Under My Thumb

Album: Aftermath (1966)
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Songfacts®:

  • To be "under one's thumb" means to be under that person's control. In this song, Mick Jagger has turned the tables on a girl who used to push him around, so now she's under his thumb and the "sweetest pet in the world."

    Some feminist groups the song rather offensive, especially the line, "The way she talks when she's spoken to down to me." In a 1984 interview, Jagger explained: "The whole idea was that I was under HER, she was kicking ME around. So the whole idea is absurd, all I did was turn the tables around. So women took that to be against femininity where in reality it was trying to 'get back' against being a repressed male."
  • The unusual percussion on this track is Brian Jones playing the marimbas. Their original lead guitarist, Jones played a variety of instruments to create some innovative sounds for the Stones, who weren't as guitar focused in their early years. Nick Reynolds, who co-produced the documentary Rolling Stone: Life and Death of Brian Jones, considers it some of Jones' best work. "He makes the arrangement that turns this song into a timeless classic," Reynolds told Songfacts.
  • Brian Jones went into decline in the years after this song was released and was fired from the band in 1969, less than a month before he was found dead in his swimming pool. Keith Richards said in 1994: "Brian was still fantastic making records, because he was so versatile. I mean, he'd have marimbas - which is why you have marimbas on 'Under My Thumb' - or dulcimer, sitar. He kind of lost interest in guitar, in a way. But at the same time he added all of that other color, those other instruments and other ideas. He was an incredibly inventive musician." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Mick Jagger was going out with a model named Chrissie Shrimpton when he wrote this song with Keith Richards.
  • This was the song The Stones were playing when a fan named Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by members of the Hells Angels at their Altamont Speedway concert in 1969. The Hells Angels were a motorcycle gang hired for security at the show. Big mistake.

    The Angel who stabbed Hunter, Alan Passaro, was found not guilty, with a jury ruling that he acted in self defense; Hunter produced a gun before he was killed. Footage of the stabbing that appeared in the Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter was shown at the trial.
  • The Who recorded this in 1967 as a show of support when Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were being held in England on drug charges. After police raided Richards' home in Sussex, he and Jagger were charged with drug possession when they found some marijuana and amphetamines. Jagger and Richards were found guilty and each spent a night in jail before they were released on bail. The raid was done mostly for publicity and backfired on British lawmakers when it became clear the police staged a massive raid to uncover a small amount of drugs. Charges against Richards were dropped and Jagger's sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge.
  • This features Ian Stewart on piano. Stewart played on a lot of tracks by both Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones.

