Posts Tagged ‘Mick Jagger’

Watch: The Rolling Stones Perform “Mercy, Mercy” for First Time in 50 Years

The Rolling Stones kicked off their rescheduled North American No Filter tour dates last Wednesday evening at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, outside Washington, DC, and the legendary UK rockers reached back in their extensive catalog to unearth a cover they hadn’t played live in just under 50 years.

In a set that featured classics and staples like opener “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “Tumbling Dice,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Paint It Black,” “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar,” the Stones threw it back to their early days by offering their rendition of “Mercy, Mercy,” a tune originally by Don Covay that was included on the Stones’ 1965 album Out of Our Heads. Last night was the first appearance of the song in a Stones set since they played it at London’s Hyde Park on July 5th, 1969. Before playing the cover, frontman Mick Jagger dedicated the performance to former Stones guitarist Brian Jones, who passed away 50 years ago to the day on July 3rd, 1969.

Below, watch fan-shot video of last night’s “Mercy, Mercy”

The song “Mercy Mercy” (1st time live since 1969) & Rocks Off (Fan Voting Choice) & You Cant Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones, FedEx Field, Washington DC 7/3/19; No Filter North American Tour, Night 4 of the tour

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After being forced to postpone their ‘No Filter’ North American tour due to Mick Jagger’s heart surgery, the Rolling Stones kicked off their 2019 summer trek last night (June 21st) with a performance at Soldier Field in Chicago. 

They band had to shake off some understandable early-show rust and sound issues. Jagger even admitted that first nights are always “a little wobbly,” then proved it by forgetting to introduce longtime keyboardist Chuck Leavell, but he otherwise showed no signs that he was about to turn 75 in a month and had heart surgery two months ago. He was his usual energetic self, strutting across the stage, including the long walkway down the center and two shorter ones on the sides, throughout the entire show. The closest he came to acknowledging his health issues was saying that they loved Chicago so much that they decided to open here instead of Miami.

But the band found their groove after a stripped down mid-show set at the end of the center walkway, similar to the mini-stage on the Bridges to Babylon tour, and they finished with strong takes on “Midnight Rambler,” “Start Me Up,” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

The set design was surprisingly stripped back. The elaborate concepts of the past ( the Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle and Voodoo Lounge sets) were replaced by four tall, rectangular video screens, with the outer ones angled to give those on the sides a better view. The only other adornment was a clear canopy over the stage, presumably in case of the rain that was expected, but never got beyond a drizzle before they took the stage. It was almost, to use a word rarely applied to the Stones, elegant. ‘Street Fighting Man’ was the first anthem for the Rolling Stones first show of the No Filter 2019 tour in Chicago.

The Rolling Stones had originally scheduled touring around the April release of their latest “Honk” compilation album. The band was forced to postpone the previously announced dates while Jagger dealt with health issues. The frontman required “minimally invasive” heart surgery, with tour plans left on hold while he recovered. At the time, Jagger expressed frustration that his medical matters had interfered with touring, saying he was “so sorry to all our fans in America & Canada with tickets. I really hate letting you down like this. I’m devastated for having to postpone the tour but I will be working very hard to be back on the road as soon as I can.”

Then, of course, there’s the discussion of new music. The Stones have not released an album of new material since 2005 (2016’s Blue & Lonesome which was a covers album). Jagger previously said he had “lots of stuff” for a new release, with Keith Richards even suggesting that a new Stones LP could come out in 2019. What affect Jagger’s medical issues have had on the creative process is anyone’s guess, but fans remain hopeful that a new album will see the light of day soon.

While the Stones may not be thinking about retiring, their sponsor believes fans should be. The Alliance for Lifetime Income, a non-profit aimed at helping people financially plan for their retirement, is the sole sponsor of the ‘No Filter’ North American tour.

In May, Jagger posted a video of himself dancing in front of a studio mirror, building fan excitement that the frontman was once again performance-ready. Indeed, just a day later the band announced their rescheduled ‘No Filter’ dates. The trek will keep the band busy through the end of August.

