Also known as: GOOD TIME WOMEN
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Rolling Stones Mobile, Nellcote, France, Jun.-Nov. 1971; Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA, Dec. 1971-March 1972; RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA, March 1972
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano), Bobby Keys (sax), Jim Price (trumpet), Clydie King and Vanetta Fields (backing vocals)
Release date: April 14, 1972 (Rolling Stones Records RS 19103)
“Tumbling Dice” is a song recorded by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. A product of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards‘ songwriting partnership, the song has a blues, boogie-woogie rhythm that scholars and musicians have noted for its unusual tempo and groove. The lyrics are about a gambler who cannot remain faithful to any woman. The song is the lead single from the band’s 1972 double album Exile on Main St. released worldwide on 14 April 1972 by Rolling Stones Records.
“Tumbling Dice” spent eight weeks on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number five. In the US, the single peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song entered the top 10 in the Netherlands, Norway and Spain. “Tumbling Dice” received acclaim from contemporary music critics, who praised its musicianship and lyrical prowess. “Tumbling Dice” featured on many “best of” lists, including those by Vulture and Rolling Stone.
Jimmy Miller produced “Tumbling Dice”. The Stones have performed the song during many of their concerts since its release in 1972. Several artists have covered “Tumbling Dice”, including Linda Ronstadt, whose version – sung from a female perspective – appears on her 1977 album Simple Dreams. Ronstadt’s version was a Top 40 hit the following year and is included on the soundtrack of the film FM (1978).
The Rolling Stones recorded “Tumbling Dice” at a pivotal stage in their history. While recording Exile on Main St. in 1971, the band became UK tax exiles and moved to southern France to avoid paying a 93 per cent supertax imposed by Prime Minister Harold Wilson‘s Labour government on the county’s top earners. Recording schedules were erratic and happened at odd hours. According to drummer Charlie Watts, “a lot of Exile was done how Keith [Richards] works”, which meant playing songs dozens of times, letting them “marinade” [sic] and repeating the cycle.
The band recorded an early iteration of “Tumbling Dice”, called “Good Time Women“, at Stargroves using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio sometime between March and May 1970 during the sessions for their 1971 studio album Sticky Fingers. It shared a similar blues, boogie-woogie rhythm with “Tumbling Dice”but heavily emphasised Ian Stewart‘s piano work, had different lyrics and was incomplete. This song formed the basis for “Tumbling Dice”, which the band developed the following year.
Jagger and Richards initially composed “Tumbling Dice” using filler lyrics consisting of a few simple phrases. Sound engineers Andy Johns, Glyn Johns, Joe Zagarino and Jeremy Gee recorded the song played in the basement of the Villa Nellcôte, near Villefranche-sur-Mer France, between 7 June and October 1971 using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio. The song’s basic track was recorded on 3 August 1971. That recording featured Mick Taylor playing bass because of Bill Wyman‘s unexplained absence with Jagger playing rhythm guitar. In the liner notes to Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones, Richards stated, “I remember writing the riff upstairs in the very elegant front room, and we took it downstairs the same evening and we cut it.” In addition to playing with a capo on the fourth fret, Richards employed five-string open G tuning – dubbed “Keef-chord” tuning after he used it on several Exile On Main St. tracks.
The song was completed at Sunset Sound Studios in Los Angeles between November 1971 and March 1972 Jagger had finished the lyrics after speaking with a housekeeper about gambling in LA. He explained, “she liked to play dice and I really didn’t know much about it. But I got it off of her and managed to make the song out of that.” According to music journalist Bill Janovitz, it was “not pure kismet” that Jagger thought to speak to the housekeeper, saying he was “consciously turning over rocks, looking for something specific”. Janovitz believes Jagger may already have had the idea for the “well-worn lover/gambler/rambler trope, but needed the particulars to come up with something like, ‘I’m all sixes and sevens and nines’.”
Discussing “Tumbling Dice”, recording engineer Andy Johns said that recording the song was “like pulling teeth” because of the time it took to get a satisfactory take. Johns has claimed there were between thirty and one hundred reels of tape of the song’s the base track, and some have said it may have taken as many as 150 takes to complete it. Mixing the album was also difficult; Jagger has never liked the final mix of the song, saying in an interview with Melody Maker, “I think they used the wrong mix for that one. I know they did.” Rolling Stone associate editor Robert Greenfield, who was present at the mixing sessions, later recalled Jagger telling producer Jimmy Miller that he was okay with either mix.
