KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #252: Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, 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, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #252: Honky Tonk Woman by The Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones musical catalogue is an embarrassment of riches. There are so many great songs sprinkled throughout the entirety of their career that it may seem difficult, at times, to know where to begin when it comes to giving them all their due. So, by no means do I think that “Honky Tonk Woman” is only the #252nd best song of all-time! I know it is a classic but, because there are so many hits, I have decided to toss one of their songs in, every so often, the rest of the way and give each tune its’ moment in the spotlight, regardless of where that “ranking” may be. From my point of view, The Rolling Stones are who they are for a reason. Today, our peek into their musical catalogue takes us to “Honky Tonk Woman”.

“Honky Tonk Woman” was meant to be a Hank Williams-esque country song. In fact, On their great album, “Let It Bleed”, the original version of this song can be found listed as “Country Honk”. Many music critics regard “Country Honk” as the only filler track on the magnificent, “Let It Bleed” album. So, what happened to “Country Honk” that resulted in it becoming the version of “Honky Tonk Woman” that we have all come to know?

First of all, the song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on vacation at a dude ranch resort in South America. Richards described the experience as being away from the trappings of modern life; allowing them to feel like they were actual cowboys out on some dusty plain. Thus, the original “country and western” feel to the song. However, while the boys were far removed from what was going on with their band back in England, events continued to unfold that were about to lead directly toward the tweaking of this song.

One of the original members of the band, Brian Jones, was not well. He was in the process of losing his battle with drug addiction and depression. When Richards and Jagger returned to England to record “Country Honk”, Jones contributed what he could to the demo tracks but, soon thereafter, his condition worsened and the decision was made to drop him from the group. In his place, a young twenty-year-old guitar prodigy named Mick Taylor was recruited. He had made a name for himself playing in a band called John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. When Taylor heard the demo for “Country Honk”, he immediately began adding a bit of Bluesy guitar work. Once he had added his input, the rest of the band saw that the song had evolved into something bigger and better than the original version.

The day “Honky Tonk Woman” was recorded and released as a non-album single, Brian Jones was found dead in his pool. A day later, The Rolling Stones played a free tribute concert in London that was dedicated to the memory of their friend, Brian Jones. At this concert, Mick Taylor made his public debut as a member of The Rolling Stones and “Honky Tonk Woman” was played live for the first time. After the show was over, the band gave away free copies of the new single to any fan who stayed to help clean up after the concert (which saw upwards of 250,000 people show up). “Honky Tonk Woman” made it to #1 on the music charts and was the very last song by The Rolling Stones to do so.

“Honky Tonk Woman” is noteworthy, from a musical point of view, for several reasons. First of all, it is one of the few songs ever recorded (along with “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult) that makes active use of a cowbell as a musical instrument. The cowbell was played by producer, Jimmy “Mr. Jimmy” Miller. Secondly, throughout the course of the song, Mick Taylor and Keith Richards trade off lead and rhythm guitar parts. Both men have stated how seamlessly and effortlessly they wove in and out of each other’s musical space during the song. Finally, the song, itself, is about sex and drugs and rock n’ roll and, as such, the lyrics had to be carefully constructed so as to pass BBC censors and avoid being banned for being inappropriate. Lyrics such as, “She blew my nose and then she blew my mind”, were deemed by the authorities as being suitable substitutes for saying that “We did cocaine and then she performed oral sex on me” which is what Mick Jagger was really intending to say.

In any case, “Honky Tonk Woman” has gone on to become a staple of live shows by The Rolling Stones. Even though it was issued as a “non-album single”, meaning that it didn’t appear on any of their regular album releases, the song can easily be found on numerous “Greatest Hits” albums, as well as, many of the “live” albums that The Stones have released, too. In many ways, “Honky Tonk Woman” has come to symbolize the closing of the first chapter of the career of the band. With it came the death of one of the original members (Brian Jones), the introduction of new guitarists (Mick Taylor and his eventual replacement, Ronnie Woods), the final time they had a #1 hit and then, mere weeks after the Brian Jones tribute concert, The Rolling Stones held their ill-fated concert at Altamont Speedway (which saw the Hells Angels “security team” kill a fan during the concert); effectively drawing The Summer of Love to a close.

