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Under My Thumb

by

The Rolling Stones



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

Mick Jagger was going out with a model named Chrissie Shrimpton at the time. She helped inspire the song.
The unusual percussion is Brian Jones playing the marimbas. The various instruments he played resulted in many innovative sounds for the Stones.
Keith Richards (1994): "Brian was still fantastic making records, because he was so versatile. I mean, he'd have marimbas - which is why you have marimbas on Under My Thumb - or dulcimer, sitar. He kind of lost interest in guitar, in a way. But at the same time he added all of that other color, those other instruments and other ideas. He was an incredibly inventive musician." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Some feminist groups opposed this because of the lyrics about dominating a woman. One of the lyrics that upset them the most is the line, "The way she talks when she's spoken to down to me."
Mick Jagger (1984): "The whole idea was that I was under HER, she was kicking ME around. So the whole idea is absurd, all I did was turn the tables around. So women took that to be against femininity where in reality it was trying to 'get back' against being a repressed male."
This was the song The Stones were playing when a fan named Meridith Hunter was stabbed to death by members of The Hell's Angels at the Altamont Speedway concert in 1969. The Hell's Angels were a motorcycle gang hired for security at the show. Big mistake.
The Who recorded this in 1967 as a show of support when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were being held in England on drug charges. After police raided Richards' home in Sussex, he and Jagger were charged with drug possession when they found some marijuana and amphetamines. Jagger and Richards were found guilty and each spent a night in jail before they were released on bail. The raid was done mostly for publicity and backfired on British lawmakers when it became clear the police staged a massive raid to uncover a small amount of drugs. Charges against Richards were dropped and Jagger's sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge.
This features Ian Stewart on piano. Stewart played on a lot of tracks by both Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones Artistfacts
More The Rolling Stones songs
More songs that were criticized by women's groups

Comments (35):

I personally like Del Shannon's Cover version better. He sings much better than Mick.
- Charlie, Binghamton, NY
I think it's kind of deliberately over the top. The song's a fantasy, it's not really happening. Like, when someone cuts you off on the road, you fantasize about doing awful things to them, 'cause you're upset. You wouldn't really do it. This guy's getting kicked around by his girlfriend and he's fantasizing about turning the tables and having her obey his every whim.
- Crane42, Cincinnati, OH
Are you kidding me???
This has got to be the most sexist song I've ever heard.
Him flipping the tables I understand. But going as far as to call her his pet, and saying that she's not allowed to look at anyone but. he still is, that's just too much.

You guys keep saying that she treated him that way first? Maybe she wasn't giving him a chance but I seriously doubt she was telling him what to wear and when he can talk.

I've lost all respect for the stones. Worse than any 50 cent song or anything.
- Vera, Boston, MA
Hermino, it's Under My Thumb. Trust us on this.
- paul, boston, MA
This song has the best hand claps and finger snaps, great percussion!
- Bill, Lodi, CA
I loooove the Stones, and even though I think Jagger had quite the ego on him, I still love his lyrics.
- Taylor, Port Lavaca, TX
I am not a huge Stones fan. I also am skeptical when listening to a remake. The version done by Streetheart in my eyes is one of the greatest remakes ever. They actually added something to the song, while most remakes do not. They made it there own. The added synth was of the times. The interlude contains a very tasty lead guitar, an incredible bass presence. This version is made to be played loud. I actually gained a slightly higher appreciation of the stones when I heard this song done by streetheart. To hardcore stones fans, if you havent listened to the streetheart version, you should give it a shot. I am not saying it is better. That is up to you. It is different, and excels in its own right.
- ERL, T.O., ON
very strong song and good music ...extraordinary
- kadir Köz, istanbul, --
This was the song playing when Hunter was stabbed. I just watched "Gimmie Shelter" on Saturday.
- Kyle, Chicago, IL
Sorry, but the song the Stones were playing when MEredith Hunter was killes was "Simpathy For The Devil". Jagger was so very stoned at that concer. Maybe you can watch this on youtube...
- Herminio, Rosario, Argentina
What's wrong with being sexy?
- Nigel Tufnel, Squatney, East London, United Kingdom
I once read (and I wish I could remember more of the details!) that Mick Jagger was inspired to write this song by a poem and said of the poet (whose name I don't recall) "He's a genius, isn't he?" Anyway, the poem had lines like, "Under my thumb is a stamp that won't stay down/Under my bum is a chair that is brown." And apparently such lines inspired Mick to write UNDER MY THUMB.
- Susan, Toronto, Canada
I think the groove in this song sounds like "The Monkey Time" by Major Lance.
- Maxwell, Houston, TX
The Streetheart version is quite good thanks to some amazing bass playing from "Spider" Sinnaeve.
- Paul, Rothesay, New Brunswick , Canada
I agree Rhett, the live version during Gimme Shelter movie is great.
This song was really underrated; it's a great one.
- R, Montreal, QC, Canada
The song is very up-tempo, and I see Mick's point, but at the same time, some of the lyrics do seem to controlling and bossy.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
What obnoxious lyrics. Jagger is a great lyricist, singer, and musician, but his attitudes towards women are just a little antiquarian. The only good thing that came out of this song was when Phil Hartman did a sketch as Frank Sinatra covering it on Saturday Night Live. It was hilarious.
- Bill, Erie, PA
I read a "self help"ish book that mentioned "listening to an uplifting song.. such as under my thumb" an unusually I bought Forty Licks. Was supprised when I heard the lyrics and the song does make me feel joyful, puts a smile on my face! The fact the lyrics are not pc add even more meaning to me, it's a good emotion worker... i was born in 1979 when my mum and dad were well into the Stones and now I am loving them for the first time and wish there were more inspiring contemporary songs, but then having this kinda stuff is moooooore than enough for me.
- Tara, London, England
Love the lyrics
- Lacey, Freeborn, MN
The punk band Social Distortion does a pretty good rendition of it.
- lucas, Rochester, NY
Man were people uptight back then...this song isn't the least bit sexist or anti-woman, it's just a commentary on human nature...when someone didn't treat u right or has some power over you and then the tables turn to where you have something over them...it's just the shift of power has occured...if anything he's admitting she once had power over him