“Tumbling Dice” is known for its groove. Aerosmith‘s Joe Perry described the song as, “so laid-back, it really sucks you in …” Joe Strummer of the Clash says “Tumbling Dice” is “not a straightforward tempo” but is “halfway between a slow and straightforward rocker”. Music critic Bill Janovitz credits the song’s “perfect tempo”, “slight drag” and “shuffle” with creating that groove. In concert, Jagger and Richards have been known to argue over the speed of the song, with Jagger trying to push the song’s tempo a bit faster.
It was acknowledged forty years after the release of “Tumbling Dice” that Miller played the last part of the song, right as the coda begins, because Watts was having trouble with it. “Tumbling Dice” remains the only Rolling Stones song where Watts overdubbed a second drum track over the original, creating a bigger sound. In a retrospective article shortly after Watts’ death, Ben Sisario wrote for The New York Times that Watts’ backbeat gave “Tumbling Dice” a “languid strut”.
The song’s lyrical structure is irregular. While many songs have the same number of lines for the verse or chorus, the first verse of “Tumbling Dice” has eight, the second six, and the third two lines. The song’s first chorus has two lines, the second has three, and the third has twelve lines. At the beginning of each chorus, the piano, bass and drums drop out and the backing vocals sing “you got to roll me” as the guitar plays the song’s signature guitar figure. The third chorus leads into the song’s coda. Slowly, the band’s rhythm section works its way back into the song. The coda includes a call and response with the backing vocals singing “you got to roll me” as Jagger and Richards respond by singing “keep on rollin’.”
Rolling Stones Records released “Tumbling Dice” worldwide on 14 April 197 – the Stones’ 23rd US single and their 17th in the UK. “Tumbling Dice”‘s B-side features “Sweet Black Angel“. American artist Ruby Mazur created the single’s sleeve. The song is the fifth track on Exile on Main St.. On 21 May 1972, Top of the Pops broadcast a film of the Stones rehearsing “Tumbling Dice” in Montreux for their 1972 tour. On 27 May 1972, The Old Grey Whistle Test showed the same footage.
“Tumbling Dice” appears on Stones’ compilations and live albums, including the 1977 double album Love You Live, Shine a Light (2006), and Hyde Park Live. The song is included on several “From the Vault” archive releases, including Hampton Coliseum – Live In 1981 (2014) and L.A. Forum – Live In 1975 (2014). A unique, live version of the song was recorded for Stripped, the 1995 CD that documented part of the Voodoo Lounge Tour but did not appear on that album or on the 2016 re-release CD, Totally Stripped. The recording crossfades from a backstage vocal rehearsal of the song on solo piano to an onstage performance of the song. The backstage rehearsal portion was recorded at the Paradiso, Amsterdam, on 26 or 27 May 1995, and the live performance at the Olympia, Paris, on 3 July 1995. This recording appears on the 1996 “Wild Horses” (live) single and the Rarities 1971–2003 album.
Many Stones concert films have included “Tumbling Dice”: Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones (1974), Let’s Spend the Night Together (1983), Stones at the Max (1992), The Rolling Stones: Voodoo Lounge Live (1995; extended version, 2018), Bridges to Babylon Tour ’97–98 (1998), Rolling Stones – Four Flicks (2003), The Biggest Bang (2007), Shine a Light (2008), Some Girls: Live in Texas ’78 (2011) and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013).
“Tumbling Dice” received acclaim from music critics, with many praising its musicianship. Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn asserted it “features marvelously sensual guitar work by Richard” and that it should rank with “Satisfaction“, “Street Fighting Man” and “Honky Tonk Women” “as one of the Stones’ classic concert numbers”. The Boston Globe critic Ernie Santosuosso agreed, finding the “chorale” to be “outstanding” and the lyrics “intriguing”. Peter Barsocchini described the guitar work of Richards and Mick Taylor “sassy” in a review for The Times. Writing for the Daily News, music critic Jerry Oster found “Tumbling Dice” and “Happy” to be the two songs on Exile on Main St.that had “all the energy and dynamism on which this greatness was founded” and that it came through “overpoweringly”. He considered it to be “music that, in a time when dancing is dead, not only can be danced to, but must be”.
