This song is about political corruption in Central America. The US was supporting Nicaraguan rebels (Contras) amid great controversy. It's a rare political song by The Stones.
A lot of production went into the track. There is a great deal of echo and phasing on the drums and guitars.
Mick Jagger wrote almost all of this. He said of the song: "I'm not saying I nicked it, but this song was heavily influenced by William Burroughs' Cities Of The Red Night, a free-wheeling novel about political and sexual repression. It combines a number of different references to what was going down in Argentina and Chile. I think it's really good but it wasn't particularly successful at the time because songs that deal overtly with politics never are that successful, for some reason."
Suggestion credit: Bertrand - Paris, France
Chuck Leavell, formerly of the Allman Brothers Band, played keyboards. He worked with The Stones throughout the '80s.
The video portrayed Mick Jagger as a rebel who is shot by Central American forces. This was a huge departure for the Rolling Stones, whose videos to that point consisted of performance footage with heavy preening by Jagger. It was directed by Julien Temple, who had done the Sex Pistols documentary The Great Rock And Roll Swindle. He revealed in I Want My MTV by Craig Marks: "I wrote the treatment for 'Undercover of the Night" as a way of not doing the video. I was a punk rocker, and the Stones were regarded as jet-set traitors to the cause. The song was about the death squads then operating in Central America, and I wrote an extreme treatment about being in the middle of an urban revolution, and dramatized the notion of Keith and Mick really not liking each other by having Keith kill Mick in the video. I never thought they would do it. Of course they loved it.
The video aired on MTV, but was turned down by some other outlets because of its violence.
Danny from Your Town, IaThe video called for Keith Richards to shoot up a church, which he was reportedly thrilled about.
Susan from Toronto, CanadaThe "disparos" Mick sings about were the "disappeared" in Argentina, who were those perceived as a political threat in the 1980's and taken without warning by government men from their homes at night, never to be seen from again.
Jena from Leavenworth, KsI used to think it sounded like Mick Jagger was singing "Undercover I've been laid"
Patrick from Greenville, ScI would have to agree with "Q" Magazine on this one. This is a terrible Stones song.
Craig from Melbourne, AustraliaFantastic song! Charlie also plays tympani on this track. A tympani was left in the studio when the band went to record, and they decided to use it on this track - to great effect.
Mike from Germantown, MdQ, a British music magazine, put this in their list of Terrible songs by Great Artists. They describe it as "The Stones get funky. And that's funky in the same way geography teachers are funky."
David from Youngstown, OhThis is probably the best song on a very underrated Stones album. Sadly, it was also the last excellent record the band released.
Johnny from Los Angeles, CaThis song really rocks. I wanna see the video.
John from Millersville, MdThat he was, Josh, and played some exceptional piano. I was shocked to find out that the guy who pumped out that soulful blues music also played with the Stones and Allman brothers--it proves Leavell has decent range, just as Clapton does. Marvelous musician.
Joshua from Twin Cities, MnChuck Leavell was also one of Eric Clapton's backing musicians on his "Unplugged" live album.
Steph from Ottawa, CanadaOne of the coolest (and most action-packed) video's of early MTV. Really does the song justice - I like video's that have a story to them.