Monkey Man

Album: Let It Bleed (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • The lyrics don't seem to make much sense, but they are probably about heroin or a bad acid trip. You can certainly draw this conclusion from the opening lines:

    I'm a fleabit peanut monkey
    And all my friends are junkies
  • Nicky Hopkins was featured on piano. He and Ian Stewart made significant contributions to The Stones on keyboards, but were never credited with being official members of the group. Hopkins and Stewart both toured with the band as well.
  • Most of the album was recorded after the death of Brian Jones but before his replacement, Mick Taylor, joined the band. On "Monkey Man," Keith Richards played electric and slide electric guitar; Bill Wyman played bass and also provided vibes; producer Jimmy Miller assisted drummer Charlie Watts on tambourine. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • The Stones performed this on their 1994-1995 Voodoo Lounge tour.
  • This song was used in the 1990 movie Goodfellas in a scene where the gangsters are trafficking cocaine. The film was directed by Martin Scorsese, who directed the 2008 Rolling Stones documentary Shine a Light.

Comments: 46

  • Pete from LorettoSimply put, this could be about drugs, could be about sex, could be about god knows what but bottom line , this is the toughest, meanest , rawest rock song ever.. when it’s on, it’s CRANKED
    RIP Charlie Watts, a great drummer and a real class act.. helped make the Stones the greatest rock band ever
  • Drdirk from Arizona Or deeper, "A man who makes a beast of himself loses the pain of being a man." Samuel Johnson
  • Roger from BerkeleyA few are right. Most miss it, review the time period man! "Lemon Squeezer" Back in the day a popular form of heroin called "Persian" would not dissolve in water due to its p.H. A drop or two from the plastic lemon Squeezer rendered it water soluble. Otherwise it had to be smoked on foil or whatever. This occured when the borders of Iran were more open and Persian dope was some of the best you can get. As a heroin user it comes a time that it seems that's all you know are "junkies" but that's not really true, you hope... During the absence of Persian being "Gouged and gored, bitten by a bore, but I pulled through" refers to the pain of withdrawal and the courage of kicking. Okay, fleabit monkeys do what? SCRATCH man! Most junkies go through a scratching phase and fellow junkies recognize each other by this side effect. Finally, when you have a "monkey" on your back or you become one, it refers to a habit. Thus, if you're a monkey woman, I have a chance of sharing what you may have brought along to get well, or use some smack. "Broken eggs" refers to early withdrawal when a runny nose and eyes develop from the onset from lack of heroin.Sorry to be such a druggy song, but that is what was happening at that time. See the movie "Cocksucker Blues" and come to your own opinion.
  • Jody from Neillsville“Monkey Man” is a perfectly constructed blues rock song. First the eerily simple piano notes introduce the tune. Then the snarling and relentless guitar kicks in. And then Mick starts his narrative of de-evolution, happily surrendering his humanity to become a creature of pure appetite and pleased to take you down the family tree with him: “Well I am just a monkey man, I’m glad you are a monkey, monkey woman too, babe.”
  • Don from San FranciscoKeith Richards has been arrested numerous times for heroin possession but let's face it, heroin is almost legal in the U.K. and the crown will even give it to you if you promise to quit taking it. Lol! I don't know if Jagger was into it. But Richards clearly was. From what I've read from some tell all book by some aid to the Rolling Stones is that they had huge sums of money and drugs but Jagger was always crying because Bianca was mad at him. The impression was that they may have drugs and money but suffered the same turmoil we all do.
  • James from AlbuquerqueMr. DeFlores, I'm glad to read about his having been depicted as a monkey jumping around on stage. It finally clicks -- connects that image for me to something concrete. And I was thinking more of promoters than critics and media people when it came to the rat, boar, etc. And screaming fan mobs. Taken as a whole, he must have meant all of it. Particularly the "satanic" line is a specific reference to media -- should have made that connection all these years. Thanks for your reflections.
  • James from AlbuquerqueMost of the main images in the three-line verses present highly creative and apt metaphors -- way out, nearly past the edge of intelligible imagery, and particularly affecting for it -- for being kicked around and trodden on by the world. You wouldn't think big rich rock stars would have much to complain about in that respect, but I don't know that I would want to be spirited around to meet people who all want a piece of me -- in some cases, literally (screaming fan mobs I mean). And then to put on a grueling stage performance virtually every night. They earned their money on those tours! It must have been brutal. And yet, any good poet or songwright (-: can craft a lyric from the perspective of a fictitious narrator. Most "confessional" pieces that begin with someone's literal experience evolve to include fictitious elements as they are shaped into final works for publication or presentation anyway. So there's no reason he might not be exaggerating. Or depicting a whole other character than himself.

