Monday, November 7, 1983

The Rolling Stones’ Undercover released

The Rolling Stones


Released: November 7, 1983

Peak: 4 US, 3 UK, 13 CN, 3 AU

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.1 UK, 3.0 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. Undercover of the Night [4:31] (11/1/83, 9 US, 12 CB, 6 RR, 2 AR, 11 UK, 14 CN, 27 AU)
  2. She Was Hot [4:40] (11/19/83, 44 US, 52 CB, 4 AR, 42 UK, 60 AU)
  3. Tie You Up (The Pain of Love) [4:12]
  4. Wanna Hold You [3:12]
  5. Feel on Baby [5:03]
  6. Too Much Blood [5:46] (12/17/83, 38 AR)
  7. Pretty Beat Up (Jagger/ Richards/ Wood) [4:03]
  8. Too Tough [3:46] (11/19/83, 14 AR)
  9. All the Way Down [3:40]
  10. It Must Be Hell [5:03]

Songs written by Jagger/ Richards unless indicated otherwise.

Total Running Time: 43:56

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)


3.134 out of 5.00 (average of 21 ratings)

Quotable: “Rock & roll without apologies” – Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone

About the Album:

“By now, the Rolling Stones have assumed something of the status of the blues in popular music – a vital force beyond time and fashion. Undercover…reassembles…familiar elements into exciting new forms…Should future generations wonder why the Stones endured so long at the very top of their field, this record offers just about every explanation. Here we have the world’s greatest rock & roll rhythm section putting out at maximum power; the reeling, roller-derby guitars at full roar; riffs that stick in the viscera, songs that seize the hips and even the heart; a singer who sounds serious again.” RS

“Although the hard-rock numbers that make up the bulk of the record have the Rolling Stones’ stamp all over them, they are also distinguished by a heightened creative freshness that recalls their song-rich 1967 LP Between the Buttons…The raw vitality of the performances is matched by the thorniness of the lyrics, which glimmer with all the usual veiled allusions and inscrutable ambiguities.” RS

The album “is a weird, wild mix of hard rock, new wave pop, …dub,” AMG and “freaky reggae and soul.” RS “With Afro-Cuban percussion and dub textures scattered throughout, Undercover sounds like a soundtrack to a bloody Caribbean coup d’etat.” RS

“Even with all the careening musical eclecticism, what distinguishes Undercover is its bleak, nihilistic attitude – it’s teeming with sickness, with violence, kinky sex and loathing dripping from almost every song.” AMG It makes for “a darkness unfelt on a Stones album since Altamont made them want to leave such devilish business behind.” RS

“Undercover of the Night”
With its “viciously dubbed-out guitars,” RS “the dub sensibility crops up most strikingly on” RS Undercover of the Night. The song “exhibits a sense of political scorn that seems fueled by more genuine disgust than the Stones have spewed up in years. Rich in repugnant detail, …[it] chronicles current Latin American political agonies, and its music, resounding with coproducer Chris Kimsey’s sirenlike dub echoes, slams the message home with inarguable power.” RS It “slams with echoing guitars and rubbery bass lines, as Jagger gives a feverish litany of sex, corruption and suicide. It set the tone for the rest of the album.” AMG

“She Was Hot”
“The sentimentally salacious She Was HotRS is “a lustful rocker that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Some Girls.” RS “The runaway nymphomaniac” AMG “at the center of ‘She Was Hot’ turns out to have been more than just a great lay – the simple sincerity of the singer’s ‘I hope we meet again’ adds a sudden emotional resonance to what at first appears an empty-headed sex anthem.” RS

“Too Much Blood”
“The flamboyantly grisly Too Much BloodRS may revel a bit too much in “ridiculous slasher imagery,” AMG but it also “churn[s] up a marvelous, murky funk” RS courtesy of the former Sugar Hill Records’ horn section. It is “a rough and rambling rap tune that shows they’ve been listening to more than the occasional Grand Master Flash twelve-inch.” RS The song also features “the rampant clatter of Moroccan percussionists Moustapha Cisse and Brahms Condoul, plus reggae stalwart Sly Dunbar on electronic drums…And when David Sanborn comes screaming up on solo sax and Jagger rides in on a descending riff, singing. ‘I wanna dance, I wanna sing, I wanna bust up everything,’ the track transcends MTV-style racial considerations and emerges as a colorblind dance-floor hit.” RS

“Feel on Baby”
“There is a dark Jamaican dub groove running through Feel on Baby, a somewhat poignant lament,” RS which features “the machine-gun rattle of Linndrums.” AMG That song and “Jagger’s reliance on sado-masochism as a central lyrical theme… add to the notion that the Stones were reflecting a world gone wrong back upon its audience.” RS

“Tie You Up” and “Pretty Beat Up”
Tie You Up and Pretty Beat Up…[are] the most obvious examples.” AMG “The title of the sinuously slippery ‘Pretty Beat Up’ refers not to the song’s female subject but to the singer’s condition since she left him.” RS “When Jagger sings in ‘Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)’ that ‘You get a rise from it / Feel the hot come dripping on your thighs from it,’ and that ‘Women will die for it,’ you might conclude that he's just being provocative (or, alternatively, that he’s still the pathetic sexist asshole you always figured him for). But the song isn’t simply about male domination of women; it’s about the omnisexual oppressiveness of romantic obsession.” RS

“All the Way Down”
“In between the shout-along choruses of All the Way Down, where Jagger looks back on his beginnings and says, ‘I was king. Mr. Cool, just a snotty little fool’ – and then slyly adds, ‘Like kids are now’ – he sounds more self-aware than his detractors have ever given him credit for being.” RS

“Too Tough”
“There is a moment early on in” RS in “the indomitable self-assertion of Too ToughRS “that sums up all of the Stones’ extraordinary powers. With the guitars locked into a headlong riff and Mick Jagger hoarsely berating the woman who ‘screwed me down with kindness’ and ‘suffocating love,’ the track is already off to a hot start; but then Charlie Watts comes barreling in on tom-toms and boots the tune onto a whole new level of gut-punching brilliance. That the Stones are still capable of such exhilarating energy is cause enough for wondrous comment; that they are able to sustain such musical force over the course of an entire LP is rather astonishing.” RS

“Wanna Hold You”
Only “Keith Richards’ unadorned declaration of love and hope, Wanna Hold YouRS “offers a reprieve from the carnage, and its relentless bloodletting makes the album a singularly fascinating listen. For some observers, that mixture was nearly too difficult to stomach, but for others, it's a fascinating record, particularly since much of its nastiness feels as if the Stones, and Jagger and Richards in particular, are running out of patience with each other.” AMG

“If the album lacks the epochal impact of, say, Sticky Fingers, then perhaps it’s because the mythic years of pop are past – by now, even the Stones have long since bade them goodbye. But Undercover seems to be more felicitously concentrated than Exile on Main Street, and while it may lack that album’s dark power and desperate atmosphere, it does deliver nonstop, unabashed rock & roll crafted to the highest standards in the business.” RS Undercover is rock & roll without apologies.” RS

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First posted 3/23/2008; last updated 10/24/2021.

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