“Honky Tonk Woman” is a heck of a song, with a heck of a legacy attached. Without further delay, let’s all give it a listen. *This video is from the actual Brian Jones Tribute Concert in Hyde Park. This marked Mick Taylor’s debut, as well. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Honky Tonk Woman” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, Country Honk” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

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

Thanks to KEXP for playing the best music of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #89: Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, 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, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #89: Start Me Up by The Rolling Stones.

Awhile back, I watched The Beatles documentary on TV. For those who haven’t seen it, the documentary was shown in three parts; each part documenting a week or more of a month in the life of The Beatles as they recorded the album, “Let It Be”. The three episodes were shown in chronological order, wth Episode #1 focussing on the first 8 or 9 days that The Beatles were rehearsing. In that episode, not much of substance actually happens. What does happen is a lot of footage of the four lads playing bits and pieces of new songs, while using old songs to help them re-discover their musical chemistry. There is more frustration evident than there is progress. By the end of Episode #1, the viewer can see the cracks beginning to form in their relationships as the strain of being a band like The Beatles begins to take hold.

What I remember most from this episode was the reaction to it when it was released (because the episodes were released one per day over the course of three days so, after Day #1, only episode #1 had aired). Many of the people who offered comments were disappointed. “When are they going to sing on the rooftop?”, “When are they going to play songs I know?” and “When are they going to stop sitting around and wasting time?” That the public reaction to this highly-anticipated documentary was negative caused some musicians to rally in its defence. One of the ones who was most upset at the criticisms was Steven Van Zandt or Little Steven from The E Street Band (with Bruce Springsteen). Van Zandt issued a series of tweets on Twitter that basically made the point that what was being shown in Episode #1 was how all albums begin the process of being made. He stated that it is very rare that a band walks into the studio fully ready to record. He said that, quite often, Bruce Springsteen will have song lyrics or concepts and some idea of how wants the instruments to go but, that the real process of fleshing their songs comes from sitting around and playing and talking and helping each other to slow down or speed up or change a chord or whatever. Van Zandt ended his Twitter thread by saying that the process of creating a new song from nothing is like a dance, with plenty of stops and starts and trust and teamwork. As The Beatles documentary progressed, Van Zandt was vindicated because The Beatles did get tighter and better and more focussed as the month went along. This went a long way toward proving the point that much of the magic we attribute to these singers and bands is, in reality, the residue of having put in a lot of time and hard work.

Bruce Springsteen and The Beatles were not the only bands to rehearse in that manner. The Rolling Stones worked out their kinks together, too. The song, “Start Me Up” is proof of what comes from putting in the work, Originally, the first attempts at recording “Start Me Up” happened in the late 1970s when the band was recording the album, “Some Girls”. At the time, “Start Me Up” struck Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as being Reggae based and, as such, they recorded numerous copies of the song with a Reggae vibe as its underpinning. However, they were never satisfied with the final result and, as such, the song was tossed into the waste bin. But, as you know, with technology nothing is ever truly lost. The sound engineer actually kept many of the discarded tracks. Hidden in the middle of fifty or so Reggae-flavoured versions, there were two straight-ahead rock takes. Those two tracks were saved, as well.

Flash forward to 1981 and the production of the first Stones album of the 80s, “Tattoo You”. While filling out the album track list, it was felt that, perhaps, a song from the archives might fit. So, the sound engineer suggested the band revisit “Start Me Up”. The reggae versions continued to face rejection by the band but, when they heard the rock versions again, their eyes lit up and they immediately went to work recording a cleaner version for the album. “Start Me Up” went on to be the first single from “Tattoo You” and became as huge a hit as any of their other most recognizable songs like “Satisfaction”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Jumping’ Jack Flash”, “Gimme Shelter” or “Street Fighting’ Man”. And to think, that “Start Me Up” only became the song that it did because of the extraordinary amount of work the band put into trying to find the right sound for this song. Fifty plus tracks rejected! That’s a lot of failure before finding success. That’s also what having faith looks like, too.

