Wild Horses

Album: Sticky Fingers (1971)
Charted: 28
  • This started as a song for Keith Richards' newborn son Marlon. It was 1969 and Keith regretted that he had to leave his son to go on tour. Mick Jagger rewrote Keith's lyrics, keeping only the line "Wild horses couldn't drag me away." His rewrite was based on his relationship with Marianne Faithfull, which was disintegrating.
  • This was first released by Gram Parsons' Flying Burrito Brothers in 1970. The Stones' version was written in 1969, but had to wait for Sticky Fingers in 1971.

    Parsons was good friends with Keith Richards, and the musicians often cited each other as an influence. Said Parsons: "I picked up some rock and roll from Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger knows an awful lot about country music. I learned a lot about singing from Mick."

    Regarding "Wild Horses," he said is was "a logical combination between their music and our music. It's something that Mick Jagger can accept, and it's something I can accept. And my way of doing it is not necessarily where it's at, but it's certainly the way I feel it." (Quotes from Bud Scoppa's liner notes in the Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels collection.)
  • Mick Jagger's girlfriend at the time, the singer Marianne Faithfull, claims "Wild horses couldn't drag me away" was the first thing she said to Mick after she pulled out of a drug-induced coma in 1969. There are other theories as to Mick's muse for this song, however. Jagger's longtime girlfriend Jerry Hall in The Observer Magazine April 29, 2007, said: "'Wild Horses' is my favorite Stones song. It's so beautiful. I don't mind that it was written for Bianca." (Not likely, since Jagger didn't meet his future wife Bianca until 1970, which was after the song was recorded.)
  • The Stones recorded this during a three-day session at Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama from December 2-4, 1969. It was the last of three songs done at these sessions, after "Brown Sugar" and "You Gotta Move."

    Muscle Shoals Sound Studios (actually located in Sheffield, Alabama) opened in May 1969 when Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records (The Stones' label) loaned money to four of the musicians at nearby FAME studios so they could start their own company and install 8-track recording equipment (FAME was on 4-track). Wexler sent many of Atlantic's acts to Muscle Shoals, since the musicians were fantastic and it was a dry county with nothing to do, which meant the artists were more likely to stay focused. The studio also had a distinctive sound that can be heard on this track, especially on Jagger's vocals - you can hear a slight distortion that was caused by the console.

    When The Stones left the Shoals, they headed for Altamont, California, where they gave a free concert on December 6, 1969 - a disastrous show where a fan was stabbed to death by a Hells Angels security guard. In the documentary Gimme Shelter, which chronicles the concert, there is a scene where the band is listening to playback on "Wild Horses" at Muscle Shoals Sound.
  • The Sticky Fingers album had very elaborate packaging. Designed by Andy Warhol, the cover photo was a close up of a man's jeans with a real zipper on it. It was also the first time the tongue logo was used.
  • Ian Stewart, who usually played piano for The Stones, refused to play on this because he hated minor chords, which is how this starts. He left the session and Jim Dickinson was brought in to play piano. After playing with The Stones, Dickinson worked as a musician and a producer with Aretha Franklin, Big Star and the Replacements, and did a lot of movie soundtrack music with Ry Cooder. He died on August 15, 2009 at age 67.
  • Stones guitarist Mick Taylor played acoustic guitar on this song in what's known as "Nashville tuning," in which you use all first and second strings and you tune them in octaves.
  • Chinese rock star Cui Jian sang this with Mick Jagger when The Rolling Stones played a concert in Shanghai on April 8, 2006. Jian was supposed to open for The Stones in 2003, but their Chinese tour was canceled because of S.A.R.S. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France, for above 2
  • The Sundays covered this song. Their version appears on the soundtrack to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Daisy - Ikast, Denmark
  • To coincide with the release of Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle's cover of this song, Universal/Polydor re-released The Rolling Stones' original as part of a special digital bundle featuring three versions of the track. The other two being a recording backstage during the band's Voodoo Lounge tour in 1995, which was included on the Stripped live album and a video of a live performance of the song recorded at Knebworth in 1976.
  • Keith Richards wrote in his autobiography Life (2010): "'Wild Horses' almost wrote itself. It was really a lot to do with, once again, f---ing around with the tunings. I found these chords, especially doing it on a twelve-string to start with, which gave the song this character and sound. There's a certain forlornness that can come out of a twelve-string. I started off, I think, on a regular six-string open E, and it sounded very nice, but sometimes you just get these ideas. What if I open tuned a twelve-string? All it meant was translate what Mississippi Fred McDowell was doing - twelve-string slide - into five-string mode, which meant a ten-string guitar."