The Rolling Stones setlist: Chicago, 21st June 2019

Street Fighting Man (from Beggars Banquet, 1968)
Let’s Spend The Night Together (from Between the Buttons, 1967)
Tumbling Dice (from Exile on Main Street, 1972)
Sad Sad Sad (from Steel Wheels, 1989)
Ride ‘Em On Down (from Blue and Lonesome, 2016)
You Got Me Rocking (from Voodoo Lounge, 1994)
Angie (from Goats Head Soup, 1973)
You Can’t Always Get What You Want (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
Sympathy for the Devil (from Beggars Banquet, 1968)
Honky Tonk Women (single, 1969)
You Got The Silver (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
Before They Make Me Run (from Some Girls, 1978)
Miss You (from Some Girls, 1978)
Paint It Black (from Aftermath, 1966)
Midnight Rambler (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
Jumpin’ Jack Flash (single, 1968)
Brown Sugar (from Sticky Fingers, 1971)

Gimme Shelter (from Let It Bleed, 1969)
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (from Out of our Heads, 1965)

For over two decades, “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” was a lost film, unfinished and unseen, more rumor than pop culture memory. In theory, it captured a lot of what anyone might desire in a rock ‘n’ roll movie from London circa 1968: the Stones, the Who, John Lennon, Eric Clapton and more.

On a sound stage designed like the inside of a circus big top, each of the musicians performed at the height of their powers while mingling with trapeze artists, fire-eaters and other semi-dazzling acts from a traveling circus. “The clowns and the Rolling Stones got along very well,” recalls the film’s director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, 78.

Yet the film’s planned television premiere was delayed indefinitely for one reason: The Stones thought the Who’s performance was better.

It took 28 years, but the Stones came around in time for Lindsay-Hogg to finish the legendary rock film for a 1996 premiere at the New York Film Festival and release on home video. “You had these little explosions of greatness in the room,” says Lindsay-Hogg of the two-day shoot, “and the Rolling Stones recognized that.”

Now, in time for the North American leg of the Stones’ ongoing No Filter Tour, “Circus” has been remastered for a limited U.S. theatrical run during the first week of April. Last week, Lindsay-Hogg, who now lives in Los Angeles, attended a private screening in Hollywood of the film, recast in vivid Dolby Vision color and Dolby Atmos sound.

“I was thrilled by it anew, which I hadn’t been for a long time,” says Lindsay-Hogg, whose career began in England as director on the ’60s music show “Ready Steady Go!,” where the camerawork could be as frenzied as the acts onstage.

He also directed music videos for the Stones, Beatles and the Who, and made the intimate Beatles documentary “Let It Be.” In the pipeline is a long-awaited restoration of the 1970 Beatles film, which will follow an entirely new film being assembled from the same 55 hours of footage by New Zealand director Peter Jackson. Attending the “Circus” screening was Brett Morgen, director of 2015’s acclaimed “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” and his own Stones documentary, 2012’s “Crossfire Hurricane.” In an onstage Q&A with Lindsay-Hogg following the film, Morgen celebrated the filmmaker’s essential work with these epochal musical figures.

“The man defined the image that so many of us have of the Stones and the Beatles,” Morgen said in an interview with The Times. “He created a new language. You look at the ‘Jumping Jack Flash’ video and what he did is as innovative as what Busby Berkeley did to the musical.”

In “Circus,” the Stones performed several songs from the just-completed “Beggar’s Banquet,” the first of four consecutive album milestones that defined the band’s greatest work. There was also Lennon leading a supergroup he called the Dirty Mac, with Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Richards on bass, and drummer Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing a new Beatles song, “Yer Blues.” Yoko Ono then joined for an improvisational jam. Other performers included Marianne Faithfull, Taj Mahal and Jethro Tull. The Who’s playful reading of the mini-rock opera “A Quick One While He’s Away” was close to perfect. Jagger had personally invited all of them.

“In those days, rock ‘n’ roll bands would arrive late. You’d schedule something for 1 and they’d arrive at 4,” recalls Lindsay-Hogg. “But on this particular day, because they all respected each other, everybody was on time.”

