Rolling Stones songs: Tumbling Dice
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
This low down bitchin’ got my poor feet a itchin’/ Don’t you know you know the deuce is still wild…
Also known as: GOOD TIME WOMEN
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 (sax), Jim Price (trumpet), Clydie King and Vanetta Fields (backing vocals)
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
This was originally titled “Good Time Women,” with different lyrics. Mick Jagger told the story of the song to The Sun newspaper May 21, 2010: “It started out with a great riff from Keith and we had it down as a completed song called Good Time Women. That take is one of the bonus tracks on the new Exile package; it was quite fast and sounded great but I wasn’t happy with the lyrics. Later, I got the title in my head, ‘call me the tumbling dice’ so I had the theme for it. I didn’t know anything about dice playing but I knew lots of jargon used by dice players. I’d heard gamblers in casinos shouting it out. I asked my housekeeper if she played dice. She did and she told me these terms. That was the inspiration.”
The Stones recorded this in the musty basement of the Villa Nellcote, a place Keith Richards rented in France so the band could avoid paying taxes in England. They would sleep all day and record at night with whoever showed up. For this track, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards played guitar, and Mick Taylor, ordinarily lead guitarist, played bass.
Jagger played guitar on this, something he rarely did.
This was the only track from Exile to chart in the Top 20 of the singles chart. Jagger told The Sun: “It’s obviously the most accessible and commercial song on the record. After ‘Tumbling Dice,’ I remember there wasn’t really a follow-up single. People said, ‘So, what are you going to release now then?'”
Jagger: “It’s like a good guitar-hook tune. It’s a bit like Honky Tonk Women in a way, in the way it’s set up. But it was done for Exile. It’s got a lot more background vocals on it. A very messy mix. But that was the fashion in those days.
This features Bobby Keys on sax and Jim Price on trumpet. They showed up in France to help with the album, and played with The Stones through the early ’70s. Keith Richards and Bobby Keys were born on the same day: December 18, 1943.
Background vocalists include Vanetta Fields and Clydie King.
Linda Ronstadt covered this in 1977. Ronstadt’s career during the 1970s was based largely on her successful covers of other artists’ songs.
Exile on Main St. was a double album, and the victim of poor sales and harsh criticism when it was released. Over the years, it has become more appreciated and is considered some of The Stones’ best work.
Andy Johns, who engineered the Exile sessions, told Goldmine in 2010: “Obviously it was going to be great but it was a big struggle. Eventually we get a take. Hooray! I thought, ‘Let’s kick this up a notch and double track Charlie.’ ‘Oh, we’ve never done that before.’ ‘Well, it doesn’t mean we can’t do it now.’ So we double-tracked Charlie but he couldn’t play the ending. For some reason he got a mental block about the ending. So Jimmy Miller plays from the breakdown on out that was very easy to punch in. It was a little bit different than some of the others. That song we did more takes than anything else.”
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
“Tumbling Dice” started life as a Mick Jagger song titled “Good Time
Women.” This earlier version deals with the paying relationship between a
woman from the red-light district and her client, to whom she ends up
saying: And you know you gonna die with your wife, a kind of “Honky Tonk
Women” revisited… Keith then reworked this initial version and Mick
provided new words. Keith Richards: “Tumbling Dice may have had
something to do with the gambling den that Nellcôte turned into—there
were card games and roulette wheels. Monte Carlo was around the corner.”
And the Stones guitarist continues: “You might have all of the music, a
great riff, but sometimes the subject matter is missing. It only takes one guy
sitting around a room, saying, ‘throwing craps last night…’ for a song to be
Mick Jagger, for his part, has said that tumbling dice was an expression
used by dice players and also his housekeeper, who was a player too. The
lyrics of this second version are, in any case, very different from those of
“Good Time Women.” The main character is an inveterate charmer and
frequenter of casinos. Women find him attractive and take advantage of him
—to such an extent that he calls them low-down gamblers. They have
turned him into a sex beast and above all a tumblin’ dice—in other words a
lover whom they topple onto the bed at will.
“Tumbling Dice” was released as a single (with “Sweet Black Angel” as
the flip side) on April 21, 1972 in the United Kingdom, a month before
Exile on Main St. went on sale. It got to number 5 there on May 13, 1972,
number 7 in the United States, and only number 17 in West Germany. As
for France, that’s another matter…
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