19th Nervous Breakdown

Album: Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) (1966)
Charted: 1 2
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  • 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." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • 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 on February 13, 1966, the first time they 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.

Comments: 19

  • Cary from Nee Hampshire I've misheard the line about "a thousand toys" as "chores", and the "fool" boyfriend as "flu" (in other words, the mean parents made her go to school when she was sick.)
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaCritics & whingers mneed tyo just slow their roll & enjoy this as a fun little ditty with a good beat to it. . . Classic Stones! I find it funny people were offended (OFFENDED?!) by a SONG!

    Possibly of note is that 'wax' has always been a slamng term for really potent marijuana; does it automatically mean it was about Mick's own usage? No! "Sealing wax" suggests it was so thick it could be used as such. . . He did say he was spoofing the culture around him in L.A. -- sounds legit -- perhaps all the accusations of being dopeheads led them to say "WTF" & join into that culture. ..
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaR-Montral, Charlie is one of my fav drummers.
  • Jim Walsh from Dedham, MaIs it just a coincidence that Puff, The Magic Dragon, written by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton in 1958 and 19th Nervous Breakdown both mention "sealing wax"?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyConcerning the second post below:
    It was a rarity for the 'Sullivan' show not to have the acts appear live; this February 13th, 1966 appearance by the Stones was actually recorded the day before, but to the credit of Mr. Sullivan, he never allowed lip-sync performances on his show.
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaThat's pretty Grunge for the Stones!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 13th 1966, the Rolling Stones performed "19th Nervous Breakdown" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    One week later on February 20th, it entered the Top 100 at position #46; and three weeks later on March 13th it peaked at #2* {for 3 weeks} and stayed on the chart for 10 weeks...
    It also reached #2 in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, but did peak at #1 in Germany...
    They had one other record peak at #2, "Start Me Up", for three weeks on March 25, 1981, and had eight records reach #1 on the Top 100...
    * The three weeks "19th Nervous Breakdown" was at #2; the #1 record for all three of those weeks was "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by S/Sgt. Barry Sadler.
  • Roy from Slough, United KingdomI always thought the song was about Brian Jones.
  • Johnny from Pomona, CaAt 3:43, the song slows down for a second and returns to normal speed (and pitch).
    Obviously a problem with the recording tape machine in the studio. It sounds like someone bumped it.

    Does anyone know the story?
  • Fred from Laurel, MdThe first color TV broadcast in the U.S. was some time in the 1950's (1958 or earlier)--I know, because my uncle had a color set, and I saw shows that were in color back then.
  • R from Montreal, Qc, CanadaListen carefully to the bass lines and the drum; its marvellous how Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman keeps that train on its rails. The cymbal is always at the right time; nothing to do with the other pop drummers.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScSeems like the parents in the song weren't very good parents. They buy the girl all she wnats, but they don't really take care of her the way they should.
  • Alan from Grande Prairie, Alberta, CanadaEddie Cochran did a tune called "Nervous Breakdown" great guitar work but of the early rockers Eddie could hold his own.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI always liked that little fuzz guitar bit after the "turn around" line and as a kid wondered why the whole song couldn't sound like that. Eventually I got into experimental music!
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI think I'll start doing that, Andrea. The songfacts guy is right. Maybe someone has a nervous breakdown even though they are rich and have everything.
  • Kyle from Allentown, Pai love the ed sullivan show live version. it shows like a longer beginning. i just love this song and always will.
  • Charles from Bronxville, NyJason and the Scorchers do a cover that blows the doors off the Stones! It makes it a GREAT song.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScActually, I never got what the song was about, and I didn't think much of it either.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, Scthat's pretty funny andria. Anyway, I always thought the song was about someone having a nervous breakdown, hence the title. I guess I can see why it would be a joke, and why it would have drug raferences.
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