Music

The Rolling Stones: On Air

This set of early Rolling Stones recordings by the BBC is a lively, energetic revisiting of the band ready to invade the world between 1963 and 1965.

On Air
The Rolling Stones

Polydor

1 Dec 2017

The Rolling Stones' output in the last decade has celebrated and expanded upon the heyday of their (now) early career in the 1960s and early 1970s. Reissued and deluxe editions of classic albums like Sticky Fingers have coupled with newly recorded albums like Blue & Lonesome to document the influences upon, the history of, and the continuing legacy of the Stones.


In 2017, the band has existed for 55 years, and On Air continues that trend – releasing tracks recorded for the BBC between 1963 and 1965 that captured the raw performance energy of the Rolling Stones. Unlike recent catalog and archival documents that capture classic albums or legendary concerts, On Air instead transcends their quick growth in the mid-'60s, when they were fresh, their popularity grew exponentially, and they rivaled contemporaries like the Beatles within the British Invasion. With that context in mind, On Air additionally follows countless other British groups that have compiled albums from recordings for the BBC, from the Beatles to the Yardbirds, Cream, David Bowie, and Led Zeppelin.

Of the many gems included in this set, now legendary originals like "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and covers like "Hi-Heel Sneakers" sound absolutely explosively '60s in ways only previously imaginable. The twang of a guitar solo and brief harmonica add in the latter are accompanied by lowered screams, indicating how fervently audiences enjoyed the band, while the former demonstrates the band's pop power in 1965 as a raw counterpoint to over 50 years of concert performances.

A large contingent of Chuck Berry covers represent the late musician's immense influence over the Stones and coincidentally offers an honorable tribute to his historical legacy before and beside the Rolling Stones. The band's first single, "Come On", kicks this album off, while "Roll Over Beethoven" is an early electric inclusion on the album. The band's 1963 hit "I Wanna Be Your Man" (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and given to the Stones) is an extremely loose and rough affair. Other covers like Hank Snow's 1950 country ballad "I'm Moving On" highlight the Stones feverish appetite and adaptation skills.

As a compilation of recordings for the BBC, the album carries the momentum of the Rolling Stones over three years effectively, documenting their growth as performers as well as the songwriting of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. But, while that energy is present in the recordings, the sequencing and lack of radio-style distribution remove the real joy there must have been to hear this music in the mid-'60s. These aspects are true of many live compilations, though audience squeals and screams, and announcer introductions, are weaved into the album sporadically and often conveniently – as if to remind you that this was recorded live for the BBC, including in concerts between 1963 and 1965. This is a minor criticism overall, for the recordings themselves are crisp, preserved well, and remastered beautifully: demonstrative of the work of Abbey Road Studios in bringing the most out of half-century recordings.

Two versions of this album were released, with the deluxe edition containing an equivalent second disc that brings the total tracks to 32 recordings for the BBC. The deluxe edition is more inclusive and a fully immersive set that documents the historical value of the recordings. (An additional companion book and series of "official" Rolling Stones podcasts were released to accompany the On Air album, providing a comprehensive and extensive exploration of the historical context and legacy of the recordings and the Rolling Stones in 1963-1965.) On Air provides a variety of style in tracks that span 1963, 1964, and 1965, and brings in numerous different performance venues and session qualities to demonstrate just what recording for the BBC sounded like.

From radio sets to television and concert performances, On Air ultimately goes beyond similar albums by more effectively taking the songs out of the radio environment where it can. This has the effect of focusing entirely on the performance as it was captured, but draws from the excitement that must have been presented by the band on the radio program, in the television camera, and most important by the fan and listener anxiously waiting for the Rolling Stones appearance on the BBC. Even so, On Air deserves a listen in hopes of experiencing that mid-'60s excitement while preserving a half-century set of both mono and stereo recordings never intended for extensive replay.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Music

Folk's Jason Wilber Examines the World Through a Futurist Lens in 'Time Traveler' (album stream)

John Prine's former guitarist and musical director, Jason Wilber steps out with a new album, Time Traveler, featuring irreverent, pensive, and worldly folk music.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.