November 1982: unidentified studio, Paris, France
November-December 19, 1982: Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France
January 30-February 9, 1983: Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France
February 15-Mid-March 1983: Pathé Marconi Studios, Paris, France
April 1983: Compass Point Studios, Nassau, Bahamas
May-early June 1983: The Hit Factory, New York City, USA
July-August 1983: The Hit Factory, New York City, USA
Glimmer Twins & Chris Kimsey
Chief engineer: Chris Kimsey
Mixer: Chris Kimsey
Released: November 1983
Original label: Rolling Stones Records (on WEA & EMI)
Contributing musicians: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman, Ron Wood, Chuck Leavell, Ian Stewart, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, Moustapha Cisse, Martin Ditcham, Brahms Coundoul, David Sanborn, Jim Barber, Chops (The Sugarhill Horn Section).
Undercover of the Night
She Was Hot
Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)
Wanna Hold You
Feel on Baby
Too Much Blood
Pretty Beat Up
All the Way Down
It Must Be Hell
Actually all these songs are all new. They were all written this year, last year, over a short base of time when we recorded. They're all new and none of 'em are from previous sessions. This is like 10 tracks that were chosen out of 15 that we actually finished.
Everything we'd previously done that was of any - what we thought was - kind of quality or standard, were bootlegged about a year and a half ago and so there was nothing to sort of check back on and say, Oh, maybe that one would be nice for this album, you know. So we HAD to start off fresh.
When we started off writing (the album), Keith and I got in a bit early and we rented an 8-track demo studio here in Paris. And I said, Well, have you got some, Keith? and we took turns at playing the drums and - well, we played guitar and we got to know the material each of us had written in the past few months, you know. So when we actually got the band into the studio, we had sort of a hard-core bunch of songs, which is ACTUALLY most of the songs on the album.
(T)his time I decided that I wasn't going to rely on studio composing. So before recording Undercover, Keith and I went into a little studio with 4 or 5 songs I'd done and some he'd worked up, and we played them to each other and he suggested tempos and various adjustments. After a week we had 6 or 7 things to start with. I hate having to go in and teach the whole band in the studio. I'd much rather do it in rehearsal time.
Lyrically, I wrote in France. But I didn't write ALL the songs. I did write nearly all the lyrics, I guess, apart from Wanna Hold You and a bit of Feel on Baby.
All my things that I wrote, I wrote in France. I wrote when I was in the Caribbean, too. You're influenced by wherever you go. When I was in France, I listened to a lot of African music. That's where Too Much Blood came from. Same with Pretty Beat Up, same with Undercover.
Keith didn't have many songs on Undercover. During this period there would be just the one token Keith song on every album. I think it was just something that Mick and Keith had going. It was something unwritten that was going on between the two of them, which I don't really understand. It is hard to nail what lay beneath it. Mick was not a very good drinker and drugger, and when he decided to quit or cut down his intake, gnerally change his personailty and try and be a more responsible person, Keith didn't really like the change in him. Between the two things, the overuse and the cleaning up, there was some residual resentment, for some reason. When I look at the Undercover album that becomes apparent. As soon as I see the list of songs on that record I think, Whoops, this is not a balanced concept album, it's all over the shop. It is a mixture of salvaged songs and a couple that I am never conscious of having made it on to the album. I've got another one of my tenders songs on there - Pretty Beat Up...
The Stones attract a lot of people obviously so, when you are recording, a lot of the nights it's more like a gig anyway because, you know, a bunch of people come down. Especially in Paris, you've got a lot of girls that come down to dance around and it's fun. There's definitely been an incredible improvement in the amount of energy and enthusiasm, especially from Keith. It's been remarkable. And the band's taken on a new energy since then. It's really kicked everyone up the backside, it's been GREAT. And Keith's energy now is so high that he'll be - he'll stay in the studio for HOURS, just writing and coming up with new riffs and things. And, you know, that inspires Mick.
(There's) a lot of drum stuff (on the album). It's probably the drummiest album we've ever done. Maybe it's got to do with the first time in a while that we've made a record after 2 consecutive years on the road. The two tours, '81 and '82, and then we started recording a few months after coming off the road. That probably affected it. You usually find that if you hit the studio after coming off the road, you get a difference in sound, because you've been playing together longer than any other comparable time.
A lot of Jamaican reggae interests me because they have a lovely, wide-open concept about recording, which the rest of us are slowing coming around to. For them, a console is as much an instrument as a drum or a guitar... They'll just go Whack! Bang! and drop out an instrument... When we first started working with our engineer, Chris Kimsey, we tried to turn him on to some dub records. He was interested but he didn't really get into it until we started working in Jamaica (Bahamas?) over the last few years.... (T)here are some people you don't normally think of as producers, like Sly Dunbar, who are incredible. I didn't realize how good he was until recently when we were in the same studio in Nassau... Matter of fact, that's him doing percussion on Simmons Drums on a couple of tracks on the new album... We (also) brought in a couple of guys from Senegal to get that percussive bongo sound. They brought in their own instruments, and an incredible array of primitive African hardware, so there's lots of great percussion throughout the album; a lot of work with rhythms.
On Undercover I (was) more or less in the hands of Mick, who would come in with his skeleton of a song, which we would then work with.
We wanted the new record to sound very 1983, as opposed to something very period, like the Stray Cats. They're very good, but not what I'm after at the moment.
(I)t's not ALL bleak. It's tough, that's all. I don't know really. What comes out, comes out, you know. It's not supposed to be aimed at any kind of lovey-dovey market. It's not aimed at anything. It's just what comes out. You try to improve on it, but the ideas that come out is what you tend to use. I mean, there are love songs which we didn't include on the album, which we'll probably include on some lovey-dovey album when we feel lovey-dovey.
