Saturday, September 19, 1981

The Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You hit #1 in US for 1st of 9 weeks

Tattoo You

The Rolling Stones

Released: August 30, 1981

Peak: 19 US, 2 UK, 17 CN, 111 AU

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 0.1 UK, 8.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: classic rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Start Me Up [3:31] (8/14/81, 2 US, 4 CB, 5 HR, 9 RR, 1 AR, 7 UK, 2 CN, 1 AU)
  2. Hang Fire [2:30] (9/26/81, 20 US, 32 CB, 56 HR, 21 RR, 2 AR, 99 AU)
  3. Slave [6:34] (23 CL)
  4. Little T & A [3:23] (10/10/81, 5 AR)
  5. Black Limousine (Jagger/Richards/Wood) [3:31]
  6. Neighbours [3:30] (4/30/82, 47 CL)
  7. Worried about You [5:16]
  8. Tops [3:45]
  9. Heaven [4:21]
  10. No Use in Crying [3:24]
  11. Waiting on a Friend [4:34] (11/27/81, 13 US, 14 CB, 16 HR, 6 RR, 8 AR, 50 UK, 10 CN, 44 AU)

Songs written by Jagger/ Richards unless indicated otherwise.

Total Running Time: 44:19

The Players:

  • Mick Jagger (vocals, guitar, percussion)
  • Keith Richards (guitar, vocals, bass)
  • Ronnie Wood (guitar, backing vocals)
  • Bill Wyman (bass, guitar, synthesizer, percussion)
  • Charlie Watts (drums)
  • Mick Taylor (guitar)

Spotify Podcast:

Check out Dave’s Music Database podcast: The Rolling Stones’ Tattoo You: Celebrating the 40th Anniversary. It premieres October 26, 2021 at 7pm CST. Tune in every Tuesday at 7pm for a new episode based on the lists at Dave’s Music Database.


3.921 out of 5.00 (average of 23 ratings)

Quotable: “The band’s last great album.” – review by Steve Knopper

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

For a band who’d been around nearly two decades, this shouldn’t have ranked amongst the most celebrated albums of their career. This was their 16th British studio album and 18th in the United States. The Rolling Stones had topped the album chart in the U.S. eight times previously, but this one – their ninth trip to the top – proved the most successful with nine weeks at the pinnacle. It was second only to 1978’s Some Girls in terms of worldwide sales for their studio albums.

Return to Glory
Tattoo You “captures the Stones at their best as a professional stadium-rock band.” AMG It is “an essential latter-day Stones album, ranking just a few notches below Some Girls.” AMG It is “often viewed as the band’s last great album.” AZ It is “a potent slab of swagger and sass” CD made up of songs that are “confident and consistent.” BN The “album delivers its share of thrills on the tight, dynamic first side” AMG which was devoted to rock & roll, while the other side, focused on ballads, “suffers in comparison.” AMG

“Much of the last decade consisted of…camouflage for an essential loss of nerve, an unwillingness to be seen unguarded for the length of an LP, or even a tune…Just when we might finally have lost patience, the new record dances (not prances), rocks (not jives) onto the scene, and the Rolling Stones are back again.” RS

In The New York Times, Robert Palmer wrote that “remarkably, Tattoo You is something special...None of [the tracks] are Chuck Berry retreads, none of them are disco, and none of them are reggae – they are all rock-and-roll, with more than a hint of the soul and blues influences that were so important in the band's early work...The new album’s lyrics are also a surprise. The Stones seem to have dropped the studied decadence that was their most characteristic pose throughout the ‘70s. The songs on Tattoo You seem to be by and about real people rather than larger-than-life caricatures.” WK

Raiding the Vaults
What’s surprising is that the Stones achieved their revival with a collection of mostly studio outtakes. Between touring obligations and their feuding, the band found little opportunity at the close of the ‘70s to come together in the studio. Because of that, Tattoo You and its predecessor, Emotional Rescue, relied on “unused recordings from prior sessions,” WK some dating back as far as 1972.

