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Rolling Stones songs: Monkey Man
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Well, I hope we’re not too messianic, or a trifle too satanic/ We love to play the blues…
Also known as: Positano Grande
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, Apr. 17-22, June 5-July 3 1969
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano), Jimmy Miller (tambourine)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
The lyrics don’t seem to make much sense, but they are probably about heroin or a bad acid trip. You can certainly draw this conclusion from the opening lines:
I’m a fleabit peanut monkey
And all my friends are junkies
Nicky Hopkins was featured on piano. He and Ian Stewart made significant contributions to the Stones on keyboards, but were never credited with being official members of the group. Hopkins and Stewart both toured with the band as well.
Most of the album was recorded after the death of Brian Jones but before his replacement, Mick Taylor, joined the band. On “Monkey Man,” Keith Richards played electric and slide electric guitar; Bill Wyman played bass and also provided vibes; producer Jimmy Miller assisted drummer Charlie Watts on tambourine.
The Stones performed this on their 1994-1995 Voodoo Lounge tour.
This song was used in the 1990 movie Goodfellas in a scene where the gangsters are trafficking cocaine. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese, who directed the 2008 Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light.
From the Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
There are many possible interpretations of “Monkey Man.” Is Mick Jagger, the author of the lyrics, reflecting on an acid or heroin trip that turned into a nightmare populated by monsters? Or is the song more a case of selfmockery, a response,
perhaps, to all those representatives of the media who took pleasure in dragging the London band through the dirt? The singer’s stage act was mocked by some: was he now laying it on thick by comparing himself to an ape-man? His private life was maliciously scrutinized, and in this song we see him bit and tossed around by every she-rat in this town.
There is also a nod to the Stones’ two previous albums, Their Satanic Majesties Request and Beggars Banquet: I hope we’re not too messianic or a trifle satanic, he sings in the second verse, before adding We love to play the blues. Is it not also possible, then, that this is another allusion to the forces of evil, insofar as Satan is the monkey of God? “Monkey Man” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards during their stay on the Amalfi coast, hence the original title “Positano Grande.” In terms of its sound world, the song is quite different from anything the Stones had previously recorded. It is evocative of movie music—for a thriller, perhaps, or a science fiction picture.
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?