Released in 1978, The Rolling Stones’ brilliant song ‘Beast of Burden’ has become a mainstay of their live act and has thrilled literally millions of people. But we’d wager the Some Girls track’s best showing came in Amsterdam nearly 20 years after they’d written it.
It’s a curious performance because rather than The Rolling Stones’ searing electrified rendition, the effort is a slowed down and stripped back interpretation of the track. It sets the iconic Paradiso Club alight and harkens back to Keith Richards and Mick Jagger’s unbelievable songwriting chops.
Now, it’s true that the Stones were still a massive selling act in 1978. They were far from out of the spotlight. But a decade of drink and drugs had taken its toll and with punk on the rise, suddenly The Rolling Stones were a bit passe.
The Rolling Stones had the air of a band who could quite easily fade away when the server of punk began to sweep the globe. The genre’s energy and disgust for anything from the past meant the Stones had a lot of keeping up to do. After Black and Blue and It’s Only Rock and Roll both relatively flopped, the word on the street was the Stones were old news.
Mick Jagger, speaking with Rolling Stone, put the band’s creative lull down to one thing: “Everyone was using drugs, Keith [Richards] particularly,” said the frontman in 1995. “So I think it suffered a bit from all that. General malaise. I think we got a bit carried away with our own popularity and so on. It was a bit of a holiday period. I mean, we cared, but we didn’t care as much as we had. Not really concentrating on the creative process.” For the new record, they would have to get their head in the game.
Jagger found room to think when he began spending a lot of his free time in New York. “The inspiration for [Some Girls] was really based in New York and the ways of the town,” he said. “I think that gave it an extra spur and hardness. And then, of course, there was the punk thing that had started in 1976. Punk and disco were going on at the same time, so it was quite an interesting period.”
The album’s lead single ‘Miss You’ would find constant airplay on the radio but it was their searing song ‘Beast of Burden’ which has become a cherished piece of their iconography.
Jagger says: “Lyrically, this wasn’t particularly heartfelt in a personal way. It’s a soul begging song, an attitude song. It was one of those where you get one melodic lick, break it down and work it up; there are two parts here which are basically the same.”
Here in this stripped-back performance, Jagger and Co. deliver quite possibly the definitive performance of the track as they take to the iconic stage of Amsterdam’s Paradiso Club back in 1995. Helped in no small part by the comparative size of the venue, to put it into context; the month before the band had easily filled a 50,000 seater but now were playing to 1,750, the Stones deliver an utterly captivating rendition of the track.
Revisit this spellbinding performance, below.