Comments: 43

  • Dillan from Ohio, UsaOk I understand the initial reaction of it being sexist. But it really isn’t. Women can be abusive and bullies too. And bullies deserve to be put in their place whether male or female. It’s actually sexist to treat all women like sensitive, delicate, little flowers who constantly need protecting and defending even when are in the wrong. And to imply that women are incapable of being underhanded or having nasty and rude personalities. That’s the first half of why it isn’t sexist. Second of all isn’t sexist cause change the gender pronouns. Now it’s like a girl power song, and everyone’s cheering, that’ll teach him. Women and men are just people. If this was about two people of the same gender there would be little to no disapproval for the subject matter. And this is coming from an OG politically correct sjw
  • Train In Vain from MaCrain42 is the only commenter I read here that understands the hyperbolic intention of the lyrics.
    I hear it as a fantasy about a guy who is feeling low-down and imagines he was the boss. Does it give me a reaction - yes, as it should. A singer is not always the protagonist of a song, sometimes one writes in the first person about something they have not or would not do. Have a look at Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman does not happen to be a pedo, or else he would not have penned that creepy ass song about little girls. If this song was about murder, no one would have a complaint. If this song was a movie, very few people would criticize the actors or director for depicting an ugly reality on the screen. This being said - I’m speaking about songwriting, and obviously cannot comment on what it was like to be in a relationship with Mick Jagger at the time Aftermath came out or otherwise. Maybe he was a misogynistic pig, I couldn’t tell you. As for Brown Sugar…I’m not as sure what the poetic intention was. Great riff though.
  • Adam from DcMost women that find this song sexist are either (a) controlling of their husband (b) tried to control their husband and are now divorced (c) had the tables turned on them already or (d) very heavy. Yuck
  • H.a. Nic An Fhleisdeir from OregonThe pure definition of toxic masculinity. Being afraid of getting vulnerable, so turn the tables and be emotionally, psychologically and verbally abusive. Just leave her to it dude and move on, or just admit you're scared. But become a monster instead? Ugh. How to ruin some great music? Have Mick and Keith give it lyrics.
  • Dave from Santa Rosa CaC'mon people it's rock n roll. Don't take the lyrics so seriously. It's a great tune.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn this day in 1977 {September 7th} Tina Turner was a guest on the CBS-TV weekday-afternoon television program, 'The Merv Griffin Show'...
    At the time she didn't have a record on Billboard's Top 100 chart, but in the year of 1977 her covered version of "Under My Thumb" reached #80 on the Australian Kent Music Report chart...
    Between the years 1977 and 1996, as a solo artist, the Nutbush, Tennessee native had twenty records on the Australian Singles chart, three made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "What's Love Got To Do With It" for 1 week in 1984 and "We Don't Need Another Hero" for 3 weeks in 1985...
    Besides her two #1 records, her third Top 10 record was "The Best", it peaked at #4 for 2 weeks in 1989...
    Ms. Turner, born Anna Mae Bullock, will celebrate her 80th birthday in two months on November 26th, 2019...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 6, 1966, Tommy Roe performed his covered version of "Under My Thumb" on the Dick Clark produced ABC-TV weekday-afternoon program, 'Where The Action Is'...
    The song was track two of side one on the his fourth second studio album, 'Sweet Pea', the album peaked at #94 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    At the time his "Hooray For Hazel" was at #40 on Billboard's Top 100, that was also it's 13th and final week on the chart, it had peaked at #6 {for 1 week} on October 30th, 1966...
    Between 1962 and 1973 Tommy Roe had twenty-two Top 100 records; six made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "Sheila" for 2 weeks in 1962 and "Dizzy" for 4 weeks in 1969...
    Besides "Sheila", "Dizzy", and "Hooray for Hazel", his three other Top 10 records were; "Everybody" {#3 in 1963}, "Sweet Pea" {#8 in 1966}, and "Jam Up Jelly Tight" {#8 in 1970}...
    Thomas David Roe will celebrate his 76th birthday this coming May 9th {2018}.
  • James from PaThe reason the police raided Keith's house was because Jagger was suing the gutter press for quoting him when they had actually been interviewing Brian. It was a way of getting the law suit dropped because the remarks concerning drugs would have no credibility. The 'old boy' network in action.
  • Charlie from Binghamton, NyI personally like Del Shannon's Cover version better. He sings much better than Mick.
  • Crane42 from Cincinnati, OhI think it's kind of deliberately over the top. The song's a fantasy, it's not really happening. Like, when someone cuts you off on the road, you fantasize about doing awful things to them, 'cause you're upset. You wouldn't really do it. This guy's getting kicked around by his girlfriend and he's fantasizing about turning the tables and having her obey his every whim.
  • Vera from Boston, MaAre you kidding me???
    This has got to be the most sexist song I've ever heard.
    Him flipping the tables I understand. But going as far as to call her his pet, and saying that she's not allowed to look at anyone but. he still is, that's just too much.

    You guys keep saying that she treated him that way first? Maybe she wasn't giving him a chance but I seriously doubt she was telling him what to wear and when he can talk.

    I've lost all respect for the stones. Worse than any 50 cent song or anything.
  • Paul from Boston, MaHermino, it's Under My Thumb. Trust us on this.
  • Bill from Lodi, CaThis song has the best hand claps and finger snaps, great percussion!
  • Taylor from Port Lavaca, TxI loooove the Stones, and even though I think Jagger had quite the ego on him, I still love his lyrics.
  • Erl from T.o., OnI am not a huge Stones fan. I also am skeptical when listening to a remake. The version done by Streetheart in my eyes is one of the greatest remakes ever. They actually added something to the song, while most remakes do not. They made it there own. The added synth was of the times. The interlude contains a very tasty lead guitar, an incredible bass presence. This version is made to be played loud. I actually gained a slightly higher appreciation of the stones when I heard this song done by streetheart. To hardcore stones fans, if you havent listened to the streetheart version, you should give it a shot. I am not saying it is better. That is up to you. It is different, and excels in its own right.
  • Kadir Köz from Istanbul, --very strong song and good music ...extraordinary
  • Kyle from Chicago, IlThis was the song playing when Hunter was stabbed. I just watched "Gimmie Shelter" on Saturday.
  • Herminio from Rosario, ArgentinaSorry, but the song the Stones were playing when MEredith Hunter was killes was "Simpathy For The Devil". Jagger was so very stoned at that concer. Maybe you can watch this on youtube...
  • Nigel Tufnel from Squatney, East London, United KingdomWhat's wrong with being sexy?
  • Susan from Toronto, CanadaI once read (and I wish I could remember more of the details!) that Mick Jagger was inspired to write this song by a poem and said of the poet (whose name I don't recall) "He's a genius, isn't he?" Anyway, the poem had lines like, "Under my thumb is a stamp that won't stay down/Under my bum is a chair that is brown." And apparently such lines inspired Mick to write UNDER MY THUMB.
  • Maxwell from Houston, TxI think the groove in this song sounds like "The Monkey Time" by Major Lance.
  • Paul from Rothesay, New Brunswick , CanadaThe Streetheart version is quite good thanks to some amazing bass playing from "Spider" Sinnaeve.
  • R from Montreal, Qc, CanadaI agree Rhett, the live version during Gimme Shelter movie is great.
    This song was really underrated; it's a great one.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScThe song is very up-tempo, and I see Mick's point, but at the same time, some of the lyrics do seem to controlling and bossy.
  • Bill from Erie, PaWhat obnoxious lyrics. Jagger is a great lyricist, singer, and musician, but his attitudes towards women are just a little antiquarian. The only good thing that came out of this song was when Phil Hartman did a sketch as Frank Sinatra covering it on Saturday Night Live. It was hilarious.
  • Tara from London, EnglandI read a "self help"ish book that mentioned "listening to an uplifting song.. such as under my thumb" an unusually I bought Forty Licks. Was supprised when I heard the lyrics and the song does make me feel joyful, puts a smile on my face! The fact the lyrics are not pc add even more meaning to me, it's a good emotion worker... i was born in 1979 when my mum and dad were well into the Stones and now I am loving them for the first time and wish there were more inspiring contemporary songs, but then having this kinda stuff is moooooore than enough for me.
  • Lacey from Freeborn, MnLove the lyrics
  • Lucas from Rochester, NyThe punk band Social Distortion does a pretty good rendition of it.
  • Charles A from New York, NyMan were people uptight back then...this song isn't the least bit sexist or anti-woman, it's just a commentary on human nature...when someone didn't treat u right or has some power over you and then the tables turn to where you have something over them...it's just the shift of power has occured...if anything he's admitting she once had power over him

