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Song of the Week #132 – “The Last Time”

Written by admin on November 12, 2012 – 11:24 pm -

The Rolling Stones - The Last Time single The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” is Song of the Week on Classic Pop Icons.

“The Last Time” was released on single in February 1965, backed with “Play With Fire”.

The Rolling Stones were already a hugely popular band in the UK and had a growing following around the world when “The Last Time” was written, but up till then their output had consisted mainly of cover songs. With The Beatles making such an impact with their own material, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were challenged by their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, to come up with some songs of their own. “The Last Time” was the breakthrough self-penned hit for the group in the UK (“Heart of Stone” backed with “What a Shame” had already reached the top 20 in the US) and would begin a string of classic Jagger/Richards collaborations, including the follow-up single “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” which was a worldwide number one.

In Keith Richards’ autobiography “Life” (p 172-173) he had this to say about writing “The Last Time”:

“Mick and I knew by now that really our job was to write songs for the Stones. It took us eight, nine months before we came up with “The Last Time,” which is the first one that we felt we could give to the rest of the guys without being sent out the room. If I’d gone to the Rolling Stones with “As Tears Go By,” it would have been “Get out and don’t come back.” Mick and I were trying to hone it down. We kept coming up with these ballads, nothing to do with what we were doing. And then finally we came up with “The Last Time” and looked at each other and said, let’s try this with the boys. The song has the first recognizable Stones riff or guitar figure on it; the chorus is from the Staple Singers’ version, “This May Be the Last Time.” We could work this hook; now we had to find the verse. It had a Stones twist to it, one that maybe couldn’t have been written earlier – a song about going on the road and dumping some chick. “You don’t try very hard to please me.” Not the usual serenade to the unattainable object of desire. That was when it really clicked, with that song, when Mick and I felt confident enough to actually lay it in front of Brian and Charlie and Ian Stewart, especially, arbiter of events. With those earlier songs we would have been chased out the room. But that song defined us in a way, and it went to number one in the UK.”

The guitar riff that Richards refers to is perhaps the most important component of the song, acting as the intro and a recurring theme throughout. The band has received some criticism for lifting the chorus from the Staple Singers’ song, but the songs are very different, with the similarities restricted to the “This may be the last time, maybe the last time I don’t know” phrase. The earlier recording was also a traditional gospel song with uncertain origins.

“The Last Time” – The Rolling Stones

A live performance of the song appears in the re-edited version of the 1965 documentary “Charlie Is My Darling,” which was released last week on DVD, Blu-ray and in a deluxe box set. Click here for further information


“The Last Time” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.

Recording date/location

“The Last Time” was recorded on January 11-12, 1965 at RCA Studios in Hollywood, California.

In “Life,” (p 174) Richards said of the session:

“When we recorded “The Last Time,” in January 1965, we’d come back off the road and everyone was exhausted. We’d gone in to record the single only. After we finished “The Last Time,” the Stones left standing were me and Mick. Phil Spector was there – Andrew had asked him to come down and listen to the track – and so was Jack Nitzsche. A janitor had come to clean up, this silent sweeping in the corner of this huge studio, while this remaining group picked up instruments. Spector picked up Bill Wyman’s bass, Nitzsche went to the harpsichord, and the B-side, “Play With Fire.” was cut with half the Rolling Stones and this unique lineup.”

The Stones with Andrew Loog Oldham at RCA Studios, Hollywood
The Stones with Andrew Loog Oldham at RCA Studios, Hollywood – Photo: Bob Bonis


“The Last Time” featured:

  • Mick Jagger – vocals
  • Keith Richards – guitar
  • Brian Jones – guitar
  • Bill Wyman – bass
  • Charlie Watts – drums.

The great guitar intro was played by Brian Jones. Keith Richards played the solo.

Chart performance

“The Last Time” was the third of five consecutive UK number ones for the Rolling Stones. The single did less well in the US, peaking at number 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100 on April 25, 1965.

The Rolling Stones - The Last Time Hot 100

Other notable recordings

“The Last Time” – The Who

The Who released “The Last Time” and “Under My Thumb” on single in July 1967 as a show of support for Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, who had been imprisoned on drugs charges.

This was a spontaneous recording and does have a slightly unfinshed feel, particularly on the vocal harmonies, which probably would have been stronger if John Entwistle had been present for the recording. His absence also meant that Pete Townshend took the bass part.

“The Last Time” – The Andrew Oldham Orchestra

An orchestral version of “The Last Time” featured on The Andrew Oldham Orchestra’s “The Rolling Stones” handbook in 1966. It’s an unusual approach because it retains the chord structure, but never really tackles the song’s main melody line. The Verve’s 1997 song “Bittersweet Symphony” featured a sample of the most memorable part of the recording and this led to charges of plagiarism and the transfer of songwriting credits from Richard Ashcroft to Jagger/Richards.

There will be a new Song of the Week on November 19.

The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” is featured on all editions of the band’s new greatest hits release, “GRRR!”, which is released this week.


GRRR! (3 CDs)

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GRRR! – Deluxe edition (3 CDs/Book/Poster/Postcards)

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GRRR! – Super deluxe edition (5 CDs/7″ EP/Book/Poster)

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