Rolling Stones Ya-Ya’s Still Unrivaled

by
Share This:

“Charlie’s good tonight, in’int he?” observes Mick Jagger just before The Rolling Stones chug into “Honky Tonk Woman” like a mighty locomotive hauling the country-blues tradition into the future that was rapidly unfolding in November of 1969, when they recorded (most all of) this live album at Madison Square Garden. Hell yeah he’s good. As were Mick, Keith, Bill and the newly installed other Mick (Taylor) plus original Stone turned minder/musical conscience Ian Stewart on keys here, there and about.

Sailing on the peak of their powers as a recording act in the potent wake of Beggars Banquet and with Let It Bleed in the chute to arrive the next month, onstage the Stones played it down ‘n’ dirty, a tad raw and a wee bit loose-limbed and slushy, but to effect that sounds in some ways today even more compelling than when this smoker of a disc first came out. It was the signal that they were indeed The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band on any given night they played in this era and well into the next decade, nailing down with casually assured aplomb what the notion means. And on Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out, in the pre-professional era of rock concerts, sans any stage set (much less giant inflatable penises), they were there not to simply perform but really play.

Like a genuine band they’re locked in with one another – the Richards/Taylor six-string dynamo trading rhythm and lead like ambidextrous Siamese twins – and roaming together like a pack within the grooves, tunes and spirits of the songs. The moments with the most snap for me (most of the time) may be the two Chuck Berry numbers (“Carol” and “Little Queenie”) and “Live With Me” that deeply plow the eternally irresistible uptempo rock’n’roll groove (in addition to all their other thrills and charms, such as Stewart’s Johnnie Johnson-style boogie-woogie piano counterpoints on “Queenie,” to cite one of many).

The 1969 tour poster

The 1969 tour poster

Since its September 4, 1970 release followed Let It Bleed (from which four Ya-Ya’s songs came) and the Through The Past Darkly hits collection (with hit singles “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Honky Tonk Women”), some at the time would A/B compare the live and studio versions, which kind of misses the point. And even doing so now, I remain more fond of “Midnight Rambler” and “Love In Vain” here (respectively, the former’s tempo and groove and the latter’s crackle feeling closer to the spirit of its writer Robert Johnson). The studio majesty of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Gimme Shelter” and their stripped-down live verve on this set are to me simply flip-sides of the same precious coin. But again, this was before many concerts tried to deliver replications of studio recordings; the Stones were instead about ass-kicking those songs live as a kick-ass band.

Related: Our review of a spectacular Stones 2019 concert

It’s a record that can change your life; I broke into a big understanding grin when I read in the book Under Their Thumb by my friend Bill German that after hearing it he became such an avid Stones follower that he founded his fanzine Beggars Banquet that later became the official Stones fan publication. From the early to mid 1970s, for my college crowd, it was the disc to slip onto the turntable when it was time to mainline some rock ‘n’ roll party hearty.

Over the last decade, I have returned to it over and over and over again; Ya-Ya’s never fails to not just satisfy but renew my love for real rock ‘n’ roll. And I still continue to hear it almost anew and finally key into yet another of the disc’s abundance of way cool moments and touches of a live rock band at their very best and realest. Decades later, it remains my all-time most-beloved concert album, and none of the live Stones albums to follow even comes close.

Listen to the full-length version of “Sympathy For the Devil” from the album

On its release, legendary critic Lester Bangs said, “I have no doubt that it’s the best rock concert ever put on record.” ‘Nuff said; that remains true today, and I imagine forever.

Oh, and Charlie’s good every night.

Listen to the Stones playing “Carol” at the Garden

Ya-Ya’s was certified Gold by the RIAA on Nov. 2, 1970, just two months after its release.

The Stones have postponed their 2020 tour. Tickets will be available here and here.

Related: Links for 100s of classic rock tours

  • Sign up for the Best Classic Bands Newsletter




Rob Patterson
Share This:

15 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. mrknix
    #1 mrknix 22 September, 2016, 22:02

    OK… I’ll start. This is a good album but I like Live at Leeds a bit better. No definitive reason, just s personal choice.

    Reply this comment
  2. Charlie
    #2 Charlie 11 May, 2017, 14:07

    Oh, this album is the best.

    Reply this comment
  3. Norman
    #3 Norman 31 July, 2017, 18:09

    I saw all three shows at Madison Square Garden. It’s a shame there’s no full recording of the complete show, since the performances of Ike and Tina in those shows were some of their best And the real shame is that there’s no legal recording of The Rolling Stones performance in Hawaii in 1964 which is absurdly good…..

    Reply this comment
  4. MarkHasskarl
    #4 MarkHasskarl 14 September, 2017, 23:09

    Sorry, but The Who’s “Live at Leeds,” especially the deluxe CD version, is the greatest concert recording.

    Reply this comment
  5. HMitch13
    #5 HMitch13 28 July, 2018, 21:01

    Kind of surprised you didnt compare it to the bootleg of the same general shows. Some stil Hold that :Liv-r Than You’ll Ever is even better, tho, yeah, issuing the complete shows would be the best

    Reply this comment
  6. gee1403
    #6 gee1403 5 September, 2018, 05:36

    Personally, I think that The Brussels Affair from 1973 is a tighter and, therefore, better recording. The take of ‘Street Fighting Man’ at the end of that recording is manic. Best live rock album ever is The Who Live At Leeds.

    Reply this comment
  7. JJK
    #7 JJK 9 September, 2018, 18:36

    It is a great album no doubt, but I wish they would re issue the entire show in its entirety! I know it was issued back on the 40th anniv, but it still wasn’t the whole show.

    Reply this comment
  8. JCB
    #8 JCB 18 February, 2019, 08:14

    Laughable. Allman Brothers Live At Fillmore East eats any live album up, period. By far the most important live album ever, as it exposed the best live band ever to the masses.

    Reply this comment
  9. Rico41
    #9 Rico41 18 February, 2019, 09:56

    Sorry, Traffic’s “Welcome to the Canteen,” The Band’s “Rock of Ages” and Van Morrison’s “It’s Too Late to Stop Now” rate much higher with me. Better musicians, better songs.

    Reply this comment
  10. tonysam
    #10 tonysam 10 July, 2019, 12:07

    Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Live at the Star Club” is the greatest live album ever recorded, and Elvis Presley’s bootleg set “The Burbank Sessions” are right up there. However, this Stones concert certainly ranks near the top.

    Reply this comment
  11. Mark Leviton
    #11 Mark Leviton 7 May, 2020, 18:35

    The main reason this was released in the first place was because of the success of the bootleg Livr Than You’ll Ever Be, which is superior to it. I remember at the time everyone I knew was very disappointed with the “official” Decca release.

    Reply this comment
  12. rick
    #12 rick 8 May, 2020, 11:38

    Best Live Album by sales was Peter Frampton

    Reply this comment
  13. Davidt62
    #13 Davidt62 13 May, 2020, 07:57

    The version of Sympathy for the Devil on Ya Ya’s has never been surpassed. The two adjoined solos firstly by Keith and then Mick Taylor towards the end of the song are killer. Am a big Who fan but GYYYO trumps Live at Leeds

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.