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Music

The Rolling Stones B-side that became a 1990s alt-rock hit

By 1965, The Rolling Stones were fully embracing their status as one of the premier bands in pop and rock. With the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards officially in full swing, the Stones were now much more than just a white boy blues band, something that threatened the leadership of original founder Brian Jones.

Softer original material like ‘Tell Me’ and ‘Heart of Stone’ were still rubbing elbows with cover singles like ‘It’s All Over Now’ and ‘Time Is On My Side’, but a major breakthrough came when Richards stumbled upon the riff to ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ while half-asleep. With its raunchier guitar tones and souped-up drive, ‘Satisfaction’ gave the Stones both an identity and a high bar to clear. The band’s follow-up, ‘Get Off of My Cloud’ was another chart-topper that kept their momentum going.

If you happened to buy the ‘Got Off of My Cloud’ single in the US, you were going to find a song called ‘I’m Free’ on the B-side. A celebration of youthful independence and autonomy, ‘I’m Free’ was also less of a hard rocker and more of a groovy proto-hippie track from the Stones just as they were becoming dirtier and more dangerous. Even if the music didn’t quite line up with that ethos, the message of ‘I’m Free’ certainly did.

Although it made occasional appearances in live sets, ‘I’m Free’ never became a Rolling Stones classic the way that so many of their songs did. The song was the final track from the UK version of Out of Our Heads and later appeared on the US-only album December’s Children (And Everyone’s), but would have been relegated to hidden gem status had it not been resurrected into a top ten hit 25 years later.

That’s when Scottish alternative rockers the Soup Dragons decided to record a cover of ‘I’m Free’ for their 1990 album Lovegod. Featuring a mix of UK Baggy and Jamaican toasting, courtesy of singer Junior Reid, the cover of ‘I’m Free’ turned into the Soup Dragons’ one and only top ten hit, topping out at number five in the UK during the summer of 1990. Today, you’d be more likely to hear the Soup Dragons’ version in media or in playlists, but the Stones remain the authors of the original.

Check out both versions of ‘I’m Free’ down below.