In late January 1965, The Rolling Stones began a tour of Australasia. On their way down under they flew via Los Angeles to do some recording with engineer Dave Hassinger at RCA’s Hollywood studio. According to Andrew Oldham who was interviewed by the New Musical Express a few days later, “We did two Mick and Keith compositions ‘The Last Time’ and ‘A Mess Of Fire’ (later re-named ‘Play With Fire’), and three old blues numbers, but I have to go back to Hollywood to do some more work on the tapes before deciding which one to use as the next A-Side”.
When the Stones finished their tour of Australasia they did a couple of shows in Singapore and on 17 February, Mick and Keith flew back to LA to overdub Mick’s vocals onto the backing track of ‘The Last Time’ that they had recorded a month earlier. Nine days later on 26 February, Decca released the record in the UK and a week later it entered the best seller list and on 20 March 1965, it topped the charts and became the band’s third No.1 in a row. A week earlier the single was released in America and it became the Stones’ second Top 10 single on the Hot 100 where it reached No.9.
‘The Last Time’ is the first song to carry the Jagger/Richards writing credit to reach the top the charts. In the true tradition of the blues and gospel music Mick and Keith had based their song on an earlier record, in this case it was a 1955 record by the Staple Singers called ‘This May be The Last Time’ recorded for the Vee Jay label; on the Staples Singers recording it is listed as traditional, arranged Staples. As Keith told Beat International magazine in April 1965, “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’!”
On the b-side of the single was ‘Play With Fire’, a song credited to ‘Nanker Phelge’, which is the writing credit when everyone in the band was involved in a composition. What makes this unusual is that it features only Mick, Keith, Phil Spector on acoustic guitar and Jack Nitzsche on guitar and harpsichord. It’s thought that Mick’s girlfriend at the time, Chrissie Shrimpton, probably delivered the wrong master tape to Decca for release.