As a preview to their forthcoming “Goats Heads Soup” deluxe edition, the Rolling Stones have dropped “Scarlet,” a previously unreleased 1974 outtake featuring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and former Traffic/Blind Faith bassist Ric Grech.
Recorded in October of 1974, the song features some distinctive Page soloing over a choppy Keith Richards riff, and according to the tape box photographed in the song’s video (below), it also features the group’s longtime pianist and road manager Ian “Stu” Stewart.
“Scarlet” dates from a transitional era in the Stones’ career: lead guitarist Mick Taylor (pictured above, right) had left the band after a five-year stint, and the group underwent a protracted period of auditioning many players while recording their “Black and Blue” album, released in 1976. The role eventually went to Ron Wood, who remains with the group to this day, although both Wayne Perkins and Harvey Mandel also performed on the album and players ranging from Page and Jeff Beck to Irish blues guitarist Rory Gallagher all jammed with the band (although Page, flying high with Led Zeppelin at the time, never seriously considered joining). Page also plays on the 1974 Stones B-side “Through the Lonely Nights,” as well as “One Hit (to the Body),” which was released on their “Dirty Work” album in 1986.
Perhaps coincidentally, Page’s daughter, also named Scarlet, was born three years before the song was recorded.
In the announcement, Mick Jagger recalled the song’s origins in Wood’s studio at his home in Richmond, outside London, where the Stones’ classic “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll” was also spawned during a different session with Wood and David Bowie late in 1973. “I remember first jamming this with Jimmy and Keith in Ronnie’s basement studio,” he said. “It was a great session.”
Richards added of the final version, “My recollection is we walked in at the end of a Zeppelin session. They were just leaving, and we were booked in next and I believe that Jimmy decided to stay. We weren’t actually cutting it as a track, it was basically for a demo, a demonstration, you know, just to get the feel of it, but it came out well, with a lineup like that, you know, we better use it.”
Indeed, the song’s lyrics and structure feel incomplete — while not necessarily a lost classic, it is certainly an interesting addition to the canon, although the fact that it was recorded many months after the “Goats Head Soup” sessions concluded makes its inclusion on the deluxe edition of that album a bit chronologically puzzling. The set also includes two other previously unreleased tracks “Criss Cross” (which you can hear here) and “All the Rage,” plus other rarities, outtakes and alternative mixes.
“Goats Head Soup” will be released by Universal Music in multi-format and deluxe editions on September 4.