Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)

Phrases don’t come much better than this one.

This song started with a jam session at The Wick, Ron Wood’s house. Faces guitarist Ron Wood, who had not yet joined The Rolling Stones, had a big part in it. It was there that Wood put the song together at a session with Mick Jagger on vocals, David Bowie singing background, the session player Willie Weeks on bass, and future Who member Kenney Jones, on drums.

Ron Wood was going to record the song. When Keith Richards heard the demo he told Mick he had to get it back. When Keith Richards got a hold of the recording, he put his own guitar parts on, but left some of Wood’s 12-string. Jones, Weeks and Bowie remained on the final product.

Although Ron Wood a good part of the song…the song was credited to the Jagger/Richards team as usual. Jimmy Miller had left the band after the previous album and their sound changed somewhat.

The song peaked at #16 in the Billboard 100, #10 in the UK, and #12 in Canada in 1974.

Mick Jagger: “The title has been used a lot by journalists, the phrase has become a big thing. That version that’s on there is the original version, which was recorded half in Ron Wood’s basement, if I remember rightly. It was a demo. It’s a very Chuck Berry song, but it’s got a different feeling to it than a Chuck Berry song. You can’t really do proper imitations of people. You always have to start out by imitating somebody. In painting, some famous artist always starts out by being an impressionist. And then they become the most famous abstract artist. Or an actor starts out by imitating someone else’s style. And then you develop your own. And I think that’s what happened with this band and all the musicians that have played in it. You start off with one thing, and then you mutate into another, but you still acknowledge the fact that these influences came from here and here and here. Because not everyone knows that. But you make this new amalgam. And out of all this different music, all out these blues, out of all this country music, out of all this jazz and dance music and reggae music, you know, you make something that’s your own.” 

Songfacts

This was the title track to the first album after producer Jimmy Miller left the band. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards did the production work.

Lyrically, this drew inspiration from David Bowie’s 1972 Ziggy Stardust track “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide.” When Mick Jagger sings, “If I could stick a knife in my heart, suicide right on stage,” he’s likely referencing glam rockers like Marc Bolan and Alice Cooper who did a suicide bit as part of their stage theatrics.

Mick Jagger sang this with Tina Turner on the Philadelphia stage of Live Aid in 1985. After singing “State Of Shock” with Turner, they launched into “It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll” and Jagger started disrobing. Both performers left the stage, and when they came back, Jagger was fully clothes and Turner was wearing a tearaway skirt that Jagger ripped off (Janet Jackson and Justing Timberlake tried something similar when performing at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, resulting in the infamous “Wardrobe Malfunction”). Live Aid was Jagger’s first live performance as a solo artist.

The promotional video (this was before MTV) had The Stones wearing sailor suits in a circus tent that slowly filled with bubbles. The bubbles eventually covered Charlie Watts, who was the only one sitting down.

This has been covered by the Spice Girls, Emmylou Harris, Natalie Imbruglia, The Cranberries and Eurythmics (who released their version as a single in support of a charity called Children’s Promise). 

It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)

If I could stick my hand in my heart
And spill it all over the stage
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would you think the boy is strange? Ain’t he strange?

If I could win ya, if I could sing ya
A love song so divine
Would it be enough for your cheating heart
If I broke down and cried? If I cried?

I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do
Oh, well, I like it, I like it, I like it
I said can’t you see that this old boy has been a lonely?

If I could stick a knife in my heart
Suicide right on stage
Would it be enough for your teenage lust
Would it help to ease the pain? Ease your brain?

If I could dig down deep in my heart
Feelings would flood on the page
Would it satisfy ya, would it slide on by ya
Would ya think the boy’s insane? He’s insane

I said I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do
Oh, well, I like it, yeah, I like it, I like it
I said can’t you see that this old boy has been a lonely?

And do ya think that you’re the only girl around?
I bet you think that you’re the only woman in town

I said, I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I said, I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I know it’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it, like it, yes, I do
Oh, well, I like it, I like it I like it I like it I like it I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
It’s only rock ‘n roll but I like it
I like it
I like it
I like it
Oh yeah I like it
I like it

Author: badfinger20 (Max)

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

30 thoughts on “Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (But I Like It)”

    1. Dramatic is the word… Seems like many rock stars were questioning the meaning of rock in the seventies like Pete’s Long Live Rock and others.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Mick Jagger felt that a singer should be prepared to go to any lengths to win over the audience, including sticking a knife in his heart, breaking down and crying, and even go as far as committing suicide right on stage, because in the end, that is rock ‘n’ roll, and he likes it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The title sums it up nicely, except I’d go further and say, “but I love it!” 🙂

    Didn’t know the background story. I have to say it was quite sneaky from Keith to grab the tune and not give any credit to Ron Wood. It wouldn’t have taken anything away from the tune to give Ron the recognition he deserved.

    I guess I’m probably naive here but just don’t get it when music artists engage in this type of behavior. Obviously, there’s the financial aspect, but it’s not as if Keith and Mick had been a poor struggling musicians by the time this song came out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mick and Keith have done that quite a bit…ask Mick Taylor and Bill Wyman…I don’t think it’s right at all. Wyman came up with the intro to Jumping Jack Flash but got no credit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL… I’m happier with how Lennon and McCartney treated Harrison and Starr…and Townshend would beg his other bandmates to write.
        I don’t blame ya

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes it is…That is something the Beatles or Who didn’t do…Jagger/Richard wanted those rights. Hell when Microsoft wanted Start Me Up in the 90s…Keith and Mick were going to rerecord it so the others would not get a cut off of the original performance lol…Microsoft said no

        Like

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