The Rolling Stones (from the album England's Newest Hit Makers) - The U.S. title was England’s Newest Hit Makers when The Rolling Stones debuted in the American market on April 17, 1964. The band had a successful series of single hits and an E.P of material that spent fifteen weeks on the English Pop charts.
Eight months into their career, and the Rolling Stones would release their first full studio recording. The group had signed with Decca Records at a time when the company was still kicking itself for passing on The Beatles. The Rolling Stones’ deal was impressive for the time and included three times the royalty rate that other British Invasion bands were seeing and gave the group complete artistic control and ownership of their masters.
For their first album effort, the group relied heavily on American R&B and Blues hits, reworked and fast tracked for a younger audience. Though the partnership of the Jagger/Richards writing team has become legendary, England’s Newest Hit Makers only posted one song with the duo’s writing credits attached (“Tell Me”) and two songs attributed to Nanker Phelge, the pen name given for songs created by the entire band. Both Nanker Phelge tunes, with a Phil Spector co-credit, were extended jams with “Little By Little” barely rising above an instrumental with one, seemingly off the cuff verse. The organ drive on the second semi-original tune, “Now I Got A Witness”, was provided by Ian Stewart, who was dismissed from The Rolling Stones’ lineup in 1963, but stayed on as road manager and pianist.
England’s Newest Hit Makers is a jukebox recording that gave a young band the opportunity to revisit and rework their record collection. “Not Fade Away” opens the album, the version leaning more towards Bo Diddley than Buddy Holly. An amped up, top down version of Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” puts the pedal to the floor, and Chuck Berry’s “Carol” receives the same hurried arrangement treatment that leaves the original time code somewhere back in the dust.
The Rolling Stones did a great service putting Chess Records back on the musical map. Their love of primitive urban blues music, like that of Muddy Waters, whose song “Rollin’ Stone” gave the band its name, became a key ingredient in their first, and all future recordings. They nod to their music mentors and show themselves under the influence of Chicago Blues with Willie Dixon (“I Just Want to Make Love to You”), Louisiana swamp blues with Slim Harpo (“I’m A King Bee”), Nashville songwriter Ted Jarrett with the Gene Allison 1957 hit “You Can Make It If You Try”, and Memphis Soul via Rufus Thomas (“Walking the Dog”).
The Rolling Stones certainly outlasted their British Invasion peers. Listening to England’s Newest Hit Makers shows that the band had good upbringing with their musical tastes. When Jagger/Richards began to pen their own hits, they had an in-house secret weapon. Keith Richards is a master of creating simple note patterns that hook you just as much as the bigger sing-along choruses. The Rolling Stones never moved far away from the urban blues and soul that fuels album number one for the group.