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Rolling Stones songs: Tops
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Don’t need no casting couch/ Or be a star in bed/ Never, never, never let success go to you pretty head…
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: Dynamic Sounds Studios, Kingston, Jamaica, Nov. 25-Dec. 21 1972; Village Recorders, Los Angeles, USA, Jan.13-15 1973; EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Jan. 5-March 2 1978; June 10-Oct. 19 1979
Guest musicians: Nicky Hopkins (piano)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
The lyrics of “Tops” sound like a satire of the words a manager might address to a young female singer or actress whose career he wants to take in hand. In essence: I will take you to success, to the very top; I will make you a star. There’s no need for acting school or the casting couch… These words come across all the more convincingly as they are delivered by Mick
Jagger, who was extremely well versed in the cutthroat world of show business.
“Tops” is an extremely well-constructed, soulful rock ballad with touches of Motown, above all in Mick Jagger’s highly successful combination of falsetto with a deeper, richer voice. He gives an excellent performance that endows the track with a somewhat unexpected depth. The initial takes date from autumn 1972 and Dynamic Sounds Studios in Kingston, when Mick
Taylor was still a full member of the Rolling Stones. Although various sources fail to credit him, it seems highly unlikely that his guitar part would have been wiped when the song was reworked for Tattoo You. His very lyrical style, with the left-hand vibrato that neither Keith nor Ronnie possessed, can be identified in the subtle voicing of his chords and above all in the solo at around 2:57, toward the end of the track. Mick Taylor is a musician who contributed a huge amount to the group, and his departure is definitely a cause for regret. Similarly, although he is not credited, Nicky Hopkins, who possessed a distinctive, highly lyrical touch not unlike Taylor’s, is almost certainly on the piano. As for the rhythm section, it has to be said that Bill and Charlie are a major asset for the Stones, each of the two developing a groove in his own unique way. Keith delivers a good
rhythm guitar part, always on the lookout for the ultimate riff, even in this kind of ballad. Finally, maracas can also be heard, most probably played by Jagger. After Kingston, the band reworked “Tops” in France in 1979, and then in 1981, when Mick was given the task of redoing all the vocals himself, before final mixing by Bob Clearmountain in New York. “Tops” is one of the best things on Tattoo You, and despite predating it by more than nine years, the song blends perfectly with the overall color and feel of the album.
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Categories: Can You Hear the Music?