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Credit: Bert Voerhoff


Watch The Rolling Stones play 'Loving Cup' in 1972


The early 1970s was myth-making time for The Rolling Stones. Having established themselves as the world’s most dangerous rock band throughout the ‘60s, the Stones were out to prove that they could live up to that moniker with 1972’s Exile on Main St., 18 songs of lascivious sex, rampant hedonism, and heroin-soaked blues.

Featuring a killer piano performance from session player Nicky Hopkins, ‘Loving Cup’ is a rare moment of beauty in between the darker corners of the album. With self-deprecating lyrics and a palpable desperation, ‘Loving Cup’ doesn’t look for answers in drugs or violence or even nice French villas. Instead, Mick Jagger looks to “push and pull with you all night” and “spill the beans with you ‘til dawn”, using the kind of sexual imagery that only makes sense coming from him.

Right behind him is Keith Richards, belting out some of the most impassioned backing vocals in the entire Stones catalogue. Thanks to the country-rock arrangement, ‘Loving Cup’ was a bit of an awkward song for the Stones’ to replicate during their bluesy hard rock live show. So when the band arrived in Montreux in 1972 to film a performance for the legendary programme Beat Club, the band decided to mime most of the playing.

The only live elements to the song are the vocals, which are spit out by Jagger and Richards in their iconic ragged harmony. An additional harmony appears to be coming in from someone offscreen, but it’s not immediately clear whether that’s a session singer or pre-recorded harmony part from the mixing of the album.

What is clear is that no one else is playing, or even making much of an attempt to appear as though they’re playing. Charlie Watts gamely taps out a few rhythms that seem to fit in with the song’s beats, but the second that he’s shown trying to replicate the fills before the song’s chorus, it’s clear that Watts isn’t doing it live. Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman are similarly disinterested in attempting to replicate the song, while Richards’ guitar doesn’t even have a strap on hit, causing him to awkwardly cradle it while he sings at the same time.

But just because it’s not a “live” performance in the traditional sense doesn’t mean that it isn’t a great performance. It all rests on Jagger’s and Richard’s shoulders, but they step up with a wild version of ‘Loving Cup’ that looks effortless and remarkably cool 50 years later.

Check out the 1972 performance of ‘Loving Cup’ down below.