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Rolling Stones songs: Highwire
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Get up, stand up, who’s gonna pay/ I wanna talk to the boss right away…
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: Hit Factory Studio, London, England, Jan. 7-18 1991
Guest musicians: Bernard Fowler (backing vocals)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
The Stones recorded this for Flashpoint in 1991. The album consists of live recordings from their Steel Wheels tour followed by 2 new studio tracks, this and “Sex Drive.”
The song is a commentary on the international arms trade and the events that led to the first US war with Iraq, which ended around the time this was released.
The first line – “We sell them missiles, we sell them tanks, we give them credit, you can call up the bank,” was censored when The Stones performed it on the BBC TV show Top Of The Pops.
Bernard Fowler sang background vocals. Since the ’90s, he has appeared on many Rolling Stones tracks. He has also worked with Yoko Ono, Sly & Robbie, Bootsy Collins, Duran Duran, Living Colour and Herb Alpert.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
In “Highwire,” the Stones adopt a political stance. Mick Jagger, who has
always taken an interest in the political and social upheavals affecting the
world, sings here of the Gulf War, which, between August 1990 and
February 1991, brought thirty-four states, supported by the United Nations,
into conflict with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Was it the annexation of Kuwait
that triggered the war? The Stones’ singer seems to think it was more about
oil and arms sales; in other words, a case of business not caring about
morality, even if he admits in the same breath that sometimes dictators need
a slap on the wrist and that another Munich we just can’t afford. As well as
being included on Flashpoint, “Highwire” was released as a single in both
the United Kingdom and the United States on March 1, 1991 (with the live
version of “2000 Light Years from Home” as the B-side). The song made it
as far as number 29 in Britain. In continental Europe, it was also released as
a maxi single, accompanied by “2000 Light Years from Home,” “Sympathy
for the Devil,” and “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”
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