    The refrain I think is one of the sweetest in all of rock music. I don't know that it means a married woman -- to me it simply says, "Hey, In the midst of all this turmoil, I'm happy and grateful to have someone like you -- someone who's like me -- who's by (and ON) my side! Meanwhile, let's get 'juicing that lemon ...'" HA! Oh baby! Love that. Never knew it. Hope it's true. In any case -- I'm glad my partner is a monkey woman too!

    I've always wondered though if the "monkey" in question is on their backs -- i.e., that they're both (like all his friends -- not --) junkies. But that interpretation doesn't really ring true with the rest of the song for me.

    And with all the stupid "controversy" about rock stars having such huge and fanatic masses of followers that they were nearly false messiahs -- and discussions, widespread in the Bible Belt, of whether rock music was (and is) Satanic -- that line near the end has always made me LOL. "I hope we're not too messianic, nor a trifle too satanic ..." Genius! This ranks for me as one of the Stones' all-time best.
  • Bbjangler from Kirkland, WaDan DeFlores, New York, NY- seems to have it best. I can add that a "lemon Squeezer" is a hand job technique where the shaft is stroked and the head is cicularly like juicing a lemon. Its a f you to the establishment regarding freedom. Freedom is there for rockin free love, drugin Monkey Men and Women. Im a sack of broken eggs. Now that's a mess. "well I hope I'm not to mesianic or a triffle to Satanic. I just love to sing the blues."
  • Steve from Brockton, Madoes he say "peanut monkey" or "rhesus monkey" ?
  • Steve from Brockton, MaMick is happy she is a "monkey woman" (a married woman who is willing to have sex with him)
  • Steve from Brockton, MaThis song is about Mick, being a married man looking for a married woman (a "monkey woman") A monkey man is a married man, messing with a married woman "monkeying" around, looking for sex from a married woman. The blues guitarist Blind Boy Fuller (of Get your YAS YAS Out fame) says in "pistol slapper blues" there's two kind of people in the world that I can't stand, that's a lyin' woman and a monkey man. Mick admits he is a monkey man, looking for a monkey woman.
  • Domyo from Bloomington, InI cannot think of enough superlatives when it comes to describing Nicky Hopkins' performance on "Monkey Man." The piano during the instrumental is absolutely magical and was, unfortunately, mixed way down in subsequent CD releases. This is one album in LP that remains unsurpassed by any digital incarnation.
  • Ken from Phoenix, Az1Monkey man - Afro-American slang for a West Indian (a man who is easy to deceive) or used for very black Afro Americans or an "outside" lover. Thanks to prof. Christpher Cook for this contribution
  • Bahgalow from Rockford, IlWow! All of you guys are hilarious. I dunno if it has been mentioned before, but if it has I'm sorry. But only sorry to the person who mentioned it before. All of you with the drug references n what not, Im not and will never be sorry. You guys are obviously not listening to the song.. If I may..

    All the rumors about him being a flea-bit-peanut monkey and that he hangs around with nothing but junkies isnt true.. Duh right! Flea-bit-peanut monkey is someone with STDs, and dont tell me Mick wasnt a wild man with the ladies.

