The Rolling Stones have released several live albums, and the recording from their peak period, 1970’s Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!, has recently undergone a deluxe re-release. In the original review for Rolling Stone, Lester Bangs said that “I have no doubt that it’s the best rock concert ever put on record.” He might have been right at the time, but just a few years later, the Stones went one better with the release now known as The Brussels Affair. For some reason, it’s only available as a bootleg, but it’s absolutely worth downloading.
It was recorded in 1973, following Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main St, so the setlist is terrific. You get Brown Sugar, Angie, Honky Tonk Woman, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Street Fighting Man and Tumbling Dice. It’s the version of You Can’t Always Get What You Want which stands out though; it’s 10 minutes long, so, yes, it’s indulgent, but then melancholy is. It features guitar-work that puts the studio version in the shade, backing the verses with sad-but-bright descending notes. If you’re a guitarist, or just a fan of rock guitar playing, the whole gig is packed with highlights, and listening to it, I can almost convince myself that that evening Keith Richards and Mick Taylor played practically every sound you’d ever want to hear an electric guitar make.
The Brussels Affair is convincingly involving and completely silly. It’s all summed up in the second track, Happy, which Jagger introduces with a ludicrous lawks-a-lummee cocker-nee accent:
Mick: Keith’s gonna sing a song for yer called ‘Appy…
Keith then proceeds to start singing with a voice that sounds like the Cookie Monster singing the blues having gargled TCP, while the music rolls along brilliantly; despite seeming to contain a hundred guitar solos and campfire chorsuses, the song is over in at just over three minutes.
Afterwards Jagger says, sounding camp and drunk:
“Merci Keef, that was a good one. Woo hoo. Shake-amonay. God a mama.”
It’s rock n’ roll.