- 22 Jul 20
Long Lost Pagey & Keef Cut Uncovered
Who makes for the greater rock n’ roll icon, Keith Richards or Jimmy Page? Well, it depends. Are you into Peter Tosh, Merle Haggard and Otis Redding, or wizards and orcs and all that shite? Relax, I’m joking, of course. Led Zeppelin retain their Ozymandian awesomeness and their mighty works are as stone tablets, inscribed by the hand of god, atop a desert mountain, as the people do the golden calf boogie below. Mind you, none of them are as good as Exile On Main Street, but then again, what is?
It was inevitable that Jimmy Page would work with or near the Stones in the sixties, given that he was the session guitarist of choice, working with everyone from Val Doonican to Van Morrison. You can hear him on the version of ‘Heart Of Stone’ – recorded as a demo to hawk the song to other artists in 1964 – which was eventually released on ABKCO (Allen Klein) odds-and-ends-cash-in Metamorphosis (1975). Fast forward to the 1980s – a decade that didn’t really suit either act – and Jimmy Page is in New York. He gets the call to come down to the studio from Ronnie Wood. There was no sign of Jagger, so Page presumed what he was working on was a Keith Richards solo record but the great Talk is Cheap was a few years off yet. This was one of the Dirty Work sessions, perhaps the worst Stones record, but at least the song Page plays his marvellously bendy solo on, ‘One Hit (To The Body)’, had a spark to it.
Which brings us to ‘Scarlet’ - surely something to do with Page’s daughter of the same name, now a respected rock n’ roll photographer - the second new/old cut from the upcoming reissue of 1973’s Goats Head Soup. One story goes that Page joined Richards, sixth Stone Ian Stewart, Traffic Man Ric Grech, and Fairporter Bruce Rowland at a half-assed session at London’s Island studios in 1974, and ‘Scarlet’ was one of the songs that emerged, although it was never officially released.
Jagger ‘remembers’ it somewhat differently. “It was recorded in Ronnie Wood’s basement. It was Keith and me, and Jimmy Page turned up for some reason. I had this song and we ran through it, amongst other things, and since then I’ve just completely forgotten about it. Obviously we had to mix it, and put a bit of maracas on it to finish the track – you can’t have it without maracas. I’m glad it’s seeing the light of day because it's as good as the stuff we put out. The bottom line is you didn’t finish them,” he told a genuflecting Zoe Ball on BBC Radio 2.
Jagger might have Stalin’s sharpie in hand here, fudging and rewriting history, or maybe that's what really happened. It doesn't matter, he’s Mick Jagger, and he can do what he likes. The song itself is a gloriously raggedy yoke, a street corner mongrel of hazy and uncertain parentage. There’s a bit of the reggae Keith was listening to, reinforced by time spent in Jamaica recording Soup, and Jagger’s vocal might well be ‘more recent’ than 1974, but when he harmonises with himself, and Keef's admirably tobacco-stained howl, during both the chorus and the barroom roll of the middle eight, it is the classic seventies Stones sound that they surely should be teaching in schools. Page’s riffing is subsumed into The Stones stew – it was once said of Keith Richards that he could make the Vienna Boys Choir sound like The Stones if given sufficient time – so Zep fans might be slightly put out. There are no hobbits either.
One last thing. The video clip shows the session tapes as featuring “Stu + Jimmy + Keef”. Put that marker away, Jagger, you old dog.