If you like this please consider supporting the site. Your donation helps to do what I do. Thank you! *Donate here
Rolling Stones songs: Time Is On My Side
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
Go ahead, go ahead and light up the town/ And baby, do everything your heart desires/ Remember, I’ll always be around…
Written by: Jerry Ragavoy/Jimmy Norman
Recorded: Regent Sound Studios, London, England, June 24-26 1964
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This song was originally recorded by the jazz trombonist Kai Winding and his Orchestra on the Verve Records label in October 1963. His version was mostly instrumental with just the lyric “time is on my side” sung by the background trio of Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick.
The first fully vocal version was recorded by the New Orleans soul singer Irma Thomas; her version was released as the B-side of “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)” in June 1964. The Rolling Stones released their version of the song in the US on September 26, 1964, and it became their first Top 10 hit in America. Thomas’ version contains a spoken part in the middle that the Stones left out.
The lyrics were most likely written by Jimmy Norman, who was a member of The Coasters. The songwriting credit is unclear, and usually lists Jerry Ragovoy, who wrote “Piece Of My Heart” and “Try” for Janis Joplin, as the only writer, sometimes as “Norman Meade,” which he used as a pseudonym. Thomas’ original single lists the credit as “J. Norman – N. Meade.” Ragovoy, who also produced the song for Thomas, died in 2011 at age 80.
In this song, Mick Jagger has lost his girl, but he knows it’s just a matter of time until he returns. After all, he’s got “the real love, the kind that you need.”
Keith Richards said of this song: “In America we were basically known for heavy, slowish kind of ballads. ‘Time Is On My Side,’ ‘Tell Me,’ ‘Heart of Stone,’ that was what we were known for. Strangely enough that was our thing. Every single was a slow song. Who would believe it? You’d think they’d be clamoring for out-and-out rock and roll, but no, it was the soul ballads that happened for us in America.”
This was one of two songs The Stones performed on their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance, October 25, 1964. The other was “Around And Around,” a Chuck Berry cover.
That February, The Beatles made their historic debut on Sullivan to crowd hysteria. The Stones hadn’t yet developed a fan base in America, but the teenage girls in the audience still went crazy. The appearance earned them lots of attention and helped send “Time Is On My Side” up the chart – it reached #6 on December 5.
The Stones returned to the show five more times, always earning a wildly enthusiastic greeting from the crowd. On their fifth appearance, they capitulated to Sullivan by changing “Let’s Spend The Night Together” to “Let’s Spend Some Time Together.”
The Rolling Stones released two versions of this song. The US single was recorded in England and is slower, with a gospel organ. The British version was recorded at Chess studios in Chicago.
This song played a key role in the 1998 suspense thriller Fallen with Denzel Washington and John Goodman. It was also used in the films The Sense Of An Ending (2017), Get On Up (2014), and Not Fade Away (2012).
Irma Thomas was touring in England when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards caught one of her shows and heard her sing the tune. They told her they loved it and planned to record it with their band. By early December, the Stones’ cover was a Top 10 hit in the US. Thomas grew so tired of explaining to people that she recorded the song first, she quit singing it altogether for nearly 30 years. She only relented when her friend Bonnie Raitt invited Thomas to sing it with her for a 1992 New Year’s Eve broadcast from New Orleans.
Thomas told the Dutch music series Top 2000 a go go what she thought of Jagger’s take on her tune. “Vocally you have to be able to carry a note for more than a couple seconds,” she said. “Melodically, he’s there. But they did the way they did and I did it the way I did it and, you know, there’s an interpretation of singing. I tell people, ‘Mick can’t sing but he’s laughing all the way to the bank.'”
This was used in the 2019 miniseries Watchmen in the episode “If You Don’t Like My Story, Write Your Own.”
It was also used in these TV shows:
Lucifer (“Weaponizer” – 2016)
12 Monkeys (“Year Of The Monkey” – 2016)
Elementary (“On The Line” – 2013)
Six Feet Under (“Perfect Circles” – 2003)
The Sopranos (“Guy Walks Into A Psychiatrist’s Office” – 2000)
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
Using the pseudonym Norman Meade, Jordan “Jerry” Ragovoy wrote “Time Is on My Side” at the request of the arranger Garry Sherman. Sherman wanted the trombonist Kai Winding, whose sessions he was supervising, to extend his appeal beyond his usual jazz audience. Although this first version, dating from October 3, 1963, failed to achieve chart success (despite superb vocals from the Gospelaires, in other words Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and Cissy Houston), it inspired two highly successful covers the following year. The first was by Irma Thomas, the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” (as the B-side of “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is [Will Understand]”), and the second was by the Rolling Stones, sung by Mick Jagger. Time is on my side, yes it is/Now you always say/That you want to be free/But you’ll come running back, he sings with all the confidence of the true soul singer.
The Rolling Stones decided to record “Time Is on My Side” after buying the sheet music in Los Angeles. They actually released two versions of the song on disc. The first was recorded during their session on June 10, 1964, at Chess (or during the sessions on June 24–26, 1964, in London according to other sources). With a running time of 2:50, it starts with an organ intro played by Ian Stewart on a Hammond B-3 in pure gospel style. There is abundant reverb on the overall sound, and Jagger attacks the lyrics with a plaintive voice and his characteristic vocal mannerisms.
He is supported by Bill and Keith with backing vocals that are not always precisely in tune (for example, the “Time, time, time” at 2:14). It is a shame these harmonies were not better crafted. Keith plays rhythm and lead (on his Epiphone Casino) and his solo in the bridge is reasonably close in spirit to that on the Irma Thomas version. However, it is not always any more rhythmically successful (for example, in the coda from 2:14) than Mick’s very prominent tambourine, no doubt overdubbed. The number nevertheless possesses an undeniable charm, and the Stones make a virtue out of these small defects, which lend their cover a certain touching appeal.
This version can be found on the album 12×5, which was destined for the US market. It was even released as a single, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard charts on December 5, 1964 (the Stones’ first top 10 hit in the United States). The second version, cut on November 8 at Chess Studios in Chicago, was used for the British album, The Rolling Stones No. 2. This time Keith accompanies Ian’s organ on the intro. The tempo is slightly slower, and Keith, playing his 1959 Gibson Les Paul, delivers a very good solo with a very clear sound obtained from his Fender Showman amp.
The track sounds far drier than the June 10 version thanks to greater discretion in the use of the famous Chess echo chamber. Jagger is no longer as prominent in the mix. His voice is more recessed but at the same time more rock ’n’ roll. Despite a number of slips (for example “To me” at around 1:23), the backing vocals are considerably more in tune than before.
Bill provides a very good bass line on his Framus Star bass, plugged directly into the console, which he plays with a pick. Charlie supports his colleagues with aplomb, ensuring that this version is less untidy than the earlier one. The only fly in the ointment is the tambourine part, again overdubbed, which is clearly not in time, particularly at the beginning of the number (listen at around 0:35). Brian, who played his arpeggios on his Gretsch Anniversary on the first recording, now uses his Vox “Teardrop.” This second version of “Time Is on My Side” exemplifies the very good work done by the Stones to make a song their own, that is to say to distance themselves from the original version. Also worth noting is the proper ending, which can be heard distinctly despite the rapid fade-out
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?