Rolling Stones unreleased: Undercover (Of the Night), alternate take
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Written by: Jagger/Richards
Recorded: Jan. 31-Feb. 15, EMI Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France; May 1983, Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas; June-July 1983, The Hit Factory, NYC, USA
Guest musicians: Moustapha Cisse, Brahms Coundoul, Martin Ditcham, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Chuck Leavell
The song was largely a Mick Jagger composition, with guitarist Keith Richards going as far as saying, “Mick had this one all mapped out, I just played on it”. Jagger later said that the 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.” The song was likely written in Paris in late 1982, where recording began on the album.
In 2003, guitarist Ronnie Wood described the fractious writing as “just me, Mick and Charlie… We took it up into some wonderful adventures with all these different changes… There was a great percussive and acoustic version, which is the kind of song it should be. The final polished, glossed-up version may have been Mick’s vision of the song…”
“Undercover of the Night” is one of the few songs by the Rolling Stones which overtly explore political ideas.
Recording began in early 1983 and was resumed later that summer at New York City’s famed Hit Factory. There are two versions of this song, one unreleased version featuring usual Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman and the released version featuring guest Robbie Shakespeare. The song features Sly Dunbar, Martin Ditcham, Moustapha Cisse and Brahms Coundoul, on various instruments ranging from bongos to timpani. Organ on the piece is performed by Chuck Leavell, who later became the Rolling Stones’ regular pianist.
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