Rolling Stones – Hang Fire

I remember this song well. In 1981 I was 14 and after I bought the Start Me Up single I went out and bought Tattoo You. Tattoo You was a good Stones album. In fact, I would say it was their last great album. I did like a few of the albums that would follow but this one had everything.

The Stones had dug down deep in their vaults for several songs. Some songs came from the Mick Taylor era. The Stones first recorded this song in 1978 at the Some Girls sessions. Lyrics were added and it was repackaged for Tattoo You.

The song is said to be pointed at the UK. The Stones rarely performed in England because of the huge taxes that were levied on entertainers… it was much more profitable for them to live and work elsewhere.

Hang Fire means a delay or delayed in taking action or progressing. The original title was said to be “Lazy Bitch,” supposedly aimed at a certain British prime minister.

The tour for this album was massive. I remember vividly wanting to go but they didn’t come to Nashville. It was the first rock tour I remember being publicized as an event rather than a concert. You must remember the Stones were getting “old.” People were saying this could be it for the band because they were over the hill. Mick was a whopping 38 years old in 1981. If only we knew what was coming!

The American leg was sponsored by Jovan which yea…I went out and got their cologne.  It was the largest grossing tour of 1981 with $50 million in ticket sales. Roughly two million concert goers attended the concerts, setting various ticket sales records.

Most importantly about this tour. It was the last time the Stones toured without backup singers and musical help on stage. Yes, they sounded more ragged on this tour but…that fit them perfectly. I would have rather heard Keith sing backup than pitch perfect backup singers. I did get to see them in the 90s and in 2006.

A film of the tour was released in 1983 called Let’s Spend the Night Together directed by Hal Ashby. 

From Songfacts

A “hang fire” is a delay from when a trigger is pulled on a flintlock gun and when it actually fires. The expression means a delayed response, but in this song could apply to the lazy people who won’t take action. It’s also a great phrase to sing, which Mick Jagger does a few different ways throughout the song, sometimes stretching out “fire,” and other times keeping it contained.

In the UK, “Hang Fire” wasn’t released as a single, but in America it was the third single from the Tattoo You album, which hung around for a while. The song peaked at #20 in May 1982, 10 months after the album was released.

MTV launched on August 1, 1981, giving The Rolling Stones instant access to a new audience in America. They were ready, having made several videos (known as “promotional films” back in the day) already with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, who returned to helm the Tattoo You videos. “Start Me Up” was the first in the set, showing the band performing the song on an empty set. This was typical, as Lindsay-Hogg kept the focus on the band, which were adept performers with a lead singer who could pull focus. “Hang Fire” had a similar look, but with posters of the album artwork adorning the set. These low-budget videos did very well on MTV, which was thrilled to have The Stones in rotation.

Hang Fire

In the sweet old country where I come from
Nobody ever works
Yeah nothing gets done
We hang fire, we hang fire

You know marrying money is a full time job
I don’t need the aggravation
I’m a lazy slob
I hang fire, I hang fire
Hang fire, put it on the wire baby
Hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire baby, go ahead
Hang fire

We’ve got nothing to eat
We got nowhere to work
Nothing to drink
We just lost our shirts
I’m on the dole
We ain’t for hire
Say what the hell
Say what the hell, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo

Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo doo
Doo doo

Yeah ten thousand dollars, go have some fun
Put it all on at a hundred to one
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, put it on the wire, baby
Doo doo
Doo doo, hang fire, hang fire put it on the wire
Hang fire, hang fire, hang fire, hang fire
Put it on the wire, baby
Put it on the wire

Author: Badfinger (Max)

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

35 thoughts on “Rolling Stones – Hang Fire”

  1. This is one of my favorite songs from Tattoo You. One of my grandma’s sayings was ‘hang fire’, or ‘heck fire’. That’s when I knew she was swearing, haha. I didn’t know about the original song title, but the 2nd verse certainly fits it. That 1981 Stones concert is probably still my #1 favorite concert ever. And yes, it was billed as a ‘farewell tour’, because the Stones were turning 40. 😀 A couple of things I remember were Mick riding in a cherry picker over the crowd, and for the finale, they dropped a whole bunch of balloons from the ceiling. I came home with a balloon and kept it for ages.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That would have been something to see. It was really the last tour the Stones toured as the Stones without a mountain full of backup musicians. I think it was the first tour of it’s kind…as far as that big. I think Mick said they made more off of that tour than many tours combined in the 70s.

      That balloon would be a cool keepsake.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can believe they raked in the profits that tour. They had ditched Klein by then, I assume? The ’81 tour prices and hype were groundbreaking, and they had nothing like the elaborate stage and production they do now, not to mention the massive traveling entourage. It was the venue’s stage, and a cherry picker and some balloons, and the musicians and their instruments.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh yea…Klein had been gone for a while but he owned their 60’s output.
        It was so colorful…from the balloons to what they wore…so they could be seen.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. You know the first time I heard that phrase was in the Stephen King book IT…Jen said her grandmother said it also.

        Like

  2. Good song….I liked it way more than ‘Start Me Up’ (also liked the other single, “Waiting on a Friend” better than it). I knew the song was called ‘Hang Fire’ but never really listened to the lyrics or knew the context… pretty good, but biting lyrics.
    I think you’re right about the concerts… it seemed like that was when tours suddenly became massive and people started talking about gates they did for a hit movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I first heard Start Me Up…I thought it was the best single ever for a while. I mean I REALLY liked it but especially after the Windows 95 campaign…that was enough!
      It is a good song and you don’t hear it much at all. Yep…tours became an event instead of a tour….like the over blown super bowl.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the song! Love the album! One of my favorites. Hang Fire is hard driving, stripped down Rock N Roll in the era of synthesizer sound that Richards despised. I have a real affinity for the New Wave, but this song is the anthesis of the “electronic” sound and it was very refreshing at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I did like Steel Wheels as an album with Mixed Emotions and Sad, Sad, Sad….I saw them in the late nineties at Vanderbilt for the Bridges to Babylon tour…and the Bigger Bang Tour at Churchhill Downs.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great track from a awesome album. Thats my review lol. I like this ragged version of the band best. Stripped down..Keef bellowing out backing vocals it really gets no better than that

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t recall the song based on the title, but once I started listening to the clip, I recognized it right away – nice tune!

    It’s kind of crazy to think that at age 38 there was the notion Mick Jagger and the Stones could retire. BTW, Meadowland Sports Complex where that live clip was captured, was the same spot where I saw the Stones last in August 2019, though MetLife Stadium didn’t exist in 1981. Instead, it was Giants Stadium where I saw Pink Floyd in 1994.

    BTW, did you hear the Stones are doing a summer tour in Europe titled “Sixty” to celebrate their 60th anniversary? Just incredible!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I didn’t hear of them doing a tour in Europe…geez…60 years that is crazy…it’s hard to believe.
      I remember…everyone was saying they were over the hill and they should retire. Who would have thought they would be playing 40 years later!
      I remember seeing the original Meadowlands on television.

      Like

  6. I don’t think I ever heard this one. Mick was a sexy beast in that first video. I think the wad in his spandex was bigger than his legs lol. The Rolling Stones still going strong is an inspiration to every one of us.

    Liked by 1 person

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