Undercover (The Rolling Stones album)

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Undercover
Studio album by The Rolling Stones
Released 7 November 1983
Recorded 11 November–17 December 1982, May–August 1983
Genre Rock, hard rock, new wave, post-disco
Length 45:00
Language English
Label Rolling Stones
Producer The Glimmer Twins, Chris Kimsey
The Rolling Stones chronology
Tattoo You
(1981)
Undercover
(1983)
Dirty Work
(1986)
Singles from Undercover
  1. "Undercover of the Night"
    Released: 1 November 1983
  2. "She Was Hot"
    Released: 23 January 1984
  3. "Too Much Blood"
    Released: 1984

Undercover is the 17th British and 19th American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1983. After their preceding studio album, Tattoo You, which was mostly patched together from a selection of outtakes, Undercover was their first release of all new recordings in the 1980s. With the advent of the MTV generation, the band attempted to re-invent themselves for a new era.

History[edit]

Due to the recent advancements in recording technology, The Glimmer Twins (a.k.a. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards) were officially joined in the producer's seat with Chris Kimsey, the first outside producer the Stones had used since Jimmy Miller. They began recording at the Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris, France in November 1982. After breaking for the holidays, they completed the album in New York City the following summer.

The making of Undercover was an arduous process, largely because Jagger and Richards' famous mid-1980s row began during these sessions. Jagger was keenly aware of new styles and wanted to keep the Rolling Stones current and experimental, while Richards was seemingly more focused on the band's rock and blues roots. As a result, there was friction, and the tension between the two key members would increase over the upcoming years.

The lyrics on Undercover are among Jagger's most macabre, with much grisly imagery to be found in the lead single and top 10 hit "Undercover of the Night", a rare political track about Central America, as well as "Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)" and "Too Much Blood", Jagger's attempt to incorporate contemporary trends in dance music. Musically, Undercover appears to duel between hard rock, reggae and new wave, reflecting the leadership tug of war between Jagger and Richards at the time. "Pretty Beat Up" is largely a Ronnie Wood composition, and Jagger and Richards were both reportedly reluctant to include it on the album.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars link
Blender 4/5 stars link
Robert Christgau C+ link
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars link

Undercover was released in November 1983 to generally warm reviews and reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 4 in the US. It was a relative disappointment however, breaking a streak of eight No. 1 albums (excluding compilations and live albums) in the US and failing to spawn any huge singles. Its cover artwork was covered with real peel-off stickers on the original vinyl edition, which when removed revealed other patterned geometric shapes.

"Think I'm Going Mad" was a track first recorded during the Emotional Rescue sessions of 1979. It finally arrived as the b-side to "She Was Hot". It was not included on the Rarities 1971–2003 collection and has never appeared on CD.

Undercover continues to divide critics and fans alike. Although it was largely praised on release, many fans came to regard it as among the Rolling Stones' weaker releases, a view echoed by Jagger himself in later interviews. While some critics tend to blame the then-contemporary production and eclecticism, a large part of the album was done in a hard-rock style ("She Was Hot", "Too Tough", "All The Way Down", and "It Must Be Hell"), leading many to fault the generally inconsistent material. A great deal of the tension during the recording of the album stemmed from the fact that Richards had emerged (to an extent) from his destructive lifestyle of the previous decade, and thus sought a more active role in the creative direction of the band.

Legacy[edit]

As with several latter-day Stones records, recent critical analysis has been kinder, noting the album's eclecticism and nastiness as a reflection of the Jagger/Richards feud. It would also prove to be the last album that seriously attempted to take the band's music in new directions; critics often fault the Stones' later albums as relying too comfortably on their early 1970s hard rock and blues formula. However, the record is still one of the Stones' less popular and more obscure releases.

Undercover was the last Rolling Stones album distributed in North America via Rolling Stones Records' original distribution deal with Warner Music's Atlantic Records subsidiary. The album would be reissued in 1986 by CBS/Sony Music following the Stones' signing to that label. Undercover was subsequently remastered and reissued by Virgin Records in 1994, and again in 2009 by Universal Music. It was released on SHM-SACD in 2012 by Universal Music Japan.

Original cassettes and later CD reissues (post-EMI) of this album contain a different mix of "Wanna Hold You" than appeared on the original vinyl release. On the earliest releases "Wanna Hold You" starts with a strong guitar intro. On the later issues the song starts with the band playing and Keith + background vocalists humming/crooning the intro.

Additionally, the original cassette release includes the verse "you sure look good to me, so what's it gonna be, it's up to you to choose, I'll make you an offer, you can't refuse". This version is a longer edit of the original "strong guitar intro" mix, and runs 3:50.

Track listing[edit]

All songs by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Undercover of the Night"   4:31
2. "She Was Hot"   4:40
3. "Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)"   4:16
4. "Wanna Hold You"   3:52
5. "Feel on Baby"   5:03
Side two
No. Title Length
6. "Too Much Blood"   6:14
7. "Pretty Beat Up" (Jagger/Richards/Ronnie Wood) 4:03
8. "Too Tough"   3:52
9. "All the Way Down"   3:12
10. "It Must Be Hell"   5:03

Personnel[edit]

The Rolling Stones
  • Mick Jagger – lead and backing vocals, electric guitar, harmonica
  • Keith Richards – electric guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Wanna Hold You", bass guitar on "Pretty Beat Up"
  • Ronnie Wood – electric and slide guitar, backing vocals, bass guitar on "Tie You Up" and "Wanna Hold You"
  • Charlie Watts – drums
  • Bill Wyman – bass guitar, percussion, piano on "Pretty Beat Up"
Additional personnel

Chart positions[edit]

Album
Year Chart Position
1983 UK Top 100 Albums[2] 3
1983 The Billboard 200[3] 4
Singles
Year Single Chart Position
1983 "Undercover of the Night" The Billboard Hot 100[3] 9
1983 "Undercover of the Night" Mainstream Rock Tracks[3] 2
1983 "Undercover of the Night" Hot Dance Music/Club Play[3] 9
1983 "Undercover of the Night" UK Top 100 Singles[2] 11
1983 "Too Tough" Mainstream Rock Tracks[3] 14
1984 "Too Much Blood" Mainstream Rock Tracks[3] 38
1984 "She Was Hot" Mainstream Rock Tracks[3] 4
1984 "She Was Hot" The Billboard Hot 100[3] 44
1984 "She Was Hot" UK Top 100 Singles[2] 42
1984 "Think I'm Going Mad"

B-side of "She Was Hot"

Mainstream Rock Tracks[3] 50
1985 "Too Much Blood" Hot Dance Music/Club Play[3] 44

Certifications[edit]

Country Provider Certification
(sales thresholds)
United States RIAA Platinum
United Kingdom BPI Gold

References[edit]

  1. ^ Saulnier, Jason (8 April 2010). "Chuck Leavell Interview". Music Legends. Retrieved 6 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Official Charts Company – Undercover (The Rolling Stones album)". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Rolling Stones Billboard Hot 100 history". Rovi Corporation / Billboard. Retrieved 10 October 2012.