A London sound stage was rented and Lindsay-Hogg hired the best camera operators from “Ready Steady Go!” The production also used experimental cameras from France, which shot both 16mm film and provided a video feed to the control room. Aside from having to change film canisters every 10 minutes, the new cameras frequently stopped working. “When one of the cameras had broken down for the 11th time that day, we had a little break,” the director recalls. The musicians would then retreat to their dressing rooms. “I went backstage to see how everybody was, and they were all sitting in a room – John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton – playing blues on guitar and harmonica. Keith Moon was playing spoons on a table.”

The Stones didn’t get onstage to perform until 2 a.m. It was the final live appearance of guitarist Brian Jones, dazed and fading from drug abuse, but still able to re-create his heartbreaking slide guitar lines on “No Expectations.”

Within months of filming, Jones left the band and drowned soon after. Jagger went to Australia to star in “Ned Kelly.” Lindsay-Hogg traveled to California to work on a film. The momentum of the era pushed its participants forward, but somehow left “Circus” behind until the footage was rediscovered in the ’90s.

Lindsay-Hogg continued working with the Stones through the early 1980s, directing several music videos, from “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)” to “Waiting on a Friend.” He turned his attention to feature films, TV specials and directing theater, though he remains friendly with the Stones. “We knew each other when we were kids,” he says now. “It wasn’t my nature to hang ’round if I didn’t have to. In a funny way, I think they respected that. I was happy to just be working with them.”

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The Rolling Stones release a special, limited edition of “She’ s A Rainbow” (Live) at U Arena, Paris 25/10/17.

She’s a Rainbow is a song by the Rolling Stones and was featured on their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request. It has been called “the prettiest and most uncharacteristic song that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote for the Stones, although somewhat ambiguous in it’s intention.

The original song includes rich lyricism, vibrant piano by Nicky Hopkins and Brian Jones‘ use of the Mellotron. John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin, arranged the strings of this song during his session days.

Backing vocals were provided by the entire band except for Charlie Watts. Notably, all of the vocals sound like soft background singing with the music overshadowing them to the point of the lyrics being difficult to hear. The lyrics in the chorus share the phrase “she comes in colours” with the song of that title by Love, released in December 1966.

The song begins with the piano playing an ascending scale, which returns throughout the song as a recurring motif. This motif is developed by the celesta and strings in the middle 8. Humorous and ambiguous devices are used, such as when the strings play out-of-tune and off-key towards the end of the song,

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Some will naturally think that this is simply a reaction to 2016’s Rolling Stones’ Blue and Lonesome where the English band covered many of their favorite Chicago blues songs. Yet, this project, Chicago Plays the Stones, was envisioned before that album was released. It was inspired by the Chicago residency of the Rolling Stones’ 54-year-spanning, world-touring exhibit Exhibitionism.

The new, multi-artist Rolling Stones tribute album Chicago Plays The Stoneswas released yesterday . Among its delights are contributions by Keith Richards — who shares guitar features with Jimmy Burns on the latter’s update of ‘Beast Of Burden’ — and Mick Jagger, who you can hear on harmonica and call-and-response vocals with the Stones’ old friend Buddy Guy, as he remakes ‘Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)’ from 1973’s Goats Head Soup album.

Track – 03 from “Chicago Plays The Stones” 12 all-new recordings of iconic Rolling Stones songs, re-imagined in the Chicago blues style and played by today’s greatest Chicago blues artists.

The Stones first met Buddy Guy in 1964 when the American bluesman was recording ‘My Time After Awhile’ at Chess Studios in Chicago. As Guy is quoted by Rolling Stone: “Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon walked straight in my studio while I was singing with a bunch of white guys, who lined up against the wall, I got pissed off: ‘Who in the hell are these  guys?’ I had never seen a white man with hair that long and high-heeled boots before.”

