Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
Stones Guitarist Ron Wood said of this song: "That was recorded in my house in 1974. In Richmond. The original tape was made there in my studio with Willy Weeks on bass, Kenny Jones on drums, me on guitar, and David Bowie and Mick on vocals. And Keith said, 'I've taken the precaution of wiping all of your guitars.' And I said, 'Oh, mate. This is the guy I'm gonna have to spend some time with. I suppose I better get used to it.' I said, "But you forgot one thing, Keith. You forgot my 12 string." And he said, "No. I left that on." So that's still on there. It's still got a flavor of the original recording."
Mick Jagger: "The title has been used a lot by journalists, the phrase has become a big thing. That version that's on there is the original version, which was recorded half in Ron Wood's basement, if I remember rightly. It was a demo. It's a very Chuck Berry song, but it's got a different feeling to it than a Chuck Berry song. You can't really do proper imitations of people. You always have to start out by imitating somebody. In painting, some famous artist always starts out by being an impressionist. And then they become the most famous abstract artist. Or an actor starts out by imitating someone else's style. And then you develop your own. And I think that's what happened with this band and all the musicians that have played in it. You start off with one thing, and then you mutate into another, but you still acknowledge the fact that these influences came from here and here and here. Because not everyone knows that. But you make this new amalgam. And out of all this different music, all out these Blues, out of all this Country music, out of all this Jazz and dance music and Reggae music, you know, you make something that's your own."
Drummer Charlie Watts said: "I didn't play drums on that, Kenny Jones did. I was in bed, sleeping at the time. They called Kenny Jones because he lived nearer to Richmond, it was done in a very beautiful house there that Ronnie used to own. Pete Townshend owns it now." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France, for all above)
This was the title track to the first album after producer Jimmy Miller left the band. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards did the production work.
This was the first time Ron Wood contributed to a Stones song. He would later become their lead guitarist.
The lyrics were inspired by David Bowie's song "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide." The part about "suicide on stage" is probably about Glam rockers like Marc Bolan and Alice Cooper who did a suicide bit as part of their stage theatrics.
Jagger sang this with Tina Turner on the Philadelphia stage of Live Aid in 1985. This was Mick's first live performance as a solo artist.
The promotional video (this was before MTV) had The Stones wearing sailor suits in a circus tent that slowly filled with bubbles. The bubbles eventually covered Charlie Watts, who was the only one sitting down.
This has been covered by the Spice Girls, Emmylou Harris, Natalie Imbruglia, The Cranberries and Eurythmics (who released their version as a single in support of a charity called Children's Promise). (thanks, Brett - Edmonton, Canada)
Penny Ford of Snap!
The original voice of Snap!, this story is filled with angry drag queens, video impersonators and Chaka Khan.
Al Jourgensen of Ministry
In the name of song explanation, Al talks about scoring heroin for William Burroughs, and that's not even the most shocking story in this one.