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"
Released28 August 1978 (1978-08-28) (US)
  • 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 the 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".


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.[1] Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci said of Charlie Watts' drumming that "he locks into a groove immediately after the great opening guitar riff, giving the mid-tempo song a worthy backbeat to carry it through to the end," also saying that it is a "typically subtle, but absolutely brilliant, performance."[3]


Release and aftermath[edit]

The song was released as the second single off the album. Billboard praised its "seductive lyrics" and "catchy r&b flavor."[4] Cash Box said it is "a slow but perky ballad" with "tasty guitar licks."[5] 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.[6] It was taken from the eight-track mix of Some Girls, which features significant differences from all other versions of the album. In 1983, the song was featured in Christine.


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


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[7] Silver 200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

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
"Favorite 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.

Cash Box said that "Midler appropriately switches from sensitive to sassy vocal delivery" and that "the production is faithful to the original."[8]

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[9] 71
Australia (Kent Music Report)[10] 12
German Singles Chart 15
Dutch Top 40 Singles Chart 10
Belgian Singles Chart[11] 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)[12] 64


  1. ^ a b Janovitz, Bill. "Beast Of Burden - The Rolling Stones | Song Info". AllMusic. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  2. ^ "Top 100 Rolling Stones Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  3. ^ Gallucci, Michael (24 August 2021). "Top 10 Charlie Watts Rolling Stones Songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2 June 2022.
  4. ^ "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. 9 September 1978. p. 66. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  5. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 9 September 1978. p. 20. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  6. ^ "The Rolling Stones-Beast of Burden". YouTube. 17 March 2009. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  7. ^ "British single certifications – Rolling Stones – Beast of Burden". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  8. ^ "Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. 4 February 1984. p. 17. Retrieved 22 July 2022.
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955-2012. Record Research. p. 571.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Bette Midler - Beast Of Burden". Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 13 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Kent Music Report No 548 – 31 December 1984 > National Top 100 Singles for 1984". Kent Music Report. Retrieved 12 January 2022 – via