Play With Fire – Andrew Oldham Orchestra

I have to say I like this as much as the original and if there was a vocal version I’d probably like it better. The Andrew Oldham Orchestra, a studio group put together by Oldham (who was the Rolling Stones original manager and producer) released five albums during the 1960s including The Rolling Stones Songbook in 1965. Also appearing on that album was a version of The Last Time, which caused decades of misery for The Verve after they sampled it for Bittersweet Symphony.

Originally the B-Side of The Last Time, Play With Fire was recorded in Los Angeles with Phil Spector (who also played bass on the track) and later appeared on the American release of their 1965 album Out Of Our Heads.

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

Cover to Cover on YouTube


You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Exuma

Exuma’s cover of You Can’t Always Get What You Want is taken from his 1973 album Life. Exuma, aka Tony Mckay, was a Bahamian musician whose musical persona was inpired by Obeah, an ancestrally inherited system of spiritual and healing practices developed among enslaved West Africans. After moving to New York at seventeen to study architecture, McKay ran out of money and after being lent an old acoustic guitar he began singing old Bahamian calypsos and writing poetry. One of these poems went on to become the song Brown Girl In The Ring, a worldwide hit for Boney M in 1978. Nina Simone later covered the Exuma track Obeah Man, reinterpretng it as Obeah Woman.

Describing his process of musical creativity, McKay said “I try to be a story-teller, a musical doctor, one who brings musical vibrations from the universal spiritual plane through my guitar strings and my voice. I want to bring some good energy to the people. My whole first album came to me in a dream”.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want originally appeared on the Rolling Stones 1969 album Let It Bleed.

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

Watch on YouTube

Paint It Black – Africa

Africa’s cover of Paint It Black appeared on their only album Music from ‘Lil Brown’, produced by Lou Adler and released in 1968. ‘Lil Brown’ was the name the group gave to the children’s playhouse where they rehearsed, and is a nod to The Band’s album Music from Big Pink released that same year. Members of Africa later became a part of the Brothers And Sisters Of Los Angeles. Paint It Black was originally released as a single by the Rolling Stones in 1966 and subsequently appeared as the opening track on Aftermath, the first Rolling Stones album to feature all original compositions.

Listen to Cover to Cover on Spotify

Watch on YouTube

It’s Only Rock & Roll (But I Like It) – Clinic

A cover version to mess with your mind, because…well, it’s Clinic – a band who perform wearing surgical masks and robes – it’s what they do.

Clinic’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It) appeared on the 2015 Cleopatra Records compilation Stoned: A Psych Tribute to the Rolling Stones. I Know It’s Only Rock and Rock (But I LIke It) originally appeared on the Rolling Stones 1974 album It’s Only Rock and Roll.

Personally, I think Clinic’s deranged take on this seventies Stones classic is nothing short of genius. Getting as far away as possible from the clutter and machismo of the original, Clinic go all Beta Band and resituate their take in a bleakly tiled psycho-geriatric ward, where a drooling incumbent tremblingly adlibs one of the greatest lines in rock history:

“I’m a forty five year old man… trapped inside the body of a forty five year old man…and I like it!”

Bittersweet Symphony – Booost / The Last Time – The Andrew Oldham Orchestra

Swiss reggae band Booost covered The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony on their eponymous 2013 album.

The string loop of Bittersweet Symphony, released by The Verve in 1997, is sampled from the 1965 Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s instrumental cover of the Rolling Stones’ 1965 song The Last Time, itself inspired by This May Be the Last Time, a 1954 recording by the Staple Singers which was an arrangement of a traditional song.

The Verve negotiated rights to use a six-note sample from Oldham’s recording from Decca Records, but they did not obtain permission from former Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein, who owned the copyrights to the Rolling Stones’ pre-1970 songs. Klein refused to grant a licence for the sample, leading to The Verve relinquishing all royalties from the song and the songwriting credits being changed to Jagger-Richards. In 1999, Andrew Oldham successfully sued for his own royalty share which he had never received, and for many subsequent years all songwriting royalties from Bittersweet Symphony went to Jagger-Richards-Oldham.

It would be a further twenty years before an agreement was finally reached, with The Verve receiving a share of the royalties to Bittersweet Symphony from 2019 onwards.

Neither the late Shirley Joiner, the arranger of The Staple Singers’ This May Be the Last Time, or her estate has ever received any royalties from any of the songs inspired by her original arrangement.