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ROLLING STONES SONGS: ‘I’M A KING BEE’ (1964)

Rolling Stones songs: I’m a King Bee
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MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT

Well I’m a king bee, baby/ Want you to be my queen / Together we can make honey / The world has never seen…

Written by: James Moore
Recorded: Regent Sounds and IBC Studios, London, England, Jan. 29-Feb. 1964
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

From Songfacts:
This was originally recorded by Blues musician Slim Harpo, who was long a favorite of Mick Jagger. The Stones faithfully reproduced Harpo’s version, even including all of his spoken asides. Mick Jagger didn’t understand why listeners would choose the Stones version over Harpo’s. He even stated in 1968, “I mean what’s the point in listening to us do ‘I’m A King Bee’ when you can listen to Slim Harpo doing it?”

Slim Harpo originally recorded this song in 1957. The Rolling Stones played it at their concerts in 1963-64 before recording it on their first album.

From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
“I’m a King Bee” is one of the most famous songs by Slim Harpo (the
archetypal proponent of Louisiana or swamp blues). Slim recorded it in
1957 for the Excello label at the famous studio of J. D. Miller in Crowley,
Louisiana, taking inspiration from the rhythm of “Rockin’ and Rollin’” by
the Texan bluesman Melvin “Lil’ Son” Jackson. “I’m a King Bee” might
not have been an immediate success on the hit parades, but a few years later
it would become an essential number for British and US rock groups from
Pink Floyd to the Doors and from the Grateful Dead to Led Zeppelin. Its
insistent, hypnotic rhythm played an important part in this, as did the lyrics
with their strong erotic charge: Well I’m a king bee, buzzing around your
hive/Yeah I can make honey baby, let me come inside.


Listening to the Rolling Stones’ version provides an insight into the work
performed by Brian and Keith on guitar, and by Mick on vocal to penetrate
the secrets of this “devil’s music” born in the bayous of Louisiana. Their
adaptation differs from Slim Harpo’s original in the substantially greater
rock ’n’ roll energy and the significantly more suggestive drive with which
they endow the song. Jagger interprets the text with his customary talent, a
defining mix of sensuality and insolence. He even indulges in a very good
harmonica solo that seems to hold the attention of his bandmates to such an
extent that they forget to change chord (at 2:01)! For the first time on the
record, Richards plays an acoustic guitar, probably his Harmony 1270 12-
string. But the track’s real interest derives from the combination of the slide
executed by Wyman on his fretless Dallas Tuxedo bass and the brief
response delivered by Jones on the downbeats. The effect is awesome, and
worthy of the most skilled proponents of the genre. Jones also performs a
brief solo imitating a bee in response to Jagger’s instruction to buzz (Well,
buzz a while!
) before taking up his bottleneck and executing a few heartfelt
slides on his green Gretsch Anniversary. As for the drums, in an interview
published soon after the release of the record, Charlie revealed that he had
wrapped his bass drum in his £60 coat in order to obtain the sound he was
after!

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