Tattoo You

Tattoo You
The Rolling Stones
Released 24 August 1981
Recorded November – December 1972, January – March 1975, January – March 1978, January – October 1979, October 1980 – June 1981
Genre hard rock
Length 44:23
Language English
Label Rolling Stones
Producer The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones chronology
Emotional Rescue
Tattoo You
Singles from Tattoo You
  1. Start Me Up
    Released: 14 August 1981
  2. Waiting on a Friend
    Released: 30 November 1981
  3. Hang Fire
    Released: April 1982

Tattoo You is the 16th British and 18th American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1981. The follow-up to Emotional Rescue, it proved to be a big critical and commercial success. A very popular album upon release, it is the last Rolling Stones album to reach the top position of the US charts, concluding a string of #1’s dating back to 1971’s Sticky Fingers.


[edit] History

Tattoo You is an album primarily composed of outtakes from previous recording sessions, some dating back a decade, with new vocals and overdubs. Along with two new songs, the Rolling Stones put together this collection in order to have a new album to promote for their worldwide Keith Richards commented in 1993;

“The thing with Tattoo You wasn’t that we’d stopped writing new stuff, it was a question of time. We’d agreed we were going to go out on the road and we wanted to tour behind a record. There was no time to make a whole new album and make the start of the tour.”[1]

[edit] Recording

The album’s producer, [1]

Many of the songs consisted at this point of instrumental backing tracks for which vocals had not been recorded. Jagger said in a 1995 interview, “It wasn’t all outtakes; some of it was old songs… I had to write lyrics and melodies. A lot of them didn’t have anything, which is why they weren’t used at the time – because they weren’t complete. They were just bits, or they were from early takes”.[2] Despite the eclectic nature of the album, the Rolling Stones were able to divide Tattoo You into two distinct halves: a rock and roll side backed with one focusing on ballads.

The earliest songs used for Tattoo You are “Tops” and “Waiting on a Friend“. The backing tracks for both songs were cut in late 1972 during the Goats Head Soup sessions and feature Mick Taylor, not Ronnie Wood, on guitar; Taylor later demanded and received a share of the album’s royalties.

The album opens with “Start Me Up,” originally rehearsed under the working title “Never Stop” and as a reggae-influenced number in 1975 during the Wayne Perkins plays the lead guitar on “Worried About You”.

Start Me Up“, “Hang Fire” and “Black Limousine” were worked on during the 1978 Pathe Marconi recording sessions for Some Girls.

  • The basic tracks for “No Use in Crying”, “Little T&A“, “Start Me Up“, and re-recordings of “Black Limousine” and “Hang Fire” came from the Emotional Rescue sessions.
  • “Neighbours” and “Heaven” were recorded during sessions in October–November 1980, after the release of Emotional Rescue. “Heaven” has an unusual lineup, consisting of only Chris Kimsey on piano.
  • Many of the vocal parts for the songs on Tattoo You were overdubbed during sessions in October–November 1980 and April–June 1981. Mick Jagger was the only member of the band present at some of these sessions. Other overdubs, such as Sonny Rollins‘s saxophone parts on “Slave” and “Waiting on a Friend”, were also added at these sessions. Most of the album was mixed at this time as well.

[edit] Release and aftermath

“Start Me Up” was released in August 1981, just a week before Tattoo You, to a very strong response, reaching the top 10 in both the US and UK. Widely considered one of their most infectious songs, it was enough to carry Tattoo You to #1 for nine weeks in the US, while reaching #2 in the UK with solid sales. It has been certified 4x platinum in the US alone. The critical reaction was positive, many feeling that Tattoo You was an improvement over Emotional Rescue and a high-quality release. “Waiting on a Friend” and “Hang Fire” became Top 20 US hits as well.

“Start Me Up” would prove to be The Rolling Stones’ last single to reach as high as #2 in the US, while Tattoo You is their last American #1 album to date.

The album title was originally planned to be simply “Tattoo”. Jagger claims to this day that even he has no clue how the “You” became attached to the title. The title caused friction between Jagger and Richards, with Richards suspecting that Jagger had changed the title without seeking his input.

There were several videos directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for this album including:

  • “Start Me Up”, “Hang Fire” and “Worried About You”: Consisting of a standard band performance setting, miming to a backing tape.
  • “Neighbours”: An homage to t’ai chi practitioner exercising, and most notoriously, a man putting bloody body parts in a suitcase. This video was heavily censored when presented on television.
  • “Waiting on a Friend”: Filmed on location in Wayne Perkins respectively actually played). The bar in the video was co-owned by Wood during that time.

