Brown Sugar (Rolling Stones song)

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"Brown Sugar" is a song recorded by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. Written primarily by Mick Jagger, it is the opening track and lead single from their album Sticky Fingers (1971). It became a number one hit in both the United States and Canada. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it charted at number two. In the United States, Billboard ranked it as the number 18 song for 1971. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 495 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and at number five on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.[7]

"Brown Sugar"
BrownSugarUK45.jpg
Single by The Rolling Stones
from the album Sticky Fingers
B-side"Bitch"/"Let It Rock" (UK)
Released16 April 1971 (1971-04-16)
Recorded2–4 December 1969
StudioMuscle Shoals Sound, Sheffield, Alabama
Genre
Length3:50
LabelRolling Stones
Songwriter(s)Jagger/Richards
Producer(s)Jimmy Miller
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Honky Tonk Women"
(1969)
"Brown Sugar"
(1971)
"Wild Horses"
(1971)
Audio sample
Alternative covers
American single label
American single label

Inspiration and recordingEdit

Though credited to Jagger–Richards, "Brown Sugar" was primarily the work of Jagger, who wrote it sometime during the filming of Ned Kelly in 1969.[8] According to Marsha Hunt, Jagger's then-girlfriend and the mother of his first child Karis, he wrote the song with her in mind.[9] Former Ikette Claudia Lennear disputes this claim, saying that it was written about her.[10] In 2014, Lennear told The Times that she is the subject of the song because she was dating Jagger when it was written.[11] Bill Wyman stated in his book Rolling with the Stones (2002) that the lyrics were partially inspired by Lennear.[12]

"Brown Sugar" was recorded over a three-day period at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, from 2 to 4 December 1969. The song was not released until over a year later due to legal wranglings with the band's former label. At the request of guitarist Mick Taylor (who had joined the band as Brian Jones' replacement in July 1969), the Stones debuted the number live during the infamous concert at the Altamont Speedway on 6 December 1969.

In the liner notes to the compilation album Jump Back (1993), Jagger says, "The lyric was all to do with the dual combination of drugs and girls. This song was a very instant thing, a definite high point".[13]

In the Rolling Stone interview (14 December 1995, RS 723) Jagger spoke at length about the song, its inspiration and success, and taking credit for writing the lyrics. Keith Richards also credits Jagger with the song in his autobiography.[14] Jagger attributed the success of the song to a "good groove". After noting that the lyrics could mean so many lewd subjects,[15] he again noted that the combination of those subjects, the lyrical ambiguity was partially why the song was considered successful. He noted, "That makes it... the whole mess thrown in. God knows what I'm on about on that song. It's such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go... I never would write that song now." When interviewer Jann Wenner asked him why, Jagger replied, "I would probably censor myself. I'd think, 'Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop. I can't just write raw like that.'"[16]

An alternative version was recorded on 18 December 1970, at Olympic Studios in London, during a birthday party for Richards and Bobby Keys. It features appearances by Al Kooper on piano, and Eric Clapton on slide guitar.[17] The alternative version, which had previously been available only on bootleg recordings, was released in June 2015 on the Deluxe and Super Deluxe editions of the reissued Sticky Fingers album.[17][18]

ReleaseEdit

"Brown Sugar" was released in April 1971 as the first single from the album. While the US single featured only "Bitch" as the B-side, the British single featured that track plus a live rendition of Chuck Berry's "Let It Rock", recorded at the University of Leeds during the 1971 tour of the United Kingdom.

The song is also the first single released on Rolling Stones Records (catalogue number RS-19100) and is one of the two Stones songs (along with "Wild Horses") licensed to both the band and former manager Allen Klein (a result of various business disagreements) resulting in its inclusion on the compilation album Hot Rocks 1964–1971. "Brown Sugar" is also included on the most significant latter-day Rolling Stones compilations, Jump Back, Forty Licks and GRRR!.

