Jagger & Keith Richards
Recording date: January-February 1965
Recording location: RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA
Producer: Andrew Oldham Engineer: Dave Hassinger
Performed onstage: 1965-67, 1997-98, 2012-13
Bass: Bill Wyman
Acoustic guitar: Keith Richards
Lead electric guitar: Brian Jones
Rhythm electric guitar (and solo): Keith Richards
Lead vocal: Mick Jagger
Background vocals: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
Piano: Ian Stewart
Tambourine: Jack Nitzsche
We wrote The Last Time when we had a few weeks off. Mick and I played around with it for days because we weren't happy with the first title we thought up, which WAS The Last Time.
That was... important, I guess, to Mick and myself because the previous songs we'd written, we'd given to Andrew (Oldham) and we'd done dubs and sold them off to somebody else, you know, to do. So, I mean, that kind of... is a reason why we ended up with The Last Time because the Beatles didn't have another good one and we'd rifled (laughs) everybody else's repertoire. I guess we were just getting about into good enough to be able to resort... to write for ourselves, you know, and to believe we could do it.
When you start writing, the first batch of songs is almost always puerile ballads, for some reason - I think they're easier to write. To write a good rock and roll song is one of the hardest things because it has to be stripped down so simple, to that same basic format shared by rock & roll and rhythm & blues and Irish folk songs from thousands of years ago. It's a very simple form, and yet you have to find a certain element in there that still lives, that isn't just a rehash. It can REMIND you - and probably will - of something else, but it should still add something new, have a freshness and individuality about it. The rules on it are very strict, you see (laughs). I think The Last Time was the first one we actually managed to write with a BEAT, the first non-puerile song. It had a strong Staple Singers influence in that it came out of an old gospel song that we revamped and reworked. And I didn't actually realize until after we'd written it because we'd been listening to this Staple Singers album for 10 months or so. You don't go out of your way to LIFT songs, but what you play is eventually the product of what you've heard before.
The big difference is that our version was faster and Mick sang it as a love song, whereas Pop Staples was singing to God. I have no idea where Keith or Mick heard the song; it's not the sort of thing that got played on the radio. I think they may have bought a Staples Singers' album on one of our many record-buying trips while touring in America.
We didn't find it difficult to write pop songs, but it was VERY difficult - and I think Mick will agree - to write one for the Stones. It seemed to us it took months and months and in the end we came up with The Last Time, which was basically re-adapting a traditional gospel song that had been sung by the Staples Singers, but luckily the song itself goes back into the mists of time. I think I was trying to learn it on the guitar just to get the chords, sitting there playing along with the record, no gigs, nothing else to do. At least we put our own stamp on it, as the Staples Singlers had done, and as many other people have before and since: they're still singing it in churches today. It gave us something to build on to create the first song that we felt we could decently present to the band to play.... The Last Time was kind of a bridge into thinking about writing for the Stones. It gave us a level of confidence; a pathway of how to do it. And once we had done that we were in the game. There was no mercy, because then we had to come up with the next one. We had entered a race without even knowing it.
I just did the chords on The Last Time. Brian's playing the main riff. I'm playing the acoustic and I also overdubbed the chords in the solo. Just passing chords.