Can You Hear the Music?
ROLLING STONES SONGS: ‘UNDERCOVER OF THE NIGHT’ (1983)
Rolling Stones songs: Undercover of the Night *Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT Down in the bars the girls are painted blue/ Done up in lace, done up in rubber…
Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Jan. 31-Feb. 15 1983; Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas, May 1983; The Hit Factory, NYC, USA, June-July 1983 Guest musicians: Chuck Leavell (organ), Robbie Shakespeare (bass), Moustapha Cisse, Brahms Coundoul, Martin Ditcham and Sly Dunbar (percussion) *Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
From Songfacts: This song is about political corruption in Central America. The US was supporting Nicaraguan rebels (Contras) amid great controversy. It’s a rare political song by The Stones. A lot of production went into the track. There is a great deal of echo and phasing on the drums and guitars. Mick Jagger wrote almost all of this. He said of the song: “I’m not saying I nicked it, but this song was heavily influenced by William Burroughs’ Cities Of The Red Night, a free-wheeling novel about political and sexual repression. It combines a number of different references to what was going down in Argentina and Chile. I think it’s really good but it wasn’t particularly successful at the time because songs that deal overtly with politics never are that successful, for some reason.” Chuck Leavell, formerly of the Allman Brothers Band, played keyboards. He worked with The Stones throughout the ’80s. The video portrayed Mick Jagger as a rebel who is shot by Central American forces. This was a huge departure for the Rolling Stones, whose videos to that point consisted of performance footage with heavy preening by Jagger. It was directed by Julien Temple, who had done the Sex Pistols documentary The Great Rock And Roll Swindle. He revealed in I Want My MTV by Craig Marks: “I wrote the treatment for ‘Undercover of the Night” as a way of not doing the video. I was a punk rocker, and the Stones were regarded as jet-set traitors to the cause. The song was about the death squads then operating in Central America, and I wrote an extreme treatment about being in the middle of an urban revolution, and dramatized the notion of Keith and Mick really not liking each other by having Keith kill Mick in the video. I never thought they would do it. Of course they loved it. The video aired on MTV, but was turned down by some other outlets because of its violence. This was the first single from Undercover. From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book: Mick Jagger wrote most of “Undercover of the Night” in Paris in early 1983, at the beginning of the recording sessions for Undercover. The singer acknowledges that part of his inspiration came from Cities of the Red Night by William S. Burroughs, a freewheeling novel about politics and sexual repression in which the cult writer of the Beat Generation muddles time frames, characters, and places, and asserts that the only way to achieve real liberation is through sex and drugs. In his song, Jagger intersperses references to what was happening at the time in Argentina and Chile, where the military juntas were in power, creating a sinister, realistic depiction of South America. The opposition’s tongue is cut in two; one hundred. He then turns the thousand disparus lost in the jails of South America spotlight on the military, whether US, Cuban, or Russian, who, after nightfall, take advantage of the girls painted blue in the bars, an army rabble attracted by the smell of sex, the smell of suicide… Jagger appraises his song in the Jump Back booklet: “I think it’s really good but it wasn’t particularly successful at the time because songs that deal overtly with politics never are that successful, for some reason.” “Undercover of the Night” (with “All the Way Down” as the B-side) was released as a single on November 1, 1983. Nineteen days later it peaked at number 11 on the British charts, and on December 24 at number 9 on the Billboard chart.
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