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Rolling Stones songs: Honest I Do
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Please tell me you love me/ Stop driving me mad…
Written by: Ewart Abner/Jimmy Reed
Recorded: Regent IBC Studios, London, England, Jan. 29-Feb. 1964
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
Jimmy Reed was one of the biggest influences on the early Rolling Stones, particularly Mick Jagger. Yet the Stones recorded just one Jimmy Reed song in the 1960s, “Honest I Do,” which made it onto their self-titled debut album. It had been one of Reed’s most successful singles, making the pop Top Forty in 1957, though it was far less familiar in Britain. To be honest it’s one of the weaker tracks on the record, as a slow, routine blues ballad with basic (and not many) lyrics pledging love and begging a woman not to be mean.
Jagger delivers the words in a laconic, almost lazy style, and the song’s tempo wavers slightly, with a couple of halting moments that might have benefited from more ironing out in the studio. Echo suffuses the production even more than it does in most of the other early Rolling Stones tracks, and some ghostly harmonica adds a little bit of variety during the instrumental breaks.
Keith Richards has said that some of the tracks on this first album were unfinished demos, and “Honest I Do” sounds like it might have been one of the ones to which he was referring. Incidentally, there’s some confusion about how the songwriting credit should read; the Rolling Stones attributed it to Hurron/Calvert, but other sources have attributed it to Jimmy Reed, or Abner/Reed. Also incidentally, this wasn’t exactly the only time the Rolling Stones recorded a Jimmy Reed cover in the ’60s.
They put two Reed songs on their widely bootlegged set of five early 1963 demos, “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Baby, What’s Wrong”; did “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” on the BBC in early 1964; and likely played some other Reed songs live. “Honest I Do” itself has been covered pretty often, with versions by James Cotton, Little Sonny, John Hammond, Magic Slim, Ike & Tina Turner, Junior Wells, Johnny Winter, and others.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
Jimmy Reed is one of the many guitarists from the state of Mississippi who subsequently gave modern Chicago blues its stamp of credibility. The Rolling Stones, who were playing “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby,” “The Sun Is Shining,” and “Bright Lights, Big City” well before they signed with Decca, cite the “big boss man” as one of their biggest influences. “Jimmy Reed was a very big model for us,” writes Keith Richards. “That was always two-guitar stuff. Almost a study in monotony in many ways, unless you got in there.… We were fascinated by it, Brian and I. We would spend every spare moment trying to get down Jimmy Reed’s guitar sounds.”
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Categories: Can You Hear the Music?