That inauspicious start prefaced a notable friendship, confirmed when the Stones invited Guy to open for them as they toured Europe in 1970, just as they had championed his fellow blues giant B.B. King. Further live guest appearances followed for Guy, who duetted with Jagger on the 2006 version of ‘Champagne & Reefer’ featured in Martin Scorsese’s concert film Shine A Lightand the accompanying album in 2008. ‘Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)’ marks the pair’s first studio pairing.

Billy Branch “Sympathy For The Devil” (2017) [Rolling Stones Cover] – From the 2017 Raisin’Music Records release “Chicago Plays The Stones.” Twelve all-new recordings of iconic Rolling Stones songs, re-imagined in the Chicago blues style and played by today’s greatest Chicago blues artists.

Among other local blues musicians featured on Chicago Plays The Bluesare Ronnie Baker Brooks, who covers ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’; Billy Branch, who reads ‘Sympathy For The Devil’; and Carlos Johnson, who tackles the more recent Stones song ‘Out Of Control.’

The album is a collaboration between Grammy-nominated producer Larry Skoller’s Raisin’ Music Records and Chicago Blues Experience, which is due to open in the city in 2019. Artists featured on the album will play selected US dates in October and November.

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On September. 30th, 2016, ABKCO Records released a massive box set including all of the studio albums released in mono by The Rolling Stones in the 1960s. The Rolling Stones in Mono, available in both 15-CD and 16-LP vinyl configurations, as well as Standard Digital, Mastered for iTunes and True HD (96k/24 bit, 192k/24 bit and DSD), contains a total of 186 tracks, 56 of which had never before been heard in mono since the advent of the digital age, according to the original announcement from ABKCO, which retains the rights to the Stones’ early recordings.

The Rolling Stones in Mono covers the formative years of 1963-69 featuring hits like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off Of My Cloud,” “19th Nervous Breakdown” and “Paint it Black,” to name a few. The idea behind releasing the collection, the 2016 press release explained, is that, “Most rock and pop recordings were originally recorded in mono, with stereo often an afterthought, dealt with only following the completion of the original (mono) version of a given track.”

Recording engineer Dave Hassinger, who worked with the Stones from 1964-66, explained how he mixed the Stones in mono: “They always played together at the same time,” he is quoted as saying. “They would run the parts down, work out the changes here and there, nail it down, then start recording.”

Fast forward to May 22nd, 2018, and ABKCO has released an official lyric video for the group’s 1967 smash hit, “Ruby Tuesday,” to coincide with The Rolling Stones’ 2018 #NoFilter tour of the U.K. and Europe.

From the announcement: “For this hauntingly beautiful ballad the goal was to create a romantic and evocative visual inspired by 60s design and an independent, free-spirited woman. To enhance the wistful, baroque feel of the verses, densely decorative floral and paisley patterns which form throughout each scene create a rich tapestry of detail. The choruses cut to kaleidoscopic patterns set against a bright ruby red backdrop, ensuring a big hit of colour in contrast to the verses.”

More on “Ruby Tuesday” from the announcement: “The song was written, for the most part, by Stones guitarist Keith Richards in 1966, inspired by Linda Keith, his girlfriend at the time, who had recently left him for a poet named Bill Chenail; soon thereafter she began dating rising star Jimi Hendrix.” “That’s the first time I felt the deep cut,” Richards recollected in his 2010 autobiography Life. “The thing about being a songwriter is, even if you’ve been fucked over, you can find consolation in writing about it, and pour it out . . . It becomes an experience, a feeling, or a conglomeration of experiences. Basically Linda is ‘Ruby Tuesday.’”

The recording features Brian Jones on recorder, Bill Wyman fretting a double bass (with Keith Richards bowing it) and outside help from arranger/composer Jack Nitzsche who played piano on the track. Initially released in January 1967 as a B-side to “Let’s Spend the Night Together,”

“Ruby Tuesday” was featured on the American release of the 1967 album, Between The Buttons. This version features Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards on guitar, Charlie Watts on drums, Ronnie Wood on guitar, Bill Wyman on bass, Matt Clifford on keyboards and French horn, Bobby Keys on saxophone, Chuck Leavell on keyboards, Bernard Fowler on backing vocals, Lisa Fischer on backing vocals, Cindy Mizelle on backing vocals, and the Uptown Horns.

