Archived recordings used from:
Associate producer & chief engineer: Chris Kimsey
Mixer: Bob Clearmountain
Released: August 1981
Original label: Rolling Stones Records (on WEA & EMI)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ron Wood, Ian Stewart, Sonny Rollins, Chris Kimsey, Nicky Hopkins, Mike Carabello, Mick Taylor, Wayne Perkins, Billy Preston, Pete Townshend, Kasper Winding, Barry Sage, Jennifer McLean, Susan McLean.
Start Me Up
Worried About You
No Use in Crying
Waiting on a Friend
(We called it Tattoo You b)ecause we had these paintings by that guy and we just didn't know what to call it... Some friend of mine from Pharoah Island did these paintings... they're actually photographs but with that tattoo painting on them. I saw him do some other stuff and we liked them so I gave him a couple of pictures and asked him to do them like that. Then we used them for the cover. We had lots of different titles but in the end we decided to call it that.
The covers are getting worse, but the music keeps getting better.
Well, I just got fed up with writing all those credit lists out and everyone wants one above the other one, and then I couldn't remember who is playing, so I thought Oh, everyone got paid anyway. So it's much easier to leave the whole thing. I mean I didn't get any credits on it except for the songwriting... I mean it didn't mention my name and what I did and played on the album. If I remember well there is Sonny Rollins on three tracks, Nicky Hopkins on one. There's Pete Townshend.
Obviously (Mick Taylor) didn't write enough of them for me to give him credit. But people always moan when they leave a band.
Tattoo You really came about because Mick and Keith were going through a period of not getting on. There was a need to have an album out, and I told everyone I could make an album from what I knew was still there.
The thing with Tattoo You wasn't that we'd stopped writing new stuff, it was a question of time. We'd agreed we were going to go out on the road and we wanted to tour behind a record. There was no time to make whole new album and make the start of the tour.
I spent 3 months going through like the last 4, 5 albums finding stuff that had been either forgotten about or at the time rejected. And then I presented it to the band and I said, Hey, look guys, you've got all this great stuff sitting in the can and it's great material, do something with it.
For Tattoo You, Mick and Chris Kimsey realised that there was a lot of great music that we had recorded in the past that had never been released, particularly from all the material we had amassed during the Emotional Rescue sessions. So they went back and started sifting through it all, and eventually got to the point where they got up to here with it, and said, Let's not go any further, and used songs like Waiting on a Friend.
Since I'd recorded a number of songs during Some Girls and Emotional Rescue that they'd never used, I assumed there must be other bits and pieces lying around. So, I spent a couple of months going through all their tapes and I found these gems: Waiting On A Friend and Tops were from the Goats Head Soup sessions; Slave and Worried About You were from Black and Blue; Start Me Up was from Some Girls; and Hang Fire (webmaster note: started during Some Girls), Little T&A, Black Limousine (also started during Some Girls) (...) and No Use In Crying were from Emotional Rescue. I did rough mixes at Olympic of everything I'd found, sent them to the band members, and then began working on the tracks... The main thing missing from most of them was Sir Mick's vocal, because he hadn't finished writing the lyrics, so those parts were recorded in Paris in mid-1981.
(T)hat's an old record. It's all a lot of old tracks that I dug out. And it was very strange circumstances. Chris Kimsey and I went though all the tracks from those two previous records. It wasn't all outtakes; some of it was old songs. And then I went back and found previous ones like Waiting on a Friend, from Goats Head Soup. They're all from different periods. Then I had to write lyrics and melodies. A lot of them didn't have anything, which is why they weren't used at the time - because they weren't complete. They were just bits, or they were from early takes. And then I put them all together in an incredibly cheap fashion. I recorded in this place in Paris in the middle of winter. And then I recorded some of it in a broom cupboard, literally, where we did the vocals. The rest of the band were hardly involved. And then I took it to Bob Clearmountain, who did this great job of mixing so that it doesn't sound like it's from different periods.
They'd rented a bloody warehouse on the edge of the Peripherique [ring road] in a horrible part of (Paris) - all industrial sites and train sidings... no restaurants! I don't know who'd found the warehouse, but it was big and cheap, they put the mobile truck inside there, and it was so cold that, when Mick did the vocals, you could see icy breath coming out of his mouth. I remember that place to this day. It was absolutely diabolical.
It didn't make any sense at all, aside from the fact that Mick loved Paris and their truck was parked there inside a warehouse that cost next to nothing. We put some screens around him, otherwise it would have sounded ridiculous in that giant place, and I recorded all of his vocals with a valve 47... He'd give it the full performance, moving all over the place. It was great to watch and equally great to record. He knows how to work a microphone. He might be at the back of the control room, just a bar before the verse, and all of a sudden he's in front of the mic. He backs off in the chorus when he's singing loud, he gets in close when he's singing soft, and he knows what to do.
