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The Story Behind the Song: How The Rolling Stones attempted disco on 'Miss You'

Considered a staple in the disco discography of the 1970s, the Rolling Stones’ ‘Miss You’ is one of the band’s most renowned records to date. Released in 1978 as part of their 16th American studio album, Some Girls, the song was born out of the disco craze’s height, which frontman Mick Jagger and his wife Bianca regularly frequented, especially New York’s infamous nightclub, Studio 54.

While the song shone among the band’s rocking tunes, it was a track that also showed off the wide variety of influences that went into The Rolling Stones. While the song was flecked with disco charm, it was a potentially lethal combination for the group.

Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts revealed about the tune: “A lot of those songs like ‘Miss You’ were heavily influenced by going to the discos. You can hear it in a lot of those four-on-the-floor rhythms and the Philadelphia-style drumming. Mick and I used to go to discos a lot… It was a great period. I remember being in Munich and coming back from a club with Mick singing one of the Village People songs – ‘Y.M.C.A.’, I think it was— and Keith went mad, but it sounded great on the dance floor.”

The basic track came about on their 1976 European tour with the help of legendary session keyboardist Billy Preston, who was on the road with the band. Bassist Bill Wyman said, “The idea for those bass lines came from Billy Preston. We’d cut a rough demo a year or so earlier after a recording session. I’d already gone home, and Billy picked up my old bass when they started running through that song.”

When Billy Preston is in the studio, magic will always happen, and Wyman confirmed the inevitable: “He started doing that bit because it seemed to be the style of his left hand. So when we finally came to do the tune, the boys said, Why don’t you work around Billy’s idea? So I listened to it once and heard that basic run and took it from there. It took some changing and polishing, but the basic idea was Billy’s.”

The song was eventually recorded in the autumn of 1977 at Paris’ iconic studio, Pathé-Marconi studios. Co-written by Keith Richards, the lyrics were reportedly inspired by Jagger’s wife Bianca, although the pair were separated and on the brink of divorce due to infidelity on Jagger’s part with model Jerry Hall.

Jagger later challenged this rumour by stating, “‘Miss You’ is an emotion, it’s not really about a girl. To me, the feeling of longing is what the song is.” It’s a classic diversion tactic often employed by Jagger, but we’ll take him at his word.

The narrative has been contradicted by the members on several occasions (a normal occurrence within the band). And despite Richards’ general distaste for disco at the time, he revealed in an interview that, “‘Miss You’ was a damn good disco record; it was calculated to be one.” But this seeming move into conformity for the band created a backlash within their fanatic fanbase, who accused the band of selling out. Pushing your fans to the edge was not something the group had become accustomed to.

Regardless of their feeling towards the song, it proved to be a lucrative venture when the record peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the UK Singles Chart. 

Wood later revealed in an interview, “We’d always just adapt with what music was in the air.” Proving themselves to be chameleons in their craft, The Stones’ masterful ability to take a fad and elevate it to fit their bluesy roots and Jagger’s twangy vocals, especially in ‘Miss You,’ is unquestionably a testament to the band’s longevity. 

Watch The Rolling Stones’ official promo video for ‘Miss You’ below.

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