Rolling Stones songs: The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
Yeah I’m sitting here thinking just how sharp I am/ I’m a necessary talent behind every rock and roll band…
Written by: Nanker/Phelge
Recorded: Chess Studios, Chicago, USA, May 10-11 1965
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This song is representative of music industry insiders who work on the business end – the guys who have nothing creative to offer, but deem themselves important to the process. With convoluted titles and bad toupees, these guys fostered a stereotype that the Rolling Stones played up in this song, describing a guy who thinks he is far more important than he actually is.
The song was directly inspired by George Sherlock, who a United States promotions man at Decca Records. Sherlock was assigned to travel with the Stones when they were on the West Coast, and unhappy with the chaperone, wrote this scathing song about him. The Stones eventually warmed to Sherlock and didn’t mind having him around.
In the US, this was released as the B-side of “Satisfaction.”
This was the last song credited to Nanker Phelge, a goofy name for a Mick Jagger/Keith Richards composition. “Nanker” was a wacky face they would make to amuse each other, “Phelge” was a roommate of Keith Richards whom he considered “The most disgusting person ever.”
The Stones recorded this at Chess studios in Chicago, where many American Blues legends recorded.
A longer version with added lyrics at the end was on the early pressings of Out Of Our Heads and was included on the 1985 compilation Rolling Stones Singles Collection – The London Years.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
With a pen dipped in vitriol, Mick Jagger wrote the words to “The Under
Assistant West Coast Promotion Man.” This all-out attack on the record
industry was launched by the Stones’ singer at a moment when relations
between Andrew Oldham and Eric Easton had reached a point of no return
and Allen Klein was getting ready to enter the scene as the new manager of
the London group. A tirade both skillfully ironic and cynical enables it to
hit home all the more lethally, for behind this figure of the under assistant
West Coast promotion man lurked a real person. During their first US tour,
the Stones were accompanied by a “promo man” from London Records, a
certain George Raymond Sherlock, who, according to Bill Janovitz, “was
a nervous guy with a George Hamilton perma-tan and teased hair.” Well I
promo groups when they come into town/Well they laugh at my toupee, they
sure do put me down. Knowing they refer to a specific individual gives lines
such as these all the more of an edge. It is worth pointing out that George
Sherlock would later work with the Doors, Pink Floyd, and Janis Joplin…
With this song the Rolling Stones provide a dazzling demonstration of their
ability to create their own material on the basis of personal experience.
Hence Jagger’s use of the first person singular!
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Categories: Can You Hear the Music?