Album: 12 X 5
. . .
Like New Order’s “Ceremony,” there are two distinct recordings of “Time is On My Side”, and like “Ceremony,” while I like the first recording slightly better, it’s the second version that’s better-known these days, which, as we’ll learn, is kinda weird.
The original version, recorded in London in June, 1964, was shorter and more raggedy, and de-emphasized Keith’s lead guitar during the monolog in the middle. It was released as a single in the U.S. and ended up on my beloved 12 X 5. The second version, recorded at Chess was slightly longer, tighter, and featured Keith’s guitar solo at the beginning of the song, and ended up on the U.K.’s The Rolling Stones No. 2
Both versions, of course, feature a primal Vox organ, played by Ian Stewart, and are a basic slow blues featuring the whole band on the chorus humblebragging about how they can wait for their partner to sow her wild oats. Because time, time, is on their side. Yes, it is.
It’s a relatively simple arrangement: the verses are calm and reflective, and so all of the action is the choruses, with Mick interjecting so much it’s almost as if he doesn’t really believe it:
You’ll come running back (said you would, baby)
You’ll come running back (I don’t always said you would)
You’ll come running back (I won’t have to worry no more)
“Time is On My Side” has an interesting pedigree: it was written by Jerry Ragavoy under the pseudonym “Norman Meade” and originally covered by a jazz trombonist named Kai Winding and the only lyrics were “time is on my side” and “you’ll come running back to me,” with Winding doing the pre-chorus and solos on his trombone. As you do. Then soul singer Irma Thomas wanted to cover it, but it needed, you know, actual lyrics, so her producer had Jimmy Norman write the rest of the words, because the record business was the fucking Wild West in the early 1960s.
In any event, it’s Thomas’s rendition that the Stones did, it was kinda cool that they gender-role flipped it — the guy in the song is waiting for girl to stop fucking everybody, cos he’s got the real love, the kind that she needs — just by singing it straight.
All of this, plus an appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, made “Time is On My Side” the first Rolling Stones top 10 hit in the U.S.A., as millions of teenyboppers envisioned themselves being the one for whom Mick had the real love. But here’s the thing: the Stones clearly weren’t satisfied with the recording, because not only did they re-record it, that second version is the one that’s been on pretty much all of the compilation albums that have contained “Time is On My Side,” most importantly Hot Rocks, which remains their best-selling album by far.
It was also a highlight of the first time I saw the Stones in concert, that infamous 1981 Los Angeles Coliseum show where the assholes booed Prince off the stage. I’ll write more about that later, but I definitely have a memo the time the Stones got to “Time is My Side,” it was dark, but almost instantly the whole stadium was illuminated by thousands and thousands of cigarette lighters, which is what they used to call cell phones when I was a teenager.
“Time is On My Side” (original single)
“Time Is On My Side” (guitar intro version)
“Time is On My Side” Live on Ed Sullivan, 1964
“Time is On My Side” live in 1981
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