by the way, it happens to women all the time (the flat chested, ugly duckling in high school grows up to look like Pam Anderson and the guy who didn't look her way in high school is suddenly kissing her fanny...it's the same dynamic)

People take everything out of context, you have to listen to stuff within the context of the song
- Charles A, New York, NY
The music's great, but after reading about how it was played while a fan was stabbed, it gave sort of a mournful aura to me when I heard it later.
- Alex, P.D., Malaysia
as a young, fin de millenium feminist, i don't find anything offensive at all about these lyrics. they make me feel sad & wistful...he's obviously been really injured by this realtionship, and he's reacting by exerting control..what woman hasn't done the same thing & made a guy jump to her tune?! i disagree that it's a victory, most of the Aftermath songs meditate on the bitter aftertaste...that's what makes them absolutely moving & relevant 40 yrs later
- Sarah, Baltimoer, MD
This is one of the Stones' best songs, on one of their best albums. They were directly competing with the Beatles and Bob Dylan; nobody else came close to the competition between these three in '65 and '66. The Stones (and Dylan) really meant what their songs said, and the incredible arrangement and musicianship of this song, and others on the album, kept them right alongside the Beatles and Dylan during this period. Needless to say, such a creative crescendo couldn't last, but the Stones, more than the Beatles or Bob Dylan, went on to do even greater work in the late '60's.
- Richard, Bastrop, TX
After a little research, I am not sure which was a bigger mistake: Hiring the Hell's Angels to provide security... Or walking up to the stage and brandishing a gun! Meredith Hunter was the 18 year old man stabbed to death by Hell's Angel Alan Passaro. Passaro lept into action after Hunter pulled out the pistol; he was later acquitted of murder because it was deemed that he had acted in self defense.
- Eric, Cincinnati, OH
The lyrics are amusing -- I guess they could be offensive if you take them too seriously -- but what I love most about the song is the music, especially the bass guitar. Bill Wyman was good!
- Eric, Cincinnati, OH
Legendary punk band Social Distortion included a nice cover of this song as the hidden 12th track on "White Light, White Heat, White Trash".
- Graham, North Bay, Canada
A Canadian band by the name of Streetheart released a cover of this song in 1979. Streetheart's version is longer and quicker, and the lead riff is played on synth instead of on guitar.
- Stephen, Calgary, Canada
If anyone bothered to listen to the lyrics of UMT, they'd see that it is not anti-woman. The villain of the song is definately a woman, but she's just a character, not a representation of all things female. She has had Mick under her thumb. This song is him proclaiming he's turned the tables on her. It is a personal story of a person's pride of a personal victory over a personal tormentor, not a sweeping manifesto to keep women down. Anyone who has been in in a relationship--male or female, straight or gay-- where they are under someone's thumb has fantasized about saying what Mick says in this song.
- craig, madison, WI
I guess no one has seen "Gimme Shelter." The Hell's Angels of England were hired for their free concert there right after Brian Jones died. At Altamont, the Hell's Angels just showed up. The Stones never hired them.
- Lauren, Melrose, MA
At Altamont, the Hell's Angels were hired at the suggestion of members of The Grateful Dead. None of the Dead have ever divulged which of them it was.
- Shell, Riverdale, GA
LOVE the music,HATE the lyrics!
- Janis, Port Arthur, TX
what a great song...
- James, Tacoma, WA
there is a fantastic live version of this song. its much slower than the original
- rhett, Melbourne, Australia
This was my wedding song, three times.
- Jacko, Bedrock, United States
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