Saturday, June 11, 2016

50 years ago: The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” hit #1

Paint It Black

The Rolling Stones

Writer(s): Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (see lyrics here)

Released: May 7, 1966

First Charted: May 14, 1966

Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 11 HR, 1 CL, 11 UK, 11 CN, 13 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 188.0 video, 641.81 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This was the sixth #1 hit for the Rolling Stones in the UK and their third in the United States. The song was featured on the U.S. version of Aftermath and the UK version of the Big Hits (High Tides and Green Grass) compilation. The song “broke free of the blues and R&B influences” AMG of previous hits, showcasing singer Mick Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards as “versatile, growing writers who could compete head-to-head with the best rock composers of the era, such as their chief rivals, the Beatles, of course.” AMG

The song holds the distinction as the first number-one hit to feature a sitar WK and “perhaps the most effective use of the Indian instrument in a rock song.” AMG Brian Jones started exploring eastern instruments out of frustration from being overshadowed by Jagger and Richards. WK Jones used the sitar to arrange the basic arrangements for “Paint It Black” after a discussion with George Harrison, who had recently used the sitar on the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” WK It may have been Jones’ “greatest musical achievement,” AMG but he got no songwriting credit for it. Richards explained that Jones never presented a finished song to the group, hence his omission from the credits. SF

The intent of the song lyrically was to use color-based metaphors to describe the grief one suffers after the loss of a spouse or partner, WK reportedly inspired by the death of a former girlfriend of Jagger’s. AMG There are also claims Jagger drew on the 1922 novel Ulysses by James Joyce and its themes of desperation and depression. WK Jagger explained that the song’s exploration of a character “so entrenched in his depression and rage that he has lost all hope” WK fit with the theme of Aftermath, where each song offered insight into “the darkness of his psyche.” WK When Jagger sings that he wants to “see the sun blotted out from the sky, [it is] surely one of the most despairing images in popular music.” AMG

Amusingly, the song was originally released as “Paint It, Black.” The comma, however, was an error on the part of Decca Records and not meant to be part of the title. The incorrect title implied that a person named “Black” was being encouraged to do the painting. AMG Some fans interpreted it as a statement on racial relations. WK


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First posted 10/19/2020; last updated 11/3/2022.

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