They say the Devil has all the good tunes (except when he goes down to Georgia, of course!). But perhaps just sympathising with Old Nick also conjures up a decent tune too.
I remember the first Stones album I bought myself. I was 15. Coming off the back of a couple of Greatest Hits compilations, I went and bought the live album Get Yer Ya Ya's Out. Live albums can often be a mistake as they tend to offer thin, over-emoting, out-of-tune and unnecessarily long versions of well-loved – and crafted - studio songs.
But not so Get Yer Ya Ya's Out...
It's a tour album commemorating the infamous 1969 US Tour - yes the one that ended with the screw up that was Altamont. I come back to this album frequently. I can safely say; I learnt to play guitar strumming along with this album. Recorded at Madison Square Garden, it captures the Stones as they transitioned away from Brian Jones and into the demi-god led outfit that included Mick Taylor. Finally, the Stones had some serious lead guitar muscle to complement the Human Riff, Keef. They would get better in the next couple of years, but this is the only official live album of the Stones Mark 2 line up.
My fav track was Track 1 / Side 2: Sympathy for the Devil. (“Paint It Black you devils! Do Paint It Black!”) E-D-A verses dropping to B for the chorus. Brilliant to play along with and attempt the extended guitar solo at the end of the track. Yes, I learnt my pitiful lead axeman skills from this track. Well at least for the first minutes of the solo anyway! Because suddenly the solo gets hard - real hard. What is a rhythm guitarist's best ever solo morphs into a shit-hot guitar hero work-out. You can hear the change about 4:30 into the track. It’s almost as though Keef took a snort half way through and felt emboldened to shout "Oi! Hendrix, Clapton - come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough!"
But YouTube and the internet have revealed the mystery behind the split personality on Sympathy for the Devil’s guitar solo. For of course – Keef plays the first half and then hands over to Mick Taylor. In less than two minutes, Mick Taylor pisses on Richards and - in the cock-measuring contest that was the Stones – for the next five years, never again would Keith attempt to challenge Taylor. There has only ever been one lead guitarist in the Stones and his name was Mick Taylor.
I’ll write in due course more about this golden era of the Stones. When they really deserved the moniker ‘The Greatest Rock n Roll Band in the World’. But for now, listen to this audio and you’ll see what I mean. Keef starts soloing at 3:18. Mick Taylor takes over the baton at 4:30 and from 5:20 streaks down the back straight to take both the tape and the Gold Medal.
As I said, the Stones would get better after 1969. Taylor would get more confident – aware that his fluid, melodic soloing would propel songs like Midnight Rambler, Gimme Shelter, Street Fighting Man to ever higher levels. But Get Your Ya Ya’s Out is where it began and, on Sympathy for the Devil, you can hear him shyly but definitely, take over the band’s sound.