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In 1965, The Rolling Stones were on the cusp of true rock ‘n’ roll greatness, and the album “Out Of Our Heads”, released on the Decca label, would further entrench their reputation. One of my absolute favourite Stones albums is their third British release ‘Out Of Our Heads’. Issued in 1965 on Decca, this album sounds so much punkier and heavier than the two blues/R&B albums preceding it. As soon as ‘She Said Yeah’ smashes through your speakers like a sledgehammer it’s a full on experience until ‘I’m Free’ closes the album.
I realise that other countries had a different track selection for this album but I’ve always found the British issue to be the best because Decca didn’t pad it out with singles.
Available as the killer Mono issue (pushing around £200 for mint copies) and the Stones first album to be issued in (very poor) Stereo in Britain (much rarer but still around £200). An essential album.

Having returned from an American tour, the band were cocked and primed with a collection of soul material, much of which remained unknown to the bulk of English teenagers at the time, meaning that The Stones could record their own versions safe in the knowledge that whatever they presented was as fresh and exciting as anything from the other side of the Atlantic.

The US edition of the album opens with Don Covay’s 1964 soul hit “Mercy, Mercy,” and while not quite as superb as the original, The Stones do a pretty good job all the same in at least capturing the song’s essence. Next is Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike,” where the English quintet assert their ever-growing sophistication in emulating American black music, albeit with an English bent.

Apparently “The Last Time” owes its origins from an old gospel tune, given a complete Phil Spector makeover (i.e. his famous ‘wall of sound’), and transformed into something else entirely. Backed with the spiteful ballad “Play With Fire,” both tracks would prove to be one of their most popular and strongest singles yet of self-penned material. Another original (a rarity for this album) is “The Spider And The Fly,” a R&B/Jimmy Reed inspired number and one that would become a staple of their early shows throughout this period.

The band’s cover of Bert Russell’s soul classic “Cry To Me” and Sam Cooke’s “Good Times” are both strong cuts, despite Jagger’s vocal limitations . Otis Redding’s (although written by Roosevelt Jamison) “That’s How Strong My Love Is” is given a fine reworking, so too “I’m All Right,” a recording which first appeared on the EP Got Live If You Want It.

A special mention should be made of founding member Brian Jones, whose spirited playing shines throughout this record, and whose contribution to The Stones sound and look when starting out should never be forgotten, nor underestimated. Just listen to the way he wails his harmonica on “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man,” and his acoustic guitar during “Good Times.” Jones may not have been much of a songwriter, yet his presence and talent as a musician was just as important as Jagger and Richards themselves.

“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is arguably the standout track, with Jagger’s insouciant delivery and Richards’ tough as steel main riff. Along with “The Last Time,” “Satisfaction” was the song which helped propel the group to #1 in both the UK and US, a position from which they rarely deviated off from this point onwards.

From an historical perspective, Out Of Our Heads is just as important as anything the band would go on to record over the next few years. This was largely raw, gritty English R&B the way it should be. And even after all this time, it hasn’t dated one iota.

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The official promo video for ‘Ain’t Too Proud To Beg’, the 1974 single by the Rolling Stones. ‘Aint’ Too Proud To Beg’ was originally performed by the Temptations in 1966 and was composed by Norman Whitfield and Edward Holland Jr. The Rolling Stones recorded the song at Musicland, Munich in November 1973 and it was released in October 1974 and peaked at number 17 on the billboard charts. It features on the album It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll. The track features Mick Jagger on lead vocals, Keith Richards on rhythm guitar, Charlie Watts on drums, Mick Taylor on lead guitar and Bill Wyman on bass, along with Billy Preston on keys and clavinet, and Ed Leach on cowbell. The video was directed Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who directed many promos for the Rolling Stones including ‘Child Of The Moon’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll’ and ‘Start Me Up’. Ain’t To Proud To Beg (single version)

