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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Album Spotlight - "Tattoo You" by The Rolling Stones

Today's album spotlight in the Sunday Jukebox is an interesting one of sorts.  It's interesting because this is an album that was not recorded in a studio.

Instead, it's an album that was comprised of leftover recordings that spanned an entire decade.  They were songs that were from recording sessions of the past, re-recorded and edited into a full length album.

And that album was released 34 years ago this week in 1981.

It was this band's eighteenth release overall, but in their native UK, it was only their sixteenth.  And the reason for the unique way that the album was put together was due to time constraints.  The band was about to embark on a tour that would last through the last half of 1981 and the first half of 1982.  Ideally, they wanted to record a new album to help promote the tour, but there simply wasn't enough time.

So, that's how The Rolling Stones ended up releasing their album "Tattoo You", released on August 24, 1981.

According to the album's associate producer, Chris Kimsey, there was another reason why "Tattoo You" was created that had nothing to do with the band's touring schedule.  He claims that the record was made during a time in which Mick Jagger and Keith Richards weren't exactly getting along with each other.  And that made the idea of recording in a studio seem like not the best idea in the world.

Kimsey took it upon himself to look through the band's vaults, and went through some of the recordings and live performances that the band had made over the previous decade, and realized that he had stumbled upon a real treasure trove of songs that had the potential to become huge hits.

And after the group did a little bit of remastering the songs, as well as adding vocals to instrumental tracks, they had an album of eleven songs that were a mixture of old and new.  Some of the oldest songs came from a 1972 recording session for the band's 1973 album "Goats Head Soup", while others were recorded during the "Some Girls" sessions - the band's 1978 album. 

The end result was an album that did phenomenally well on both the album charts and the singles charts.  In the United States alone, it sold four million copies, and reached the top of the Billboard 200.  Unfortunately, it would be the last time that the Rolling Stones would reach the top of the album charts in the United States, but certainly not the last time that the band would perform.  I mean, let's face it.  The Rolling Stones have been around for over fifty years now.  They'll continue as long as Mick and Keith are still alive!

So, today I'm only going to focus on the three singles that were released from the album that became huge hits.  And to begin, we will start with the biggest hit from the album.

Released:  August 14, 1981
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #2

Okay, where haven't we heard this song?  It's played at wedding receptions, birthday parties, music during halftime at hockey games, and Bill Gates even paid the band a nice chunk of change to use the song to promote Windows 95 back in the day!

It's also a song that hit #2 in the United States, #1 in Australia, and #7 in the UK!

Now, believe it or not, this song didn't start off as a rock and roll anthem.  It was intended to sound more like a reggae song, and it was originally entitled "Never Stop".  It was recorded during the same time as the 1978 "Some Girls" sessions, and it was one of those songs in which no matter what the band did, they weren't happy with it, so they shelved the song and forgot about for three whole years.  It wasn't until Kimsey unearthed the song and talked the band into putting it on an album that it took on new life.

And, yes, the music video rocked, as simplistic as it was.

Released:  November 30, 1981
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #13

Now, this song took a lot longer than "Start Me Up" to be featured on a Rolling Stones album.  Would you believe that this song was first toyed around with back in 1972?  That's almost a ten year gap!

Now, what makes this song interesting is who plays the guitar in this single.  At the time, Mick Taylor was a member of the Rolling Stones, and he performed the guitar in this song.  By 1974, Taylor had left the band and was essentially replaced with Ronnie Wood, who had worked with the band before. 

The problem was when the decision to include this song on the "Tattoo You" album was made, the band never credited the original guitarist for the work he did on "Waiting On A Friend", a decision that didn't make Taylor all that pleased - at least until he was given a share of the royalties the album made.

Although, given that the song is all about friendship and goodwill, and that the song was something that boasted a different sound than previous Rolling Stones records released in the past, I suppose that giving Taylor the credit he deserved was only fair.

Released:  April 1982
Peak Position on the Billboard Charts:  #20

I imagine a lot of you reading this note and hearing this song probably can't remember ever hearing it.  You aren't alone.  I had no idea that this song was a hit either, mainly because they rarely - if ever - play the song on any radio stations in this area.

Of course, I suppose this could have to do with the theme of the song, which was all about the bleakness of British society circa the late 1970s/early 1980s.  I guess that would make it hard for Canadians and Americans to identify with it.  Ironically, this song didn't even chart in the United Kingdom!

Oh, and some trivia about the title "Hang Fire"?  It's a phrase that basically means apathy.  Stand back and do nothing.  Delay.  Hesitate. 

Hmmm...I think I can relate to this song.

But what makes this song stand out is the fact that its B-side - "Neighbours" - was also promoted at the time, complete with a controversial music video that was heavily censored before being allowed to air on MTV.  As a treat to conclude this look back on "Tattoo You", I have the video for you to watch.


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