Monday, September 23, 2013

Fact Sheet: Tattoo You

Once again produced by the Glimmer Twins, with sound engineer Chris Kimsey, "Tattoo You", the Rolling Stones' 16th studio album, was recorded during sessions at Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris (October-November, 1980 and May, 1981) and Atlantic Studios, New York City (April-June, 1981). During the sessions the band recorded two brand new tracks, 'Heaven' and 'Neighbours', while the other songs on the album were based on early song ideas and outtakes from their previous studio albums.

The album got released in August 1981, some 14 months after its predecessor "Emotional Rescue". In a Mojo Magazine special edition author Paul Elliott puts the record in some fine perspective: "Circa "Tattoo You" Jagger/Richards relations were still too frosty for protracted spells of co-writing, and Ron Wood was near-incapacitated from freebase cocaine.

Unsurprisingly then, the album, like its predecessor "Emotional Rescue", relied on more outtakes. This time, though, Chris Kimsey and the band chose wisely: witness 'Tops', in which Mick Jagger comes clean about using his star status to pull, and 'Waiting On A Friend', featuring Sonny Rollins' ace tenor sax. Both are excellent ballads dating from late-'72 sessions in Jamaica, but Bob Clearmountain's crisp mixing renders them box-fresh.

Stones pianist and their sometimes fiercest critic Ian Stewart rated it, averring that the album was filler-less. With the possible exeption of 'Neighbours' - a pot/kettle/black affair on Keith Richards' real-life dispute with noisy folks next door - he might just be right".

On "Tattoo You" Stu plays piano on four tracks: the afore-mentioned 'Neighbours', 'Hang Fire', 'Little T&A', and the R&B-inspired boogie 'Black Limousine'. Other keyboard players on the album include Nicky Hopkins (piano on the 1972 tracks 'Tops' and 'Waiting On A Friend', and piano and organ on the "Emotional Rescue" outtake 'No Use In Crying'), Billy Preston (electric piano and organ on the "Black And Blue"-era 'Slave' jam), Chris Kimsey (piano on 'Heaven') and Mick Jagger (electric piano on 'Worried About You').

Adapted from the following source: Paul Elliott et al., Tattoo You, The Rolling Stones 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition, Mojo Magazine, 2003.

Suggested further reading:
James Hector, The Complete Guide To The Music Of The Rolling Stones, Omnibus Press, 1995.

Note: a lot of album reviews float around on the internet, with varying ratings. But each with its own nuances concerning individual songs, influences and the context in which the album was made. You may find them yourselves, if you want to, but here's a starter kit.

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