Rolling Stones songs: Rock and A Hard Place
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
This talk of freedom/ And human rights/ Means bullying and private wars and chucking all the dust into our eyes…
Also known as: ‘Steel Wheels’
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: Air Studios, Montserrat, March 29-Apr. 1989; Olympic Sound Studios, May 15-June 29 1989
Guest musicians: Chuck Leavell and Matt Clifford (keyboards), Sarah Dash, Lisa Fischer and Bernard Fowler (backing vocals), The Kick Hoirns (brass)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This song was originally titled “Steel Wheels.” They ended up using that as the name of the album, as it conveyed moving forward. The Stones launched their first tour in 8 years after releasing the album, and this was the second single, after “Mixed Emotions.”
The title reflected the state of The Stones at the time. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had released solo albums and were feuding, but they put aside their differences to record Steel Wheels.
This was one of bass player Bill Wyman’s last recordings as a member of The Stones. He left the band in 1992.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
Keith Richards recalls: “This was like going back to the way we worked in
the early days, before Exile, when we were living around the corner from
each other in London. Mick and I hadn’t got together in four years since
Dirty Work, but as soon as we met up in Barbados for a fortnight, with a
couple of guitars and a piano, everything was fine.”
Between a rock and a hard place: This sums up the frame of mind that
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were in. They had both made solo albums
(two in the case of the Mick; one in the case of the Keith), but nevertheless
managed to get together for the Steel Wheels sessions. We’re in the same
boat on the same sea/And we’re sailing south on the same breeze: harmony
seems to reign once more between the Glimmer Twins. Looking beyond
their personal situation, Mick Jagger (the lyricist) casts a glance at a world
of darkness—a world that talks of freedom and human rights while wars
proliferate and peasants sink further every day into the double spiral of
poverty and impotence.
“Rock and a Hard Place” was chosen as the A-side of the second single
from Steel Wheels (with “Cook Cook Blues” on the flip side). Released on
November 4, 1989, it had risen to number 23 on the pop chart and number 1
on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks chart within six weeks.
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