    Lemon squeezer- like somebody said before, its a female that takes a liking the ball sack area.
    He's been bit and he's been tossed around by every she-rat in this town.. Obvious? He's slept with every rat in the town..
    Then he asks some girl "have you, babe?"
    He's a monkey man and glad she is a monkey woman. She slept with women and he's slept with women. Many different ones.
    Bitten by a boar, gouged and gourged, but he pulled through.. He had rough sex with a woman and pulled through..
    Im a sack of broken eggs, I always have an unmade bed.. Obvious? Broken eggs from women. Had sex with so many women he's just a sack of broken eggs. And always have an unmade bed because him and some woman are either in it or just got out of it..
    This last part is just about them liking to play the blues. And them hoping their not to menissiatic for our tastes.
    Then once again he is glad that he likes to sleep around and glad that the woman he is with likes to sleep around too.. Who wouldnt be?
    And there you have it.. The song has been broken down into easy to read facts. Anybody who says I'm worng is just jealous of me because I figured it out before them. Waaay before them.

    Thank you and Goodnight.. No autographs please..
  • Tom from College Station, TxThe term "Monkey Man" is an old blues term meaning gay. The lyrics make perfect sense if you look at it in contest.
  • David from Boston, Mathis song is simply about being addicted to herion and finding a like minded lover the term monkey man derives from the exprssion "i have to get the monkey off my back" monkey being herion,and as someone already pointed out lemon juice is a common liquid to shoot drugs.
  • Matt from New York, NyBy far one of the Stones most underrated songs. The vibes are just spine tingling and when Keith starts with the guitar then all hell breaks loose. Jagger sings passionately and altough the lyrics dont make sense, they make a great song. And since when did the lyrics have to make sense?
  • Ron from Berkeley, CaI've been thinking about this song a bit since rewatching Goodfellas the other day. Of the comments here, the one by Dan in NY seems closest. The whole thing is a comment on his (Mick's) own new found celebrity and all the public and media speculation that went along with it. Monkey man refers to his dancing/singing style. The rest are just comments on the ridiculous things some people believe about him (i.e. messianic/satanic, surrounded by junkies, a super sexual guy who "could use a lemon squeezer" or the opposite a "cold Italian pizza") all of which are "not really true".
  • David from Orlando, FlIt is interesting to note all the observations from the armchair psychiatrists on the lyrics of this song. Inn my humble opinion, this song is nothing more than a classic riff which Keith plays with a savage ferocity, preceded by a rather simplistic but pleasant enogh descending chord progression, and with an obligatory turn around between the thunderous riffs which have slight pull off variations. I personally think Mick scratched out the lyrics to this in all of 5 minutes with a lot less thought to the meaning of them than many of you put into typing your comments here. Oh, yeah, and as several of you point out, the phrase "lemon squeezer" only appeared in about 500+ blues songs before Robert Plant was even born.
  • Steve from Gladwin, Miwell, i use the plastic artificial lemoln juice to break down fentynol patches and oh yeah... it works great
  • Dan Deflores from New York, NyWith regard to the lyrics, if I may please set everyone straight here (I see a lot of ridiculous posts here):

    This song was written because Mick Jagger wanted to poke fun at the media and the idiot critics that were prevalent during the rise of the 1960's. They kept on criticizing that Mick and the Stones were a bunch of drug using junkies and that he looked like a monkey jumping around up there on stage. More notably, there was probably a "pro establishment" woman critic (or several "pro establishment" women critics) that were against the rise of rock and roll and the whole "hippie" movement.

    This was obviously the Stones' answer to those soon-to-be-proven-idiots.

