Beast of Burden (song)

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"Beast of Burden"
Cover of the 1978 US single
Single by The Rolling Stones
from the album Some Girls
B-side"When the Whip Comes Down"
ReleasedSeptember 1978 (1978-09)
  • 10 October–21 December 1977
  • Pathé Marconi Studios
  • 4:24 (album version)
  • 3:28 (single edit)
LabelRolling Stones
Producer(s)The Glimmer Twins
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Miss You"
"Beast of Burden"
Some Girls track listing

"Beast of Burden" is a song by English rock band The Rolling Stones, featured on the 1978 album Some Girls. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song No. 435 on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" and No. 433 on the 500 Greatest Rock and Roll Songs of All Time.


A "beast of burden" is an animal, usually domesticated, that labors for the benefit of man, such as an ox or horse. The music and some lyrics were primarily written by Keith Richards. In the liner notes to the 1993 compilation disc Jump Back, Richards said "Beast of Burden" "was another one where Mick (Jagger) just filled in the verses. With the Stones, you take a long song, play it and see if there are any takers. Sometimes they ignore it, sometimes they grab it and record it. After all the faster numbers of Some Girls, everybody settled down and enjoyed the slow one."

In those same notes, Jagger says, "Lyrically, this wasn't particularly heartfelt in a personal way. It's a soul begging song, an attitude song. It was one of those where you get one melodic lick, break it down and work it up; there are two parts here which are basically the same." The song can be seen as allegorical, with Richards saying in 2003, "When I returned to the fold after closing down the laboratory [referring to his drug problems throughout the 1970s], I came back into the studio with Mick... to say, 'Thanks, man, for shouldering the burden' - that's why I wrote 'Beast of Burden' for him, I realise in retrospect."

"Beast of Burden" was recorded from October–December 1977. Although basic lyrics were written before the Stones entered the studio, many of the lyrics on the recording were improvised by Jagger to fit with the smooth running guitars of Richards and Ronnie Wood. Characteristically, Richards and Wood trade off rolling, fluid licks. Neither is really playing lead or rhythm guitar; they both slip in and out, one playing high while the other is low. The song is another famed Some Girls song that features each band member playing his respective instrument without any outside performers; both Richards and Wood play acoustic and electric guitars, with Wood performing the solo.[2]


Release and aftermath[edit]

The song was released as the second single off the album. Billboard Magazine praised its "seductive lyrics" and "catchy r&b flavor."[3] It charted at No. 8 in the US. A live version was recorded during their 1981 American Tour and was released as a B-side to "Going to a Go-Go", as well as being reissued on Rarities 1971-2003 in 2005. Another live version was recorded during their 2002-2003 Licks Tour which was released on Live Licks. The single edit of "Beast of Burden" was included on the compilation albums Sucking in the Seventies, Rewind (1971–1984), Jump Back, Forty Licks and GRRR! A 5:20 version of the song with extra lyrics circulates among collectors.[4] It was taken from the eight-track mix of Some Girls, which features significant differences from all other versions of the album.


Chart (1978) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 8
US Cash Box 7

Bette Midler version[edit]

"Beast of Burden"
Beast of Burden.png
Single by Bette Midler
from the album No Frills
B-side"Come Back, Jimmy Dean"
ReleasedFebruary 10, 1984
GenreHard rock, new wave
Producer(s)Chuck Plotkin, Brock Walsh, Danny Goldberg
Bette Midler singles chronology
"My Favourite Waste of Time"
"'Beast of Burden'"
"Under the Boardwalk"

In 1984, the song was covered by Bette Midler. Her version, which reached No. 71 on the Billboard Hot 100, modified several lines of lyric (for example, changing "Pretty, pretty, girls" to "my little sister is a pretty, pretty girl"). The track appeared on Midler's No Frills album.

A music video was made for this version that started out with Midler and Mick Jagger talking in her dressing room before she comes out and performs the song with him on stage. As the song ends someone throws a pie at Jagger, and Midler laughs at it until she gets hit with a pie herself. The video ends with a picture of both of them covered in pie in a newspaper with the headline "Just desserts".

Track listing[edit]

7" Single

  1. Beast of Burden 3:48
  2. Come Back, Jimmy Dean 3:51


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1984) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 71
Australia (Kent Music Report)[5] 12
German Singles Chart 15
Dutch Top 40 Singles Chart 10
Belgian Singles Chart[6] 15
Swedish Singles Chart 2
Norwegian Singles Chart 2
New Zealand Singles Chart 4

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1984) Position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[7] 64


  1. ^ Janovitz, Bill. "Beast Of Burden - The Rolling Stones | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  2. ^ Janovitz, Bill. The Rolling Stones "Beast of Burden". allmusic. 2007 (accessed 19 May 2007).
  3. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. 9 September 1978. p. 66. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  4. ^ "The Rolling Stones-Beast of Burden". YouTube. 17 March 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  5. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (Illustrated ed.). St. Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 200. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  6. ^ "Bette Midler - Beast Of Burden". Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  7. ^ BigKev. "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – Top 100 End of Year AMR Charts – 1984". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 16 May 2017. Retrieved 30 January 2017.