By 1969, The Rolling Stones had moved into their imperial phase, that part of an artist’s career where they can’t seem to do anything wrong. The songs and the hits just keep coming.
But that’s not to say that there weren’t struggles and dead ends. Take this example of “Brown Sugar,” a song destined for the Sticky Fingers album. The final version would end up at #1 on both the Canadian and American singles charts in 1971.
The song was recorded at Muscle Shoals between December 2-4, 1969 and debuted live during the Stones’ ill-fated set at Altamont on December 6. Then on December 18, the band reconvened at Olympic Studios in London during a birthday party for Keef. Al Kooper appears on piano and Eric Clapton took a turn on slide guitar.
Keef liked the spontaneous nature of the recording so much that he lobbied to have this version included on Sticky Fingers. But after a few weeks, everyone decided that the Muscle Shoals version was better.
Stones fans can find this recording on any number of bootlegs and on a deluxe reissue of Sticky Fingers.