Flashback Soul: Nat & Mick Got Their Kicks on “Route 66”

A great song is evergreen. It resonates across cultures and generations and it somehow never fails to please in whomever’s hands it falls.  Such is the case with “Route 66,” written by Bobby Troup in 1946 on a cross-country trip along the legendary road on his way to Los Angeles.  First recorded that same year by Nat King Cole as a jump blues/R&B single, the track reached the Billboard R&B and pop charts, was covered by Chuck Berry and many others, and ultimately made its way across the Atlantic to the UK, where it landed in the early 1960s on the debut albums of the Irish band Them, featuring Van Morrison, and England’s The Rolling Stones, led by frontman Mick Jagger.

A great song is evergreen. It resonates across cultures and generations and it somehow never fails to please in whomever’s hands it falls.  Such is the case with “Route 66,” written by Bobby Troup in 1946 on a cross-country trip along the legendary road on his way to Los Angeles.  First recorded that same year by Nat King Cole as a jump blues/R&B single, the track reached the Billboard R&B and pop charts, was covered by Chuck Berry and many others, and ultimately made its way across the Atlantic to the UK, where it landed in the early 1960s on the debut albums of the Irish band Them, featuring Van Morrison, and England’s The Rolling Stones, led by frontman Mick Jagger.

While the Stones have often been called “The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band,” some may recall that the leading English rock acts of that era were greatly influenced by American blues, soul and R&B music and that at their outset, before learning to write their own songs, they covered that material live and in the studio.  Jagger recently told the UK music magazine Mojo that early in their career he stressed to the BBC that the Stones “were an R&B band and this is what we play.  We don’t play saccharine pop music like these other bands.  We play soulful music.” (Mojo, ed. 291, Feb. 2018).  

We feature here the Stones’ powerful, live-in-the-studio version of “Route 66” featured on The Rolling Stones On Air, a recently-released album of their performances on BBC Radio from 1963-65.  This recording is exceptionally clear and  “present” — when listening you feel like you’re standing on stage with the band, with Charlie’s drum kit in one ear, and Keith’s boisterous guitar in the other (be sure to listen on earphones for the full, glorious effect.)  Also included below is Cole’s jazzier original, a different but no less delightful kick on that same route.  Enjoy. 

By Robb Patryk

 
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