Is the Rolling Stones’ ‘Time Is on My Side’ Different From Irma Thomas’ Earlier Version?

Irma Thomas poses for a publicity photo in a sparkling dress, circa 1965

Though The Rolling Stones landed their first U.K. No. 1 in July ’64, the band was still looking for its breakthrough single in America. That August, when “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back)” peaked at No. 24, the Stones began seeing the success other “British Invasion” acts had before them.

The Stones continued building momentum into December ’64, when the band’s version of “Time Is on My Side” reached No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. To this day, the Stones’ take on the song remains the best-known interpretation — so much so that many believe it’s a Stones composition.

Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, has been dealing with that since ’64. (Thomas turned 80 in February ’21.) When the Stones put down their version on record, they were following the lead of Thomas, who’d already recorded the Jerry Ragovoy-penned track for Imperial Records.

The Rolling Stones closely followed Irma Thomas’ version of ‘Time Is on My Side’

Irma Thomas in the ’60s | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Thomas wasn’t the first to record “Time Is on My Side.” In October ’63, trombonist Kai Winding laid down the Ragovoy composition for Verve. A group of soulful backing singers, which included Dionne Warwick, spiced up a song that had instrumental verses. No lyrics outside of the chorus and “You’ll come running back” existed then.

When Thomas recorded the song for Imperial (in late ’63 or the first half of ’64), arranger H.B. Barnum had a lyricist add verses for Thomas to sing. As Thomas told Dutch TV’s Top 2000 in ’19, the monologue fell to her at the session.

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“[The monologue] was not a part of the song originally,” Thomas said. “[Barnum], he was the producer and arranger, he made a suggestion. I said, ‘OK, I’ll come up with something.’” The Stones version followed Thomas’ recording quite closely in the two versions the band recorded in ’64.

In both recordings, Mick Jagger follows Thomas’ lyrics (even the ad-libs) mostly word for word. The Stones also match the tempo and arrangement of the Thomas recording (both end just shy of 3:00); the guitar part in the monologue section also comes very close to the one behind Thomas.

The Stones told Thomas they were recording her ‘Time Is on My Side’

1964: Rock and roll band “The Rolling Stones”

Source:: Showbiz Cheat Sheet


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