Practical jokes and pithy asides were a crucial element to the early bonding of The Rolling Stones. During their earliest days, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones were all in their late teens when they first started playing blues tunes together. Although they were channelling singers and songwriters with decades of experience, their interactions off the stage were more childish and goofy.
Richards recalled him and Jones frequently referring to straight-laced career men as “Ernies” in the documentary Crossfire Hurricane, while the band’s friendship with The Who’s Keith Moon inevitably led to some wild times. As they neared the end of the 1960s, the Stones decided to incorporate more looseness and silliness into their songs, especially as tumultuous circumstances led to darker material like ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Street Fighting Man’.
On the same album featured the latter song, Beggars Banquet, there were also a number of country and folk-inspired tracks. ‘Jigsaw Puzzle’ was a ramshackle and self-referential goof featuring caricatures of the band members, while ‘No Expectations’ channelled the heartbreaking loneliness of Hank Williams. But according to Jagger, two country-tinged songs were indicative of the Stones’ more playful attitude towards their music.
“The country songs, like ‘Factory Girl’ or ‘Dear Doctor’, on Beggars Banquet were really pastiche,” Jagger claimed in a 2003 interview. “There’s a sense of humour in country music anyway, a way of looking at life in a humorous kind of way – and I think we were just acknowledging that element of the music.”
‘Dear Doctor’ would be the first appearance of Jagger’s exaggerated vocal twang that he would employ judiciously on the band’s more outrageous country numbers like ‘Dead Flowers’ and ‘Far Away Eyes’. At one point, Jagger even jumps an octave to imitate the “bow-legged sow” that he’s scheduled to marry as he finds out she ran off with his cousin Lou.
‘Factory Girl’, meanwhile, recounts the singer’s infatuation with the titular figure whose “knees are much too fat” and has “got stains all down her dress.” Even though the lyrics tend to be rather humorous, Jagger contends that during the Beggars Banquet years, he was playing it straight with his vocals, unlike the band’s later country songs.
“The ‘country’ songs we recorded later, like ‘Dead Flowers’ on Sticky Fingers or ‘Far Away Eyes’ on Some Girls, are slightly different,” Jagger said in the same interview. “The actual music is played completely straight, but it’s me who’s not going legit with the whole thing, because I think I’m a blues singer, not a country singer.”
Check out ‘Dear Doctor’ and ‘Factory Girl’ down below.