Rolling Stones songs: Black Limousine
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
We used to shine, shine, shine, shine/ Say what a pair, say what a team…
Also known as: Broken Head Blues
Written by: Jagger/Richards/Wood
Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, Nov. 13-24 1973; EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Jan. 5-March 2 1978 and June 10-Oct. 19 1979
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This is based on a song by the blues musician Jimmy Reed called “You Don’t Have To Go.” The song is about The Stones’ rock and roll lifestyle of women, alcohol, and limousines.
This was first recorded at the Some Girls sessions in 1978.
Ron Wood got a writing credit for this. It is one of the few Stones originals not credited only to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
According to Wood, the guitar riff was influenced by a Texas slide blues guitarist named Hop Wilson, who recorded in the ’60s.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
Pretty girls, limousines, and alcohol flowing like water in fashionable
nightspots: all this is part and parcel of being a rock star—and a Rolling
Stone, in particular. It is this aspect of the Stones’ lives, overplayed by the
media, that Mick Jagger evokes in this song, using the past tense, as if
describing a crazy dream that has now vanished into thin air. “Black
Limousine,” for which Ron Wood is credited alongside Mick Jagger and
Keith Richards, is a number in the good old Chicago blues tradition. Ronnie
would later reveal that he had been inspired by a slide guitar riff he heard
on a 45 rpm given to him by Eric Clapton. “And there was another guy
called Big Moose, who I’ve never heard of before or since. I had this one 45
that Eric Clapton gave me which had him on.… I thought, ‘That’s really
good, I’m going to apply that.’”
“Black Limousine” is one of the few Rolling Stones’ songs credited to Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood (though incidentally one of two featured on Tattoo You). “Black Limousine” is a hard blues number (described as “fast mid-tempo blues of no specific nature” by Jagger) which heavily hearkens back to the Rolling Stones’ earliest recordings from their ABCKO/London albums. Using a heavy bellow, Jagger delivers his lines and spells out the growing rifts in an aging romance:
We used to shine, shine, shine, shine, Say what a pair, say what a team/We used to ride, ride, ride, ride, In a long black limousine/Those dreams are gone baby, Locked away and never seen/Well now look at your face now baby, Look at you and look at me.
On the lyrics, Richards said in 1981, “That song does have a more generous view of relationships with women… I guess, because the women in our lives at the moment have made a change in our attitudes toward it. I guess because everything that comes out from the Stones is just as it comes out… That’s how we used to feel about it, and that’s how we feel about it now. This is purely a guess… but it seems logical that the people you’re with are the ones who are gonna influence you most, whether you intend it or not. Mick might intend to sit down and write a real Stones song – you know, ‘Blechhh! You cruddy piece of shit, you dirty old scrub box!’ But obviously, that’s not the way he’s feeling now. It’s not the way I’m feeling now.”
On the music, Wood said in 2003, “‘Black Limousine’ came about from a slide guitar riff that was inspired in part by some Hop Wilson licks from a record that I once owned… And there was another guy called Big Moose, who I’ve never heard of before or since… He was an old slide guitar guy who had one particular lick that he would bring in every now and again. I thought, ‘That’s really good, I’m going to apply that’ – and so subconsciously I wrote the whole song around that one little lick, building on it, resolving it and taking it round again… That was something that clicked musically straight away with the guitars and drums and Mick, and then we immediately got into sparring about the lyrics for it, since it was obviously crying out for some words… Mick’s got his own style and that’s why I let him interpret it in his own way…”
Recording began in January and ran through March 1978 during the band’s sessions at Paris’ Pathé Marconi Studios for the album Some Girls. The song re-emerged during the Tattoo You sessions in late 1980. With Jagger on vocals and shrieking harmonica, Richards and Wood performing the song’s electric guitars, with Wood providing the solo. Ian Stewart performs the song’s piano. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman perform the song’s drums and bass, respectively.
On his rare credit, Wood continued, saying, “I fought until I was blue in the face to get the credit, going on and on: ‘I wrote that, I wrote that.’ One of the lessons I had to learn was that if you want to get a credit, it has to happen there and then in the studio, as you’re recording it.”
“Black Limousine” was performed heavily by the band during their American Tour 1981/European Tour 1982, and was included in the concert film Let’s Spend the Night Together. The song was also performed during the 1995 leg of the Voodoo Lounge Tour. A recording was featured as a bonus track on the Japanese release of 1995’s Stripped, as well as being the b-side to the album’s lead single “Like a Rolling Stone”.
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