August 22, 2007

John Lennon & Mick Jagger’s lost collaboration

In 1973, Yoko Ono kicked John Lennon out. She sent their personal assistant May Pang off with him, with the instructions to “be with John, help him, and see that he gets whatever he wants.” Together Pang and Lennon moved to Los Angeles, a period dubbed “The Lost Weekend.” It was a weekend that lasted from 1973-1975, during which Lennon passed the time with Phil Spector, recording material that would eventually be released as part of his Rock ‘n’ Roll LP. He also caroused through the town with musician buddies who informally called themselves the Hollywood Vampires: Harry Nilsson, Keith Moon, Micky Dolenz and Alice Cooper, and he was known to have recorded songs with Mick Jagger, Elton John, and David Bowie during that time frame as well.

The track he laid down with Mick Jagger was, for a long time, just mythical. In 2003, a London record store owner put an unlabeled record up for auction which he claimed had come originally from Ronnie Wood (guitarist for the Stones) and contained a collaboration cover of Jagger singing the old Willie Dixon blues song, “Too Many Cooks” with Lennon on guitar. Some reports also place Ringo Starr on drums and date the recording to London 1974. That unlabelled acetate (made directly from a master tape, and found in a stack of records) sold for £1,400, and Mick admitted that he had forgotten it existed for a number of years.

Now Mick is going to release that recording on his upcoming compilation album, The Very Best of Mick Jagger [October 2, Rhino]. The album collects material from all four of Mick’s solo albums, recordings from various points throughout his career, and will include three previously unreleased tracks, including the collaboration with Lennon.

It seems to me that Jagger may have recorded an earlier version of this same song in L.A. in 1973 during the Lost Weekend period with Lennon only producing and not playing? The band for this session is credited to include Harry Nilsson on backing vocals, Beatles collaborator Jim Keltner on drums, Stones sax player Bobby Keys, Cream bassist Jack Bruce, and Al Kooper on keys (you may remember him from the hesitant Hammond B3 playing on Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” if you’ve seen the Scorsese documentary).

So essentially, I am driving myself crazy trying to nail down the slippery provenance on this specific version. It’s the history sleuth in me. I guess we’ll find out October 2 if Lennon is playing here or not. It’s a cool, funky, brassy song either way.

Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup) – Mick Jagger & “The Jim Keltner Orchestra” (so-dubbed by John Lennon)

photo credit Jef A̩rosol Рstencilled paste-ups on Fashion Street in London (between Brick Lane and Commercial Street), July 15, 2007

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  • Oh, awesome! I grew up loving the “Stand by Me” John Lennon did during this period. Have you seen the “Toot and a Snore” gig?

    gorjus — August 22, 2007 @ 12:09 pm

  • Nicely done Heather! I love all of those old collaborations that somehow got shelved back in the day. Toot and a Snort is pretty good but the Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan sessions are amazing. Also, there’s a really poor recording of Levon Helm (Drummer for the Band) playing solo. Dylan just shows up and jumps on stage.

    Branden — August 22, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

  • The “you may remember” Al Kooper comment is a hoot. Amongst his many amazing musical accomplishments is his keyboards/french horn playing on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” He’s even credited on the 45 label. Anyway, that’s a cool story about the Lennon/Jagger track. I remember hearing it on a bootleg many years ago, credited as a Stones’ song.

    Anonymous — August 22, 2007 @ 7:32 pm

  • The 45rpm version of ‘You can’t always get what you want’ is incredible – a b side unbelievably – but one of those records that used up days when you discovered its glory.

    Those guys were a long way from home when making that record and its sinous funk is fun and wild in its ‘lost wekend’ context.A story definitely worth the telling.I don’t get the feeling that Jagger’s heart is really in the lyrics……

    russell — August 23, 2007 @ 3:56 am

  • Great tune. Myself, I’ve always wondered if The Dirty Mac did any other recordings besides “Yer Blues” and “Whole Lotta Yoko.” That band was a lethal combination of talent.

    Andy Grabia — August 23, 2007 @ 8:17 am

  • Double WOW!
    Keltner keeps this song right on time.

    Bruce — August 23, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  • Or you may remember Al Kooper from playing keys at Newport when Dylan went electric, Founding Blood, Sweat & Tears, discovering Lynyrd Skynyrd and producing their first three albums, Producing Dylan’s New Morning album, playing on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, the super session album with Mike Bloomfield, writing “This Diamond Ring”, Discovering Shuggie Otis, Signing Richard Thompson, or about 50 other major things in the history of rock.

    Still, thanks for the tune. Sounds exciting and is very reminiscent of Lennon’s Rock & Roll album and Nilsson’s Pussycats.

    Anonymous — September 25, 2007 @ 8:30 pm

  • Great jam, an unearthed treasure. Just when I think there isn’t anything cool on the radio anymore, Little Steven goes and blows my mind.

    Anonymous — September 30, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  • So, did you ever figure this out?? I’ve been going back and forth with underground garage on this trying to figure out if John/Ringo actally play on the album version. The album lists John producing only, but is there really enough info to know this?

    Tommi — October 22, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  • I think Lennon described this kind of producing as “just sitting behind the desk.”

    tnk — May 28, 2008 @ 9:52 pm

  • Not one to bring a thread back from the dead… I taped what I remember as a different version of this song off the radio on to cassette a long time ago. This was off some Stones special. It also had Maryanne Faith doing a Stones cover that I haven’t heard since… Long before 2003, though this is a good story. Anyway, I’ll keep looking for info!

    big john — November 21, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
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