The drum work by Charlie Watts was also praised. Rolling Stone critic Lenny Kaye considered the guitar work and drumming of Watts to build to a “kind of majesty the Stones at their best have always provided”. In a retrospective review for Spin, music critic Al Shipley described every note of the song as “perfection” where every “hooky little moment” is accompanied by a “perfect Charlie Watts snare fill”. David Morgan of CBS News asserted that Watts’ percussion on the single was “remarkable”.
Several critics loved the tempo and groove of the single. Music critic Jack Garner asserted in a review for Courier Newsthat the song featured a “marvellous tempo”. Shipley felt the song has an “irresistible singalong energy”, describing the “breakdown and buildup into the final ‘you got to roll me’ refrain” as “sublime”. Critic Bill Janovitz described “Tumbling Dice” in his 2014 book Rocks Off as the “Holy Grail of grooves”.
The lyrics of “Tumbling Dice” were well received by critics. Barsocchini considered its lyrics to be “provocative”. Garner agreed, stating in a review for Courier News that the lyrics contained “wonderfully sexy double entendre[s]”.
Critics frequently considered “Tumbling Dice” to be one of the best songs on Exile. Oster asserted that “Tumbling Dice” was among the eight songs he would keep on Exile, using the others for “hairspray or frisbees”. Kaye considered the single to be “a cherry on the first side” of Exile and the only song on the album that made “real moves towards a classic”. Ultimate Classic Rock critic Kyle Dowling agreed, calling it a “true standout” of the album and calling it a “classic piece of rock and roll music”, noting that it was a persistent favourite in live performances. Morgan agreed with Dowling, calling it a “classic”. David Marchese wrote for Vulture that the song “achieves choogle nirvana“, expressing surprise that despite a “near-consensus” that Exile on Main St. was the best Stones album, it did not produce any other big singles.
According to Janovitz, Rod Stewart “so coveted” the song that he took a tape of it into his Foot Loose & Fancy Free (1977) sessions “to play to the band he had assembled to record ‘Hot Legs‘”. The song has earned spots on numerous “best of” lists. Vulture ranked the single as the seventeenth best Rolling Stones song and Rolling Stone ranked “Tumbling Dice” as number 424 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004; Rolling Stone‘s 2021 update ranked it number 86.
“Tumbling Dice” debuted at number 18 on the 8 May 1972 UK Singles Chart. By 13 May, it had climbed to number 14 before peaking at number five on the chart dated 20 May. It remained on the chart for eight weeks. In the Netherlands, “Tumbling Dice” peaked at number five on the Single Top 100 chart The single was a top ten hit in other European countries, peaking at number six in Norway and number seven in Spain.
The song debuted at number 50 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week of 29 April 1972, and took five weeks to rise to number seven, where it stayed for one week. “Tumbling Dice” was a top ten success on the US Cash Box Top 100 chart, peaking at number ten, and in Canada, where it peaked at number seven. In the Cash Box year-end chart, the song ranked number 92.
From allmusic.com (by Steve Kurutz):
When the Stones split England in early 1971 to escape the oppressive tax laws of her majesty, they took up residence in the south of France, an area that had many casinos, and much of that local color seeped into the songs that would eventually appear on Exile. One of the true gems of the album is “Tumbling Dice,” a lazy, mid-tempo shuffle that was originally titled “Good Time Women” and appeared in rough form as early as the Sticky Fingers sessions of 1970. Under its new title, Mick Jagger applied gambling slang (“I’m all 6’s, 7’s and 9’s”) to the usual topics of fast women and a roguish lifestyle, but it’s the music much more than the lyrics that make “Tumbling Dice” the rock & roll classic it undoubtedly is. From Keith Richards’ slinky guitar intro to Charlie Watts’ effortless drumming propelling that wonderfully loose beat, the song is the sound of the Stones working on all cylinders. In truth, it took hours and hours of outtakes before that loose shuffle feel central to the song’s magic was captured to the band’s liking, and the female voices that propel the beautifully arranged coda were recorded months later in L.A. by Clydie King and Vanetta Fields. But all of that is irrelevant when the listener’s ears are bathed in those giant organ swells and gospel vocals offset by Mick’s rough-edged call to “roll me” as the song slowly fades into oblivion. Surprisingly, though it was the first single released off the album, “Tumbling Dice” was not a chart-topping hit and among casual Stones fans the song has yet to take its place with “Honky Tonk Women,” “Satisfaction,” and “Jumping Jack Flash” as an absolute classic. The track was also a hit for Linda Ronstadt in the late ’70s
Tumbling Dice is the lead single from the Rolling Stones‘ Exile on Main St. released in 1972, infamous for its innovative but extremely chaotic recording process. The majority of the arrangements were recorded in the basement of Villa Nellcôte, a French mansion rented by guitarist Keith Richards with the twofold purpose of avoiding English taxes and the 9-to-5 limitations of a regular studio in favor of working on the album at any time of day.
