rolling stones let it bleed country honkCan You Hear the Music?


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Rolling Stones songs: Country Honk
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There’s many a bar-room queen I’ve had in Jackson/ But I just can’t seem to drink you off my mind…

Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, May 12-June 5 and Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA, Nov. 2-3 1969
Guest musicians: Byron Berline (fiddle), Nannette Newman (backing vocals)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

In the vast discography of the legendary Rolling Stones, one gem stands out as a unique and unexpected musical departure. Released in 1969, “Country Honk” brought a touch of country charm to the rock’n’roll landscape.

While the Rolling Stones were known for their raw and electrifying rock sound, “Country Honk” veered into a more laid-back and twangy territory. The song showcased the band’s versatility and their ability to effortlessly blend different genres.
With its distinctive acoustic guitar intro and infectious melody, “Country Honk” immediately captures the essence of classic country music. The mellow rhythm and Keith Richards’ melodic licks create a nostalgic atmosphere that transports listeners to a simpler time.

Mick Jagger’s vocals on “Country Honk” are filled with a playful charm, dripping with southern influence. His distinctive voice weaves a tale of love and longing, perfectly complemented by the harmonica and honky-tonk piano, adding an extra layer of authenticity.

As with many Rolling Stones tracks, “Country Honk” had a lasting impact on popular culture. It reached a wider audience when it was reimagined as “Honky Tonk Women” on the iconic “Let It Bleed” album.

Even though “Country Honk” might not be the first song that comes to mind when we think of the Rolling Stones, its unique blend of rock and country acts as a testament to the band’s boundless creativity and their willingness to explore new musical territories.

From Songfacts:
This is a country version of “Honky Tonk Women,” which was released as a single a few months earlier. Keith Richards explained on a promotional interview disc: “On Let It Bleed, we put that other version of ‘Honky Tonk Women’ on because that’s how the song was originally written, as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers, ’30s country song. And it got turned around to this other song by Mick Taylor, who got into a completely different feel, throwing it off the wall completely.”

This is based on Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonk Blues.”

Mick Taylor, who took over lead guitar when Brian Jones died, recorded with The Stones for the first time on the Let It Bleed album.

Mick Taylor explained: “My part on ‘Country Honk’ wasn’t on a regular guitar; it was on one of those cheap little Selmer Hawaiian guitars, which I played on my lap in regular tuning.”

Byron Berline played fiddle. He was recorded on a Hollywood sidewalk, which accounts for the car horns in the background.

From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
On December 18, 1968, a few days after rehearsals for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards went on vacation for three weeks to Brazil and Peru with their respective partners, Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg. Keith Richards: “We were headed for the Mato Grosso. We lived for a few days on a ranch, where Mick and I wrote ‘Country Honk,’ sitting on a veranda like cowboys, boots on the rail, thinking ourselves in Texas.”… “It was written on an acoustic guitar,” he recalls, “and I remember the place because every time you flushed the john these black blind frogs came jumping out—an interesting image.” “Country Honk” is the acoustic, country version of “Honky Tonk Women.”

In fact it’s an homage to Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, two masters of country blues and the honky-tonk style. The lyrics barely differ from those of the electric version released as a single: the setting is a bar in which alcohol flows like water and hostesses are skilled at making the customers leave their cares behind. There is one small difference, however: in the first verse of “Honky Tonk Women,” the bar is located in Memphis, Tennessee, whereas in “Country Honk,” it is in Jackson, the Mississippi state capital, perhaps to strike a more Southern, more bluesy note.