Sunday, January 20, 2019
Jamming with Edward (music)
Personnnel: Nicky Hopkins (piano), Ry Cooder (guitar), Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica), Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums)
Some albums are meticulously planned out, with multiple takes and overdubs to get just the right sound. Jamming with Edward was just the opposite: it just happened and was released almost as an afterthought.
It grew out of the Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed sessions. The Stones had brought in Nicky Hopkins, the premier sessions pianist of his time,* and guitarist Ry Cooder.** But when Keith Richards left the studio, they sat around with the rest of the Stones and just started to jam.
The result was Jamming with Edward.*** It was just the group playing, with Hopkins and Cooder improvising on the drums and bass line, and Jagger joining in. The blues classic “It Hurts Me Too” was part of the mix. When the session was over, it was forgotten.
But a couple of years later, Jagger stumbled upon the tape, cleaned it up a bit and released it as an album on their newly formed Rolling Stone records. But it was clear that he didn’t think it was great work. The album was sold at a discount**** with very little promotion.
Some thought at the time that this was a form of revenge. Cooder had charged that Jagger had stolen the riff of “Honky Tonk Woman” from him and was extremely disdainful. This was thought to be Jagger’s way of getting back. Jagger has always damned the album with faint praise, calling it “just a laugh. . . It didn’t really warrant releasing, really, but it was okay, a bit of fun, and there’s some good playing on it.”
It suffers from the drawbacks of any impromptu jam session: lack of focus, and the musicians deferring to each other a bit too much. Still, when you have five high-quality musicians playing together, the results are fine to listen to.
*Hopkins, who had health issues that often prevented him from touring, was a session man used by the Kinks, the Pretty Things, the Move, the Who, Jefferson Airplane (at Woodstock), the Beatles (“Revolution”), and was a member of the original Jeff Beck Group and Quicksilver Messenger Service. He also worked extensively with the Rolling Stones.
**Cooder is known today for his interest in roots music, but in the 60s and 70s, also was a busy session man with Captain Beefheart, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Randy Newman, and many other groups and is considered a guitar great by those in the industry.
***Hopkins was nicknamed “Edward” by Brian Jones. The name was used in one of his best compositions, “Edward, the Mad Shirt Grinder.”
****In small record stores, albums were priced by the wholesaler, using a letter system. Stores could decide how much to charge for each letter. At the time Jamming With Edward came out, records usually had a “B” classification. “C” was used occasionally, and double albums were “AA,” which meant they cost twice the “A” price. Jamming with Edward was released as an “A,” something only used for bargain records.