Rolling Stones songs: Bright Lights, Big City
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Written by: Jimmy Reed
Recorded: IBC Studios, London, England, March 11 1963
From Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012:
An impressive version of Jimmy Reed’s Bright Lights, Bic City. Originally this aforementioned song had been recorded by Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys. Mick Jagger’s co-musicians at the time were Bob Beckwith, Allen Etherington and Dick Taylor. Now with the new band members, the song epitomised a young Stones sound, Jagger performing in a relaxed manner while Ian Stewart provided an excellent piano background. The enthusiasm could not be missed by anyone listening.
One of the many “best of Jimmy Reed” albums released over the years, Bright Lights, Big City is a 16-song CD that the independent Chameleon put out in 1988 for its Vee-Jay Hall of Fame series. The liner notes are poor; exact recording dates and personnel are missing, and a brief summary only scratches the surface in describing Reed’s accomplishments. But the sound quality isn’t bad, and the material itself is nothing to complain about. Laidback hits like “Baby, What You Want Me to Do,” “Big Boss Man,” “Honest I Do” and “Shame, Shame, Shame” are included along with some enjoyable rarities, including the playful “Sugar, Sugar,” the infectious “Don’t Say Nothin'” and “Honey, Where You Goin’.” These 16 songs certainly wouldn’t be a bad introduction to Reed’s legacy, but a bluesman of his magnitude deserves better than Chameleon’s skimpy, inadequate liner notes.
“Bright Lights, Big City” is a classic blues song which was written and first recorded by American bluesman Jimmy Reed in 1961. Besides being “an integral part of the standard blues repertoire”,”Bright Lights, Big City” has appealed to a variety of artists, including country and rock musicians, who have recorded their interpretations of the song.
Called a “textbook Jimmy and Mama Reed duet”, “Bright Lights, Big City” was a collaborative writing effort between Reed and his wife, Mary “Mama” Reed. It is a cautionary tale about urban life, with the narrator lamenting the loss of his wife or girlfriend to the nightlife and enticement of an unnamed city:
Bright lights big city, gone to my baby’s head
I’d tried to tell the woman, but she don’t believe a word I said …
It’s all right pretty baby, gonna need my help some day
You’re gonna wish you had a listen, to some of those things I said
The song has a traditional twelve-bar blues form in Reed’s signature “steady-rolling style”. It was recorded in Chicago in 1961 with Jimmy Reed (vocal and harmonica), Mama Reed (vocal), Jimmy Reed, Jr. (guitar), Lefty Bates (guitar), Earl Phillips (drums), and an unidentified bassist. The song was one of Reed’s most popular songs and reached number three in the Billboard R&B chart as well as number fifty-eight in the pop Hot 100. “Bright Lights, Big City” was included on the album Jimmy Reed at Carnegie Hall and appears on many Reed compilations.
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Categories: Can You Hear the Music?