The first full-length Rolling Stones album, The Rolling Stones, was released in the U.K. by Decca on April 16th, 1964. The American version, England's Newest Hitmakers (on the London label) came out six weeks later on May 30th. The songs were recorded in five sessions produced by Andrew Loog Oldham and Eric Easton during January and February of that year. Both versions feature 12 songs, of which 11 of them are the same, the difference being the U.K. version has Bo Diddley's "Mona" as the fourth track on Side 1, while the U.S. version leads off with Buddy Holly's Bo Diddley rip-off "Not Fade Away," which was a hit for the band in the U.K.. All of the other tracks follow the same listing on both albums.
The Stones at this point were essentially a cover band. Richards writes, "We were just playing American music to English people, and we could play it damn good..." It's a true statement on both counts - ten of the thirteen tracks covering both versions were written by other people- mostly American blues men, but there's also Holland/Dozier/Holland's "Can I Get a Witness" and Bobby Troup's "Route 66" on the poppier side of things.
There's only one Jagger/Richards tune- "Tell Me," a straightforward English pop song reflecting the era. An obvious predecessor to "As Tears Go By," the prominence of the acoustic guitar comes as a surprise among the fuzzy guitars of the rest of the album, and there's some nice harmonies in the track, but one could just as easily imagine Lennon and McCartney penning the song.
The other two originals are the group instrumental "Now I've Got a Witness"- a blues romp displaying more chops than imagination, and the Jimmy Reed-inspired rocker "Little By Little" which went to the Top 5 in the U.K. (as the B-Side to "Not Fade Away"). Phil Spector had a hand in writing it and "Little By Little" features a great guitar solo by Richards and Jagger singing "My turn" before taking a harmonica solo firmly in the Chicago style. Buried pretty far down in the mix is Ian Stewart's rollicking piano which is really the tune's glue. There are a lot of great tunes on the album, but "Little By Little" may be the highlight for those seeking the seeds of what's to come.
Their version of Berry's "Carol" is a classic and the English version of the album is worth seeking out for "Mona"- not only is the Diddley riff done with a vengeance, but Jagger stamps his own personal attitude on the track more forcefully here than anywhere else on the album.