The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #301: Miss You by The Rolling Stones (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #301: Miss You by The Rolling Stones.

When I was still teaching in elementary school, I always had lots of books in my classroom. Many of these books had nice, big, colourful pictures in them. As children learn to read words, having pictures to help provide context is important. That why many childhood storybooks are called Picture Books. Anyway, one of the most popular picture books I had was all about The Titanic. In the middle of the book, there was a giant, fold-out section that showed a cross-section of the inside of the ship. The kids always were amazed that there were so many different parts/spaces in order to make a ship run. I always replied that a ship was no different than our classroom…it was a space made of many things that, when they all worked together, made for an incredible journey. The song, “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones reminds me of that Titanic cross-section fold-out. It does so because it was recorded and released at a time and in a way that sheds a lot of light on the state of The Rolling Stones. It gives a good sense of how they functioned, collectively and individually and what was happening to them as a band, in the greater flow of life events in 1976 when the song was written. “Miss You” played a major role in the incredible journey of one of the greatest bands of all time. Let’s find out how, shall we?

If you were to pick any song in their extensive catalogue, you would see that the songwriting credits were always shared equally between singer Mick Jagger (who wrote the lyrics) and Keith Richards (who wrote the musical structure of the song). The Rolling Stones mimicked The Beatles and the “Lennon/McCartney” way they had of sharing the recognition they received for the music they produced. Like The Beatles, who included something from George Harrison or Ringo Starr on occasion, The Rolling Stones had Ron Wood or Brian Jones’ name appear from time to time but, overall, the songs all said, “Jagger/Richards”.

However, a funny thing happened on the way to writing, “Miss You”. In 1976, The Rolling Stones decided to make a series of secret recordings of themselves playing Blues classics in small venues. One of those small venues turned out to be The El Mocambo night club in Toronto. The plan was for them to appear on a bill with Canadian legends, April Wine incognito as being The Cockroaches. All was unfolding as planned until the day The Stones tried to enter Canada. Keith Richards was famously arrested and charged with possession of drugs. In his absence, while the legal issues were being dealt with, the rest of the band began to rehearse anyway. In the midst of those rehearsals, bassist Bill Wyman played a riff on his bass guitar that he had been playing around with. Mick Jagger thought it had a Disco-vibe to it and, in the absence of any dissent from Richards, he set about writing a song to go with Wyman’s bassline. That song turned out to be “Miss You”.

“Miss You” was released a year later on an album called Some Girls. When you watch the video for the song, you will note that, unlike most Stones’ songs, Keith Richards has very little to do with it. This is very much a Mick Jagger tune, in composition and in performance. For his part, Richards doesn’t even play lead guitar. He and Ron Woods split the duties and end up being more of a rhythm section for Bill Wyman’s grooving bassline, which forms the backbone of this song. Yet, if you were to look up the songwriting credits for “Miss You”, you will see the words, “Written by Jagger/Richards”. Asked about this in an interview, Wyman just shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s the way this band works” and then he walked away and the interview was over.

Many people feel “Miss You” is The Rolling Stones contribution to the Disco-era, which was sweeping the music industry in the late 1970s. The thinking was that Jagger was far more in tune with the club scene than was Richards, who always leaned towards Bluesmen and the roots of Rock n’ Roll. Because Richards was temporarily out of the band for a week or so in Toronto, it seemed like Jagger took advantage to steer the band in a more modern direction. For whatever that is worth, I have always liked this song and thought of it as being Bluesy and a good addition to The Rolling Stones extensive catalogue of hits. To me, “Miss You” sounds like a Stones’ song and that is alright by me.

In the end, Richards and the Canadian government worked out an arrangement that saw charges dropped in exchange for Richards agreeing to perform a charity concert in Toronto for free. The El Mocambo sessions went off and have become a legendary chapter in the history of the band; with the songs taped there going on to form part of an album called Love You, Live. Mick Jagger persuaded the band to record “Miss You” and it became a hit from the Some Girls album. Richards always sneeringly refers to “Miss You” as Mick’s little song. In jest or in mockery, poor Bill Wyman gets left out again. Anyway, without further delay, here are The Rolling Stones with “Miss You”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Rolling Stones can be found here.

The link to the legendary El Mocambo Night Cub in Toronto can be found here.

Thanks to Rolling Stone Magazine for inspiring the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.

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