This concept of mobile recording, although overall progressive, actually led to inconsistent results and the album was received poorly. The absence of any schedule for recording sessions and the constant change of studio staff exacerbated internal conflicts within the group, while problems with the local police caused by the daily drug purchases eventually forced the Rolling Stones to leave France.
According to Mick Jagger, the idea for Tumbling Dice lyrics came from a discussion on the subject of gambling with one of Nellcôte’s housekeepers who was well versed in dice. Richards, in turn, recalled how he composed the riff in the elegant front room upstairs, and that same night they cut a rough recording downstairs. One of the guitar parts is played by Jagger himself, while the bass line was done by the second guitarist Mick Taylor in the absence of the bassist Bill Wyman who did not really like this creative chaos of the villa and lived separately.
There is evidence that as many as 150 takes were made for Tumbling Dice during the band’s time at the villa, which took about a hundred reels of tape, so one can only guess the amount of work it took to navigate the material during the mixing stage.
Moreover, it also includes two drum parts played by Charlie Watts and a gospel choir recorded later in Los Angeles. Jagger has always disliked the mix, believing it to be the producers’ fault, although the recording was not, in fact, made in professional acoustic rooms and therefore the sound turned out to be flat and inexpressive. Subsequently, Jagger decided to write off the song’s flaws as the product of its time, stating: “A very messy mix. But that was the fashion in those days.”
From the Bill Janovitz blog:
That shuffle, the perfect tempo, that slight drag — “Tumbling Dice” is the Holy Grail of grooves and was so coveted that Rod Stewart later took a tape of “Tumbling Dice” into his Footloose and Fancy Free sessions to play to the band he had assembled to record “Hot Legs.” On the other side of the aisle, Joe Strummer said of it: “It surges forward, but it’s not a straightforward tempo. It’s halfway between a slow and a straight-forward rocker. It has a mystical beat.”
But it took years of finessing to get it there, beginning in 1970 as a generic upbeat blues called, “Good Time Women.” It was “like pulling teeth,” said Johns. By the time it got to Nellcôte, it still took hours and dozens of reels of tape (Johns has claimed anywhere from 30 to 100 reels) before it clicked in finally hit that pleasantly buzzed and relaxed feel. “They would play for days without coming in and listen to anything…” Johns told me. “When they would go and do a record, the first few days were just horrible, because they hadn’t played with each other for a while and they would sound just dreadful.”
“I remember writing the riff upstairs in the very elegant front room,” said Keith, “and we took it downstairs the same evening and we cut it.” Still, Keith played that riff on the reprise for six hours one afternoon. As Charlie has said, Keith like to “marinate” something and come back to it later. When you think about it that way, “Tumbling Dice” does have that well-marinated sound, like it had been pounded out, then soaked in aged marsala for days, before taken out and grilled crispy and served on this platter. Johns told me that he had assumed that it was a new song that Keith had been playing in France and it wasn’t until years later, when someone played him a bunch of bootlegs dating back into the ‘60s, that he realized it had been an idea kicking around for years prior.
But even the final take required took some studio magic. Speaking of the ending piece, Johns explained, “There was a big gap to punch in there [on the tape]. And for some reason Charlie was having a mental block. Every now and then, Charlie would get a mental block, especially if Mick or Keith were giving him a really hard time about something that could be quite simple,” Johns recalled. “And Jimmy said, ‘Well, I can fucking do this.’ And I said, ‘Oh, you’ve done it before, why don’t you go and do it now?’ I’d already persuaded Charlie to double-track the drums on that part.’ Johns thought it could really fatten up the beat. So he punched in Miller playing the two parts and he reckons it couldn’t have taken more than a half hour, if that. “You can hear the difference in styles.”
