rolling stones respectable 1978Can You Hear the Music?


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Rolling Stones songs: Respectable
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Well now you’re a pillar of society/ You don’t worry about the things that you used to be…

Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Oct. 10-Dec. 1977; Jan. 5-March 2 1978
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

From Songfacts:
This is a commentary on how The Stones were now accepted by high society, which previously shunned them. Mick Jagger said of the track: “I was banging out three chords incredibly loud on the electric guitar, which isn’t always a wonderful idea but was great fun here. This is a Punk meets Chuck Berry number. The lyric carries no fantastically deep message, but I think it might have had something to do with Bianca.”

Keith Richards fought to keep this an uptempo rocker, over Mick Jagger’s objections. Richards played the guitar solo in the song.

The lyrics contain a reference to a visit to the White House by Bianca, Jagger’s wife at the time, to meet President Ford’s son.

Mick Jagger wrote this pretty much by himself. He had the song laid out the way he wanted it when they started the session to record it.

From the Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
“Respectable” is about a young woman who has climbed the social ladder rung by rung and is now reminded where she came from, of her background as a porn queen, by the narrator. Was Mick Jagger indulging in a highly personal interpretation of the very friendly relations between his wife Bianca and Steven Ford, son of the president of the United States? It is not
out of the question. The line We’re talking heroin with the President would be a typically Jaggeresque way of mocking this relationship at the heart of the jet set.

More generally, “Respectable” highlights the hypocrisy of the “high society” that once pilloried the Stones for their bad behavior and now gave them the red-carpet treatment. Mick Jagger confirms that “‘Respectable’ really started off as a song in my head about how ‘respectable’ we as a band were supposed to have become.” Mick Jagger has said that he wrote the number over a reasonably slow rhythm. It is apparently Keith Richards who sped it up following a heated discussion. Keith has denied this, claiming that the very opposite was the case.

The number reminds Ron Wood of the music he used to play with the Faces. For Mick Jagger, “Respectable” can be interpreted as a “punk meets Chuck Berry number.” This “encounter” was released as a single (with “When the Whip Comes Down” as the flip side) on September 22, 1978, climbing to number 16 in Ireland and the Netherlands and number 23 in the United Kingdom.