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Rolling over 50


Enjoying some much-deserved down time in recent weeks, I for some reason decided to devote several hot August nights to organizing all 1,239 of my Rolling Stones iTune files into handy, CD-ready 70-minute play lists. Arranged not chronologically by order of original release, but by dates actually recorded, you see.

So “Black Limousine”and “Slave,” for example, now sit most comfortably right alongside “If You Can’t Rock Me” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” rather than with their regular Tattoo You disc-mates. Similarly, the original take of “Jigsaw Puzzle” surprisingly serves as a missed link between the unjustly poo-pooh’d Their Satanic Majesties Request sessions and that (overly?) acclaimed Beggars Banquet.

It was also quite nice to get reacquainted with such “rarities” as the “Satisfaction” and especially “Ruby Tuesday” pre-vocal backing tracks, not to mention the far-superior 45-rpm mono mix of “Street Fighting Man.” And have you ever heard Keith Richards singing lead on “Gimme Shelter”? Not to mention the band’s criminally unheard Brussels Affair 1973 live album, wherein the aforementioned “S. F. Man” reaches a near Ramones level of warp-speed intensity?

Anyway, 19 freshly burned home CDs later, I kicked completely back beneath headphones to unspool my very own Rolling Stones anthology, straight through their spring ’63 demo tape to the gloriously Buddy Guy-boosted “Champagne & Reefer” from the Martin Scorsese-directed Shine a Light.

And that’s a wrap, I mistakenly thought.

Yet no sooner had I surfaced from my roll down memory lane than it was announced to an incredulous world that Richards, Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood had, most unbelievably, just finagled the latest in a long, long line of megabuck recording contracts with none other than the apparently unsuspecting Universal Music Group.

Blimey! The Rolling Stones have promised to make three new albums (at least “I think we might make another album,” said Richards hopefully, if not exactly helpfully) as well as bequeathing Universal the universal rights to the band’s entire post-’60s catalog for the next five years.

The cost to UMG? An extremely cool 15 million. But, caveat emptor! Their previous employers, EMI, get to keep the Stones’ 1970s-on publishing, while the wily Allen Klein‘s notoriously sticky fingers retain their stranglehold on the real goods: The band’s ultra-lucrative, incessantly income-generating, solidly golden 1960s cache (masters and publishing).

Still, a deal’s a deal, especially with what’s left of today’s musical industry. And while the press instantly began cackling over the announcement, trotting out the same old paraplegic “Stones Too Old To…”/”…Gather New Moss” quips, Jagger, Richards, Watts and even Wood — if he’s allowed out of rehab long enough to remain upright and onstage — really will have the last laugh (as they usually do, when all is said and sung).

To wit: “The Rolling Stones were born on the road and in a time when you served record companies and they served you,” as no less an authority on the matter as original Stones manager/producer/all-round svengali Andrew Loog Oldham told me last week. “Getting [screwed] and advance gouging came later. Leave downloading to the next generation. We silver strollers still like pretty boxes and browsing.”

Indeed, when I first met Oldham at a Hoboken, N.J., recording session years ago, he’d just come from an afternoon spent record shopping. Something he, of all people, still does.

But the most important detail Oldham, UMG and I can leave you with is this: While the band’s pre-“Brown Sugar” treasures may never ever leave the above-mentioned Mr. Klein’s grasp, his ABKCO Records label — which, yes, holds the rights to two dozen classic early Stones albums is distributed by (you guessed it) the Universal Music Group, which really may make that 15-mil payout even more than worthwhile after all.

“It means for the very first time in that their whole body of work is in one place,” Oldham points out. “This could mean creative repackaging and stable pricing.”

Not to mention, for starters, a nice big multi-disc, multiple-media box-set bonanza to commemorate the band’s 50th anniversary come 2012, I’d wager my original 3-D Satanic Majesties cover on.

“The Rolling Stones belong on Universal,” Oldham says.

And so if the powers that be, from he and Messrs. Klein, Jagger, Watts and/or Richards on down ever need any assistance whatsoever sequencing and assembling their inevitable anthology, I’ll gladly lend them my latest 19 CD-Rs for starters.

— Musician/writer Gary Pig Gold is the co-founder of the To M’Lou Music label.