Sunday, September 18, 2011

Street Fighting Man

Before The Rolling Stones completed the song we know as "Street Fighting Man" (1968), it was a work-in-progress referred to as "Did Everybody Pay Their Dues?," or some close variation of that. Listening to the audio track now, part of the lyrics go more or less like this, a sort of gnarly hybrid of "Who's Been Sleeping Here?" (which came before it) and "Brown Sugar (which came after):

Now did everybody pay their dues?
Now did everyone with tribal blues
All the braves and the squaws and the maids and the whores
Did everybody pay their dues?

He's a tribal chief his name is called disorder
He's flesh and blood he tears it up when acting right is normal
Now did everybody pay their dues?
Now did any of them try to refuse?

With this track, the music remained more or less intact, but the lyrics were radically changed. Why? The Tet Offensive, US-Vietnam War. Really?  Yes, really. Mick Jagger participated in an anti-war rally in London (outside the American embassy) in March '68, and was on top of the situation in France (mai '68 and its lead-up). Cataclysm was in the air. In the US on March 31st, President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced:  "I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President." Given all the excitement, Jagger revamped almost everything, changing

He's a tribal chief his name is called disorder . . .


Hey, said my name is called Disturbance . . .


I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the King, I'll rail at all his servants . . .

And so "Street Fighting Man" was refined that summer and sent out over the airwaves in August 1968. The US was in complete chaos, and the song perfectly captured the spirit of the times. However, the song scared a lot of people -- therefore, it was (haphazardly, voluntarily) suppressed on radio in the US; in the UK, it wasn't even released as a single until 1970.

Mick Jagger has continued to weigh in on current events over the years, but never with such intensity as during Revolutionary Year One, 1968/1969. He is also a wry observer, as with the lyrics to "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (recorded in November, 1968, and released in 1969):

Now I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing "we're gonna vent our frustration
If we don't we're gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse . . ."

Other examples, all still relevant: "Gimme Shelter" (1969), "Fingerprint File" (1974), "Undercover of the Night" (1983), "Highwire" (1991) and "Sweet Neo Con" (2005).

Today's Rune: Flow.


Charles Gramlich said...

Some more lyrics I've misheard.

Cloudia said...

interesting and of interest to cultural scholars!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral

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