“Start Me Up” became the band’s biggest hit in the 1980s but, more importantly, it was the song that helped the band break into the MTV age of music videos. For decades, The Rolling Stones had been making videos of themselves playing. But, with the advent of MTV, Mick Jagger thought he saw a way to help promote the band to an entirely new audience. So, the band recorded themselves standing on a small stage, against a black backdrop and sang the song into the cameras around them. Nothing fancy. No special effects. The presentation was all very sparse. But, from MTV’s perspective, the video for “Start Me Up” by one of the world’s biggest bands was exactly the sort of content they were looking for in their early days. So, “Start Me Up” became one of MTV’s first big hits and helped launch The Rolling Stones as a force still to be reckoned with throughout the 1980s.

Because of the “Start Me Up”/MTV video, two additional things happened later on that were directly connected to this song. First of all, Bill Gates and Microsoft licensed the song as soundtrack music for the advertising campaign that accompanied the launch of the Windows 95 operating system. The whole campaign focussed on the single smiley-face “start” button which, when depressed, would start the chorus of “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones. For the band, this was the first song of their they willingly licensed for commercial use.

The other thing that happened did so almost thirty years later when a band called, “Maroon 5” released a song called, “Moves Like Jagger”. Lead singer and reality show judge, Adam Levine wanted to write a song about a guy who could use his dance moves to attract a female. Levine stated that he picked Jagger because, unlike Michael Jackson or James Brown or Prince, MIck Jagger had moves that seemed like something the average guy could manage. Levine said that Jagger has a swagger and a style but that it is also apparent he didn’t take his dancing too seriously. Jagger, for his part, has stated that the considers the song to be flattering. So, as you watch the video that helped launch MTV, keep in mind that this same video helped to inspire the hit song, “Moves LIke Jagger” by Maroon 5.

I have always felt like “Start Me Up” was one of the best songs that The Rolling Stones have ever released; and that includes the rest of their many, many hits. Until I did the research for this post, I had no idea how close the Stones came to passing on this song completely, simply because they had been playing it in the wrong style. I am very thankful that they gave themselves the time necessary to improvise and practise and bounce ideas off of each other and that, in the end, they created enough versions of this song to, eventually, find the treasure they were searching for. The magic may be real but, sometimes, it takes a bit of luck and lot of hard work to bring a song to life. That is certainly the case with the hit song, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones.

The link to the video for the song, “Start Me Up” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5, can be found here.

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

The link to the official website for Maroon 5, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here. Thanks, folks, for helping to inspire the writing of this post.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #301: Miss You by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: 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 because it happened at a time, and in a way, that sheds a lot of light on the state of “The Rolling Stones”; in the 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. It plays a major role in the incredible journey of one of the greatest bands of all time, “The Rolling Stones”. 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 secret series of 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” but, to appear on the marquee 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 Keith Richards has very little to do with it, unlike most Stones’ songs. 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. But, from my point of view, for whatever that is worth, I have always liked this song and thought of it as being Bluesy and a good addiiton to “The Rolling Stones” extensive catalogue of hits. To me, “Miss You” sounds like a “Stones'” song and that is alright by me.I

n 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”. Even in jest or mockery, poor Bill Wyman gets left out. 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 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, as always, to KEXP for inspiring the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #349: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #349: Ruby Tuesday by The Rolling Stones.

Break-up songs are a staple of songwriters in all genres of music. Some singers have made entire careers out of writing about those who disappointed them, broke their hearts and did them wrong. Some songwriters pen angry songs, such as Alanis Morrisette did with, “You Oughta Know”. Some singers write confessional songs about breaking up such as Taylor Swift does. However, there aren’t too many songs that look at the topic of breaking up from the point of view of friendship and regret. That’s what Keith Richards does in the song, “Ruby Tuesday”.