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This week in 1974: The Rolling Stones scored their 5th US chart topping album with their 12th British & 14th American studio release, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N Roll’, released on Rolling Stones Records (it peaked at #2 in the UK); the LP’s success was fueled largely by its two main singles the title track & a cover of the 1966 Motown hit for The Temptations, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”  it was the first album that Keith Richards & Mick Jagger produced together for the band, under their adopted moniker of ‘The Glimmer Twins’

Recorded in the 1970s, ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)’ is as iconic a Rolling Stones song as any that the band cut in the 1960s. It is a song with a tangled web of a history having first been recorded on 24th July 1973, not in a traditional studio but at The Wick, Ronnie Wood’s home in Richmond. According to Bill Wyman, who admittedly wasn’t there, “On Tuesday 24th July, Mick and Keith went to Ronnie Wood’s house, the Wick in Richmond, and recorded a version of ‘It’s Only Rock and Roll’, with Ronnie, Kenney Jones, and Ian McLagan.” Ronnie, Jones and McLagan were all in The Faces along with Ronnie Lane and Rod Stewart. Other reports have David Bowie at Ronnie’s house, but that Keith was not there.
Whatever the truth that has been long forgotten, as to who was there and who wasn’t, this was the genesis of the song. Sometime later in the year Willie Weeks, an American session musician who worked with both George Harrison and David Bowie around this time, added bass to the song. In April 1974 the basic track that was recorded at Ronnie’s house was used to finish the song, at this time Ian Stewart added his distinctive piano to the track.

According to Mick, “The idea of the song has to do with our public persona at the time. I was getting a bit tired of people having a go, all that, ‘oh, it’s not as good as their last one’ business. The single sleeve had a picture of me with a pen digging into me as if it were a sword. It was a light hearted, anti-journalistic sort of thing.”

The song became the title track for their 1974 album and was released as a single on 26th July 1974, three months before the LP came out. But the record company at the time were not sure it was a single, According to Keith there was opposition to it, but as he said at the time, “That song is a classic. The title alone is a classic and that’s the whole thing about it.”

The Rolling Stones‘ official promo video for ‘It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (But I Like It)’. The track is the title single from the album It’s Only Rock and Roll (1974). Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and produced by the Glimmer Twins, the song went straight to number one in the US charts when it was released.

The video features Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor dressed in sailor suits performing in a circus tent that fills with bubbles  that features the band in sailor suits, playing in a tent which gradually filled with bubbles. The froth was detergent and the reason they wore the sailor suits was because none of them wanted to ruin their own clothes. According to Keith, “Poor old Charlie nearly drowned… because we forgot he was sitting down.”

The video was directed by filmmaker Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who also directed the promo videos “Neighbours”, “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Child Of The Moon”. Lindsay-Hogg also directed promos for the Beatles and the Who.

It went top 20 in both America and the UK and has been played at just about every live show ever since.

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How to stay relevant. It’s a question we all face at some point in life. Mick Jagger was thinking about staying relevant. It was 1983. Punk had come and gone. New Wave was still a thing. Electronica and the New Romantics were still fashionable. Where did a rock ‘n’ roll band like the Stones fit into the mix? Jagger was going through what Keith Richards called “Lead Vocalist Syndrome.” The point where a band’s singer thinks he/she is bigger, better, and more important than the rest of the group.

Richards had quit heroin. He was clean. After years of fucking around, Richards was back and wanted to take up his fair share of the burden  After being busted in Toronto for heroin possession, the Stones guitarist luckily avoided jail time and cleaned himself up (for the most part). With his cookies relatively un-fazed, Richards soon realized the amount of control that Mick Jagger now had over the band. But Jagger had control of the Rolling Stones and wasn’t going to give Keith an inch. A great deal of the tension during the recording of the album stemmed from the fact that Richards had emerged (to an extent) from his destructive lifestyle of the previous decade, and thus sought a more active role in the creative direction of the band.

