Forgotten Stone won't fade away thanks to Rankin lyric

CRIME writer Ian Rankin has penned a tribute song to the Scot widely regarded as the forgotten man of the Rolling Stones.

Ian Stewart was a founding member of the band and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have both spoken about his enduring influence on their work.

But he was unceremoniously ejected from the limelight when the Stones were on the verge of stardom because the band's manager said he looked "like a coal miner". Now Merchiston-based author Rankin has written a tribute to one of music's "nearly men" after teaming up with former Arab Strap frontman Aidan Moffat.

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It will be the second time in recent months that Rankin has dabbled with songwriting, after helping create lyrics for Edinburgh-based band St Jude's Infirmary's album.

His latest song - The Sixth Stone - performed by Moffat's new band Aidan Moffat And The Best Ofs, will appear on a new compilation album that brings together some of Scotland's top writers and musicians.

Stewart, originally from Fife, was an accomplished blues pianist who worked on the band's first single, Route 66. After he left the Stones, he worked as their road manager until his death in 1985. Rankin

said: "The song's all about his move from Pittenweem to the Route 66. I'm quite interested in people who are on the edge of history - onlookers in big events.

"All the way through the Sixties he was there in the background but he was always more interested in the golf course than the groupies, drink and drugs. I was fascinated by him as a character, and since you're writing a lyric, why not write about someone involved in the music industry?"

The unlikely pairing with Moffat came about after Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble put them together for his Ballads of the Book project, due to be released in March.

Rankin admitted he was nervous at the thought of writing lyrics for one of Scotland's most celebrated modern songwriters.

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He said: "He is an incredibly gifted writer and his lyrics are short stories that Irvine Welsh would be proud to write."

"I sent him [Moffat] a lyric I wrote when I was 19 and in a punk band. At the same time, I got the idea about the Ian Stewart lyric and it only took 20 minutes to write. It just sort of came to me and jumped out."

Despite working together on the project, Rankin and Moffat have never met, and only communicated by e-mail.

The compilation album is being released by Glasgow label Chemikal Underground and a concert will take place at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this month.

Alun Woodward, a director of the label, today revealed that a similar showcase could be held in Edinburgh. He said: "We are in the process to speaking to a few people in Edinburgh, and we are hoping to have a launch event sometime in late February."

Among the other pairings on the album are Edwin Morgan with Idlewild, King Creosote with Laura Hird and Sons and Daughters with AL Kennedy.


Words by Ian Rankin, music by Aidan Moffat and the Best Ofs

All the way from Pittenweem

to the rock 'n' roll dream,

all the way from East Neuk, Fife,

to the R&B life,

Down in dear old London town,

you were the conscience of the band,

and when those Stones they had to roll,

it was you that drove the van,

All the way from Pittenweem

to the rock 'n' roll dream,

all the way from East Neuk, Fife

to the R&B life,

But your face just didn't fit,

chiselled like a lump of coal,

and as the groupies came and went,

you'd be on the eighteenth hole,

Far away from Pittenweem

with the rock 'n' roll dream,

far away from East Neuk, Fife,

with the R&B life,

So from Beggars through to Exile,

you dug out rhythms like black diamonds,

but cruising down Route 66,

did you dream of lochs and highlands?

Did you dream of Pittenweem,

not the rock 'n' roll dream,

did you dream of East Neuk, Fife,

or the R&B life?

All the way from Pittenweem

to the rock 'n' roll dream,

all the way from East Neuk, Fife,

Until the end of your life...