“Ruby Tuesday” came from an album by “The Rolling Stones” called “Between the Buttons”. It was released in 1966. At the time of its release, “The Rolling Stones” were approaching a point of transition for the band. Like their contemporaries, “The Beatles”, “The Rolling Stones” had enjoyed a string of hits early in their careers and were starting to immerse themselves in Eastern philosophies, as well as, experimenting with new types of instruments. In particular, Brian Jones was really pushing the rest of the group to expand their musical horizons beyond merely using drums and guitars. In the midst of all this, “The Rolling Stones” were touring relentlessly and honing the skills which would make them the most dynamic live band in the world. All of the members of the band were merely young men when their careers exploded.

As fame and fortune enveloped the band, Keith Richards fell in love for the first time. The lady, in question, was named Linda Keith. She was a model and socialite, with a look that drew comparisons to Audrey Hepburn. Keef is on record as stating that he was dazzled upon meeting her and couldn’t believe that someone with her looks and social pedigree could fall for a “bloke” like him. Well, she did and he did for her, in reply. They became each other’s first love. But, to hear Richards describe it, as much as he had a soft spot for her, the timing just wasn’t right for them to make a real go of it. The demands of being a member of “The Rolling Stones” at the height of their newfound status as one of the biggest rock n’ roll bands in the world, proved to be too much for any relationship to flourish. And, so it was that, in New York, on a US Tour, Keith Richards and Linda Keith met an up-and-coming guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. Richards continued on tour. Linda Keith stayed behind and brought Hendrix the words to a song Richards had written called, “Hey, Joe!”, along with a Fender Stratocaster guitar of Richards. The two became a new couple and Keith Richards moved on with his life. But, he never stopped caring about Linda. Later on, when Richards heard that Keith had developed a drug dependency that was threatening her life, he arranged for her father to come to NYC to take her home and get her the help she would need in order to become healthy and happy, once again.

Linda Keith is “Ruby Tuesday”.

Richards stated that this was one of the easiest songs to write because his feelings for her were still so close to the surface. Mick Jagger, who usually co-wrote all of the songs “The Rolling Stones” performed, had no part in the writing of “Ruby Tuesday”. It was all Keith Richards’ work. But, Jagger said that he thought that the song was lovely and that, even though he had no part in the writing of it, “Ruby Tuesday” was always one of his favourite songs to sing.

“Ruby Tuesday” gained airplay in the US and UK, mainly because it was the “B”-side to the single the band was actively promoting, “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. Because of the sexually-explicit nature of “Let’s Spend the Night Together”, many radio DJs felt uncomfortable playing it. So, they tried flipping the 45 over and ended up playing, “Ruby Tuesday”, instead. The song proved popular with fans and soon took on a life of its own and became a hit, too. Both songs were the only hits from “Between the Buttons”, which was the final album produced by long-time producer, Andrew Loog-Oldham. As it turned out, “The Rolling Stones” were about to go on a magnificent run of albums starting next with “Their Satanic Majesties Request”, “Beggar’s Banquet”, “Let it Bleed”, “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street”.

But, despite all of the experiences Keith Richards has had in his life, he still looks back upon his relationship with Linda Keith with fondness. Fortunately for her, Richards intervention in the 1970s and her subsequent time spent in rehab, all helped put her on a path to a more stable and happy life. Linda Keith married a record producer and, together, they enjoyed a peaceful, contented family life. Both Richards and Keith remain alive today and see each other, on occasion, with their respective family members in tow. While they may have broken up, there are ties of friendship and affection between them that have bound them together for over half of a century. Not all break-up songs have to be bitter, as “Ruby Tuesday” makes clear. So, without further delay, here is Keith Richard’s ode to his first love, Linda Keith, “Ruby Tuesday”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Ruby Tuesday” by The Rolling Stones, can be found here.

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

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.