When The Who Released Two Stones Covers As A Show Of Solidarity

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Now that the 50th anniversaries of the Monterey Pop Festival and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band have come and gone, Rock’s 50-year milestones are going to be coming up fast and furious, practically on a daily basis. This rolling 50-year rear-view window is allowing us the luxury of taking a closer look at a musical era filled with world-changing innovation and creativity, and giving us a chance to discover some of the things that may have been forgotten lo these 50 long years.

Such as this story, I had never heard it before but it’s so great: Keith Richards and Mick Jagger were arrested in February 1967 on drug charges stemming from a party at Richards’ country estate. Documents have subsequently shown that the bust was set up by the British newspaper News Of The World, but it was all pretty serious at the time as the Stones were facing real time in the slammer.

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The trial began on June 27, 1967 amid howls of protest from young Britons, especially London’s Rock community. On June 28 Pete Townshend decided he wanted to do something to support his fellow Rockers “should they end up in jail”, so he met Daltrey and Moon at a recording studio where they laid down their versions of the Stones’ hits “The Last Time” and “Under My Thumb”. (John Entwistle was on a honeymoon cruise with his new bride Alison. They called him via ship-to-shore phone to ask his approval, about which he commented “I had to go to the radio room just to hear that. I thought someone had died.”)

The next day Jagger was sentenced to three months in jail and Richards received a one year sentence, and The Who released the double-sided single along with a statement that called the Stones “scapegoats for the drug problem” and their jail sentences “savage”. The statement concluded “The Who are issuing today the first of a series of Jagger/Richard songs to keep their work before the public until they are again free to record themselves.”

All in all a pretty selfless and courageous act by Pete, Roger and Keith. The covers themselves are not great, but they’re not bad either especially for being rushed out in one day. It’s fun to hear how The Who treated what I assume were their favorite Stones songs, although without Entwistle on bass they were like a sports car missing its top gear. I love their harmonies on “Under My Thumb” and Pete’s wicked fuzz guitar solo. And the key modulation on “The Last Time” is a classic Who move. Most of all it’s just so cool that they would stick their necks out like this for their friendly competitors.

Maybe they even helped sway public opinion a little bit. On July 31 the charges against Jagger and Richards were dropped. There will be a few more 50th anniversaries of Stones drug charges coming up in the years ahead.

 

 

 

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