Saturday, June 08, 2024

The Rolling Stones - Come On! (1963)

The Rolling Stones released their first single, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Come On", on June 7, 1963, through Decca Records. Backed by a version of Willie Dixon's "I Want to Be Loved", it reached number 21, a minor hit and an impressive result for their first-ever release. The Stones were signed to Decca through the recommendation of George Harrison, the label still reeling from their infamous rejection of the Beatles the year before. And so, after some demo sessions in March 1963 where they stepped into a recording studio for the first time, they recorded on and off for the rest of the year, releasing another single before the year's end, the Lennon/McCartney original "I Wanna Be Your Man". It became a big hit, and showed the label that the Stones had the potential to become a big act in the UK, and their first hit wasn't a fluke. However, Decca was still afraid to commit to a full LP by the band so early, even though they had already recorded enough material to fill one. So, they decided to release an EP instead, a compromise while they decided when and how to make the Stones' first album. The self-titled EP came out in the first week of 1964, featuring the highlights of their 1963 recording sessions, with songs such as "You Better Move On" and "Bye Bye Johnny". With its success, the first Stones album was finally greenlit, and they entered the studio to record it in February 1964.

But what if the Rolling Stones had released their first album in 1963? To answer that question, we will have to collect everything the Stones recorded before their first album, and turn it into a cohesive and feasible record, given the way the record industry worked in 1963. It will feature fourteen songs instead of twelve, just like your average Beatles album of the period. Singles weren't included in albums in the UK at the time, under the premise that the album needed to be worth the money, without songs you've already bought on singles, but we will have to make an exception at this time as we wouldn't be able to fill out a record otherwise, and even if we did, it wouldn't be of the quality we have come to expect of a Stones album. The Beatles' debut album also featured their singles, and so we will use it as a template, having the two songs off the single as either side closers or openers. Along with their early studio recordings, some live recordings of songs from their live set such as "Roll Over Beethoven" made for the BBC are also available, but won't be used here as their sound quality is much too poor. Studio outtakes that weren't officially released are fair game as well, as long as they are in decent enough sound quality. It will only feature a single original, the instrumental "Stoned", a fair cry from the six on Please Please Me, but it will have to do. With that out of the way, here's what our album looks like:

Bye Bye Johnny (Singles Collection)
Money (Singles Collection)
Baby, What's Wrong? (GRRR!)
Go Home Girl (Genuine Black Box)
Bright Lights, Big City (GRRR!)
I Want to Be Loved (Singles Collection)
Come On! (Singles Collection)
I Wanna Be Your Man (Singles Collection)
Stoned (Singles Collection)
Road Runner (GRRR!)
Fortune Teller (More Hot Rocks)
Diddley Daddy (GRRR!)
Poison Ivy (Singles Collection)
You Better Move On (Singles Collection)

Download link:
The Rolling Stones - Come On! (1963)

Jones, Watts, Richards, Jagger & Wyman at ATV Studios, late 1963.

Our first inclusions are from the Stones' first proper studio session, in March 1963 at IBC Studios. With Glyn Johns on the producer's chair, they cut their versions of Rn'B staples "Baby What's Wrong", "Bright Lights, Big City", "Diddley Daddy" and "Road Runner". These recordings are very rough-sounding, for obvious reasons, but are more than good enough to help fill out the album, so we can include them without issue. Their next session, that May at Olympic, produced by Andrew Oldham, they cut their first single, "Come On" and "I Want to Be Loved". Oldham produced another session in August, this time at Decca, where "Fortune Teller" was recorded. Meant for a single, it was left unreleased until it made its way into a compilation a few years afterward by Decca. In October, they reconvened at De Lane Lea to record their next single, "I Wanna Be Your Man" and "Stoned". With it, gifted by the Beatles' Lennon and McCartney, they had their first real hit and were well on their way to stardom. Shortly thereafter in November, they returned and recorded "Poison Ivy", "Money", and "Go Home Girl", with the first two being paired with the leftover recordings from August to form their first EP, and the latter surfacing only through bootlegs. By including all of those songs, we managed to reach our goal of having fourteen songs, and all that's left for us to do is sequence this into a real record.

To sequence these songs into an album, we will have all the songs released either on the EP or on singles open and close the sides, and the lower quality studio outtakes and IBC demos will fill out the middle of the sides, thus burying them deep onto the record and making their lackluster quality less apparent to first-time listeners. Clocking in at 32 minutes with two even sides, Come On! is your typical early '60s album, inessential but fun, giving us a glimpse of the Stones' early stage act. This album would've been released instead of the EP, which only came out because Decca wasn't sure the Stones could release an album and wanted to test the waters first. Coming out hot on the heels of the "I Wanna Be Your Man" single, and right in time for the Christmas season of 1963, I see no reason for this album to fail to sell well. Would it have topped the charts? Who knows, but I'm sure it wouldn't have been a failure, and the Decca executives had no reason to worry. With the EP songs coming out for the first time here, we would have ten out of the fourteen songs on the album being released for the first time here, not up to British standards, but still pretty solid. I've taken both the cover and the title from the great AndrewskyDE from the Steve Hoffman Forums, who put this together a few years back. While their real-life debut album is no doubt much better, it's interesting to see the Stones in this early stage of their long career, just six blues and Rn'B fanatics who wanted to be loved.



  1. Nice comp!. Sent over from your hoffman post. Thank you!

  2. This hangs together pretty well and I think those Glyn Johns helmed demoes sound better than the later tracks 'produced' by Oldham. My only criticism is if you want to 'ape' the Please Please Me album you need a more barnstorming finish than You better move on (as good as that track is) - maybe end with Bye Bye Johnny and chose another opener.

    1. I figured that a song about moving on was appropriate as the last track on the album - gave it a nice sense of finality... but you have a good point.

      You can have it and "Money (That's What I Want)" switch places, in order to ape the Beatles even further :D