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ROLLING STONES SONGS: ‘WHEN THE WHIP COMES DOWN’ (1978)

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Rolling Stones songs: When the Whip Comes Down
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MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT

I’m going down 53rd street/ And they’re spitting in my face…

Written by: Jagger/Richard
Recorded: EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France, Oct. 10-Dec. 1977/Jan. 5-March 2 1978
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012

From Songfacts:
A song about a gay prostitute who works the streets of New York, this is about the closest The Stones came to punk rock. Another song on the album, “Shattered,” also presents the seedy side of New York City.

Written entirely by Mick Jagger, the Stones frontman said: “I don’t know why I wrote it. Maybe I came out of the closet (laughs). It’s about an imaginary person who comes from L.A. to New York and becomes a garbage collector.”

Mick Jagger on the song’s homosexual nature (1978): “There is one song that’s a straight gay song – ‘When the Whip Comes Down’ – but I have no idea why I wrote it. It’s strange – the Rolling Stones have always attracted a lot of men (laughs). That sounds funny, but they’re not all gay. And, of course, I have a lot of gay friends, but I suppose everyone does in New York City, and what’s that have to do with the price of eggs?… I sure hope the radio stations will play ‘When the Whip Comes Down.'”

The song has an interesting title considering what Keith Richards was going through at the time. He had been busted in Canada with enough drugs to face trafficking charges, and was waiting for his sentence. This was a huge distraction while they were making this album, as Richards faced significant jail time and The Stones had to think about what to do without him. After the album was released, Richards got his sentence and was very happy to hear that he would be put on probation and ordered to play a concert for the blind.

A live version recorded in Memphis in 1978 is on the Sucking In The Seventies greatest hits compilation.

From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
After clearing a space for themselves on the dance floor with “Miss You,”
the Stones then make an equally remarkable and unexpected entry into the
world of punk. As often, Keith Richards came up with the riff and Mick
wrote the words. “I looked around and said, shit, he’s finally written a rock
’n’ roll song. By himself!
In the lyrics to “When the Whip Comes Down,” Jagger tells the story of a boy,
a homosexual, who leaves Los Angeles for New York, where the implication
is that he sells his body. “Well, there is one song that’s a straight gay song—
‘When the Whip Comes Down,’” Mick would tell Jonathan Cott some time later,
“but I have no idea why I wrote it. It’s strange—the Rolling Stones have always
attracted a lot of men (laughing)

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