By the autumn of 1972, when summer was over and everyone had packed up the moveable feast, like the end of The Great Gatsby, the strung-out Keith and Anita were left alone in that grand waterfront house with their budding family. It was clear that the sessions at Nellcôte had run their course. Miller and Johns gathered up all the tapes and brought them to LA to sort through and mix. It is when they started unreeling the recordings at Sunset Sound, playing the music for friends of the band, adding background singers and guest players, that the Stones realized what they had in “Tumbling Dice.” The song, and the rest of the album, started to come to life.
But Mick did not have most of the lyrics written yet. It is tempting to believe the inspiration of the lyrics of “Tumbling Dice” had been influenced by the gambling in Monte Carlo, a stones throw from Nellcôte, where some of the musicians were making occasional excursions. And this might be true in an indirect way. But despite his outlaw image, Keith is not a gambler. Often, Johns, Jim Price, and Bobby Keys would spend some nights gambling at the tables in Monte Carlo. “Sometimes Keith came with us,” said Johns, “but he refused to gamble. I guess it would look bad if he lost. Keith wasn’t into being a loser.”
However, as with many, if not most, of the songs on Exile, “Tumbling Dice” was taken to LA for mixing without having lyrics beyond a few phrases. Keith and Mick even employed William Burroughs’ famous “cut-up” technique on some songs (“Casino Boogie,” e.g.), snipping words and phrases from newspapers and other sources and randomly reassembling them. The lyrics for “Tumbling Dice,” which grew out of the “Good Time Women” song sketch the band had been working since 1969, came from a housekeeper in LA. “I sat down with the housekeeper and talked to her about gambling,” said Mick. “She liked to play dice and I really didn’t know much about it. But I got it off of her and managed to make the song out of that.”
The Stones were students of Americana, the traditions of the blues, and folklore. They knew where to cast their nets. The fact that Mick had cast his in the direction of the housekeeper was not pure kismet. He was consciously turning over rocks, looking for something specific. He might have already had the idea to use the well-worn lover/gambler/rambler trope, but he needed the particulars to come up with something like, “I’m all sixes and sevens and nines.”
His bruised voice sounds like he had just rolled out of bed after trying to sleep off a hangover. He sounds vulnerable and soulful, full of regret, at odds with the unconvincing braggadocio of the lyrics. It sounds like he is shaking off his Jack Flash persona. He may be “playing the field every night,” but he is losing. Even if this is just another persona, it sounds like there’s a whole lot of Mick himself invested in this performance.
His vocal is so exceptionally low in the mix as to almost be overwhelmed by the arrangement. He is just part of the ensemble. “I really like that thick mix where Mick is working hard to impose himself on the track,” explained Keith. It adds an edge of urgency, like a live soul singer. He is selling the song, but he is not much louder than a horn in the horn section. When the single was released, there was a contest in one music newspaper that had listeners offering their best guesses at the indecipherable lyrics.
Mick has complained bitterly about the mix of the record. “I started mixing that in like October or November and it was going very slowly, reeeeeallly slowly,” said Johns. “And I got four or five mixes and then there was a Christmas break and Mick was getting really impatient. So they decided to get someone else in to mix the record and the guy [Joe Zagario] couldn’t do it. So Mick called me up and told me to come back … I got it all done in a marathon three-day session. And it was pretty much on my own. Mick said, ‘Here are the tapes, go and do it.’ … Joey Zagarino worked on the overdubs [at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles] and then tried to do the mixing. But it was a difficult record to mix ‘cause we had been working under adverse circumstances, shall we say? … it was just tough to get a good sound in that basement. It really was. If they had been playing spectacularly, it would all come together and the sound would be good too. Otherwise it would take a long time to get anywhere.”
Mick later claimed that he was certain that the version on the record was the wrong mix of ”Tumbling Dice.” Robert Greenfield, who was present for the mixing session, recalls Mick telling Miller that he was okay with either of two mixes. Rather than taking a hands-on role in the mixing, “Jimmy was a set of ears,” Johns said.
