Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact
Album: Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass)Released: 1966Charted:
The title describes how Mick Jagger felt during a US tour in 1965. He explained in the Rolling Stones Monthly magazine: "We had just done five weeks hectic work in the States and I said, 'Dunno about you blokes, but I feel about ready for my nineteenth nervous breakdown.' We seized on it at once as a likely song title. Then Keith and I worked on the number at intervals during the rest of the tour. Brian, Charlie and Bill egged us on – especially as they liked having the first two words starting with the same letter."
The lyrics are an attack on spoiled brats who are given everything and are still unhappy. Jagger took pains to explain that the song was not autobiographical. Regarding the lyrical inspiration, he said, "Things that are happening around me - everyday life as I see it. People say I'm always singing about pills and breakdowns, therefore I must be an addict – this is ridiculous. Some people are so narrow-minded they won't admit to themselves that this really does happen to other people besides pop stars."
There are some drug references in this song:
On our first trip I tried so hard to rearrange your mind
But after awhile I realized you were disarranging mine
Many turned on listeners picked up on this, but most didn't, especially since the lines are mixed low into the background. Over the next few years, the Stones drug use became more apparent, and it was reflected in their songs. British authorities took note, leading to a series of arrests and run-ins among band members and their associates.
Mick Jagger: "That's a very Los Angeles period, I remember being in the West Coast a lot then. 19th Nervous Breakdown is a bit of a joke song, really. I mean, the idea that anyone could be offended by it really is funny. But I remember some people were. It's very hard to put yourself back in that period now - popular songs didn't really address anything very much. Bob Dylan was addressing it, but he wasn't thought of as a mainstream Pop act. And anyway, no one knew what he was talking about. Basically his songs were too dense for most people. And so to write about anything other than the normal run-of-the-mill love clichés was considered very outre and it was never touched. Anything outside that would shock people. So songs like "19th Nervous Breakdown" were slightly jarring to people. But I guess they soon got used to it. A couple years after that, things took a sort of turn and then saw an even more dark direction. But those were very innocent days, I think."
Bill Wyman's dipping bass line at the end was inspired by the guitar work of Bo Diddley, in particular "Diddley Daddy."
This was one of three songs The Stones performed on their Ed Sullivan Show appearance in 1966, the first time The Stones were broadcast in color on US television.
Mick Jagger had been dating an English model named Chrissie Shripton when he wrote this song. Theirs was a tumultuous relationship that began in 1963 and ended three years later amid allegation of Mick's philandering (he began seeing Marianne Faithfull). According to Philip Norman's biography of Mick Jagger, Shrimpton overdosed on sleeping pills in December 1966 after Jagger stood her up when they were supposed to go on vacation together. While Jagger didn't write this song about Shrimpton, her overdose drew parallels to the pill-popping character in the song. It was rumored that the line "On our first trip" is a reference to the first time Jagger dropped acid with Shrimpton.