It's not supposed to sound particularly different from the old, normal Rolling Stones sound, but in actual fact some of the tracks come out sounding very different.
It's supposed to be a pretty tough album and it's pretty dancey. We wanted to make it an uncompromising, tough record.
It's a hard record. There's no ballads. We took off any of the ones... there were TWO ballads, two love songs. We just didn't finish them. We said we're going to make it all up. So it's very hard. There's not much... romanticism.
I told (Mick there was too much blood and violence on the album) one night because it was like an avalanche of those images, too much gore crammed onto one piece of tape. That was my first impression at the time, though it was totally different then... there was EXTRA gore at that point. It was his first bash at it, but through the process of making the record and editing, it got tidied up and I changed my mind once it was finished.
(It's a reflection of today). That was my immediate reaction to the thing. Look out your front door. Look at the news. You tell me. I'm sure Mick or I or anybody else would be happy not to be bombarded with some of these images, but we are supposedly living in a real world, after all. In a way, this album is a brother to Gimmie Shelter and maybe Beggars Banquet, or a mixture of those 2 records.
I thought (Keith's) was a natural response on his part because it IS a bit weird. In fact, there were a lot more weird things we recorded that didn't get on the record, some because of time, some because of content... but I did go over the top a bit. Keith realized it was sincere and did have a meaning - whatever the meaning IS, I'm not sure. He got into it.
I think Mick has done an incredible job. I think he's taken quite a leap forward, lyric-wise, on this album.
(M)y favorites are... Undercover, Tie Me Up and Too Much Blood.
Obviously, I think it's pretty good and it's the best we could make right now. I'm pretty happy with it.
(On Undercover) the songs are much stronger. I think Mick's come up with some good sort of lyrics and his VOICE sounds great on it. And there's also - there's a good feel to it. I think Mick and Keith have done really well on this album. The only fault I've got against it is again they've spent MUCH too long mixing the bloody thing. And, as a result, the actual sound of the instruments is a little bit harder and cold, whereas when they're still in the early stages, when they're just basic tracks, to me a lot of those things sound better.
Yeah, I liked (Undercover). It didn't sell perhaps as much as I would have liked, though it sold over 2 million copies - I shouldn't really complain. There was plenty of stuff on it that was mine: Undercover, She Was Hot. Keith contributed to all that stuff. Some was completely his. But it wasn't like I was frustrated with it because it wasn't my material.
Not a very special record.
I thought it was a little busy. It didn't hang together, although some of the individual tracks I enjoyed very much. Some albums, you can have some of the best tracks in the world, and they just don't hang together, track by track by track. It's the hardest bit to do sometimes because you have to choose the tracks when you just don't know anymore, because you're at the end of the whole process of making a record. If it sounds cohesive that's always a bit of luck.
In terms of the musical peaks on that album, there really aren't that many. That was definitely a time of disruption - and not one that I refer to very often.
By now, the Rolling Stones have assumed something of the status of the blues in popular music - a vital force beyond time and fashion. Undercover, their twenty-third album (not counting anthologies and outtakes), reassembles, in the manner of mature masters of every art, familiar elements into exciting new forms. It is a perfect candidate for inclusion in a cultural time capsule: should future generations wonder why the Stones endured so long at the very top of their field, this record offers just about every explanation. Here we have the world's greatest rock & roll rhythm section putting out at maximum power; the reeling, roller-derby guitars at full roar; riffs that stick in the viscera, songs that seize the hips and even the heart; a singer who sounds serious again. Undercover is rock & roll without apologies. There is a moment early on in Too Tough, a terrific song on the second side, that sums up all of the Stones' extraordinary powers. With the guitars locked into a headlong riff and Mick Jagger hoarsely berating the woman who screwed me down with kindness and suffocating love, the track is already off to a hot start; but then Charlie Watts comes barreling in on tom-toms and boots the tune onto a whole new level of gut-punching brilliance. That the Stones are still capable of such exhilarating energy is cause enough for wondrous comment; that they are able to sustain such musical force over the course of an entire LP is rather astonishing. Undercover is the most impressive of the albums the group has released since its mid-Seventies career slump (the others being Some Girls, Emotional Rescue and 1981's remarkable Tattoo You) because, within the band's R&B-based limits, it is the most consistently and energetically inventive...
If there are disappointments on Undercover, they can only be claimed in comparison to past Stones triumphs. If the album lacks the epochal impact of, say, Sticky Fingers, then perhaps it's because the mythic years of pop are past - by now, even the Stones have long since bade them goodbye. But Undercover seems to be more felicitously concentrated than Exile on Main Street, and while it may lack that album's dark power and desperate atmosphere, it does deliver nonstop, unabashed rock & roll crafted to the highest standards in the business. And that, rest assured, will do just fine. 4 STARS (OUT OF 5).
Fellas, I don't mean to whine or anything, but we've had three songs (so far) and all you've got here is some rather tedious music and your baisc sex, drugs and violence lyrics just like every bad Stones album (Black And Blue and Rescue come to mind quickly) seems to fall back on when the inspiration ain't there.... You know, this is the first Stones album I can recall where even Watts sounds asleep. (Not good, fellas. Not at all.)
What do people hear in this murky, overblown, incoherent piece of shit? True, they still slip naturally into the kind of vernacular specificity other bands strive for; despite the wind-tunnel mix Keith still sounds like the incorrigible genius-by-accident he is, nothing stops Charlie, and Mick's Texas chainsaw monologue is a scream. Also, two of the songs have political themes, which I guess is supposed to fill me with gratitude. But I'm such a churl I'm only grateful for good songs, and these are as tired and witless and nasty as the rest. Their worst studio album. C+
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