The sound of “Tumbling Dice” is that particular Exile gumbo: open-tuned and slide guitars churning away, some baritone sax and/or trombone, Charlie and Jimmy pummeling out some tribal beats, and Nicky’s piano somehow finding a home in it all. Mick Taylor played the bass, while Mick Jagger played second guitar with Keith. [Footnote: On live versions, Taylor didn’t seem to know quite what to do and added a repetitive riff that plays off Keith’s main. But it undercuts Keith’s part and is distracting. When he breaks out into solo lines, it restores equilibrium.]
While Mick had this vision of the finished vocal arrangement in his head, most of what he was doing in France was steering the tracks along. When they got to LA for vocals and overdubs, they added the backing ensemble of Vanetta Fields, Clydie King, and (possibly) Merry Clayton, all of whom had sung on “Gimme Shelter.” “A little bit of those girls goes a tremendously long way,” Mick said. The women singers add a gospel soulfulness. There is a palpable ache to this song — not just the particular Exile recording, but something that also comes through in subsequent live versions. By the time that Miller sets down into the crestfallen old coda, we are left with a acute yearning, waxing nostalgic — for what? For lost summers? Lost romances? The 1960s? “[I] Don’t see the time flashing by,” denies Mick as he sings. The Beatles had officially broken up when McCartney sued the others in January 1971. More significantly, Brian was dead. It appeared that perhaps Keith, too, was slipping away.
“But it’s alright,” the Stones were saying: the Nixon years, the war, the shootings at Kent State in 1970, the busts, the fallout — whatever “it” is. “Baby, I can’t stay/You got to roll me/Keep on rolling.” You can see the attraction that Keith had to play that reprise riff repeatedly; like the last sunset on a summer holiday, all slightly burned out from the sun and indulging too much, we don’t want that melancholy part to end either. We know we have to go home, but we are not quite ready to leave. We linger and savor this moment. The assured swagger of the song’s lyric is subverted by the song’s ultimately bittersweet coda.
The theme of survival is sustained across the lyrics of Exile. With the Beatles gone, it was up to the Stones to carry the torch. Dylan was transmogrifying into a far less relevant version of what he had been a decade before. Of the big three, the Stones had somehow survived — improved, even — singing, “keep on rolling.” By 1971-’72, the Stones had been around long enough that, for some people, attending their shows might have started to attain a feeling of a high school reunion, checking in with some old friends who had to “keep on rolling.” Reviewing the “Tumbling Dice” single, Melody Maker proclaimed, “it’s impossible to see their names on the label and not undergo inner convulsions in which joy, mirth, tears, nostalgia, and deep emotion are inevitably interwoven.”
Johns counted himself as one of those fans. “The Rolling Stones were the center of the bloody universe for rock and roll,” he recalled for Goldmine magazine. “And rock and roll back then meant a little bit more than it does now. It had social significance, breaking down the establishment and all that. It represented the way a generation felt about things.”
They were still the center of the rock ‘n’ roll universe, to be certain. But there were exciting new acts like Bowie and T. Rex. vying for the attention of the younger siblings of Stones fans. As Bowie wrote in the 1972 Mott the Hoople hit, “All the Young Dudes”, “My brother’s back at home with his Beatles and his Stones/We never got it off on that revolution stuff.” Though the so-called glam acts were ostensibly futuristic, the rock ‘n’ roll they sang was self-referential and, in their own way, they were as self-conscious as retro acts like Sha Na Na. Both strains were about escaping the present and giving up on the power of rock ‘n’ roll to change anything significant, fiddling while Rome burned.
The Stones managed to combine both the earthy and old with the forward-leaning and theatrical. Unpretentious Exile is more about celebrating the heritage of American music and betrays an early concern for maintaining rock ‘n’ roll’s relevance in the face of rapid change. Real escapism came in the mid-1970s with disco, and to some extent, punk rock, at a time when radio formatting also became more fragmented. Until that point, you would still hear “Tumbling Dice” on contemporary top 40 radio next to, say, “The Candy Man,” from Sammy Davis, Jr., “Let’s Stay Together,” from Al Green, or “Burnin’ Love,” from Elvis.