Comments: 58

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 13th 1971, "Wild Horses" by the Rolling Stones entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #85; and on July 18th it peaked at #28 (for 1 week) and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    Was track three of side one from the group's 11th American studio album, 'Sticky Fingers', and on May 16th, 1971 the album reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart (it also peaked at #1 in Canada, Australia, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, West Germany, and of course in the United Kingdom)...
    One other track from the album also made the Top 100; "Brown Sugar", it reached #1 (for 2 weeks) on May 23rd, 1971.
  • Mac from Evanston, Il@Rebeka in Croatia: If no one else has told you, Bianca is Mick Jagger's first wife, née Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, May 2, 1945 (she'll be 69 this week). She is mother of Jade, Mick Jagger's first child, and has two granddaughters by Jade, one of whom is expected to give birth this year (2014), making Mick and Bianca great-grandparents. She is internationally known for human rights and humanitarian relief work. She and Jagger were divorced in the late '70s. A few observations about this song: It is true that long-time keyboardist Ian Stewart refused to play on the song, and Nashville session man Jim Dickinson was brought in to play the piano. It also reflected Keith's friendship with the ill-fated Gram Parson, who shared Keith's enthusiasm for hard drugs. Parsons's band The Flying Burrito Brothers released their studio version in 1970 on the album "Burrito Deluxe." this was prior to the Stones' own spring 1971 release of "Sticky Fingers." The reference to "horses" and to dull, aching pains, etc., is thought to be a reference to heroin (among other things) as many of the songs on "SF" have hard-drug references. ("Horse" is an old slang term for heroin). It also reflected Keith's feelings for Marlon and perhaps Jagger's for Marianne Faithfull, with whom he was breaking up at the time, and for Bianca, with whom he was initiating a romance. Initial work was at Muscle Shoals during the Stones' '69 U.S. tour just days before the disastrous Altamont concert. In other words, this song, like so many others (not just by the Stones but by Dylan, The Beatles, The Doors, etc.), is overdetermined in its sources and inspirations.
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationTaken from Original Rolling Stone Review [June 10, 1971]: "A good song with lots of good things in it that doesn't quite come off. The acoustic 12-string stands out over everything else in the arrangement — perhaps a little too far out, as the rest of the instruments sound like mere fragments, wandering in and out of the track at arbitrary intervals.

    Jagger's vocal is clearly audible for the first time on the album and I don't care for it. It is mannered, striving for intensity without being wholly convincing. Musically, the more complex the Stones get the m ore inadequate he sometimes sounds. The man is a stylist as opposed to a singer. He has always lacked power and range: on 15 albums he has never really grabbed hold of a note and let it ring. At his best, he sings around the notes — plays with them — dancing in and out with precision.

    Or, he can let himself go entirely, with no attempt at stylistic posturing and thereby achieving an almost incredibly naturalism. But, on "Wild Horses," there is a pint in which the only thing that will work is a good note, well sung, sustained and sufficient to stand on its own. It is not to be found. A musical attitude is not a replacement for a musical style and style is not a replacement for essential technique, which is what is missing here.

