Although Jagger-Richards were the song's credited composers, 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (But I Like It)' was first sketched out by Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood, the ever-playful guitarist with Faces. The Stones had known Wood since he was a young guitarist hanging around the Crawdaddy and Marquee clubs in the early Sixties. Early December 1973, engineer George Chkiantz was quickly summoned to Wood's home studio at The Wick, Richmond, where he found Jagger and Wood both strumming acoustic guitars.
Despite its title, 'It's Only Rock 'n' Roll' isn't a fast rocker. The song is played mid-tempo with some acoustic parts. The basic track was recorded with Willie Weeks, one of the most in-demand session musicians, on bass, Ian McLagan on keyboards and a brutal crash of drums and cymbals by Kenney Jones, while David Bowie took some backing vocals.
Mick Jagger then took the track with him to Munich, where the Stones worked on it for the first time. The final recording was finished at Island Recording Studios, where the vocals were re-done, and Keith Richards added a sharp burst of Chuck Berry-style riffing, while at the same time erasing Wood's original electric parts, but keeping the acoustic ones. Ian Stewart supplied a piano melody replacing McLagan's part. Kenney Jones' drum parts made it to the final record, since Charlie Watts felt he could do no better.
Adapted from the following sources:
Steve Appleford, The Rolling Stones - The Stories Behind The Biggest Songs, Carlton Books, 2010.
Martin Elliott, The Rolling Stones Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002, Cherry Red Books, 2002.