    by the way, it happens to women all the time (the flat chested, ugly duckling in high school grows up to look like Pam Anderson and the guy who didn't look her way in high school is suddenly kissing her fanny...it's the same dynamic)

    People take everything out of context, you have to listen to stuff within the context of the song
  • Alex from P.d., MalaysiaThe music's great, but after reading about how it was played while a fan was stabbed, it gave sort of a mournful aura to me when I heard it later.
  • Sarah from Baltimoer, Mdas a young, fin de millenium feminist, i don't find anything offensive at all about these lyrics. they make me feel sad & wistful...he's obviously been really injured by this realtionship, and he's reacting by exerting control..what woman hasn't done the same thing & made a guy jump to her tune?! i disagree that it's a victory, most of the Aftermath songs meditate on the bitter aftertaste...that's what makes them absolutely moving & relevant 40 yrs later
  • Richard from Bastrop, TxThis is one of the Stones' best songs, on one of their best albums. They were directly competing with the Beatles and Bob Dylan; nobody else came close to the competition between these three in '65 and '66. The Stones (and Dylan) really meant what their songs said, and the incredible arrangement and musicianship of this song, and others on the album, kept them right alongside the Beatles and Dylan during this period. Needless to say, such a creative crescendo couldn't last, but the Stones, more than the Beatles or Bob Dylan, went on to do even greater work in the late '60's.
  • Eric from Cincinnati, OhAfter a little research, I am not sure which was a bigger mistake: Hiring the Hell's Angels to provide security... Or walking up to the stage and brandishing a gun! Meredith Hunter was the 18 year old man stabbed to death by Hell's Angel Alan Passaro. Passaro lept into action after Hunter pulled out the pistol; he was later acquitted of murder because it was deemed that he had acted in self defense.
  • Eric from Cincinnati, OhThe lyrics are amusing -- I guess they could be offensive if you take them too seriously -- but what I love most about the song is the music, especially the bass guitar. Bill Wyman was good!
  • Graham from North Bay, CanadaLegendary punk band Social Distortion included a nice cover of this song as the hidden 12th track on "White Light, White Heat, White Trash".
  • Stephen from Calgary, CanadaA Canadian band by the name of Streetheart released a cover of this song in 1979. Streetheart's version is longer and quicker, and the lead riff is played on synth instead of on guitar.
  • Craig from Madison, WiIf anyone bothered to listen to the lyrics of UMT, they'd see that it is not anti-woman. The villain of the song is definately a woman, but she's just a character, not a representation of all things female. She has had Mick under her thumb. This song is him proclaiming he's turned the tables on her. It is a personal story of a person's pride of a personal victory over a personal tormentor, not a sweeping manifesto to keep women down. Anyone who has been in in a relationship--male or female, straight or gay-- where they are under someone's thumb has fantasized about saying what Mick says in this song.
  • Lauren from Melrose, MaI guess no one has seen "Gimme Shelter." The Hell's Angels of England were hired for their free concert there right after Brian Jones died. At Altamont, the Hell's Angels just showed up. The Stones never hired them.
  • Shell from Riverdale, GaAt Altamont, the Hell's Angels were hired at the suggestion of members of The Grateful Dead. None of the Dead have ever divulged which of them it was.
  • Janis from Port Arthur, TxLOVE the music,HATE the lyrics!
  • James from Tacoma, Wawhat a great song...
  • Rhett from Melbourne, Australiathere is a fantastic live version of this song. its much slower than the original
  • Jacko from Bedrock, United StatesThis was my wedding song, three times.
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