Album: Out of Our Heads (U.S.)
. . .
As I think I’ve mentioned, the U.S. version of Out of Our Heads is my favorite early period (1963-1965) Rolling Stones album: an absolutely killer mix of world-beating singles, utterly ace covers and a couple of lesser-known Jagger-Richards gems.
Side one — which kicks off with today’s entry, “Mercy Mercy” — is mostly covers, spoiled only by “The Last Time” square in the middle. Meanwhile, side two kicks off with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and outside of the excellent take on Solomon Burke’s “Cry to Me” features four varied originals: “Play With Fire,” “The Under Assistant West Coast Promo Man,” “The Spider & The Fly” and “One More Try.”
“Mercy Mercy” is a cover of a 1964 song by Don Covay which features some pretty great drumming and guitar that might or might not be by Jimi Hendrix, depending on who is telling the story. Despite that, it’s not really heavy, and in fact, it’s got a light, almost latin feel, which I think the Stones picked up on for the first, unreleased version.
I only mention that version because it’s significantly different from the version they eventually released in a surprising way: it’s practically reggae. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that the Stones had heard ska or rocksteady, or maybe it’s just how their interpretation came out.
The version that they released opens with a big, fuzzy riff played by Brian Jones over a massive Charlie Watts drumbeat, over which Mick and Keith sing:
Have mercy, have mercy, baby
Have mercy, have mercy on me
Well I went to see the gypsy
To have my fortune read
She said Man, your baby going to leave you
Her bags are packed up under the bed
There’s a lot of great shit happening here: most Keith’s falsetto backing vocals on the chorus, Charlie’s rolls; the stop-time at the end of each verse, and the leads coming out of it. “Mercy Mercy” was recorded at their last Chess session in May of 1965, and the sound throughout is big and powerful, especially the guitars, which are loud throughout, but especially on the bridge:
I said hey hey baby, hey hey now
What you trying to do
Hey hey baby, hey hey now
Please don’t say we’re through
There are also some cool vocals at the end, where both Mick and Keith go falsetto for “please don’t say we’re through.”
I bought Out of Our Heads right in the middle of my great Stones buying splurge in 1981-1982 — where I bought 19 of their albums in two years — and I listened to it as much as any of their records, because I just loved how it sounded and how it felt, and “Mercy Mercy” was a huge part of that.
“Mercy Mercy” (unreleased original version)
“Mercy Mercy” live at Hyde Park, 1969
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page