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Rolling Stones songs: Dancing with Mr. D (instrumental version)
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Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Dynamic Sounds Studios Kingston Jamaica, Nov. 25-Dec. 21 1972; Village Recorders, Los Angeles, USA, Jan. 13-15 1973; Island Recording Studios, London, England, June 1973
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano)
A common point of confusion is whether the title “Mr. D” refers to the devil or death. The case is strong for death, judging by the lyrics: “Down in the graveyard,” “one of these days he’s gonna set you free,” “skulls,” “the flesh just fall off her bones,” plus many speculations on how to die – by poison, snakebite, “the sting of a spider,” or being shot with a .44. There’s very little of the demonic going on here (only one line, “fire and brimstone”), very much of romanticizing the end we all eventually face.
This was the last track producer Jimmy Miller worked on for The Stones.
The lyrics will remind Harlan Ellison fans of Ellison’s short essay The Day I Died, first published in a 1973 issue of the Los Angeles Free Press and later published in Ellison’s Stalking the Nightmare anthology. In it, Ellison idly speculates on a number of scenarios in which he dies, trying to predict the future. He’s since lived long enough to prove most of them wrong. Read about it here, fantasy fans.
That’s Billy Preston on clavinet, a type of keyboard. You might remember him as the title role in the film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – that is, if you could stand to sit through such a train wreck. Preston jammed with the Beatles, most famously on Get Back.
This song is typical of the whole Stones album Goat’s Head Soup, having a darker tone than most Stones work. The album was recorded in Jamaica, and Keith Richards commented on the ethnic mix of studio hands they had coming in, not just Jamaicans but Chinese and Guyanans as well. It made him appreciate the cultural diversity of the island country.
The Stones played this on their 1973 Goats Head Soup tour, but banished it to the setlist underworld until 2017, when they brought it back for their No Filter tour, starting on September 9 with their show in Hamburg, Germany.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
Goats Head Soup begins with a dance macabre. Lord, keep your hand off me/I’m dancin’ with Mr. D. Might this D stand for the devil, whom the Stones singer is so fond of invoking in his songs? And as it is only a short step from the devil to death, Mr. D. could equally be a symbol of the grim reaper, hence the lugubrious atmosphere, the cemetery in which the air is
simultaneously sweet and sick. Hence, too, the lady in black, wearing black silk gloves and a black silk hat. Whoever Mr. D. may be, the character in the song is approaching his final encounter with him, and lists various ways in which he might meet his end: poison put in my glass, the bite of a snake, a drink of Belladonna on a Toussaint night, the settling of scores on a corner in New York City, a forty-four in West Virginia. “Dancing with Mr. D.” was chosen as the flip side of the single “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker),” released in December 1973. dancing with mr. d instrumental
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