Love in Vain

Composer: Robert Johnson        Original performer: Robert Johnson (1937)
Recording date: March 1969        Recording location: Olympic Sound Studios, London, England
Producer: Jimmy Miller        Chief engineer: Glyn Johns
Performed onstage: 1969-73, 1978, 1995, 1997-98, 2002-03, 2007, 2013


Drums: Charlie Watts
Bass: Bill Wyman
Acoustic guitar: Keith Richards
Slide electric guitar: Keith Richards
Vocal: Mick Jagger
Mandolin: Ry Cooder

Well I followed her to the station with a suitcase in my hand
Yeah I followed her to the station with a suitcase in my hand

Oh it's hard to tell, it's hard to tell when all your love's in vain

When the train come in the station, I looked her in the eye
Well the train come in the station and I looked her in the eye
Whoa, I felt so sad, so lonesome that I could not help but cry

When the train left the station, it had two lights on behind
Yeah, when the train left the station, it had two lights on behind
Whoa, the blue light was my baby and the red light was my mind

All my love's in vain

All my love's in vain


For a time we thought the songs that were on that first album were the only recordings (Robert Johnson had) made, and then suddenly around '67 or '68 up comes this second (bootleg) collection that included Love in Vain. Love in Vain was such a beautiful song. Mick and I both loved it, and at the time I was working and playing around with Gram Parsons, and I started searching around for a different way to present it, because if we were going to record it there was no point in trying to copy the Robert Johnson style or ways and styles. We took it a little bit more country, a little bit more formalized, and Mick felt comfortable with that.

- Keith Richards, 1990

We changed the arrangement quite a lot from Robert Johnson's. We put in extra chords that aren't there on the Robert Johnson version. Made it more country. And that's another strange song, because it's very poignant. Robert Johnson was a wonderful lyric writer, and his songs are quite often about love, but they're desolate.

                                                 - Mick Jagger, 1995

Sometimes I wonder... myself (about how we developed that arrangement). I don't know! (laughs) We only knew the Robert Johnson version. At the time we were kicking it around, I was into country music - old white country music, '20s and '30s stuff, and white gospel. Somewhere I crossed over into this more classical mode. Sometimes things just happen. We were sitting in the studio, saying, Let's do "Love in Vain" by Robert Johnson. Then I'm trying to figure out some nuances and chords, and I start to play it in a totally different fashion. Everybody joins in and goes, Yeah, and suddenly you've got your own stamp on it. I certainly wasn't going to be able to top Robert Johnson's guitar playing.

- Keith Richards, 1995

(Ry Cooder is) playing mandolin on Love In Vain... He played beautifully, man.

- Keith Richards, 1971

(From the Mick Taylor period, I love) Love in Vain - the live version. Most of my favorite stuff with Mick (Taylor) is probably onstage.

- Keith Richards, 2002

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