To promote the song, the Rolling Stones performed on Top of the Pops with the performance taped sometime around late March 1971, and being shown on 15 April and 6 May. They performed "Brown Sugar", "Wild Horses" and "Bitch" for the show's segment dedicated to albums, which was shown on 22 April 1971; due to BBC practices at the time, the performances were erased and all that remains is "Brown Sugar". Saxophone player Trevor Lawrence mimes to Bobby Keys's actual solo.

In the United Kingdom, the single was originally issued in mono using a now-rarely heard bespoke mono mix. This mono mix has never been used on any compilation.

The song was performed routinely during the Stones' 1970 European Tour, occupying a prominent spot near the end of the set list even though audiences were unfamiliar with it. The band opened the shows of their infamous 1972 American Tour with "Brown Sugar", and it has since become a Stones concert staple. However, in more recent times Jagger has changed some of the more controversial lyrics when performing the song live. For example, the first verse line 'I hear him whip the women just around midnight' has been replaced with the more simple 'you should have heard him just around midnight.'

In October 2021, The Los Angeles Times reported that Jagger and Richards had stated that they would be reluctantly dropping the song from their concert setlist due to its controversial lyrics, though they expressed hope to bring it back in the future. "I don't know. I'm trying to figure out with the sisters quite where the beef is. Didn't they understand this was a song about the horrors of slavery? But they're trying to bury it. At the moment I don't want to get into conflicts with all of this shit. But I'm hoping that we'll be able to resurrect the babe in her glory somewhere along the track", Richards said. Jagger said of the song "We've played 'Brown Sugar' every night since 1970, so sometimes you think, we'll take that one out for now and see how it goes. We might put it back in." The song was last performed live in August 2019.[19]

Critical receptionEdit

Writing for Sounds in 1971, Penny Valentine praised "Brown Sugar", stating that it was her "choice as the best track".[20] Writing for The Rag, rock critic Mike Saunders found the single to be the "only especially noteworthy" track of Sticky Fingers (1971).[21]

The lyrical subject matter has often been a point of interest and controversy.[22] Described by rock critic Robert Christgau as "a rocker so compelling that it discourages exegesis",[23] "Brown Sugar"'s popularity indeed often overshadowed its provocative lyrics, which were essentially a pastiche of a number of taboo subjects, including slavery, rape, interracial sex, cunnilingus, sadomasochism, lost virginity, and heroin.[24] Fifty years later, critic Tom Taylor concludes that the song "does not offer one considered thought to the subject matter that it sings of..." and "the atrocity of the slave trade, rape and the unimaginable suffering therein should not be adorned with gyrating, glib lyrics, guitar solos and no redeeming features in the way of discerned appraisal."[25]

In 2019, music producer Ian Brennan wrote a piece for The Chicago Tribune condemning the song for its lyrics, calling out the themes of "slavery, rape, torture and pedophilia" heard in "Brown Sugar" and calling for the song to be pulled from the radio and the band's setlist.[26] "The violence and stereotypes depicted by the lyrics of the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar" are repulsive, yet the song continues to be broadcast without a peep by radio stations around the world and is blasted in cafes, airports, gyms, shopping centers and the ilk, even now well into the #MeToo and #TimesUp era," Brennan wrote.[27]

Cover versionsEdit

Little Richard recorded a rendition of "Brown Sugar" for his album The King of Rock and Roll, released in 1971.[28]

Chart performanceEdit

CertificationsEdit

Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[47]
Physical
Silver 250,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[47]
Digital
Gold 400,000 

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
  Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

PersonnelEdit

The Rolling Stones[48]

