Rolling Stones – Beast Of Burden

This one was always a favorite of mine of the Stones. Keith Richards wrote this, but a lot of the lyrics were improvised in the studio. While the band played, Jagger came in with different lines to fit the music.

This song is a good example of the Rolling Stones tapestry of guitars. Keith and Ron Wood weave their guitars in and out until the two guitars are almost indistinguishable from each other.

The song peaked at #8 in the Billboard 100 and #9 in Canada.

The song was on Some Girls released in 1978. It was perhaps their last great album although I did like Tattoo You. Some Girls peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts and #1 in Canada, and #2 in the UK.

Keith Richards: “Those who say it’s about one woman in particular, they’ve got it all wrong. We were trying to write for a slightly broader audience than just Anita Pallenberg or Marianne Faithfull. Although that’s not to say they didn’t have some influence in there somewhere. I mean, what’s close by is close by! I’ve always felt it’s one of my best soul songs. It was another strict collaboration between Mick and me. I think I had the first verse—‘I’ll never be your beast of burden’—along with the hook, and we were still working very much in our traditional way: Here’s the idea, here’s the song, now run away and fill it in! Some of the theories surrounding it are very intriguing, but they’re about as divorced from reality as can be. I find it quite amusing that there are people in the world who spend a lot of their time trying to decode something that is, at the end of the day, completely undecodable. I mean, even I’ve forgotten the code!”

From Songfacts

Sometimes misunderstood as a putdown, this is a rare Stones song that treats women as equals. Jagger sings that he “Don’t need no beast of burden.”

This isn’t about a specific woman. Most women in Stones’ songs are composites of many.

A live version from their 1981 US tour was used as the B-side of their “Going To A Go-Go” single.

A beast of burden is an animal that labors for the benefit of man, like an ox or a pack mule.

This song could be allegorical – it was written by Keith as a kind of homage to Mick for having to carry the band while Keith was strung out on heroin: “All your sickness I can suck it up, throw it all at me, I can shrug it off.” 

The Chinese ministry of culture ordered The Stones not to play this when they performed there in 2003. It was going to be the first time The Stones played in China, but they canceled because of a respiratory disease that was spreading through the country.

Whilst Richards spent much of the ’70s insulating himself with drugs, former London School of Economics student Jagger was running the band. However, by the time of Some Girls, Richards wanted to share the workload. Mojo magazine January 2012 asked Richards how much this song was about his relationship with Jagger? He replied; “Mick wrote a lot of it but I laid the general idea on him. At the time Mick was getting used to running the band. Charlie was just the drummer, I was just the other guitar player. I was trying to say, ‘OK I’m back, so let’s share a bit more of the power, share the weight, brother.”

Beast Of Burden

I’ll never be your beast of burden
My back is broad but it’s a hurting
All I want for you to make love to me
I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ve walked for miles my feet are hurting
All I want for you to make love to me

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see

I’ll never be your beast of burden
So let’s go home and draw the curtains
Music on the radio
Come on baby make sweet love to me

Am I hard enough?
Am I rough enough?
Am I rich enough?
I’m not too blind to see

Oh little sister
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girls
Uh you’re a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Pretty, pretty, such a pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Come on baby please, please, please

I’ll tell ya
You can put me out
On the street
Put me out
With no shoes on my feet
But, put me out, put me out
Put me out of misery, yeah

All your sickness I can suck it up
Throw it all at me
I can shrug it off
There’s one thing baby
I don’t understand
You keep on telling me
I ain’t your kind of man

Ain’t I rough enough, ooh baby
Ain’t I tough enough
Ain’t I rich enough, in love enough
Ooh, ooh please

I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ll never be your beast of burden
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be

I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ve walked for miles, my feet are hurting
All I want is you to make love to me

I don’t need the beast of burden
I need no fussing
I need no nursing
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

39 thoughts on “Rolling Stones – Beast Of Burden”

  1. Such a great track. I wish the Stones would reissue the Still Life album in full. But they never will. So if your reading this Keef C’mon and get it done!
    Some Girls is a very good record. I also like Voodoo Lounge album as well. That may have something to do with seeing the Stones twice back in 94 but Love Is Strong is such a great track.
    Sorry getting off topic here. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Deke I’m all about getting off topic. That is what I do regularly…it’s always welcomed here!

      Yea with a live album I’m not sure they will but it was huge man. When you have hits off a live album which it did…they should think about it.

      .I saw them on the Bridges to Babylon tour right after.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. LOL… I wished I could have seen them on that tour…their last one with Bill Wyman.
        When I was 5 years old. My sister went to see the damn Osmonds…and a few days later the Stones came with Stevie Wonder opening up! She of course didn’t see that one.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Lol, thats a missed opportunity. Goes to show you that there was always a teeny bopper band to disrupt things no matter what decade you were in. lol

        Liked by 1 person

  2. one of their great ’70s singles… I don’t know if that was really their last great album but seems like it was their last great decade for recording. Some excellent songs after that but they were fewer and farther between.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well the only giant album to come after this was Tattoo You…they did have Emotional Rescue but that wasn’t even in the league of this one or Tattoo You.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Some Girls- was my first ‘new’ Stones album- bought it for 4.99 along with Bob Dylan’s Street Legal after a baseball game in Pittsburgh- love that album- and “Beast of Burden” my favorite track on it.. I think I will walk to Some Girls in a few minutes! Great selection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That album is great especially considering the circumstances they were under at the time. Would you say that Some Girls was their last great album? I liked Tattoo You and a few others but I thought this one was in a different class.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This one spoiled me- I expected all their albums to be this great- Emotional Rescue isn’t bad but it pales in comparison to Some Girls. Tattoo You very good but I would say Some Girls their last great album too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. The ancient Romans dedicated a whole day every year to a beast of burden as they celebrated the Day of the Ass, because donkeys were used to turn the mills that they used to grind their flour, so they could bake bread. All the donkeys got that day off from doing any work. Any way, I always liked this song.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. To me it kind of hearkens back to their milder days. There are a lot of feelings being poured out here. I love the Keith quote above about he even “forgot the code”. The lyrics don’t seem that mysterious. The message seems pretty clear. But it’s good to get the context of Keith being “present” again instead of in heroin-land. Glad you chose this one to share today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea it’s not that mysterious to me either… it’s a song that just resonates with me…the sound, lyrics, and everything.

      Off topic…your weed songs that you have done…will One Toke Over The Line be considered?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I always thought this was their last round with greatness as far as albums are concerned. I liked Tattoo You but it was more spotty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s one classic album I think is a bit over-rated – mainly because I think ‘Lies’, ‘Whip’, and ‘Respectable’ are pretty much the same song. It probably sounded better at the time – they did update their sound for the late 1970s very well. At least four great songs – Beast, Miss You, Just My Imagination, and Before They Make Me Run.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Part of the update was Keith playing with a phaser pedal and it changed their sound in Shattered, Respetable, Beast of Burden, and later on She’s So Cold.

        Mick Taylor’s sound was thick and heavy (I preferred it) and Wood’s was thin and wirey…
        Before they Make Me Run is my favorite off of the album probably.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to stick with Mick on this one. The other one is alright but she makes it a little too cabaret for me…but that is what she does.

      PS…both emails are locked and loaded.


      1. I love interviews with her though…she is a hoot… she says exactly what is on her mind which I like


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