Thursday, July 4, 2019

50 years ago: The Rolling Stones released “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

The Rolling Stones

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

Released: July 4, 1969

Charted: April 21, 1973

Peak: 42 US, 34 CB, 35 GR, 36 HR, 1 CL, 68 CN, 15 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, -- UK, 1.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 11.0 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

This was the first song recorded for the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed album. It was recorded November 16-17, 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios in London and initially released as the B-side of “Honky Tonk Women” in July 1969, but reissued as a single on its own in 1973. Had it been released as an A-side initially, it “stood a chance of being a substantial hit.” AMG Even though the charts don’t reflect it, it has become one of the band’s most popular songs, featured on multiple compilations and in nearly every one of their concerts. WK

John Lennon claimed the Stones often copied the Beatles’ innovations, AMG prompting the obvious comparison between this song and “Hey Jude.” Both songs last around seven minutes – an unheard of length for a single – “swell from simple beginnings to orchestra crescendos,” AMG use choral backing vocals, and have long fadeouts which repeat a key musical motif of the composition. AMG This, however, “is not a mere ‘Hey Jude’ imitation…being quite worthy, even classic, in its own right.” AMG

It’s a “classy pop tune” AMG which starts as a ballad and moves to a mid-tempo rock number, integrating folk, gospel and classical elements. It starts out sounding more like a “straight classical recording” AMG thanks to the opening verse being sung unaccompanied by the London Bach Choir. The following instrumental section featured a French horn solo by Al Kooper, AMG who is famously known as the organist for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

The song addresses some of the major themes of the 1960s, including love, politics, and drugs, with three verses capturing “the essence of the initial optimism and eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism of the chorus.” WK “Despite the somewhat downcast subject matter” AMG “there’s also an uplifting and reassuring quality to the melody and performance,” AMG not to mention the “philosophical rumination” AMG of the key lyrical hook that we can’t always get what we want, but we’ll get what we need. AMG

According to legend, the song was inspired by an incident in which Mick Jagger went into a local drugstore for a Cherry Coke. Drug store soda fountains were the place to usually get the drink at the time, which was made with real cherries. The store didn’t have them and the man behind Jagger said, “Well, you can’t always get what you want.” SF


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First posted 10/19/2020; last updated 7/11/2023.

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