We’re digging into the Far Out Magazine vault to celebrate the fabulous Mick Jagger by revisiting one of his crowning moments—the vocals on The Rolling Stones song ‘Honky Tonk Women’.
There are few frontmen as potent in front of a crowd as Mick Jagger was, is and will likely forever be. But what is often forgotten when it comes to the Stones frontman is that he has some serious lungs on him too. This vocal performance on ‘Honky Tonk Women’ is all the proof you need.
The song is one of the most beloved of The Rolling Stones’ back catalogue and is often thought of as one of their finest efforts. It’s even caught praise from none other than The Purple One, Prince, who covered the track. High praise indeed.
Released as a single only, though a country version of the song ‘Country Honk’ was later included on Let It Bleed, ‘Honky Tonk Women’ was conceived when Richards and Jagger set up shop in Brazil for a while. They were inspired by the inhabitants of the rural and remote areas of the country known as ‘Caipira’ and let Richards guitar do the rest.
Guitarist Keith Richards explains the song: “‘Honky Tonk Women’ started in Brazil. Mick and I, Marianne Faithfull and Anita Pallenberg who was pregnant with my son at the time. Which didn’t stop us going off to the Mato Grasso and living on this ranch. It’s all cowboys. It’s all horses and spurs. And Mick and I were sitting on the porch of this ranch house and I started to play, basically fooling around with an old Hank Williams idea. ‘Cause we really thought we were like real cowboys. Honky tonk women.”
He continued: “We were sitting in the middle of nowhere with all these horses, in a place where if you flush the john all these black frogs would fly out. It was great. The chicks loved it. Anyway, it started out a real country honk put on, a hokey thing. And then couple of months later we were writing songs and recording. And somehow by some metamorphosis it suddenly went into this little swampy, black thing, a Blues thing.”
How did the song morph into an unforgettable foot-stomper? “Really, I can’t give you a credible reason of how it turned around from that to that. Except there’s not really a lot of difference between white country music and black country music. It’s just a matter of nuance and style. I think it has to do with the fact that we were playing a lot around with open tunings at the time. So we were trying songs out just to see if they could be played in open tuning. And that one just sunk in.”
Not exactly blessed with poignant lyrics, “I met a gin soaked bar-room queen in Memphis” is about as down the line as it gets, the track is seen as one of the finest rock numbers ever thanks to Keith Richards’ impeccable guitar work. But without Jagger’s searing vocal performance the song would have still fallen flat.
So, to celebrate the great man’s birthday, we thought we’d kick back and enjoy the isolated vocals of Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Women’ below.