Jagger track released after 34 years
EmptyNEW YORK - Our Coolest Song in the World a few weeks ago was "Too Many Cooks (Spoil the Soup)" by Mick Jagger.
The track can be found on "The Very Best of Mick Jagger," out October 2 via Rhino.
While it is not our habit to encourage solo records, rock 'n' roll being all about bands (since the 1950s), this is such an exceptional track that we feel it's worth spending a minute on.
First, the song's origin seems to be a source of confusion. The composition has been attributed to both Willie Dixon and Holland/Dozier/Holland (the real Motown three). But our research is pointing to Angelo Bond, Ronald Dumber and Edyth Wayne, who worked mostly for Holland, Dozier and Holland's label Invictus/Hot Wax and wrote for Honey Cone, Freda Payne and General Johnson and -- in this case -- on the debut single of 100 Proof (Aged in Soul), led by lead singer Joe Stubbs (ex-Contours, Falcons and brother of Fours Tops lead Levi).
John Lennon ended up producing the track in 1973, by way of his organized jam sessions held on a regular basis at Los Angeles' Record Plant studio during his two-year "Lost Weekend." (Yoko Ono had suggested they separate and instructed employee May Pang to take care of him.) Jagger happened to come by once and sang.
Everyone forgot about "Too Many Cooks" for 30 years or so, until Pang found the master tapes. So she's the real hero of the story.
On this amazing track are Jim Keltner on drums, Danny Kortchmar and Jesse Ed Davis on guitar, Al Kooper on keyboards, Trevor Lawrence on baritone sax, Bobby Keys on tenor sax, Harry Nilsson on background vocals and Jack Bruce on bass.
I don't know how many vocal takes there were, but I promise you the final one that's on the record was the last take.
Jagger is either at the top of his range or just making it to the end of the song before wearing out, much like Lennon's vocal on "Twist and Shout" on the first Beatles album.
The ragged but still in-control quality of his voice creates a fabulous tone of desperation -- underlying and balancing out the standard R&B macho threat that would normally dominate a song like this, had the singer been in full voice.
Instead, a painful soulfulness hits you and stays with you, much like Sam Cooke, David Ruffin and, the King of Agony, Levi Stubbs.
I'm sure there will be other cool things on the record, but this alone is worth the price of admission.
So as it turns out, solo adventures can occasionally be fun.
Let's just not make a habit of it, shall we?
Actor and guitarist "Little" Steven Van Zandt is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and host of the syndicated radio show "Underground Garage."