Rolling Stones songs: Shine a Light
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
When you’re drunk in the alley, baby, with your clothes all torn/ And your late night friends, they leave you in the cold gray dawn…
Also known as: GET A LINE ON YOU
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, July 23 1970; Rolling Stones Mobile, Nellcote, France, July-Oct.-Nov. 1971; Sunset Sound Studios, Los Angeles, USA, Dec. 1971-March 1972; RCA Studios, Los Angeles, USA, March 1972
Guest musicians: Billy Preston (piano and organ), Clydie King, Joe Green, Vanetta Fields and Jesse Kirkland (backing vocals), Jimmy Miller (drums)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
Mick Jagger originally wrote the lyrics for Stones guitarist Brian Jones in 1968. The original lyrics were about Jones’ drug addiction which was slowly detaching him from the rest of the band, and the song was called “Get A Line On You,” but it was never released. After Jones’ death, Jagger rewrote some of the lyrics and it was released in 1972 as “Shine A Light.”
Venetta Field (incorrectly credited on the album as “Vanetta”) sang backup on this. She is an R&B singer who also worked with B. B. King, Al Kooper, Billy Preston, Joe Cocker, Pink Floyd, and Blondie Chaplin.
Billy Preston played piano and organ on this track. Preston was a frequent guest musician for both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
Shine A Light is the name of the 2008 Martin Scorsese concert film documenting 2 shows The Rolling Stones played in New York shows in 2006. Buddy Guy, Christina Aguilera and Jack White all appear in the film.
In an interview with The Sun newspaper May 21, 2010, Mick Jagger chose this as his favorite Exile song. He explained: “It was quite an early one from Olympic Studios London, with Billy Preston. Once it was finished, we never played it on stage for years and years. Then it became this favorite after we recorded it for the Stripped album. So ‘Shine A Light’ was this funny thing that started off as something you did once at that time and never went back to.”
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
Mick Jagger started to work on this song, which is filled with references to
Brian Jones, at the beginning of 1968, when Jones was still a full-fledged
member of the band. A smile on your face and a tear right in your eye,
Berber jewelry jangling down the street—this figure is Brian. Drunk in the
alley, baby, with your clothes all torn is also Brian. “Shine a Light” is
actually a song about the long decline of the musician who was the soul of
the Stones, a song in which Jagger himself appeals to the powers above for
clemency for his former bandmate: May the Good Lord shine a light on
you/Warm like the evening sun.
This ode to Brian Jones, recorded without Keith Richards and Charlie
Watts, is infused with gospel fervor. “When I was very friendly with Billy
[Preston] in the ’70s I sometimes used to go to church with him in Los
Angeles,” recalls Mick Jagger. “It was an interesting experience because we
don’t have a lot of churches like that in England. I hadn’t had a lot of firsthand experience of it.”
Although credited to usual Stones writers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, “Shine a Light” was largely a Mick Jagger – Leon Russell composition. Jagger began writing the song in early 1968 when the Stones still had guitarist Brian Jones as a member. The song was originally titled “Get a Line on You” and dealt with Jones’s ever-worsening addiction to drugs and his detachment from the rest of the band.
A version of the song, under the title “(Can’t Seem To) Get a Line on You,” was made by Leon Russell at Olympic Studios in October 1969 with assistance from Jagger (lead vocals), Charlie Watts (drums), Leon Russell (piano), and probably also Bill Wyman (bass) and Keith Richards (guitar). The recording was made during the recording sessions for the album Leon Russell (released 1970), where Watts and Wyman contributed drums and bass to some of the tracks. However, the song was shelved until 1993, when it finally surfaced as a bonus track on the 24K gold re-release by DCC Compact Classics (DCC Compact Classics GZS 1049).
After Jones’s death in 1969, the song resurfaced. Following revisions by Jagger, it was recorded again in July 1970 as “Shine a Light”. A third recording at London’s Olympic Sound Studios in December 1971 resulted in the final version of the song released on Exile on Main St.
This final version featured Jagger on vocals, Stones producer Jimmy Miller on drums instead of Watts, and Mick Taylor on electric guitar and bass guitar.
According to Wyman, he played bass on the song and Taylor was erroneously credited with playing bass, having pointed out the error via an advance copy of the album. He also says that he played bass on more tracks than was specified in the album’s credits and that Jagger had gotten the credits wrong. Also performing on the song are back-up singers Clydie King, Joe Greene, Venetta Fields and Jesse Kirkland. Billy Preston performs both piano and organ for the recording and had a distinct influence on Jagger and the song while mixing the album at Los Angeles’ Sunset Sound Studios. Jagger claims visits to Preston’s local church inspired the gospel influences apparent on the final recording while Richards was absent from these sessions. An alternative version without the backing singers and with a different guitar solo by Mick Taylor was released on bootlegs.
After the release of Exile on Main St., Allen Klein sued the Rolling Stones for breach of settlement because “Shine a Light” and four other songs on the album were composed while Jagger and Richards were under contract with his company, ABKCO. ABKCO acquired publishing rights to the songs, giving it a share of the royalties from Exile on Main St., and was able to publish another album of previously released Rolling Stones songs, More Hot Rocks (Big Hits & Fazed Cookies)
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