rolling stones it must be hell 1983Can You Hear the Music?


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Rolling Stones songs: It Must Be Hell
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We’re free to worship, we’re free to speak/ We’re free to kill, that’s guaranteed…

Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Nov. 11-Dec. 16 1982; Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas, May 1983; The Hit Factory, NYC, USA, June-July 1983
Guest musicians: Moustapha Cisse, Brahms Coundoul, Martin Ditcham and Sly Dunbar (percussion), Chuck Leavell (keyboards)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

From the Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
“It Must Be Hell” sees Mick Jagger once again venturing into political territory. This time his target is not South America (“Undercover of the Night”), but presumably the countries that were then (a few years before the fall of the Berlin Wall) in the grip of communism. He paints an apocalyptic picture: millions of people unemployed, hungry children unable to read or write, and prisons and asylums filled with those whose thinking is not in line with the party’s; in other words, the politically “incorrect.” Mick Jagger seems to have embarked on a crusade against stifling knowledge. His words are carried by another highly typical Stones riff that brings “Soul Survivor” to mind.

And there is a reason for this: good old Keith has simply recycled the riff of the closing track of Exile on Main St. for the intro to “It Must Be Hell.” He makes a powerful sound, most likely on one of his Telecaster 5-strings in open G, played through a Mesa Boogie amp, again with MXR Analog Delay. The Stones are trying to bring Undercover to a close with a rock number of the kind they are renowned for, but the magic is not there. There is too much discord between them. This is a shame because the track is interesting in more than one respect. Charlie’s drumming is as brilliant as ever, with plenty of swing in his sticks, if not quite as much power as during the Jimmy Miller era.

Bill accompanies him with an excellent bass part, the sound very clean and rounded, played almost certainly on his Travis Bean TB 2000 plugged straight into the console. Keith is supported on rhythm by two other guitars, and Ron plays a very good slide solo at 2:11. Various percussion instruments can be heard, in particular congas (0:44), a cabasa (3:09), and a cowbell (3:21), but we could perhaps be forgiven for wondering what the point is of congas on a track of this type. It is apparently Chuck Leavell on piano at 3:46, playing a boogie-woogie part that could easily be attributed to Stu.

Mick gives a good vocal performance, and literally lets go in the coda. “It Must Be Hell” is not the worst track on the album, but it is hard to avoid a comparison with the band’s glory years, the period between Beggars Banquet and Exile on Main St. And all the more so when one relistens to “Soul Survivor”…