    I think it is quite obvious actually. Don't think too hard, it is right there in front of you.
  • Bluezboy from San Diego, CaNicky Hopkins brought the opening piano riff you hear at the song's outset to the band while they were just noodling about in rehearsals, and Keith Richards expanded on it to the point where the melody and such just took off from there...
  • Lewis from Pearl City, InIsn't the reference to monkey woman from "breakfast of champions" by Kurt vonnegut Jr.?
  • David from Rochester, Ny"To squeeze a lemon" also means to play a nice riff. So when someone says "oh yeah squeeze that lemon" lots of times it means "play that music good" or something like that. It was a bluesy thing in the days of robert johnson, and bands like led zeppelin used it as a double entendre for sexual innuendo. I don't know what that lemon squeezer line in this song means though.
  • Rich from Milwaukee, Wisc/palmer AlaskaThis song is classic Stones. I was reading a review on Pandora of the album and they described this song as perfunctory. How the hell did they come up with that?
  • Drew from Seattle, Wa"Lemon Squeezer" as referred to by Robert Johnson and the Stones in this song refers to a Smith & Wesson Safety Hammerless pistol, often times chambered in 32-20.
  • Houston from New Orleans, LaJust ask Nikki Sixx about using plastic lemon , lemon juice to shoot heroin, it's the citric acid that's used to break down the H to make it injectable
  • Stig from Chicago, IlUnusual lyrics......someone watched too much "Barney" growing up, it's about dope and getting laid. You get drugs and shack up for several days with a like minded female. The only time you leave the house is to score more drugs. Lemon is your dong, old blues reference.
  • Ben from Chelsea, MeI know Mick had this obsession for black women, and knowing the Stones...

