This was the first Stones song to chart with Keith Richards singing lead.
Keith Richards: "That's a strange song, because if you play it you actually become happy, even in the worst of circumstances. It has a little magical bounce about it. I wrote it one afternoon when we were cutting Exile on Main St. in France and the studio was in my basement. And Bobby Keys was with me and they got this lick going. So we went down and I recorded it with just guitar and Bobby Keys on baritone saxophone. While we were doing that, Jimmy Miller, who was our producer at the time, came in. And he was a very good drummer as well. So we said, well let's put down a dub, we'll just sort of sketch it out and play it later. But it's another one of those things that ended up being on the record. It was just one of those moments that you get that are very happy. And I can play it now and it gives you a lift. I don't know why except for maybe the word."
This was recorded at Richard's villa in France when The Stones left England to avoid paying taxes. They used the basement as a recording studio, but had a hard time getting everyone together at once because of the drug abuse and party atmosphere. The only people to play on this were Keith (guitar, bass, vocals), producer Jimmy Miller (drums), and horn player Bobby Keys (percussion). Horns were dubbed in later.
Keith sang this at concerts, giving Mick Jagger a chance to rest his voice and Richards a chance to be in the spotlight.
In the chorus Keith sings, "I need a love to keep me Happy." This is a play on "Anita's love will keep me Happy," referring to his girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg. (thanks, Jack - Chicago, IL)
Keith Richards gave the backstory on writing this song in his 2010 autobiography, Life: "It just came, tripping off the tongue, then and there. When you're writing this s--t, you've got your face in front of the microphone, spit it out... It was just alliteration, trying to set up a story. There has to be some thin plot line, although in a lot of my songs you'd be very hard-pressed to find it. But here, you're broke and it's evening. And you want to go out, but you ain't got s--t. I'm busted before I start. I need a love to keep me happy, because if it's real love it will be free! Don't have to pay for it. I need a love to keep me happy because I've spent the f--king money and I have none left, and it's nighttime and I'm looking to have a good time, but I ain't got s--t." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Under certain circumstances, this can make a great wedding song. When Lucinda Williams got married on stage in 2009, she played it with her new husband after they exchanged vows.