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Rolling Stones songs: Back Street Girl
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
Please don’t you call me at home/ Please don’t come knocking at night…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: RCA Studios, Hollywood, USA, Aug. 3-7 1966; Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, Nov. 9-Dec. 6 1966
Guest musicians: Jack Nitzsche (harpsichord)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
Originally released on the U.K. version of the Between the Buttons LP, “Back Street Girl” was released in America a year later on the compilation record Flowers (1967). The musical tone is a melancholy European folk or cabaret song; more specifically, it is the type of waltz-time melody, with a simple accompaniment of guitar, tambourine, and accordion — played by Brian Jones — that Edith Piaf might have sung. But being from the Between the Buttons sessions, “Back Street Girl” has a biting satirical intent, like many of the songs on that record. Mick Jagger aims his rapier-like vitriol at a man — the narrator — who keeps a mistress and does not wish to have any strings attached: “Don’t want you part of my world/Just you be my back street girl.”
Though these were the early days for the Jagger/Keith Richards songwriting team and the lyrics seem a bit green and forced at times, there are such flashes of finesse as, “Please take the favors I grant/Curtsy and look nonchalant just for me.” Jagger would have been aware, even as a relatively inexperienced songwriter, that his satirical tone might be overlooked and listeners might just gravitate to those chorus lines (quoted above). If nothing else, listeners would be thrown off by the sincere-sounding dulcet folk balladry of the music.
Clearly, Jagger welcomed any consequential controversy that might arise from the confusion; the Stones had already displayed their lack of fear when it came to accusations of misogyny. It is not surprising that Bobby Darin covered “Back Street Girl” as he was entering his folksinger phase. This is from the era of Tim Hardin’s “If I Was a Carpenter” — which Darin also covered — where folkys were looking back to Elizabethan ballads and using language from that period in the text of their songs; this also has a vaguely “olde tyme” England vibe.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
This song is a Rolling Stones–style treatment of social concerns. The
subject of “Back Street Girl” is not a love affair but a purely physical
relationship between a man—perhaps a wealthy aristocrat and valued
member of society—and a girl from a lowly part of town. Don’t want you
out in my world… Please don’t be part of my life, Please don’t you bother
my wife, sings Mick Jagger, before delivering the final blow to this young
woman from the working class: You’re rather common and coarse
anyway… Curtsy and look nonchalant, just for me.
On the face of it, the cynicism of the Rolling Stones appears to be in
overdrive here. But this is actually a social criticism of England in the
sixties, and more specifically an attack on middle- or upper-class attitudes,
a portrait of a privileged Englishman who, unable to obtain the pleasures he
is looking for at home, goes in search of a back street girl. The words come
across all the more harshly in conjunction with the gentle melody.
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Categories: Can You Hear the Music?