The TATTOO YOU album title was originally planned to be simply named ‘TATTOO’. Mick claims to this day that even he has no clue how the “You” became later attached to the title. This caused some friction between Mick and Keith, with Richards suspecting that Jagger had changed the title without seeking his input.
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Tattoo You is the 16th British and 18th American studio album by the English rock band the Rolling Stones, released on 24 August 1981 by Rolling Stones Records. The album is mostly composed of studio outtakes recorded during the 1970s, and contains one of the band’s most well-known songs, “Start Me Up”, which hit number two on the US Billboard singles charts.
A combination of touring obligations and personal feuding between band members made it difficult to arrange dedicated recording sessions for the band’s follow-up to 1980’s Emotional Rescue. As a result, the band’s production team combed through unused recordings from prior sessions, some dating back almost a decade. While a few of the songs were used essentially as-is in their original form, most of these earlier recordings were not complete, consisting of song fragments requiring much work. Studio time was booked throughout 1980 and 1981 and band members came in when available to finish off the tracks.
The credited members of the Rolling Stones for the album were vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarists Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood, bassist Bill Wyman and drummer Charlie Watts, though two tracks feature former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor. Keyboardists Nicky Hopkins, Billy Preston and Ian Stewart also appear on the album.
Like Emotional Rescue before it, Tattoo You was comprised primarily of leftovers, but unlike its predecessor, it never sounds that way. Instead, Tattoo You captures the Stones at their best as a professional stadium-rock band. Divided into a rock & roll side and a ballad side, the album delivers its share of thrills on the tight, dynamic first side. “Start Me Up” became the record’s definitive Stonesy rocker, but the frenzied doo wop of “Hang Fire,” the reggae jam of “Slave,” the sleazy Chuck Berry rockers “Little T&A” and “Neighbours,” and the hard blues of “Black Limousine” are all terrific.
The ballad side suffers in comparison, especially since “Heaven” and “No Use in Crying” are faceless. But “Worried About You” and “Tops” are effortless, excellent ballads, and “Waiting on a Friend,” with its Sonny Rollins sax solo, is an absolute masterpiece, with a moving lyric that captures Jagger in a shockingly reflective and affecting state of mind. “Waiting on a Friend” and the vigorous rock & roll of the first side make Tattoo You an essential latter-day Stones album, ranking just a few notches below Some Girls.
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