Paint It, Black The Rolling Stones – Did You Know?

Paint It Black

One of the Rolling Stones classic songs.

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Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones - Rock Vinyl Revival

It reached number one here and in the states. Keep reading to discover the unique aspect of this recording that made it special at the time it was released.

“Paint It Black” (initially released as “Paint It, Black”) is really a song through the British rock-band The Rolling Stones. Jointly credited in the the song writing partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was initially released as single on 7 May 1966, and then became the opening track in the US edition of their 1966 album ‘Aftermath’.

“Paint It Black” got to at number 1 both in the Billboard Hot 100 and also the United Kingdom Singles Chart. The song graced the Rolling Stones with their third number-one hit single in America and sixth within the United Kingdom. Since its initial release, the song has continued to be influential because it was the first number-one hit having a sitar, especially in the United kingdom, where it’s charted on two other occasions, and it has been the topic of multiple cover versions, compilation albums, and movie appearances.

The song’s lyrics are, typically, designed to describe blackness and depression by using colour-based metaphors. Initially, “Paint It Black” was written like a standard pop arrangement, humorously compared by Mick Jagger to “Songs for Jewish weddings”. The song describes the ultimate grief endured by one stunned through the sudden and unpredicted loss of a wife, lover or partner. It’s frequently claimed that Jagger acquired inspiration from novelist James Joyce’s 1922 book Ulysses, using the excerpt “I have to turn my head until my darkness goes”, talking about the novel’s theme of the worldwide desperation and desolation. The song itself found fruition once the band’s leader Brian Jones found a desire for Moroccan music. It had been their first song to have a sitar instrumental.

“Paint It Black” came in a pivotal period within the Rolling Stones’ recording history, a period that saw the song writing collaboration of Jagger and Richards assert itself as the principal composer of the band’s original material. This really is apparent in the sessions for that album ‘Aftermath’, where for the very first time the duo penned the entire track list. Additionally, Jones, overshadowed by Jagger and Richards, increasingly tired of trying to write songs, in addition to conventional guitar tunes. To relieve the monotony, Jones explored eastern instruments, more particularly the sitar, to boost the group’s musical texture and complexity. A multi-instrumentalist, Jones could create a tune in the sitar in almost no time (Jones already had a background playing the instrument dating back to 1961), largely because of his studies under Harihar Rao, a disciple of Ravi Shankar. Following a discussion with George Harrison, who’d already recorded sitar on “Norwegian Wood”, Jones arranged basic tunes using the instrument that, with time, morphed in to the one featured in “Paint It Black”. Back in a 1995 interview, when commenting around the musical styles available on ‘Aftermath’, Jagger described “Paint It Black” like a “type of Turkish song”.

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The master take of “Paint It Black” was recorded on 8 March 1966, at RCA Studios in La, with record producer Andrew Loog Oldham present through the process. Many of the first recorded arrangements and keys from the track were modelled following The Animals’ version of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’. It seems the Rolling Stones were dissatisfied with the song and wanted to scrap it. However, while twiddling with a Hammond organ, Bill Wyman looked for any heavier bass sound, while playing the part on his knees. Wyman’s playing clicked with the group and inspired the up-tempo and Eastern pentatonic melody. By all accounts, the sitar was introduced into the mix when Harihar Rao walked in the studio carrying the instrument.

The thing I like about this song is the introduction of the ‘sitar’. It makes the song sound very unique

The sitar was featured on the song. In Brian Jones book, ‘The Making of the Rolling Stones,’ Paul Trynka has noted the influence of Harrison’s sitar playing, and, in particular, the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” on the “Rubber Soul” album, draws parallels in “Paint It Black”—most noticeably in Jones’ droning sitar melody. In response to claims that he was merely imitating the Beatles, however, Jones said: “What utter rubbish!”

His sitar part in the track immediately grew to become influential in creating a whole subgenre of minor-key psychedelic music. Along with this striking instrumental motif, it’s complemented by Jagger’s droning, and slight nasal vocalization. Additionally, “Paint It Black” was highlighted by Wyman’s heavy bass, Charlie Watts’s low-pitch drumming, and Richards’ bolero-driven acoustic guitar outro. Right after, Richards noted the conclusion of the track was over-recorded, stating that a different guitar might have potentially improved the song.

“Paint It Black” was released to the US on 7 May 1966, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 during a stay of 11 weeks. In the UK, the song was released on 13 May 1966 and also became a number-one hit on the UK Singles Chart throughout a chart stay of ten weeks. It had been initially released as “Paint It, Black”, the comma becoming an error by Decca Records, but, nevertheless, stirred debate among fans over its racial interpretation. Upon further reissues in the United kingdom in 1990 and 2007, “Paint It Black” charted at number 61 and 70 correspondingly.

“Paint It Black” has made an appearance on numerous Stones compilations, including Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1971), 30 Finest Hits (1977), Singles Collection: The London Years (1989), Forty Licks (2002), and GRRR! (2012). Live tracks are featured on the the concert albums Flashpoint (1991), Live Licks (2004), Shine a Light (2008), Hyde Park Live (2013), and Havana Moon (2016). The song was featured within the music game titles Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero Live, and Rocksmith 2014, along with the game titles Conflict: Vietnam, Twisted Metal: Black, and Mafia III.

The song plays throughout the finishing credits from the films Full Metal Jacket and also the Devil’s Advocate. In TV, it had been utilized as the opening theme song in the series Tour of Duty and for the end credits to part five of The Vietnam War documentary series.

It had been featured within the Call of Duty Black Ops III and also the Mummy trailers. The Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball make use of the song in their “Black Out” promotions. An orchestral arrangement from the song has been used in multiple episodes of the television series Westworld. R&B singer Ciara would later cover the song for that soundtrack from the 2015 film The Last Witch Hunter.

An instrumental version was used in 2018 as background in a TV spot The Future is Built for Ford Motor, featuring Bryan Cranston, as a subtle nod to Henry Ford’s famous comment:

 “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.”

Based on Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon’s book ‘All of the Songs’ the authors give a question mark after Jones’s guitar contribution and credit “tambourine, bongos, castanets” to “unknown musicians”.

The song continues to be covered by other artists some 50 in total, including U2, Rick Wakeman, Judas Priest, Marilyn Manson, Dee Snider with George Lynch, and Ramin Djawadi for the soundtrack of Westworld: Season 1. It was also covered by Chris Farlowe

  • Mick Jagger – lead vocals
  • Keith Richards – acoustic guitar, lead guitar, backing vocals
  • Brian Jones – sitar, acoustic guitar
  • Bill Wyman – bass, Hammond organ
  • Charlie Watts – drums, percussion
  • Jack Nitzsche – piano

Song Lyrics

I see a red door and I want it painted black
No colours anymore I want them to turn black
I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes
I have to turn my head until my darkness goes

I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black
With flowers and my love both never to come back
I see people turn their heads and quickly look away
Like a new born baby it just happens ev’ry day

I look inside myself and see my heart is black
I see my red door I must have it painted black
Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facin’ up, when your whole world is black

No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
I could not foresee this thing happening to you

If I look hard enough into the settin’ sun
My love will laugh with me…

So that is the background to the classic song by the Rolling Stones – “Paint It Black”

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