A big hit while the Stones were recording in 1971 was “American Pie,” in which Don McClean sings melodramatically about the death of rock ‘n’ roll, taking with it all his guileless youthful dreams. McClean comes across as one of those obsessive fans who turns on their idols, seemingly embittered by what rock music turned into and, interestingly, taking the Stones to task with his lines, “Jack Flash sat on a candlestick,” before moving into weak allusions to Altamont:
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell
And as flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died
From Don McClean’s web site:
“American Pie,” in the opinion of the song’s producer, Ed Freeman, was the funeral oration for an era: “Without it, many of us would have been unable to grieve, achieve closure, and move on. Don saw that, and wrote the song that set us free. We should all be eternally grateful to him for that.” I reckon for most others — at least the rank outsiders that were hipper than those driving their “Chevy to the levee” and drumming the steering wheel on the one and three beats as they sang, “Bye bye, Miss American Pie…” — “Tumbling Dice,” and Exile provided a real New Orleans-style funeral, instead of McClean’s uptight “oration” for the death of an era.
Lester Bangs summarized the contemporary reaction to Exile for those who appreciated the record upon release: “The party is obvious. The casualties are inevitable. It is the search for alternatives, something to do (something worthwhile even) that unites us with the Stones continuously.”
‘TUMBLING DICE’ COVER VERSIONS (from The Complete Works Website):
Annika (1978) Note: Finnish version, under title “Noppamies”.
Batdorf, John & James Lee Stanley (2013)
Blackberry Smoke (2021)
Black Crowes, The (bootleg, live 2005)
Black Tulip (1974)*
Bon Jovi (1996) Note: Live 1995.
Booklets, The (1978)
Caddy, Alan & Bob Faloon (1973)
Carnaby Group (1972) *
Carter, Craig & The Hurricane (2016)
Collection, The (1972) *
Copeland, Johnny, The Yahoos, Derek Truck & Shemekia Copeland (1997)
Corbalis, Julie (2013)
Craigie, John (2017)
Diesel Park West (1992)
Duke Street Kings, The (2012)
Eagles, The (1976)* Note: Not the famous US-band!
Fabulous Five, The (1972) *
Flash, The (1973) *
Foley, Todd & Black Horse (2013)
Gambler, Mick & Rockers (1972) *
Gaslight Anthem, The (2010)
Gill, Vince with Keith Urban & Albert Lee (2013)
God Mountain (1998)
Goldberg, Barry (2002)
Gray, Owen (1973)
Hangouts, The (2013) Note: In Dutch, under title: “Roljende Stien”.
Hobo (1997) Note: Hungarian version, under title “Dobokocka”.
Hollywood Stones (2014)
Hot-Shockers, The (1973)
Insurgency, The (2013)
James Last Orchester (1972)
Jazz Express, The (1992)
Johnson, Jill (2007)
Just Like The Rolling Stones (2002)
Kramer, Kat (2000)
Leavell, Chuck (2008)
Leavell, Chuck With The Frankfurt Radio Big Band (2018)
Lip Sticks, The (2006)
London Love Majority (1974)*
London Symphony Orchestra With London Pop Choir (1990)
McNeill, Pamela (2005)
McIvor, Neil (2013)
Molly Hatchet (2000)
Molly Hatchet (2003) Note: Live version.
Moods, The (1978)
Monkey’s Pop Group (1972) *
Pig Poch (2003)
Pijper, Jody (1985)
Phish (2009) Note: Live version.
Pussy Galore (1986)
Radtke, Kerstin (2012)
Re, Andrea (2003)
Rebels, The (2003)
Rising Sun Music, The (70‘s)*
Rockery (1973) *
Rockridge Synthesizer Orchestra, The (1991)
Ronstadt, Linda (1977)
Roth, Dylan (2007)
Rumpf, Inga & Friends (2011) Note: Live 2005.
Sax Plays The Stones/Evolution(1996)
Scubba Feat. Dew (2006)
Slade, Keith & Vamp Orchestra (1972) *
Smith, Steven (1997)
Smoking Stones (1998)
Smoking Stones (2012) Note: New version with Coque Malla.
Sonics, The (1978)
Stone (2014) Note: Live in 2013.
Studio Group, The (1977)
Sweet Little Band (2005)
Urban, Keith (TV 2010)
Voodoo Lounge (2002)
Yanani, Mariano (2005)
Zee, Michael (1995)
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