(Real Eton rifles, First world war, 1915)
Try & Try Again - Vic Coppersmith-Heaven
'The Eton Rifles' went through multiple incarnations, which served as a kind of throwback to Vic's experience tracking the Rolling Stones a decade earlier.
"We actually recorded 'Honky Tonk Women' five times," he recalls. "My fellow engineer Glyn Johns recorded the first version, and then, when he disappeared to the States to work on other projects, we recorded a second and third version of the song. The fourth version, some two months later, was completely live but still not acceptable, the fifth version had live bass and drum tracks with everything else overdubbed, and then it was just left for me to come up with the mix. It was almost a three-month process during the recording of the Let It Bleed album, and we followed a similar process with 'Eton Rifles'. We tried it once during the All Mod Cons period and it just didn't work, and then we kept going back to record it. This was at The Townhouse during the time we were finishing off All Mod Cons at RAK. I was working on some other records at the Townhouse and really liked the recording environment there, so I introduced the Jam to that studio. I thought we could achieve a much more exciting sound there.
"In all, we recorded 'Eton Rifles' three times. The first time it just didn't have the power, it just didn't have the excitement — either the arrangement or the sound wasn't right, so we left it and worked on some other tracks before coming back to it. I don't recall having that problem with the other songs on the album, and that's probably because 'Eton Rifles' hadn't been played in. A lot of potentially exciting live tracks would suffer from that if they hadn't been exploited onstage, whereas if they had been played onstage for six months or more you'd be able to capture the performance easily in one day. To capture that excitement is purely a question of performance, arrangement and sound all mixing together.
"The second version of 'Eton Rifles' was pretty much the same story. There were a lot of exciting tracks on Setting Sons, like 'Burning Sky', 'Thick as Thieves' and 'Private Hell' — they had loads of energy, and in the early stages of recording, 'Eton Rifles' just didn't have that kind of bite. The overall band sound developed during the course of recording Setting Sons — the drums improved, the bass sound would get better, and when that happened we'd often drop a new bass part, for instance, into a track that we'd been working on days before."