Beast of Burden

Composers: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
Recording date: October-December 1977 & March-April 1978         Recording location: Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France & Atlantic Studios, New York, USA
Producers: The Glimmer Twins        Chief engineer: Chris Kimsey
     Performed onstage: 1978-79, 1981-82, 1994-95, 2002, 2005-07, 2013, 2015-19, 2021-22


Drums: Charlie Watts
Bass: Bill Wyman
Acoustic guitars: Keith Richards & Ron Wood
Electric guitars: Keith Richards & Ron Wood (incl. solo)
Lead vocal: Mick Jagger
Background vocals: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards


I'll never be your beast of burden
My back is broad but it's a-hurting
All I want is for you to make love to me

I'll never be your beast of burden
I've walked for miles, my feet are hurting
All I want is for you to make love to me

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I'm not too blind to see

I'll never be your beast of burden

So let's go home and draw the curtains
Music on the radio, come on, baby, make sweet love with me, yeah

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I'm not too blind to see

Oh little sister
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girls

Ooh, you're a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Pretty, pretty, such a pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Come on, baby, please, please, please

I'll tell you

You can put me out on the street
Put me out with no shoes on my feet
But put me out, put me out, put me out of misery, hey

All your sickness, I can suck it up

Throw it all at me, I can shrug it off
There's one thing, baby, I don't understand
You keep on telling me I ain't your kind of man

Ain't I rough enough? Ooh
Ain't I tough enough?
Ain't I rich enough, in love enough? Ooh please

I'll never be your beast of burden

I'll never be your beast of burden

Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be

I'll never be your beast of burden
I've walked for miles, my feet are hurting
All I want is you to make love to me, yeah

I don't need no beast of burden
I need no fussing, I need no nursing
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never need


That's more like Keith's song. I wrote lyrics.
- Mick Jagger, 1995

Before They Make Me Run and Beast of Burden were basically collaborations.
- Keith Richards, Life (2010)

Mick wrote a lot of it but I laid the original idea on him.
- Keith Richards, 2011

Beast of Burden, I had no idea how that was going to turn out. To me, it was just a soul song that came out – a part of my heritage. There’s a little bit of blues in there. All I did was throw out the phrase beast of burden to Mick, and I played him the music, and then he took it off by himself and did a beautiful job on it.
- Keith Richards, 2011

It just cropped up in the studio. It started kind of faster and funkier and more shouted and became - when everybody else started playing, we decided to cut it "relax" and it came down to what it is in just one take. That was it.
- Keith Richards, 1982

This was another one where Mick just filled in the verses. With the Stones, you take along a song, play it and see if there are any takers. Sometimes they ignore it, sometimes they grab it and record it. After all the faster numbers on Some Girls, everybody settled down and enjoyed the slow one.
- Keith Richards, 1993

How it works on a tune like Beast of Burden is Keith would set up a chord sequence and maybe one or two lines, and then you've got to extemporize on that, and come up with these melody lines and lyrics. We just ran the chord sequence through a lot of times - we were open-ended in the studio, so we just tried lots of different ways of doing the beats and arrangements. The actual chord sequences are the same, but the stuff in there that makes the sections different is the different vocal lines. I would just scat the thing and come up with pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty pretty girl and all the little talk sequences - I hesitate to use the word rap - and after all this the song is different melodically from the actual original.
- Mick Jagger, 2002

Actually, if anything, I was trying to say sorry to Mick for passing on the weight of running this band. We were at the stage where we were getting bigger. The whole music business was getting bigger, and I was basically trying to say to Mick: You don't have to do it on your own... No(, he didn't listen). He very rarely does. That's why I love him.... At the time Mick was getting used to running the band. Charlie was just the drummer. I was just the other guitar player. I was trying to say, OK, I'm back, so let's share a bit more of this power, share the weight, brother.
- Keith Richards, 2011

Beast of Burden is a combination (of a real girl and a fantasy).
- Mick Jagger, 1978

Ah, I see, I'm not integrating (the nice and bad women in my songs) properly. Maybe not. Maybe Beast of Burden is integrated slightly: I don't want a beast of burden, I don't want the kind of woman who's going to drudge for me. The song says: I don't need a beast of burden, and I'm not going to be your beast of burden, either. Any woman can see that that's like my saying that I don't want a woman to be on her knees for me. I mean, I get accused of being very anitigirl, right? But people really don't listen, they get it all wrong: they hear Beast of Burden and say Argggh!
- Mick Jagger, 1978

No, (it's not about Keith's heroin situation). I think that's just made up (laughs). I think that's rubbish. But you know, it's so long ago. People, they like to make up stories and whatever, what you believe happened at the time. I could tell you, I could make up all sorts of stuff about how Far Away Eyes was written - it wouldn't be correct, I'm sure, but it might sound good (laughs).
- Mick Jagger, 2011

(On the pretty pretty part), I wasn't thinking of Buddy Holly at all; it's a completely unconscious thing.
- Mick Jagger, 1978

Lyrically this wasn't particulary heartfelt in a personal way. It's a soul begging song, an attitude song. It was one of those where you get one melodic lick, break it down and work it up, there are two parts here which are basically the same.
- Mick Jagger, 1993

(T)hat's a really good song. It's really like a soul song, you know what I mean? I find that's a really great song to sing... It's a song you can kind of emote to and it's just very repetitive, around around around, so you can just do what you like to it. And then people say It's a punk record and I'm going [sarcastically] Yeah, right. But the thing about this record is that it's just got that feeling, that even in Beast of Burden, it's got that attitude but it's really a soul song, so that's kind of interesting.
- Mick Jagger, 2011

When I returned to the fold after closing down the laboratory, I came back into the studio with Mick... to say, Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden - that's why I wrote Beast of Burden for him, I realise in retrospect - and the weird thing was that he didn't want to share the burden any more.
- Keith Richards, 2003

I quite like it, but I didn't expect anyone to really go for it, certainly not as much as you. It's surprising.
- Mick Jagger, 1978

I wish we did it more. I always feel like I’m exploring it, finding a little bit more to it every time. But it’s up to Mick. He doesn’t feel like it.
- Keith Richards, 2019

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