    The longing of the song's lyrics coupled with its ultimate hope constitute as much of a theme a there is on this record. Typically (since "Between the Buttons") the Stones' statement alternates between aggressive sexuality and warmer, more subtly erotic statements of emotional dependence and openness. The flirtation with social significance of the last two albums has been almost wholly abandoned in what appears to be something of a recommitment to more personal subject matter."
  • Zero from Nowhere, NjOn the X-Factor the Krajick guy (James?) did a great cover of this with just him and a piano. He dedicated it to his daughter.
  • Jr from Bloomington, InActress/Singer Elizabeth Gillies recorded a cover of this fine Rolling Stones tune.
  • Jack from Bryan, TxRe: Nashville tuning

    "Nashville tuning" doesn't make a 6-string guitar sound like a 12-string, it makes two 6-strings sound like a 12-string. It is a recording trick used in Nashville, either when a 12-string guitar isn't available or when the available personnel cannot produce a clean enough articulation as desired for the 12-string. One guitar is given the special tuning with the bottom four strings [E-A-D-G in standard tuning] tuned one octave higher than normal. If you plan on doing this a lot, you invest in a pack of 12-string strings and use the lighter gauge, upper octave strings. The other guitar is left in the normal tuning. With two guitarists playing together, this simulates the sound of a 12-string guitar. Alternately, a single guitarist will record two tracks, one Nashville tuning, one "normal" tuning. Played back together they sound like a single 12-string guitar.
  • Michelle from D, TxTori Amos did a beautiful cover of Wild Horses
  • Janetlee from Panama City, FlSusan Boyle has honored this song by recording it and having it be her first release from her very first album. She does it most beautifully and amazingly!
  • Kike from Laredo, TxWell for those of u who are opposed to GN'R covering this song, I think that what Slash and Gilby did with their guitars is just simply amazing. I´ve always loved this song but when I saw Slash and Gilby playing it just made it a more personal song.
  • Steve from Griswold, CtThis song reminds me of my mother and her battle with cancer. We stayed by her side until the end. "Wild horses couldn't drag me away."
  • Danny from Your Town, IaThis along with "Memory Motel," was two of the songs Dave Matthews sang this with The Stones live during their "Bridges To Babylon" tour.
  • Diane Maria from Pittsburgh, VaWho sings the high harmony in the original recording? It doesn't sound like anyone in the Stones.
  • Sam from Hipsville, CaI found interesting the reference to the "Nashville Tuning" of Mick Taylors' guitar in this song------i never knew it was done that way. Thanks Songfacts. Great song too. one of my faves of the Stones.
  • Rebeka from Rijeka, CroatiaMick Jaggers longtime girlfriend Jerry Hall in The Observer Magazine April 29, 2007: "Wild Horses is my favourite Stones song. It's so beautiful. I don't mind that it was written for Bianca."

    Who is Bianca??
  • Danny from Your Town, IaI think the best two versions of this are from the 76' tour when Kieth and Ron sand with Mick in one mic and the 1998 Bridges Babylon Tour with Dave Matthews in St. Louis- I was there! :)
  • Christina from Bowling Green, KyI adore this song! I was first introduced to it on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack where The Sundays covered it. Every version I ever hear is good, it's just one of those songs.
  • Craig from Ventura, CaThis is my favorite Stones penned song, but my favorite cover is by Molly Hatchet. It was very understated, the way the recorded it as far as Molly Hatchet goes - not their usual in your face type of performance - give it a try!
  • Stephanie from Los Angeles, CaSuch a beautiful song, often brings me to tears.
    Simple and oh so beautiful
  • Prashant from Ktm, OtherOne of my favorite stones-ballads. But this lovely songs makes me cry every time i listen to it. Too many memories. Thank you for posting this song. With a tear in either eye. Simply wonderful!
  • George from Little Rock, ArThe stones are probably my favorite rock band of all time, and this song is classic. The lyrics are hauntingly beautiful.
  • Farooq from New York, NyThis song appeared in Nip/Tuck:

    Episode: "Joan Rivers" (season 2, episode 29)
  • Tony from Houston, Tx
    I watched you suffer, a dull, aching pain
    Now you've decided to show me the same
    No sweeping exits or offstage lines
    Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
  • Ashley from Quincy, Ilthe stones don't get enuogh credit for song writing exspecally from the new generation. I'm 14 and I love the stones so much, and when people from my school found out I loved them they put them down so much I cried for four days.this song is ok i heard it was written for marianne faithfull I'm sorry but I DO NOT LIKE HER!!!
  • Justin from Singapore, SingaporeI don't think the Stones get enough credit for their songwriting. This is a standout amongst standouts! The day the Stones stop rolling, it will be one of the saddest days of my life. Right up there with John, George, Kurt, Jimi and Jim.
  • Linda from Ocean Park, WaIsn't it amazing how the Stones could write songs like Street Fighting Man and also something as lyrical and beautiful as "Wild Horses"? You have to give them credit. Although I know this song is all symbolism, as a lifelong horse person I still associate it with the beauty of the real thing.Okay, so sue me for being sentimental.
  • Richard from Nyc, Ny"let's do some living after we've died"
    For years I had no clue as to what that line meant. Then recently I made a music video for this song and by accident I discovered exactly what that line is all about. I cant explain it though. You have to see it. If your curious go to www.Veoh.com and search for Wild Horses. My screen name is "lessgov9". I think you enjoy the whole video.
  • Ashley from Elyria, Ohto scott, columbus oh,
    i totally agree on every thing you said/feel about this song. to me most remakes are not exceptable. they will live on forever.
  • Ashley from Elyria, Ohthis song is amazing i think that the origanal version is perfect the way it is and if i had the chance to redue this song i would pass because i dont think anyone could make this song any better than it already is. deffinatly my favorite song ever. i love it!
  • Geanco from Kansas City, MoOh, by the way, Lisa is the love of my life.
  • Geanco from Kansas City, MoThis is a very special song for me. On my right shoulder I have a tattoo of Wild Horses and the initials "J L". "J L" stands for Johnny and Lisa. Lisa is my wife (we have three beautiful children). My wife was involved in a near fatal car accident in Oct 2005. As she nearly bled to death in the ER, cold, clammy, and hallucinating with little blood pressure I sang this song to her. She recovered fully and I permantly marked the moment on my shoulder. Great song.
  • Jenna from Salisbury, NdGreat song, in what movies (ALL) does this song appear?
    -Jenna, NC
  • Carlos from Miami, FlThis is my favorite Rolling Stones song. The music and lyrics are about the most beautiful I have ever heard. It is also one of the saddest songs ever and I almost always weep every time I listen to it. Although this song is considered to be not only beautiful but a timeless classic in The Stones song catalogue it has never reached the recognition it deserves. I don't understand why it didn't go straight to #1 on the charts when it was first release in 1971. When my wife gave birth to our daughter and I went to the hospital to see them both I brought my guitar and played this song for the both of them. It was a poignant and magical moment in my life and Wild Horses is the song that always reminds me of my daughter's birth. This song has always had and will continue to have a profound effect on me.
  • Bill from Erie, PaMick and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam did a duet of "Wild Horses" in Pittsburgh at PNC Park on September 28, 2005. Pearl Jam had opened for the Stones. I was there, and it was almost a religious experience to me.
  • Brittany from Vancouver, CanadaThis is the song that really got me into the Stones before I...erm, developed taste. It just has so much emotion in it, and no other music had ever made me feel this way before.

