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Rolling Stones songs: Rocks Off
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
The sunshine bores the daylights out of me/ Chasing shadows moonlight mystery…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Rolling Stones Mobile, Nellcote, France, Jun.-Nov. 1971; Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA, Dec. 1971-March 1972; RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA, March 1972
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano), Bobby Keys (saxophone), Jim Price (trumpet and trombone)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
The lyrics contain lots of sexual content, but they are very hard to understand. The song is about the impending loss of sexual ability – there was no Viagra back then.
Andy Johns, who engineered the Exile on Main St. sessions, told Goldmine magazine in 2010: “It went on for ages. When Mick came back from Paris for the first time he seemed happy with the sound. And Keith would sit down stairs and at one point he sat there for 12 hours without getting out of his chair just playing the riff over and over and over.
And then one night, it was very late, four or five in the morning, Keith says, ‘Let me listen to that take again.’ And he nods off while the tape is playing. I thought, ‘Great. That’s it. End of the night and I’m out of here.’ So I go back to my place where I was staying. (Horn player/arranger) Jim Price and I had this villa. It was pretty spanky. I’m tellin’ you. A half an hour drive. I walk in the front door and the phone is ringing. I pick it up and it’s Keith. ‘Where are you?’ ‘Well, I’m obviously here ’cause I answered the phone.’ ‘Well you better get back here, man, ’cause I have this guitar part. Come back!'”
This was the first of 18 songs on Exile on Main St. Most of the album was recorded at the Villa Nellcote, a place Keith Richards rented in the South of France. The Stones went there to have some fun and get away from England, where they were taxed heavily on their earnings.
This features Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet. They provided horns on albums and tours through the early ’70s. Nicky Hopkins played piano on the track.
Keith Richards explained the title of the album in his autobiography Life (2010): “We could record from late in the afternoon until five or six in the morning, and suddenly the dawn comes up and I’ve got this boat… We’d just jump in, Bobby Keys, me, Mick, whoever was up for it… We’d pull into Monte Carlo for lunch. Have a chat with either Onassis’s lot or Niarchos’s, who had the big yachts there. You could almost see the guns pointed at each other. That’s why we called it Exile On Main Street…
…When we first came up with the title it worked in American terms because everybody’s got a Main Street. But our Main Street was that Riviera strip. And we were exiles, so it rang perfectly true and said everything we needed. The whole Mediterranean coast was an ancient connection of its own, a kind of Main Street without borders. I’ve hung in Marseilles, and it was all it was cracked up to be and I’ve no doubt it still is. It’s like the capital that embraces the Spanish coast, the North African coast, the whole Mediterranean coast. It’s basically a country all its own until a few miles inland.”
From the Rolling Stones – All the Songs, The Story Behind Every Track book:
What if “Rocks Off” were a song about physical and moral decline? The main character certainly seems close to sinking into the void. He wants to shout, but can hardly speak, and it is only when he dreams or sleeps that he manages to get his rocks off—by which is probably meant “satisfies his sexual desire.” A character who seems to have stepped out of a novel by Henry Miller seasoned with a dash of rock ’n’ roll. A connection readily suggests itself between the lyrics of “Rocks Off” and Keith Richards’s heroin addiction. I’m zipping through the days at lightning speed; Heading for the overload, splattered on the dirty road… this bears an uncanny resemblance to a heroin fix.
Furthermore the words feel so hypnotized, can’t describe the scene could be the very Jaggeresque description of a disordering of the senses of the kind beloved by Rimbaud. As they had got into the habit of doing with Aftermath, the Rolling Stones open Exile on Main St. with a song that sets the scene perfectly. The
introductory riff alone announces that the listener is going to be treated to another of those jamborees to which the Glimmer Twins alone hold the secret. The electric guitars sound the charge, and the piano-bass-drums rhythm section responds with a similar urgency. A new element is also present here: the important role given to the saxophone of Bobby Keys and the trumpet of Jim Price. (Ref. rocks off)
Categories: Can You Hear the Music?