September 7, 2016

The song remains the same?

'Rickets' Special'
'Buttermilk Pt I & II'
'2120 South Michigan Ave'

Three songs, three artists, one mod riff. Who was first? I feel as if I've done some half-assed detective work with no absolute conclusion.
Case in point, three great instrumental recordings from the 60s, all with the same bass line, guitar riff, and harmonica break.

Quite curious to me are the recordings, and recording dates from all artists involved, two in fact, with different writers' credits...

Quite curious still, is the fact that I recently discovered the Rickets, a mod/psych/German rock & roll band with some very rare early 60s recordings.

The song in question, a live recording from the Rickets called 'Rickets Special', first recorded on a vintage Telefunken two track tape recorder in 1963.

(early to mid-60s Rickets)

From what I could find, the Rickets did release a 45 in 1964. Probably released in Germany and/or Europe only. Unfortunately I've never seen the label to check the writer's credits. Though I did find online the original 45 rpm picture sleeve.

The a-side, 'My Dear' flipped over reveals a great b-side tune, 'Rickets' Special'.

The Rickets -'Rickets Special' was apparently re-recorded and retitled, 'Action Painting' sometime between 1965-67.
This version does appear on a rare German prog/kraut-rock compilation LP from 1970 entitled,'Wir Im Scheinwerfer' (We In the Spotlight).

If this first live 1963 recording date is accurate, it would predate both the Rolling Stones' and Sly Stone's "penned versions"...

Could the Rolling Stones have heard the Rickets version in some form before 1964? It's possible.

Is it also possible the Stones, and later Sly Stone, "lifted or borrowed" this brilliant hook/arrangement from the Rickets, both claiming the song as their own?

Or is it possible that the Stones had already been playing their '2120 South Michigan Ave' in clubs live, before they recorded it later in 1964, with the Rickets just adopting it and recording the tune just from hearing it live?

The Rickets' "original" live tape from 1963. This does sound a bit progressive for 1963(?)


Sly Stone spinning the sounds at KSOL radio - San Francisco 1967
photo: Micheal Ochs

It also seems odd that Sly Stone's recorded Autumn label 45 from 1965 takes writer's credit one year after the Rolling Stones recorded and released their Decca version (essentially the same tune).

Recently read that Sylvester Stewart aka "Sly Stone" is broke and living in a large trailer somewhere in Los Angeles. Not sure how true or to what extent, but it's always sad to read about poor circumstances talented artists fall upon.

Sly Stone certainly put his mark on music, not to mention San Francisco's musical history. Could be argued that he was one of the first artists to help bridge, blend, and shape 60s rock and soul together.

So I was inspired recently to dig out and play his second 45 from 1965, pressed on the San Francisco based Autumn label.
But wait, this funky, mod riff sounds familiar?!

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Recorded at Chess records in Chicago - The Rolling Stones 5x5 UK Decca EP from 1964.

Note the writers' credit on '2120 South Michigan Ave':
Nanker and Phlege, a pseudonym used by the Rolling Stones between 1963 and 1965.
The song title is the address to Chess records in Chicago.

Who was first? Does it really matter? Not really.
Personally, I feel the Stones may have came up with the first arrangement/riff.
I just like the song and I'm intrigued that I noticed.


Summer 2016
Here are a couple of emails that may put this story to rest:

In Feb. 2012 I received an email from a guy named Ernst. Not sure if he was/is associated with the band or a former member of The Rickets:

Hi Thomas,
the titel "action painting" is live-recorded in 1963
with a Telefunken Recorder 1/4" Tape.
The Titel is new recorded for the German TV-Show
"Wir im Scheinwerfer".
It`s released on vinyl LP: Label RESONO: Wir im Scheinwerfer.
5 Tracks from the Band. THE RICKETS

Look at You Tube: cicodelico
psychedelic freakout 1966/67 ricketts action painting


In March 2013 I received another email from Marius.
This may be our answer...
Hi Thomas,

I found your blog entry by chance about the question, if the Stones have been influenced by the Rickets in the early 60s or even copied one of their songs.
My uncle happens to be the founder of the Rickets. He was later replaced by his brother. I recently play with the Rickets' drummer in a 60s and 70s cover band together with my father who also joined the Rickets in the late 60s till the 2000s. Since I got many records of the Rickets I'm very sure that their recording is not from 1963! As you mentioned in your blog, it sounds way to "progressive" for 1963. The number of the year is wrong. Must be from the mid 60s. Furthermore the Rickets were known to cover many Stones songs back in the day. All in all, the Stones haven't stolen the idea from the Rickets. It's the other way round I guess ;)

Have a nice day!

thank you Marius!

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