Brown Sugar

Composers: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
Recording date: December 1969 & April 1970
Recording locations: Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, Florence, Alabama, USA & Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
Producer: Jimmy Miller        Chief engineers: Jimmy Johnson, Glyn Johns & Andy Johns
       Performed onstage: 1969-73, 1975-78, 1981-82, 1989-90, 1994-95, 1997-99, 2002-03, 2005-07, 2012-14

Line-up:

Drums: Charlie Watts
Bass: Bill Wyman
Acoustic guitar: Keith Richards
Electric guitars: Keith Richards
Lead vocal: Mick Jagger
Harmony vocal: Keith Richards
Piano: Ian Stewart
Saxophone: Bobby Keys
Castanets: Mick Jagger
Maracas: Mick Jagger
 

Gold Coast slaveship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Skydog* slaver know he's doing all right
Hear him whip the women just around midnight

Brown sugar
H0w come you taste so good now?

Brown sugar
Just like a young girl should


Drums beating, cold English blood runs hot
Lady of the house wondering where it's going to stop
House boy knows that he's doing all right
You should heard him just around midnight

Brown sugar
H0w come you taste so good now?

Brown sugar
Just like a young girl should now


Yeah

Ah get on, brown sugar
How come you taste so good, baby?

Ah got to get on, brown sugar
Just like a black girl should, yeah


Now I bet your mama was a tent show queen
And all her boyfriends were sweet 16
I'm no school boy but I know what I like
You should have heard me just around midnight

Brown sugar
How come you taste so good baby?
Ah brown sugar
Just like a young girl should, yeah

I said yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo!
How come you, how come you taste so good?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo!
Just like a, just like a black girl should
Yeah, yeah, yeah, whoo!

Yeah

 

 
TrackTalk

I've got a new one myself. No words yet, but a few words in my head - called Brown Sugar - about a woman who screws one of her black servants. I started to call it Black Pussy but I decided that was too direct, too nitty-gritty.
- Mick Jagger, December 2, 1969, on the way
to Muscle Shoals Studios (from Stanley Booth's
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones)


(I've written riffs that people assume are Keith's.) Brown Sugar. That was the first one I did. I've done many since.
- Mick Jagger, 1994


At the end of the '60s I had a little more time to sit around and play my guitar, writing songs rather than just lyrics for the first time. I'd written songs before then, but they were little things like Yesterday's Papers. Now I could take it more seriously. Brown Sugar was one of those songs. I wrote it in Australia, somewhere between Melbourne and Sydney, while I was in my trailer filming Ned Kelly - I had a whole bunch of time out there. I was simply writing what I wanted to write, not trying to test the waters. People are very quick to react to what you write, but I just write what comes into my head.
- Mick Jagger, 2003


I wrote that song in Australia in the middle of a field. They were really odd circumstances. I was doing this movie, Ned Kelly, and my hand had got really damaged in this action sequence. So stupid. I was trying to rehabilitate my hand and I had this new kind of electric guitar, and I was playing in the middle of the outback and wrote this tune. But why it works? I mean, it's a good groove and all that. I mean, the groove is slightly similar to Freddy Cannon, this rather obscure '50s rock performer - Tallahassee Lassie or something. Do you remember this? She's down in F-L-A. Anyway, the groove of that - boom-boom-boom-boom-boom - is going to a go-go or whatever, but that's the groove.
- Mick Jagger, 1995


We cut a version of Brown Sugar with Al Kooper, it was a good track. He's playing piano on it at Bobby Keys' and my birthday party, which was held at Olympic Studios... We wanted to use it 'cause it's a new version but there's something about the Muscle Shoals feel of the album one, that we got into at the end of the last American tour. Charlie really fills the sound and it was so easy to cut down there.
- Keith Richards, 1971


(Keith was playing) a Gibson, but not a Les Paul... I think it was an SG, and as I recall it was black. I remember it had those sharp horns on the cutaways. That's what he played most of the time he was here. Taylor, to my recollection, was playing a Strat. And guess what we came up with for Bill Wyman? Do you remember those Plexiglas body basses that were around then? I checked with David Hood later and he says it was a Dan Armstrong. So to the best of our recollection, that's what it was... Keith played a Fender Twin, and so did Mick Taylor, and they brought those in with them. The loudness on those tracks really came from Keith. I had it put in that back booth and shut the door on it.
- Jimmy Johnson, 2005


We use acoustic guitars a lot to shadow the electric, always have done. It gives another atmosphere to this track, makes it less dry. It's cheap, too.
- Keith Richards, 1993


Keith's guitar amp was in a booth, and Jagger was in the back of the room with baffles around him. There was some leakage going on, but you couldn't tell because he was so close to the mic. It was part of the sound. The drums did not have a booth, they were open, but with baffles. But there was a lot of leakage on the drums, cymbals and stuff, even though (Charlie) didn't play real hard... Even today, that would be a good way for a rock band to mic their drums, if they like some great live drumming sound. They would be surprised to find that sometimes less is more.
- Jimmy Johnson, 2005


They started running down Brown Sugar the first night, but they didn't get a take. I watched Mick write the lyrics. It took him maybe forty-five minutes; it was disgusting. He wrote it down as fast as he could move his hand. I'd never seen anything like it. He had one of those yellow legal pads, and he'd write a verse a page, just write a verse and then turn the page, and when he had three pages filled, they started to cut it. It was amazing!
- Jim Dickinson, in Keith Richards, Life (2010)


The lyrics were partially inspired by a black backing singer we knew in L.A. called Claudia Linnear.
- Bill Wyman, Rolling With The Stones (2002)


*If you listen to the lyrics, he says, Skydog slaver (though it's always written scarred old slaver). What does that mean? Skydog is what they called Duane Allman in Muscle Shoals, because he was high all the time. And Jagger heard somebody say it and he thought it was a cool word so he used it. He was writing about literally being in the South. It was amazing to watch him do it.
- Jim Dickinson, in Keith Richards, Life (2010)


God knows what I'm on about on that song. It's such a mishmash. All the nasty subjects in one go... I never would write that song now. I would probably censor myself. I'd think, Oh God, I can't. I've got to stop. I can't just write raw like that.
- Mick Jagger, 1995


This song was a very instant thing, a definite high point. We played it at Altamont even before it was out on record.
- Mick Jagger, 1993


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