    People don't know what they're missing, and this is a prime example of that.
  • Lucus from Mount Airy, NcOnce again, Guns n' Roses feels an uneccesary need to cover a perfect Rolling Stones tune. Don't get me wrong, Gn'R is an outstanding band when they're playing their own material - "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is the one exception. But, please, why couldn't they abstain from "Wild Horses"?!?
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaWow
  • Rob from Park Ridge, NjIf you like this song - check out the version done by "Old And In The Way." They were a bluegrass band in the 1970's who's banjo player was Jerry Garcia.
  • Jim from Philadelphia, PaAnother great slow song by the Stones. Very sentimental lyrics.
  • Pat from New York City, NyGuns N' Roses version of Wild Horses was used mostly as an intro to Patience. If you listen to a lot of Guns N' Roses in concert, you'll hear a lot of Rolling Stones songs in it
  • Carrie from Muscle Shoals, AlThis is one of the best songs of all time! I'm proud it was recorded in my little ol' town.
  • Maya from Cal, United Statesdefinitely one of the best stones songs... amazin lyrics and guitar and jagger's voice is really good in this .. yeah gnr did a good version (SLASH IS GODD) but i dont think its a very axl rosish song to sing... as opposed to mama kin (aerosmith) which gnr did a really cool cover of
  • Shawn from Buffalo, Nyprobably one of the best by the stones, behind give me some shelter.
  • Brittany from Richmond, KyI love this song. Everytime I hear it I have to stop and think about the lyrics. It's a great song and beautifully written.

  • Scott from Columbus, OhThe "Stones" have so many good songs it's incalculable, but this particular one invokes emotions that come from places I've yet to Discover. It's sooo beautiful.

    What a powerful song of Love and loss. Personally, I LOVE the version that "The Sundays" did, and I almost NEVER appreciate remakes....But the bottom line is that the writers deserved the credit and Mick Jagger and the crew will live for years to come as some of the best song writers/performers to ever live.
  • Dave from Philadelphia, PaI really do think this is the one of the best if not the best stones song, in my opinion. I hear metallica is supposed to open for the stones sometime this year. Sounds like an amazing show.
  • Becca from Hamilton, CanadaWithout a doubt,the BEST Rolling Stones song. I wish it would get more attention. People should be aware of such great music like this! I tried to refrain myself from ever liking a remake of this song,however,Bush(Bush-X)does a wonderful version of this song. It is such a beautiful song.
  • Julie from Chicago, Il"let's do some living after we've died"
    w h o a
    all in all, sweet sweet song
  • Dave from London , Canada"Nashville Tuning" is used on this song - which is a tuning that makes a 6-string guitar sound like a 12-string. Mick Taylor plays that part.
  • Tom from Toronto, CanadaThis song is a landmark for rock music. However the "Wild Horses couldn't drag me away" line, are the Wild Horses his band who is dragging him away from his family? Or his family who is dragging him away from his band? Any thoughts.
  • Nicole from Grand Forks, NdA beautiful song indeed, it impacted me greatly when I first heard it.
  • Cat from Bournemouth, Englandthe cranberries do a nice cover of this song.
  • Nate from Lincoln, NeFrom the Gram Parsons website:
    Gram did not write Wild Horses although he was the inspiration for the song. Wild Horses was actually written by Keith Richards and Mick Jagger (it is widely held that the song was originally written for Gram to sing, an idea that was refused by the record label). The Rolling Stones did allow Gram to record the song before the Stones themselves had recorded it (a first for the Rolling Stones). Gram did however arrange the version of Honky Tonk Woman that the Stones later called Country Honk and was also the key inspiration for The Stones' "Country-ish" movement following Exile On Main Street.
  • Pietro from Parma, ItalyGuns n'Roses made a good cover of this song during their "Use your Illusion" Tour. It figured out a very very beautiful guitar.
  • Chad from Orlando, FlThe Sundays' version plays in the movie 'Fear' during the foreplay-on-the-rollercoaster scene.
  • Jim from Newcastle On Tyne, Englandthis song was played at ian williamson's funeral at his request. It was very poignant
    since he died so young.
  • Andrea from Montreal, United Statesi love this song, i think it is one of the best songs by the stones!
  • Janelle from New York City, Nypeople you should really listen to this song, it is really good!
  • Janelle from New York City, Nythis such a beatiful song! i think that it should defintelty get more apraciation!
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