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(Credit: Bent Rej)


The Rolling Stones perform 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' back in 1972

No other artist can seduce an audience quite like The Rolling Stones’ charismatic frontman Mick Jagger. His ability to captivate was established early on, even when he was sporting preppy button-ups and blazers. But it really reached its prime during his glam rock days of revealing rhinestone jumpsuits and sequined makeup, which became a staple on their 1972 ‘Exile on Main Street’ tour.

In the rare footage below, Jagger showcases his charisma while performing the smash hit, ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want.’ It does enough to enrich your eyes and ears with a charming and captivating rendition of a classic.

The song was recorded in November of 1968 at London’s Olympic Sound Studios and featured the London Bach Choir in the opening (which is only on the album version). Jagger later reflected on the recording process, “’You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ was something I just played on the acoustic guitar—one of those bedroom songs. It proved to be quite difficult to record because Charlie couldn’t play the groove, and so Jimmy Miller had to play the drums.

“I’d also had this idea of having a choir,” the singer continued, “probably a gospel choir, on the track, but there wasn’t one around at that point. Jack Nitzsche, or somebody, said that we could get the London Bach Choir and we said, ‘That will be a laugh.’”

‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ has always been connected to sadness. The song was included on the Stones’ 1969 album Let It Bleed, released one day after the free concert at Altamont Speedway, an event that left four dead and many injured. But the single was independently released on July 3, 1969, the day that Rolling Stones founding member Brian Jones passed away. With its slowed-down tempo and unfortunate timing, the song perfectly captured the end of an era feel circulating the band and the rest of the swinging sixties scene.  

Throughout the years, there have been many speculations explored regarding the song’s actual meaning, a big one being from Marianne Faithful, who was Jagger’s girlfriend at the time, claiming that her drug use was the inspiration. Faithfull shared, “Obviously I also contributed to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and ‘Dear Doctor’ – junk songs … I know they used me as a muse for those tough drug songs. I knew I was being used, but it was for a worthy cause.” But in terms of the larger themes, Jagger later admitted, “It’s a good song, even if I say so myself. It’s got a very sing-along chorus, and people can identify with it: No one gets what they always want.”

After the Stones played the song on the 1969 Rolling Stones ‘Rock N’ Roll Circus,’ it became a staple in their live show because of its growing popularity and the sing-along chorus. It was especially consistent on their 1972 ‘Exile on Main Street’ American tour, where the Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones concert film was shot over four days in Texas but has remained mostly unseen since.

In the rare clip below from that footage, Jagger parades seductively around the stage during Mick Taylor’s guitar solo and shows the band in their absolute prime.

Watch the 1972 performance footage of the iconic song, below.