‘Angie’ sits proudly as one of the most stirring tracks in the entirety of The Rolling Stones’ discography. Taken from their 1973 record Goats Head Soup, the ballad showed that their soft side also soars. Despite being a rare acoustic oddity in their back catalogue, there is so much heft to the track that it almost seems like a symphony is at play. That illusion would become a reality when Mick Jagger joined the London Symphony Orchestra for a rare rendition of the track.
While rumours that the song was about David Bowie’s then-wife Angie have always lingered, Jagger himself says that isn’t the case at all. “People began to say that song was written about David Bowie’s wife but the truth is that Keith wrote the title,” Jagger explains. “He said, ‘Angie,’ and I think it was to do with his daughter. She’s called Angela. And then I just wrote the rest of it.”
This is a story that Richards has also verified in his own autobiography, Life: “While I was in the [Vevey drug] clinic (in March-April 1972), Anita was down the road having our daughter, Angela. Once I came out of the usual trauma, I had a guitar with me and I wrote ‘Angie’ in an afternoon, sitting in bed because I could finally move my fingers and put them in the right place again, and I didn’t feel like I had to s–t the bed or climb the walls or feel manic anymore,” he writes.
Later adding: “I just went, ‘Angie, Angie.’ It was not about any particular person; it was a name, like ohhh, Diana. I didn’t know Angela was going to be called Angela when I wrote ‘Angie.’ In those days you didn’t know what sex the thing was going to be until it popped out.”
However, as Richards told Uncut Magazine, the song inspired by the name of his daughter could’ve almost been very different. Angela had been born in a Catholic hospital and as such her name was chosen by the nuns who helped to deliver her. “I’m glad she was called Angela,” Richards mused, “Because Anita had adorned her with all these really weird names like Dandelion, which Angela quickly got rid of as soon as she grew up.” Adding: “So she’s Angie now, strangely enough.”
While that trauma and catharsis are channelled into Richards unique guitar tone on the track, the same feeling proves equally flooring when amplified up to the might of the London Symphony Orchestra. The track is taken from the 1994 record The Symphonic Music of the Rolling Stones. The album saw the likes of Michael Hutchence provide vocals on ‘As Tears Go By’ and Marianne Faithful take to the stage to sing ‘Ruby Tuesday’. Perhaps the crowning achievement, however, saw Mick Jagger and Gilbert Bilberian tackle ‘Angie’.
This grandiose version proves very befitting of the emotion poured into the song. With an arrangement very reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone score, lines like “With no loving in our souls, and no money in our coats, you can’t say we’re satisfied,” are given a cinematic undertone. There is a melodrama to the original song and while an Orchestra could’ve possibly turned the whole thing a little kitsch, it ends up as a fitting homily to everything that spawned it in the first place. It might be a little too teary for some tastes, but it is undoubtedly a force to behold.