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September 6, 2015

7 Super Song Facts about “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones

“Paint It, Black” was written by the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, and first released as a single on 6 May 1966. It was later included as the opening track to the U.S. version of their 1966 album, Aftermath.

“Paint It, Black” reached number one in both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. Since its initial release, the song has remained influential as the first number one hit featuring a sitar, particularly in the UK where it has charted in two other instances, and has been the subject of multiple cover versions, compilation albums, and film appearances. Here are seven super song facts about the song, via Ink Tank.

1. The original version was entitled “Paint It Black” without a comma. Keith Richards later said that the comma was added by the record label, Decca.

Keith Richards, Brian Jones and Ian Stewart (road manager/keyboard player) posed on the set of 'Ready Steady Go!' TV Show at Wembley Studios. May 27, 1966. (Jan Olofsson/ Getty Images)

2. There was no specific inspiration for the lyrics. When asked at the time why he wrote a song about death and depression Mick Jagger replied: “I don’t know. It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.”

Mick Jagger, 1966. (Photo by Gered Mankowitz)

3. In 1966, the single topped both the United States and the United Kingdom charts, making it the first ever US and UK number one single to feature a sitar. Nearly forty years later, in 2004, it was ranked number 176 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The Rolling Stones in London, 1966.

4. Jagger got the line “I turn my head until my darkness goes” from James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Mick Jagger, Paris, 1966. (Jean-Marie Périer)

5. Talking on his Absolute Radio show, Stones’ co-guitarist Ronnie Wood disclosed that Keith Richards has trouble remembering how to play this song. He revealed, “We always have this moment of hesitation where we don’t know if Keith’s going to get the intro right.”

Keith Richards and Ron Wood, Los Angeles, CA, 1979. (Henry Diltz)

6. In the late 1980s, “Paint It Black” became associated with the Vietnam War due to its use in both the ending credits of the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket and its use as the theme song for Tour Of Duty, a CBS-TV show about the Vietnam war which ran from 1987-1990.

Brian Jones performing “Paint It, Black” on 'Ready Steady Go!' TV Show at Wembley Studios. (Ivan Keeman/ Getty Images)

7. Sadly, for The Rolling Stones, “Paint It, Black” is one of the tunes they no longer control. They sold the rights to it during the Sixties to ex-manager Allen Klein.

Mick Jagger and Allen Klein


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