A lot of it was done in Paris... (Most) were done in Paris between 1977 and last year. I mean, we cut over 40 tracks for Emotional Rescue, but at that time it was a matter of picking out the tracks that were the nearest to completion, because we had a deadline that didn't allow us much time. On this album, we took longer. We started to think about this one soon after the last one came out, and we chose the songs a lot more carefully.
Well, you know, I don't think there's anything bad in using stuff (from) previous sessions. We recorded 20, 25 tracks and if you go on and if I say to everyone, Well... the first tracks to be finished are the ones that are gonna be on the album - if a track's not finished or if people have got doubts about it, then we'll save it, we'll recut it, throw it out the window, or put it on a future album.
It's just that those songs didn't seem to fit on any album until now. We tried to use them before but they didn't seem to work. They're good songs though. But you know every album has a lot of oldies on it, and has done for years. We've used, like, Sweet Virginia which was on Exile On Main Street. That was recorded from before Beggars Banquet (sic).
Sometimes the problem is the other way around. Sometimes you don't have enough tracks. You still go through the same process of what actually ends up on a record. Emotional Rescue was an album made up of the songs that were the most advanced of the material we recorded in Paris. Tattoo You is the one that took a little longer to get together. Some tracks weren't quite ready, there wasn't enough room on Emotional Rescue, the music had to age just like good wine (laughs).
I never thought about it like (Keith wrote the fast side and myself the slow side). No it wasn't like that... (On the first side t)here's Start Me Up, Hang Fire, Slave, Black Limousine, and that one that Keith sings on before Neighbors. Well, I have written quite a few of those and Keith has written quite a few on the second side. It's about even.
(T)here's still loads (from those sessions). I mean, we could get another album out of that bunch. But that's an advantage you don't think about, really, with a band that goes on for a long time. One way or another, you end up with a backlog of really good stuff that, for one reason or another, you didn't get the chance to finish or put out because it was the wrong tempo or too long - purely technical reasons, you know? Sometimes we write our songs in installments - just get the melody and the music, and we'll cut the tracks and write the words later. That way, the actual tracks have matured, just like wine - yuou just leave it in the cellar for a bit, and it comes out a little better a few years later. It's stupid to LEAVE all that great stuff just for want of finishing it off and getting it together.
(There were) two songs on Tattoo You (I played on). One was called Tops and the other was called Waiting on a Friend.
I had a lot of trepidation about working with Sonny Rollins. This guy's a giant of the saxophone. Charlie said, He's never going to want to play on a Rolling Stones record! I said, Yes he is going to want to. And he did and he was wonderful. I said, Would you like me to stay out there in the studio? He said, Yeah, you tell me where you want me to play and DANCE the part out. So I did that. And that's very important: communication in hand, dance, whatever. You don't have to do a whole ballet, but sometimes that movement of the shoulder tells the guy to kick in on the beat.
I thought Mick did a great job with Tattoo You. There were only one or two things I went back on with Bob Clearmountain (who mixed the album). My main complaint in the beginning with the recording of this record was that they were hopping around using different studios and it started to seem a bit chaotic. In actual fact, Mick pulled it all together. He did a great job in organizing it. It was up to Mick because it was Mick's contributions that weren't recorded. What was missing ws Mick's normal contribution to a Rolling Stones track - the vocals.
(The quality of the production) was done in the mix, you mix it brighter with more eq and much more drum kick and a high-range on the high-hat. Then you screw around with the bass until it really tightens up. Obviously our engineer Chris Kimsey had some practical ideas for the sound, but that was influenced by what the band wanted.
They just finished the final mixes. I met the lads in New York and we got together and saw how we were and had a listen, and I found the album very, very good. Usually, there's always one or two tracks that don't, like, get me off, you know? But on this one, I liked EVERY TRACK. It's sort of like the last two albums - there's that same kind of freshness - and there's a little harking back to the '60s as well.
I guess Emotional Rescue was like a personal view. Tattoo You is a pretty straightforward record. It's a pretty honest record. It hasn't got any... I don't know what the overtones are. A lot of the songs were written in quite a short time. For me it's not so much the words sometimes. It's how you do them.
On most albums there's one duff track, but on Tattoo You they're all good.