Additional personnel

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ High Fidelity Musical America. 22. Billboard Pub. 1972. p. 106.
  2. ^ Mike Jahn (1973). Rock: from Elvis Presley to the Rolling Stones. Quadrangle. p. 284. ISBN 9780812903140.
  3. ^ The Rolling Stones (14 April 2009). The Rolling Stones: Hot Rocks 1964–1971: Authentic Bass TAB Sheet Music Transcription. Alfred Music. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-4574-3336-8.
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie. The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar at AllMusic. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  5. ^ Richie Unterberger. "The Rolling Stones Brown Sugar Composed by Mick Jagger / Keith Richards". All Music. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  6. ^ Beviglia, Jim (2015). Counting Down the Rolling Stones: Their 100 Finest Songs. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 95. ISBN 9781442254473.
  7. ^ "Brown Sugar". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004 (accessed 25 April 2007).
  8. ^ Wenner, Jann S. (14 December 1995). "Mick Jagger Remembers". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  9. ^ Janovitz, Bill (23 July 2013). Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones. St. Martin's Publishing Group. p. 199. ISBN 978-1-250-02632-3.
  10. ^ Mastropolo, Frank (16 April 2016). "Revisiting the Rolling Stones' Controversial 'Brown Sugar'". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  11. ^ Marsh, Stefanie (25 February 2014). "Me, Mick Jagger and the truth about Brown Sugar". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  12. ^ "Brown Sugar". www.timeisonourside.com. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
  13. ^ Covach, John (2005), "Form in Rock Music: A Primer", in Stein, Deborah, Engaging Music: Essays in Music Analysis, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 74–75, ISBN 0-19-517010-5 .
  14. ^ Richards, Keith (2010). Life. New York: Little, Brown. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-316-03438-8.
  15. ^ mayerson, hy (9 March 2019), Metamorphosis, retrieved 10 March 2019
  16. ^ "Jagger Remembers" Archived 5 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Rolling Stone. 14 December 1995.
  17. ^ a b Kreps, Daniel (3 June 2015). "Rolling Stones Share 'Brown Sugar' Take With Eric Clapton". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  18. ^ Britton, Luke Morgan (2 June 2015). "The Rolling Stones share unheard version of 'Brown Sugar' featuring Eric Clapton". NME. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Rolling Stones Pulling Song 'Brown Sugar' from Concerts for Lyrics That Reference Slavery". People. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  20. ^ Valentine, Penny (17 April 1971). "Rolling Stones: 'Brown Sugar'/'Bitch'/'Let It Rock' (Rolling Stones Records)". Sounds.
  21. ^ Saunders, Mike (3 May 1971). "The Rolling Stones: Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones Records COC 59100)". The Rag.
  22. ^ Turman, Katherine (30 June 2020). "Radio Pulled Violent Songs Off Air After 9/11 – But It Won't Reckon With Race". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  23. ^ Christgau, Robert "Rolling Stones". The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. 1976 (accessed 24 June 2007).
  24. ^ Unterberger, Richie (2007). "The Rolling Stones 'Brown Sugar'". AllMusic. Retrieved 25 April 2007.
  25. ^ Taylor, Tom (16 April 2021). "The uncomfortable reality of The Rolling Stones song 'Brown Sugar'". Far Out.
  26. ^ "Rolling Stones drop 'insensitive' Brown Sugar from US tour setlist". The Guardian. 13 October 2021. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  27. ^ "The problem with the Rolling Stones' 'Brown Sugar'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 October 2021.
  28. ^ Grow, Kory; Dolan, Jon; Leight, Elias; Doyle, Patrick; Hudak, Joseph (9 May 2020). "16 Great Little Richard Deep Cuts". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  29. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  30. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  31. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 5385." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  32. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  33. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Brown Sugar". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  34. ^ "Flavour of new zealand – search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  35. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar". VG-lista. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  36. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  37. ^ "South African Rock Lists Website – SA Charts 1965 – 1989 Songs (A-B)". www.rock.co.za.
  38. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  39. ^ "The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  40. ^ "Rolling Stones: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  41. ^ "The Rolling Stones Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  42. ^ "Australian Chart Book". Austchartbook.com.au. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  43. ^ "Item Display – RPM – Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  44. ^ "Dutch Charts". dutchcharts.nl.
  45. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1971/Top 100 Songs of 1971". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  46. ^ "Cash Box YE Pop Singles – 1971". Tropicalglen.com. 15 December 1971. Archived from the original on 6 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2016.
  47. ^ a b "British single certifications – Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  48. ^ "Sticky Fingers Liner Notes". Album Liner Notes. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  49. ^ "Sax on the Web > Rock&Roll > Classic Solos – Transcripts". www.saxontheweb.net.

External linksEdit