[edit] Legacy

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Blender 5/5 stars [3]
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars [4]
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars [5]
Robert Christgau A− [6]
The A.V. Club (Positive) [7]

[edit] Band appraisal

In the 1995 Rolling Stone interview during which editor Jann Wenner called Tattoo You the Stones’ “most underrated album,” Jagger said, “I think it’s excellent. But all the things I usually like, it doesn’t have. It doesn’t have any unity of purpose or place or time.”[2]

[edit] Critical reaction

Reviews for Tattoo You were largely positive, proclaiming the album a return to form and ranking among the Rolling Stones’ finest works. Debra Rae Cohen commented in Rolling Stone, “Just when we might finally have lost patience, the new record dances (not prances), rocks (not jives) onto the scene, and the Rolling Stones are back again, with a matter-of-fact acceptance of their continued existence – and eventual mortality…”[1]

Though Robert Christgau gave the album a good review, however, when criticizing “Start Me Up” in his Pazz and Jop essay in 1981, said, “…its central conceit–Mick as sex machine, complete with pushbutton–explains why the album it starts up never transcends hand-tooled excellence except when Sonny Rollins, uncredited, invades the Stones’ space. Though it’s as good in its way as “Street Fighting Man,” how much you care about it depends entirely on how much you care about the Stones’ technical difficulties.”[8]

Patty Rose, in Musician, said, “The feel of the album… is more one of rediscovered youth, of axes to play, not grind, of the latest cope, not dope. After Emotional Rescue, it seems the Stones couldn’t make it anymore with the theme of life getting harder and harder. The old themes are not invalidated by the new, but rather taken for granted, like knowing how to tie one’s bootlace. The Stones have shed yet another layer of self-consciousness and their shiny vinyl new skin tingles with an open, early-decade kind of excitement.”[1]

[edit] Accolades

In 1989, it was ranked #34 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s. In 2003, the album was ranked number 211 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

The cover of the album was designed by artist best album package for the design. The photography was done by Hubert Kretzschmar and illustration by Christian Piper.

In 1994, Tattoo You was remastered and reissued by SHM-SACD in 2011 by Universal Music Japan.

[edit] Track listing

All songs by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. Start Me Up”   3:31
2. Hang Fire”   2:20
3. Slave(Remastered CD version is longer… 6:34) 4:59
4. Little T&A”   3:23
5. Ronnie Wood) 3:32
6. Neighbours”   3:31
Side two
No. Title Length
7. Worried About You”   5:16
8. “Tops”   3:45
9. “Heaven”   4:21
10. “No Use in Crying” (Jagger/Richards/Wood) 3:24
11. Waiting on a Friend”   4:34

[edit] Personnel

The Rolling Stones
Additional personnel
  • Nicky Hopkins – piano on “Tops”, “No Use in Crying” and “Waiting on a Friend”
  • Ian Stewart – piano on “Hang Fire”, “Little T&A” and “Black Limousine”
  • Billy Preston – piano and organ on “Slave” and “Worried About You” (1975)
  • Wayne Perkins – electric lead guitar on “Worried About You” (1975)
  • Ollie Brown – percussion on “Slave” and “Worried About You” (1975)
  • Pete Townshend – backing vocals on “Slave” (1975)
  • Sonny Rollins – saxophone on “Slave”, “Neighbours” and “Waiting on a Friend”
  • Jimmy Miller – percussion on “Tops” and “Waiting on a Friend” (1972)
  • Kasper Winding – tambourine on “Waiting on a Friend”
  • Chris Kimsey – piano on “Heaven”
  • Barry Sage – handclaps on “Start Me Up”

[edit] Chart positions

Year Chart Position
1981 UK Top 100 Albums[9] 2
1981 Billboard Pop Albums[10] 1
1981 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart[11] 1
Year Single Chart Position
1981 “Start Me Up” The Billboard Hot 100[10] 2
1981 “Start Me Up” Mainstream Rock Tracks[10] 1
1981 “Start Me Up” UK Top 75 Singles[9] 7
1981 “Start Me Up” Club Play Singles[10] 14
1981 “Little T&A” Mainstream Rock Tracks[10] 5
1981 “Hang Fire” Mainstream Rock Tracks 2
1981 “Waiting on a Friend” Mainstream Rock Tracks[10] 8
1981 “Waiting on a Friend” UK Top 75 Singles[9] 50
1982 “Waiting on a Friend” The Billboard Hot 100[10] 13
1982 “Hang Fire” The Billboard Hot 100[10] 20

[edit] Certifications

Country Provider Certification
(sales thresholds)
United States RIAA 4× Platinum
France SNEP Gold
United Kingdom BPI Gold
Preceded by
number-one album
19 September – 20 November 1981
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Stevie Nicks
number-one album
28 September – 13 December 1981
Succeeded by
The Police

[edit] References

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Tattoo You, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.