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Rolling Stones songs: Bitch
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I’m feeling drunk, juiced up and sloppy/ Ain’t touched a drink all night…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Rolling Stones Mobile, Stargroves, Newbury Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, March-May 9 1970
Guest musicians: Bobby Keys (sax), Jim Price (trumpet), Jimmy Miller (percussion)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
Love is the “bitch,” not any specific woman. Mick Jagger had many relationships he could base this on, including his breakup with Marianne Faithfull. He broke up with her after she tried to commit suicide while they were in Australia in late 1969 (Mick was filming Ned Kelly). As soon as Marianne recovered, Mick dumped her.
The Stones recorded this song, and many others on the album, at the Stargroves estate in Hampshire, England, using their mobile recording unit manned by engineer Andy Johns. Keith Richards arrived at Stargroves after his bandmates had been working on this song for a while with little success. According to Johns, the song sounded sluggish until Richards strapped on his guitar. “He put on his clear Perspex guitar and kicked up the tempo,” Johns said. “The song went from a laconic mess to being all about the groove. Just instantly. As soon as Keith started playing, he transformed the song into what it was meant to be.”
Despite (or maybe because of) the rather provocative title, this became one of the more popular Rolling Stones songs, often appearing in their setlists. It wasn’t released as a single, but got plenty of play on rock radio.
In 1974, Elton John broke the “bitch” barrier on pop radio with “The Bitch Is Back,” which went to #4 in the US.
Along with “Under My Thumb,” this didn’t help the Stones’ image with women’s groups.
The album cover was designed by Andy Warhol. It was a close-up photo of a man in a pair of jeans complete with an actual zipper. The zipper caused problems in shipment because it scratched the record. They figured out that if they opened the zipper before shipment, it did minimal damage.
Speaking with Rolling Stone, Keith Richards said: “It comes off pretty smooth, but it’s quite tricky. There’s an interesting bridge you have to watch out for. Otherwise, it’s straightforward rock and soul that we love. It’s Charlie Watts’ meat and potatoes.”
This features Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet. They provided horns on albums and tours for The Stones in the early ’70s.
The Goo Goo Dolls covered this in 1997 on the compilation album No Alternative.
The album title Sticky Fingers refers to the aptitude of a person who is likely to steal. It went well with the lawless image The Stones put forward.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
This song sees the Rolling Stones, and Mick Jagger in particular, remaining
true to the reputation for misogyny that had led feminists to pillory the band
in the sixties. The very title betrays the message of the Stones singer.
Woman, here, is synonymous with sexual pleasure and a symbol of sexual
fantasy. When you call my name, I salivate like a Pavlov dog/When you lay
me out, my heart is beating louder than a big bass drum: the refrain could
not be clearer. Jagger goes even further, however. The character in the song
needs his dose of sex, just as he needs his drugs or his alcohol. To put it
another way, sex and drugs are one of a kind, a theme encountered fairly
frequently in Stones songs around this time. Yet Mick Jagger would
respond to critics by explaining that the term bitch refers to love and not in
any way to women, that listeners should understand the lyric as … love, it’s
a bitch. Nevertheless, the song would be banned from most of the airwaves,
despite having been chosen as the flip side of “Brown Sugar.”
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