    But you're right, it's hard to read this lyrics and really come up with any sort of theme (unless it's a food theme- lemon, pizza, peanut). :)
  • Declan from Adelaide, AustraliaI see an Obvios drug refference here.A monkey on your back is another term for an addiction. People use lemon juice(or acitic acid or ascorbic acid ie VitC) to prepare heroin for injection as it wont draw into the syringe with out it. This type of heroin is called 'brown'. I should know.
  • Andrew from New York, United StatesFor Bill in Erie- I just remembered, those plastic lemons you are talking about contain ARTIFICIAL lemon-FLAVORED juice. Not lemon juice at all. So your entire house of cards has crumbled. There is no way drug users would use artificial lemon juice like that, since it would not have the effect they were supposedly looking for. So post what you know, not what you conjecture from mis-remembered random data.
  • Andrew from New York, United StatesThis is one of Keith's greatest guitar parts, from the brilliantintro of the descending 1st-2nd-&-3rd string C#m7-C#m6-C#mAug riff at the 9th fret, to the twisty funk of the main riff around the 6th fret barre, this is classic Keef. So cool when you hear him crank the guitar volume wide open after the first time through the intro. Also love his slide guitar part!
    Hey, does anyone remember that hilarious episode, "High High", of the 21 Jump Street TV series, that featured the school band "playing" this song? The episode where the entire school was either doing or dealing drugs or both? I'll never forget the scene where Richard Grieco claims to have "faked" snorting heroin right in front of another character! How the hell did he manage THAT feat of magic? Where did the powder go? Did he blow OUT instead of IN, and the other dude didn't notice the giant dust cloud?? And how funny when he fakes that snort, and his buddy DOES snort a bunch of heroin, then they go right out and beat the local basketball stars on the court? I think the producers confused heroin with cocaine or speed. You're not gonna play basketball well at all nodding on heroin!
  • Andrew from New York, United StatesBill in Erie- YOU are the one who is wrong. While that bit about plastic lemons - which I NEVER heard called "lemon squeezers" - may be true, which I doubt (none of the many drug-users I have known has ever mentioned lemon juice, let alone lemon squeezers, in reference to heroin) it has nothing to do with this song. Quite frankly, in MANY MANY blues songs since the 1920s, the "lemon" is the male genitals, and a "lemon squeezer" is a woman, for obvious reasons. In the Robert Johnson song, the lyric is "You can squeeze my lemon 'till the juice runs down my leg". 'Nuff said. If you listen carefully to the song, the only obvious drug reference is "all my friends are junkies - that's not really true". NOWHERE does he say that HE is a drug user. He says he's a "cold Italian pizza", and a "flea-bit peanut monkey". I don't think ANYONE can get a drug reference from that. There are plenty-enough actual drug references in Stones songs. There is no need to manufacture them like the idiot who claimed "Jumpin' Jack Flash" means "injecting heroin in your tear ducts" on this site. Please do not state that something you have assumed to be true because it "sounds right" as actual fact.
  • Bill from Dubuque, IaThanks to Sean in Boston. Both the monkey and lemon-squeezer are classic blues references. The Stone began their career covering blues songs. Love in Vain on the same album is a Robert Johnson cover. The Stones were almost single-handedly responsible for the blues revival in America and introduced "US" to our own blues legends like Muddy Waters. This song uses the lexicon of the blues in a traditional rock format. Not to dissuade the possible drug interpretations. The blues were noted for their double entendre, why not a triple entendre! As for the Zeppelin connection - these guys were all freaks for the classic blues. If you listen to the blues from the 1920 - 30's you'll hear a lot of familiar themes.
  • Melquiades from Cali, South AmericaYou all have to listen this. Its gold, i love it, specially the piano and jaggers performance.
  • Bill from Erie, PaNo. All of you are wrong, and the lemon squeezer is another detail in a song quite obviously about drugs. "Lemon squeezer" refers to the plastic lemons you can find in drug or grocery stores, filled with lemon juice. It was a common misconception among heroin addicts that diluting the heroin with lemon juice makes it purer, and removes the effects of it being "stepped on" by dealer, or mixing it with other substances.
  • Olle from Stockholm, SwedenThis is the B E S T song the Stones ever created! I love the ending when he yells and screams and so on!
  • Stephan from St Georges, CanadaWow...on the Madison Square 2003 DVD... excellent!
  • Keith from Front Royal, VaThis is a great song that's obviously about primitive sexual urges and needs. I don't see how anyone can find anything to do with drugs in this, other than the title itself, which, as I stated, probably has more to do with animal lust than drugs. I mean, he might as well be yelling "I'm a p-p-p-primate!!" at the end of the song.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScDrugs or an acid trip? The phrase "lemon squeezer" makes it seem like its about sex.
  • Ralph from Cartegena, Colombia, South AmericaTo Sean, who suggested that the line about the lemon squeezer came from zep's the lemon song... that zeppelin lyric actually appeared in Robert Johnson's "Travelling Riverside Blues," which zep covered and released on their BBC sessions and as an extra track Coda for the Zeppelin box set. Anyways, I'm pretty sure that Johnson was playing in the 30s, so there was more than a month for "cross pollination." Anyway, I'm not sure it was an allusion to Johnson in particular, but his stuff has been covered by a bunch of rock groups, so its possible.
  • Sean from Boston, MaHey, maybe "I could use a lemon squeezer" is a reference to Led Zep's "The Lemon Song":
    "Squeeze me baby, till the juice runs down my leg.
    The way you squeeze my lemon, I'm gonna fall right out of bed."
    "Zep II" released Oct 22, 1969
    "Let It Bleed" released Nov 26 1969
    Doesn't leave much time for cross-pollination, so perhaps they were both alluding to some classic blues cliche? But the syncronicity is interesting, nonetheless, eh?
    - massideas
  • Scott from Chicago, Ilso many stones songs have ominous beginnings like
    this, gimmie shelter, sympathy, street fighting man. this period was the stones finest moment,
    from beggers to exile
  • Anthony from Petoskey, MiI have been told that "monkey" means heroin or heroin addict/drug dependent. This could explain the unusual lyrics.
  • Anonymous"Monkey Man" (Let It Bleed: 1969) was released the year after "Planet of the Apes"(1968)
  • Ace from Las Vegas, NvLoved the way the song was used in "Goodfellas".
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