The material came together because Chris Kimsey, the album’s associate producer, spent three months sifting through the vaults. He told the band, “Hey, look guys, you’ve got all this great stuff sitting in the can…do something with it.” WK Most of the songs were instrumental backing tracks without vocals. The members came into the studio when they were available to polish up the tracks. WK

While the album is comprised primarily of leftovers “it never sounds that way.” AMG “This unity is partly the work of Bob Clearmountain, who mixed the finished tracks and gave them his characteristic vacuum-packed clarity (you could bounce a quarter off each of Watts’ rim shots). Mostly, though, it sounds like the Stones simply decided it was time to challenge themselves again.” RS

“Start Me Up”
Tattoo You contributed one true classic, ‘Start Me Up,’ to the Stones’ canon.” AZ It “became the record’s definitive Stonesy rocker,” AMG and “the catchiest Stones single in ages.” RS It became a stadium-rattling anthem that proved they were “still capable of rousing the blood.” BN The song, “still used as a concert finale,” AZ is “replete with Jagger’s sexual braggadocio and Keith’s patented ‘Honky Tonk Women’-style riffs.” CD It “ends with a leering Mick Jagger murmuring about a woman who could ‘make a dead man come.’” AZ

The song began life “under the working title ‘Never Stop’…as a reggae-influenced number in 1978 during the Some Girls sessions.” WK it was recorded during sessions in Paris at PathĂ© Marconi, as was “Black Limousine.” WK

“Hang Fire”
“The frenzied doo wop” AMG of “the fast-paced ‘Hang Fire’” AZ “is a tight two-minute and twenty second redefinition of surf music.” CD The song grew out of sessions from 1978’s Some Girls and 1980’s Emotional Rescue. WK

“The reggae jam of ‘Slave’” AMG features jazz great Sonny Rollins. He turns “a standard Stones blues jam, into something searing and passionate by establishing a level for the rest of the musicians to match.” RS The backing tracks for this song and “Worried About You” dated back to sessions for the 1976 Black and Blue album. Both songs featurd Billy Preston on keyboards and Ollie E. Brown on percussion. WK

“Little T&A” and “Neighbours”
There are two “sleazy Chuck Berry rockers,” AMG the “cocky ‘Little T&A” CD and “the trashcan rockabilly of ‘Neighbours.’” BN Both songs came out of the sessions for Emotional Rescue. WK The former is “sung by an endearingly raspy Keith Richards” CD and is “full of wonderful chordal soloing.” RS The latter features Rollins again on a solo that “has the full-bodied sound of classic R&B–always about to go over the edge.” RS

“Black Limousine”
“The barrelhouse blues of ‘Black Limousine’ is…goosebump-inducing.” BN It “is as much a lament for the halcyon days of a relationship as it is a memory of glittering innocence.” RS

“Worried About You” and “No Use in Crying”
“The vocal blend in ‘No Use in Crying’ and the way that Mick Jagger drops from falsetto to full voice in ‘Worried about You’ have the instant impact of a lover’s touch–a strength that means far more than a mere return to form.” RS “No Use in Crying” and “Heaven” came out of the sessions for Emotional Rescue. WK

“The Philly-soul falsetto of ‘Tops’ acknowledges that ‘every man has the same come-on’ without faulting the man for trying (a trace of sadness here, maybe) or the woman for believing him.” RS This song, and “Waiting on a Friend,” are “effortless, excellent ballads” AMG which were built on backing tracks from the 1972 sessions for the Goats Head Soup album. WK

“Heaven” is ” a paean to physical love that glorifies tenderness, not sweat and excess. It’s an odd, hymnlike number, more reminiscent of Television than of anything by the Stones. In part, ‘Heaven’ is a lover's talisman, a promise of protection: ‘Nothing will harm you/Nothing will stand in your way.’ Like all of Tattoo You, it begs the listener's trust. And, for the first time in years, the Rolling Stones deserve it. Deserve it in spades.” RS

“Waiting on a Friend”
The album wraps up with “the wistful” CD “Waiting on a Friend” which features a sax solo from Rollins and “a moving lyric that captures Jagger in a shockingly reflective and affecting state of mind.” AMG The song is “a celebration of maturity…melodic and transcendent.” RS It is “an absolute masterpiece” AMG rating “as one of the band’s best ever.” BN

Notes: A 2021 40th anniversary deluxe edition included a disc of nine songs entitled Lost & Found – Rarities and a 1982 concert from Wembley Stadium.

Resources and Related Links:

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 10/23/2021.

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