I think of it as the culmination of a process that began with Some Girls, and continued on through Emotional Rescue to this album; we're pretty well grounded now... Some Girls was a kind of revitalization, what with Woody joining and giving all that bubble and bounce that he's got. Emotional Rescue wasn't really a step forward or backards... it was moving along in the same line, but there were a few things on there, as well as on Some Girls, that I wasn't keen on. But as I say, the new album is basically a consolidation of the gains made on the previous two.
(T)he thing just fits together at some point. I don't know that, you know. But it's just everyone I talked to, mostly writers - hardly ever talk to people that aren't - and they all seemed to like it. One never knows how generally people... I hope they are going to like it in six months, but it seems to be pretty well received. I hope we get some bad reviews (laughs). Well we've got to get some. I mean we're bound to.
Keith and Mick might be the Rolling Stones, but the last few albums have showcased more of a band sound. The two guitars are really prominent on Tattoo You. And Charlie Watts has really come to the fore.
It's nice that they turned me and Charlie up for a change! During the last few albums they've really pulled out the rhyhtm section much more. It used to be that only the bass drum would stand out of that mono-ish mix they'd go for.... We've been using (Bob Clearmountain) to mix because he seemed to get that little extra something out of each track.
Tattoo You was full of some good material - some of it was quite old, and some not old. I think Start Me Up was good.
I think it's excellent. But all the things I usually like, it doesn't have. It doesn't have any unity of purpose or place or time.
For too many years it's seemed almost impossible for the Rolling Stones to make an album that hasn't involved – at least partially – the problem of being the Rolling Stones... But those years are over now, decisively, and with the triumphant release of Tattoo You, they seem shabby and sad. Just when we might finally have lost patience, the new record dances (not prances), rocks (not jives) onto the scene, and the Rolling Stones are back again, with a matter-of-fact acceptance of their continued existence – and eventual mortality – that catches Pete Townshend's philosophical maunderings in its headlights and runs them down. Tattoo You doesn't address the subject of maturity, or deny its onset, in a burst of satyriasis. Instead, maturity serves as the backdrop for rockers with real momentum and love songs with real objects, beginning with Start Me Up, the catchiest Stones single in ages... That same thread of reasoned recognition runs through the entire album, as though a decade of posturing had somehow been digested into fuel for moving ahead. Tattoo You is a compact, unified statement – despite the fact that some of its tracks (or segments of them) reportedly date back several years...
(On Neighbors s)uch self-mocking allows the Stones to get away with the lyric's do-unto-others truism by putting themselves in the other person's place. It's also part of Tattoo You's surprising humanism, a welcome lack of contempt that's nowhere so evident as in the tunes that deal with women. The Philly-soul falsetto of Tops acknowledges that every man has the same come-on without faulting the man for trying (a trace of sadness here, maybe) or the woman for believing him... Tattoo You's finale, Waiting on a Friend, sums up the record's notions of love, loss and acceptance: Making love and breaking hearts/It is a game for youth/But I'm not waiting on a lady/I'm just waiting on a friend. Filled with attractive ambiguities and intimations of mutual dependency, the song is a celebration of maturity... Are the Rolling Stones fooling me with all this? I don't think so. Am I fooling myself? I hope not... I think it means that the Stones have settled magnificently into middle age, and that such an adjustment has given them back a power they long ago relinquished. This is especially clear in Heaven, a paean to physical love that glorifies tenderness, not sweat and excess. It's an odd, hymnlike number, more reminiscent of Television than of anything by the Stones... Like all of Tattoo You, it begs the listener's trust. And, for the first time in years, the Rolling Stones deserve it. Deserve it in spades.
There's no denying it, unfortunately - this is a damn good record, a great band showing off its mastery, like Muddy Waters (just as a for instance) getting it up one more once. But where Some Girls had impact as a Rolling Stones record, a major statement by artists with something to state, the satisfactions here are stylistic - harmonies, fills, momentum. And the lead singer isn't getting any less mean-spirited as he pushes 40. A-
Tattoo You glides through eleven songs that are neither old hat nor consciously experimental: they just sound right... Side one was good fun; side two is better, more consistent, more magical. The near medley builds slowly, surely, from Worried About You, through Heaven's crescendo, and on out to the fading chorus of Waiting on a Friend... The feel of the album...is more one of rediscovered youth, of axes to play, not grind, of the latest cope, not dope. After Emotional Rescue, it seems the Stones couldn't make it anymore with the theme of life getting harder and harder. The old themes are not invalidated by the new, but rather taken for granted, like knowing how to tie one's bootlace. The Stones have shed yet another layer of self-consciousness and their shiny vinyl new skin tingles with an open, early-decade kind of excitement.
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