To keep relevant, Jagger was checking out the competition. He wanted to know what Bowie was doing, what Rod Stewart was doing, what was the latest tune played on the dancefloor at Studio 54, and which bands were snapping at their heels.  Jagger and Richards had written their first song on a kitchen table. They didn’t care what other people thought or who they sounded like, it was their song—that was all that mattered. Now, the relationship between Jagger and Richards was fractious. It was falling apart. Jagger had control and he was taking the Stones where he wanted.

Yet, checking out the opposition, chasing the trends meant sometimes Jagger got it right. He was and still is a shrewd businessman—let’s not forget, he had been a student at the London School of Economics. He had also been very successful in taking the Stones in unlikely directions, like that time he pulled them into disco music with “Miss You.” But sometimes his ideas were not as popular, Jagger was always open to suggestions, always looking for something new, always wanting to be at the front of the crowd.

Undercover is the 17th British and 19th American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1983. After their preceding studio album, Tattoo You (1981), which was mostly patched together from a selection of outtakes, Undercover was their first release of all new recordings in the 1980s. The making of Undercover was an arduous process, largely because Jagger and Richards’ famous mid-1980s row began during these sessions.

The lyrics on Undercover are among Jagger’s with much grisly imagery to be found in the lead single and top 10 hit “Undercover of the Night”, a rare political track about Central America, as well as “Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)” Though it’s meant as a critique of ‘80s culture, “Too Much Blood” contains the most convulsive imagery on the entire record; it’s also its highlight. Featuring another mutant disco beat from Watts and Dunbar, alongside a bed of rhythm guitars, Mick delivers a half-rap that references The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and details the horrifying true story of Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who murdered his date, then devoured her body piece by piece. Over the oddly alluring horns and slick, reverb-ed overproduction, he yelps, “I can feel it in the air, feel it up above/Feel the tension everywhere, there’s too much blood!” (The single also featured a disturbing video, as Richards and Wood chase after Jagger with chainsaws.) It’s undoubtedly one of the strangest songs in the Stones’ catalouge, a warped look at a pop-culture landscape that’s only gotten more perverse as time drags on.

With Jagger’s attempt to incorporate contemporary trends in dance music. Musically, Undercover appears to duel between hard rock, reggae and new wave, reflecting the leadership tug of war between Jagger and Richards at the time. “Pretty Beat Up” is largely a Ronnie Wood composition, and Jagger and Richards were both reportedly reluctant to include it on the album.

Undercover continues to divide . Although it was largely praised on release, many fans came to regard it as among the Rolling Stones‘ weaker releases, a view echoed by Jagger himself in later interviews. While some critics tend to blame the then-contemporary production and eclecticism, a large part of the album was done in a hard-rock style (“She Was Hot”, “Too Tough”, “All The Way Down”, and “It Must Be Hell”), leading many to fault the generally inconsistent material.

Written and sung by Keith, “Wanna Hold You” the song takes the standard pop conceit of a poor man who can only promise his woman love, and creates a dazzling positivity, It’s a simple pop song, but it inverts the dour, blood-and-guts feeling that pervades the record, giving it a much-needed break.

Jagger had read William Burroughs’ book Cities of the Red Night. It was the book everyone was supposed to be reading. It had received, at that point, the best reviews of Burroughs’ career. Which shows weird only lasts as long as it’s something new.

Burroughs was the starting point for Jagger writing the song “Undercover of the Night” in Paris around late 1982. As he later explained in the liner notes for The Stones’ compilation Jump Back, “Undercover of the Night” was “heavily influenced by William Burroughs’ Cities Of The Red Night, a free-wheeling novel about political and sexual repression. It combines a number of different references to what was going down in Argentina and Chile.”

“Undercover of the Night” is a classic Stones’ track. A brilliant vocal, a great guitar riff, and a memorable hook. It was Jagger’s song, as Richards later recalled: “Mick had this one all mapped out, I just played on it. There were a lot more overlays on the track because there was a lot more separation in the way we were recording at the time.”

