/prudes/clergy/children warning in the article applies to the lyrics in print form, too. Please take that into account when viewing them; wouldn’t want anyone to get in trouble by accident.

  2. Friend says:

    THANK YOU Hondo!

  3. Devtun says:

    American record producer,Jimmy Miller, produced all five of the albums of the classic Stones era from’68 to ’73. In the wake of what bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Doors, and The Yardbirds (later Led Zeppelin) were producing, the Stones had to up their game – they sure did. A collection of some of the most brilliant albums in rock history.

    • Hondo says:

      A minor quibble: Yardbirds alumni gave rise to considerably more than Led Zepplin. On their demise in 1968, only Jimmy Page went on to form Led Zepplin. Two other members went on to form Renaissance; and you might have also heard of two other Yardbird alumni who had previously left the band and had reasonably successful careers after the band: Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. (smile)

  4. 5th/77th FA says:

    Tanks for the memories Hondo. Remember a lot of this from back when. There was a regional record producer that made Klein seem like a choir boy in his dealings with his clients. He even screwed his own family members, or so the story goes. 😉 😉 Not too many of us left that remember how that rat bastard was and due to the politics leaning left and his status as a “Lion of the Industry” for tourism most of that has been covered up like a cat in a litter box.

    • Hondo says:

      That wouldn’t by any chance have been Saul Zaentz, would it?

      But it could have been worse. At least the stones didn’t hire Zaenz or Stan Polley as their manager.

      • 5th/77th FA says:

        Close and those are good guesses and deserve dishonorable mention. I was leaning toward a company that was named after a zodiac sign that promoted Southern Boys. The dirt on him was buried deep, whitewashed over and he is considered locally as a Lion of the Music Business. He also had the guilt and political party of another “Lion.”