Hang Fire

Album: Tattoo You (1981)
Charted: 20
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is a swipe at The Stones' home country of England. They imply that the people are lazy and the politicians incompetent. The Stones rarely performed in England because of the huge taxes that were levied on entertainers; it was much more profitable for them to live and work elsewhere.
  • A "hang fire" is a delay from when a trigger is pulled on a flintlock gun and when it actually fires. The expression means a delayed response, but in this song could apply to the lazy people who won't take action. It's also a great phrase to sing, which Mick Jagger does a few different ways throughout the song, sometimes stretching out "fire," and other times keeping it contained.
  • The Stones first recorded the track in 1978 at the Some Girls sessions. Lyrics were added and it was repackaged for Tattoo You.
  • The original title was "Lazy Bitch," probably referring to British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
  • In the UK, "Hang Fire" wasn't released as a single, but in America it was the third single from the Tattoo You album, which hung around for a while. The song peaked at #20 in May 1982, 10 months after the album was released.
  • MTV launched on August 1, 1981, giving The Rolling Stones instant access to a new audience in America. They were ready, having made several videos (known as "promotional films" back in the day) already with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who returned to helm the Tattoo You videos. "Start Me Up" was the first in the set, showing the band performing the song on an empty set. This was typical, as Lindsay-Hogg kept the focus on the band, which were adept performers with a lead singer who could pull focus. "Hang Fire" had a similar look, but with posters of the album artwork adorning the set. These low-budget videos did very well on MTV, which was thrilled to have The Stones in rotation.

Comments: 9

  • Jarrett Ward from Peru Illinois I had to research the dates to be sure because Hang Fire and Personality crisis by The New York Dolls sound so similar. Knowing Tattoo You came out in ‘81 and Personality crisis in ‘73, I thought for an instant that maybe The Stones had “borrowed” from it and forgot to credit The Dolls as they have other artists. But I guess Hang Fire was written in ‘71 so I was wrong. Has anybody else ever noticed how similar the songs are? It’s undeniable.
  • Chris from Kennesaw, GaOn the Rewind album (greatest hits 71-84) liner notes, this song has a 1971 copyright. Other songs have copyright dates consistent with when they were released. Thought this may have been written in 71 but not recorded or released until ~10 years later, but info I can find points to a 78-81 writing/recording time frame. Anybody know why it has a 1971 copyright?
  • Zero from Nowhere, NjI used to think they were saying, "Hang Five", like it was some kind of surfing term, like "Hang Ten". Idk the song kinda sounds surfy, so I figured...
  • Craig from Newport Beach, CaThe "Lazy Bitch" demo could not have referred to Margaret Thatcher because it was recorded during the Some Girls sessions before Thatcher was even elected PM.
  • Craig from Newport Beach, CaMick Jagger praised Margaret Thatcher for making England more productive, so "lazy bitch" almost certainly did not refer to her. More likely it referred to an ex of his. Margaret Thatcher reversed the trend the song refers to.
  • Joe from Fairfax, VaThis song is about gambling I always thought. Hang Fire means to wager a bet against the odds.
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaI always thought this was an ANTHEM for lazy people!
  • Rob from Santa Monica, CaCombines the rock simplicity of Some Girls with the clean production of Tattoo You, resulting in one of the most fun Stones songs ever.
  • Jim from North Billerica, MaA "Hang fire" happens when you pull the trigger on a rifle or pistol and nothing happens for a few seconds, then the gun goes off without warning, in a delayed reaction. A misfire is where you pull the trigger and NOTHING happens. Needless to say, hangfires are quite dangerous.
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