“Undercover Of The Night” was the album’s opener and first single. Listening to the fiery funk beat, it’s clear that this is mostly Jagger’s composition. Though the lyrics deal with the political corruption of South America, an important element from Jamaica drives the song: the rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie ShakespeareShakespeare replaces Bill Wyman here on bass, but his sporadic playing suits the paranoid feel. Among other percussionists, Watts’ driving backbeat is mixed with the dub-echo of Dunbar’s electronic drums, giving the track an interesting, though very period, soundscape.
When it came to making the promo for the song, the Stones approached Julien Temple who was the hip, young director with a fine resume of work with the Sex Pistols, the UK Subs (Punk Can Take It) and the promo for “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners. He had also famously directed the Pistols big screen adventure The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle. Temple soon discovered how difficult the relationship between Jagger and Richards had become:
“I wrote an extreme treatment about being in the middle of an urban revolution and dramatized the notion of Keith and Mick really not liking each other by having Keith kill Mick in the video. I never thought they would do it. Of course, they loved it. I went to Paris to meet with the band. Keith was looking particularly unhappy. He was glowering with menace and eventually said, ‘Come downstairs with me.’ My producer and I went down to the men’s room. Keith had a walking stick and suddenly he pulled it apart. The next thing I know he’s holding a swordstick to my throat. He said, ‘I want to be in the video more than I am.’ So we wrote up his part a bit more. That was Keith’s idea of collaboration!”

The promo opens on a hotel complex. American tourists are having a good time grooving to the Stones’ music while militiamen patrol the rooftops and streets. Jagger as the journalist (white knight in a Panama hat and very bad stick-on mustache) watches as Keith and his gang of masked vigilantes or maybe revolutionaries or maybe death squad or maybe just a rock ‘n’ roll group on the spur of some internal wranglings (take your pick) sneak into the hotel and kidnap one of the hotel guests or rather kidnap Mick Jagger watching Mick Jagger on TV. Journo Mick watches kidnapped Mick being spirited away by Keith and co. who all drive off in what looks like a military vehicle straight past a bunch of soldiers kicking the shit out of people down on their luck.

Journo Mick makes his way to kidnapped Mick’s hotel room where he finds a woman hiding under the bed covers (ya see what they did there?). Anyway, one thing leads to another, and journo Mick and his girl under the covers watch an execution and then go off (via the police department) to rescue kidnapped Mick. A shoot-out ensues in a candle-lit church—nothing worse than what any five-year-old could see on The A-Team—and kidnapped Mick is saved. Poor old journo Mick dies from a bullet wound.

What it’s saying, what it’s actually about, is none too clear. It’s a dilettante’s take on Burroughs and the criminal activities of government’s and hoodlums in South America. At worst, it might make a viewer go, “Wow, South America looks a fun place to have a party.” At best, it would get the kids talking about politics and shit.

Jagger has sometimes been accused of being a dilettante. Maybe. To be fair, he’s more, as Richards said in his autobiography, “a sponge” who soaks up whatever’s going on and filters it through his music. Just what every good artist does.

The subject matter of the song and its accompanying promo was a rare outing into politics for the Stones. It was over fifteen years since “Street Fighting Man” but “Undercover of the Night” chimed neatly with the edgy political songs released by bands like The Jam or specifically the Clash and their album Sandinista! from 1980, which similarly dealt with the political turmoil in Chile and Nicaragua. The promo was banned by the BBC or rather the Corporation said they weren’t going to screen it, while the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) were nervous over its perceived violence. MTV was also angsty. It’s difficult to see why the sequences of so-called “violence” caused such concern, as both the BBC and the Independent Television Channels in the UK screened far worse with war films and westerns and TV detective series at peak times. It was more likely the political content—the suggestion that America was in some way sponsoring murderous dictatorships in South America—rather than any bang-bang, shoot-shoot, made “Undercover of the Night” unpalatable. But getting “banned” kept the Stones relevant in a wholly different way.

In 1983 Mick Jagger and director Julien Temple appeared via TV link-up on The Tube to promote the single and defend the video’s politics and violence. They were interviewed by a young presenter called Muriel Gray.