Rolling Stones songs: Stray Cat Blues
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
Oh yeah, you’re a strange stray cat/ Oh yeah, dont’cha scratch like that…
Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: RG Jones Studios, Moden, Surrey, England, March 1-14 1968; Olympic Sound Studios, London, England, May 13-18 1968
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This is a song about sex with minors, and a casual attitude towards sex in general. “It’s no hanging matter, it’s no capital crime” means that there’s nothing really wrong with it – that it’s not worth hanging someone over.
The Rolling Stones used the sound of The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” for this song.
In the lyrics, the girl in the Beggar’s Banquet version is 15 (“I can see that you’re fifteen years old”). However, on their 1969 USA tour and subsequent ones, Mick Jagger reduced the age of the girl to 13. He wanted to test public opinion to the limit.
Rocky Dijon played the congas. The Stones first used him on percussion for their 1967 song “Citadel,” and he also played on “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’?.” Dijon went on to do a lot of work with Taj Mahal.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
Faithful to their bad-boy image, in this song Mick Jagger and Keith
Richards describe an unsavory, cynical world as perceived from their
elevated status as rock stars. The “stray cat” in question is just fifteen years
old but is prepared to do whatever it takes to satisfy the desires of a man
one imagines to be far older than she is. This man—a renowned artist, even,
perhaps, a rock star?—is no fool. He knows who he is dealing with: no
scare-eyed honey but a groupie, a teenage girl who is far from home and
who clearly possesses a number of trump cards. Bet your mama don’t know
you scream like that… scratch like that… bite like that. And concerning the
nature of this surreptitious relationship, the narrator seeks to reassure the
girl by telling her: It’s no capital crime. And, immediately, to spice things
up a bit: You say you got a friend, that she’s wilder than you/Why don’t you
bring her upstairs?
The Stones were not the first musicians to show an interest in teenage
girls. Chuck Berry sings of the charms of sixteen-year-old girls in “Sweet
Little Sixteen,” dating from 1958, as does Sam Cooke in “Only Sixteen”
from 1959. But the London band brings an air of decadence to the subject
that springs directly from real life. Musically, there is a resemblance to the
Velvet Underground, whose first album with Nico was released in March 1967.
Mick Jagger was to acknowledge this himself in an interview with
Nick Kent for the NME: “I’ll tell you exactly what we pinched from [Lou
Reed] too. Y’know ‘Stray Cat Blues’? The whole sound and the way it’s
paced, we pinched from the very first Velvet Underground album. Y’know,
the sound on ‘Heroin.’ Honest to God, we did!”
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