Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

The Rolling Stones Tattoo You (1981)


It’s not such a shocking thing to learn that a rock ‘n’ roll band had a vault full of unreleased material that didn’t make it on their previous albums. Most rock ‘n’ roll bands do that, I’d imagine. But it really says something about The Rolling Stones that they had material this good just sitting around! I mean, much of this stuff would have sounded great on their respective albums. Some might have even been substantial hits! Geez, can you think of any other rock band that would let such a piping-hot riff like “Start Me Up” lay around collecting dust for more than two weeks? I can’t! All things considered, though, it’s just as well that these songs wouldn’t see the light of day until 1981. The good people of 1981 definitely needed an album like this. It restored everyone’s faith in rock ‘n’ roll! Briefly.

It starts off with that powerhouse classic “Start Me Up,” which is such a widely known song that even I recognize it from my childhood, which I spent living under a rock. It has all the makings of a great pop-rock classic: the verses are just as catchy as the chorus, the guitars are crunchy and terrific, and Jagger’s vocals are thrilling. …Jagger claims that song was originally conceived as a reggae, but you wouldn’t know that by listening to it. Thank goodness it wasn’t! That song is considered a massive classic and for very good reason.

This is also the album with “Waiting For a Friend” on it, which isn’t one of the Stones’ most celebrated ballads, but it definitely should be. I never remember The Stones sounding so dang warm before! The instruments are very soft and sweet, Jagger’s vocal performance is beautiful, and the melody is really easy to take to heart. Usually their ballads are bittersweet or cynical, but … geez, that song just makes you want to grab the person nearest you and give them a big ol’ hug. It takes a lot for me to say that, because touching people gives me the willies! According to Wikipedia, The Stones were performing that song as early as 1970, and only God knows why they didn’t actually release this since it would have sold millions. Maybe its sheer good-heartedness wasn’t consistent with their image? I don’t know. But this is a great treat for anyone who hasn’t given it a listen yet!

“Hang Fire” is an incredibly catchy pop-rocker that was left off of Some Girls, and it would have absolutely thrived on that album. The riff is tight and infectious, and Jagger adopts that utterly enjoyable growl to his lead vocals. “Slave” is jammy blues-rock that dates from Black and Blue and features Jeff Beck on lead guitar. (Apparently Jeff Beck had auditioned to be in The Stones! … I was not aware of that!) It’s a very captivating song, and it’s catchier than a cactus. “Black Limousine” is more straightforward blues, and it proves exactly why The Rolling Stones were always considered masters at the stuff. It’s performed well, the melody is memorable without resorting to cliches, and it’s a whole lot of fun to listen to. Do I need to say anything else?

“Tops” is a song that dates from Goats Head Soup and it even features some extensive guitar work from Mick Taylor. (I guess Jagger and Richards were still a little peeved that Taylor left them since they didn’t give Taylor credit for it!) Anyway, that’s another one of the album’s main highlights; it’s a loud, gritty and catchy ballad that has more attitude than 98 percent of bands could generate over the course of their entire careers. Man!!! “Heaven” is the album’s odd-duck, a trippy and atmospheric ballad that surprisingly puts my brain right to the title-location. I would have thought that was something that dated from Goats Head Soup, but nope! That, along with the fun pop-rock ditty “Neighbors,” is the only song that was newly written.

…Oh man, Tattoo You is one of those rare albums where everything is a great song, and I have a hard time figuring out what I want to talk about! I haven’t yet mentioned Keith Richards’ infectious “Little T&A” and the noble ballad “Worried About You” yet, and it seems like I should have! (I also haven’t mentioned the ballad “No Use in Cryin’,” but that’s my least favorite song on here, so I don’t have to mention it. …OK, I just mentioned it, but I didn’t have to mention it, you see!) You definitely wouldn’t expect an album full of leftovers to be this great, but it seriously eclipses most of their ’70s albums. And that’s saying something. This is also considered the last great Rolling Stones album, and I definitely agree with that assessment.

April 3, 2013 - Posted by | The Rolling Stones Tattoo You |

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