The Rolling Stones’ iconic disco-infused hit ‘Miss You’ dropped on May 10th, 1978, as part of the group’s 16th studio album, Some Girls. Following its release, the track quickly bedded down in the Billboard Hot 100, where it eventually clambered to number one. Much of the success of ‘Miss You’ – in America but also in Europe and the UK – was down to its endorsement by the world of disco, with a new dance culture offering a hedonistic alternative to the day’s antagonistic rock and punk clubs.
In a way, ‘Miss You’ is something of a Trojan horse; one which The Rolling Stones used to tap into a new audience. “We’d always just adapt with what music was in the air,” Ronnie Wood explained in a 2011 interview, with Charlie Watts adding: “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.”
That floor-ready sound is largely due to the track’s intoxicating bassline. “The idea for those bass lines came from Billy Preston,” bassist Bill Bywan once noted. “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.”
Adding: “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.”
But, while the musical flavour of ‘Miss You’ is clearly rooted in disco, the song’s lyrical content is much more open to interpretation. Many have suggested that the lyrics were inspired by Mick Jagger’s failing marriage, but the frontman always maintained that the song was designed to evoke a generalised feeling of longing rather than a specific relationship. Then again, I suppose if you were having an affair – as Jagger was at the time – you wouldn’t be too eager to share the details of your infidelity. Either way, ‘Miss You’ still stands up as one of the best evocations of desire in the Rolling Stones canon.