Honky Tonk Woman - The Rolling Stones

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"Honky Tonk Woman" - The Rolling Stones (1968)

“Honky Tonk Woman” was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 1968 while vacationing in Brazil and met the local residents of the ranch they were staying at.

“Honkey Tonk Women” is a term used for a bar dancer or a prostitute. The bluesy tune is one man’s tale of hedonism embarking on nightly adventures involving “gin soaked.bar room queens” in Memphis, and “divorce’s in New York”, who lure him into their web but can never say no to the temptation “cause I just can’t drink you off my mind”.

The song has very suggestive lyrics, such as “she blew my nose and then she blew my mind” which implies sex and cocaine. While radio stations were bothered by the lines in “Satisfaction” in 1966- they didn’t bat an eyelash just a few years later.

Opening with Rolling Stone’s producer Jimmy Miller banging on a cowbell gave the recording a very distinctive sound- and, like many Rolling Stone’s songs, it is based around a primal blues rock riff that takes on various forms during the song. Beginning with the clipped circular one at the beginning coming in as the cow bell does, where only Keith Richards plays the lower string hitting a bass note here and there. It then enters with a blues country riff, and continuing with the responsive riff echoing Jagger’s voice as he sings “honkey tonk, honkey tonk women.”

The main riff is played by Richards thus marking his first venture into an open G tuning that would become his signature tuning on later tracks. Jaggers’ vocals characterize the musical tone of the track that captures its nonchalant spirit. Projecting a sense of easiness and a good time, drummer Charlie Watts’ no frills drumbeats manage to give the beat a sense of authority but at the same time is modest and simple.

Although being primarily a rock n’ roll song, “Honkey Tonk Women” is heavily layered with a bluesy sound alluding to the signature Stones sound the group were so familiar with before hitting it big in 1964. The track stands out not only as the Stone’s last great single of the 1960s, but also as a testimony that even in the midst of mainstream stardom, they weren’t afraid to go back to where it all started: good ol’ dirty blues!

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