Honky Tonk Women

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"Honky Tonk Women"
RollStones-Single1969 HonkyTonkWomen.jpg
Single by The Rolling Stones
B-side "You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Released 4 July 1969 (1969-07-04)
Format 7-inch single
Recorded June 1969
Studio Olympic, London
Length 3:03
Label Decca
Songwriter(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Jimmy Miller
The Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Street Fighting Man"
"Honky Tonk Women"
"Brown Sugar"
"Street Fighting Man"
Honky Tonk Women
"Brown Sugar"

"Honky Tonk Women" is a 1969 hit song by the Rolling Stones. Released as a single only release (although a country version was included on Let It Bleed), on 4 July 1969 in the United Kingdom and a week later in the United States, it topped the charts in both nations.[3]

Inspiration and recording[edit]

The song was written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards while on holiday in Brazil from late December 1968 to early January 1969, inspired by Brazilian "caipiras" (inhabitants of rural, remote areas of parts of Brazil) at the ranch where Jagger and Richards were staying in Matão, São Paulo.[4] Two versions of the song were recorded by the band: the familiar hit which appeared on the 45 single and their collection of late 1960s singles, Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2); and a honky-tonk version entitled "Country Honk" with slightly different lyrics, which appeared on Let It Bleed (1969).

Thematically, a "honky tonk woman" refers to a dancing girl in a western bar who may work as a prostitute[citation needed]; the setting for the narrative in the first verse of the rock-and-roll version is Memphis, Tennessee: "I met a gin soaked bar-room queen in Memphis", while "Country Honk" sets the first verse in Jackson, Mississippi: "I'm sittin' in a bar, tipplin' a jar in Jackson".[5]

The band initially recorded the track called "Country Honk," in London in early March 1969. Brian Jones was present during these sessions and may have played on the first handful of takes and demos. It was his last recording session with the band.[6][7] The song was transformed into the familiar electric, riff-based hit single "Honky Tonk Women" sometime in the spring of 1969, prior to Mick Taylor's joining the group.[2] In an interview in the magazine Crawdaddy!, Richards credits Taylor for influencing the track: "... the song was originally written as a real Hank Williams/Jimmie Rodgers/1930s country song. And it got turned around to this other thing by Mick Taylor, who got into a completely different feel, throwing it off the wall another way."[8] However, in 1979 Taylor recalled it this way: "I definitely added something to Honky Tonk Women, but it was more or less complete by the time I arrived and did my overdubs."[9]

"Honky Tonk Women" is distinctive as it opens not with a guitar riff, but with a beat played on a cowbell. The Rolling Stones' producer Jimmy Miller performed the cowbell for the recording.

The concert rendition of "Honky Tonk Women" on Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out! (1970) differs significantly from the studio hit, with a markedly dissimilar guitar introduction and the first appearance on vinyl of an entirely different second verse. During the North American leg of the 1989 Steel Wheels tour, a giant inflatable woman was cued to appear just before the first chorus. There was an animated live visual for this song when it was performed in concert around 2002 and 2003. It featured a topless woman riding on the Rolling Stones tongue who was seen in the beginning of the concert.


The single was released in the UK the day after the death of founding member Brian Jones where it remained on the charts for five weeks peaking at number one. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" was the single's B-side. The song topped the US Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks from 23 August 1969. It was later released on the compilation album Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol. 2) in September. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song overall for 1969.

At the time of its release Rolling Stone magazine hailed "Honky Tonk Women" as "likely the strongest three minutes of rock and roll yet released in 1969".[10] It was ranked number 116 on the list of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in April 2010.[11] The song was later put into the track listing for the video game Band Hero.


The Rolling Stones
Additional personnel

Charts and certifications[edit]

Releases on compilation albums and live recordings[edit]

Concert versions of "Honky Tonk Women" are included on the albums 'Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!' (recorded 1969, released 1970), Love You Live (recorded 1976, released 1977), Live Licks (recorded 2003, released 2004), Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013), and Totally Stripped (recorded 1995, released 2016). The song has appeared in numerous Stones concert films and boxed sets, including Stones in the Park, Some Girls: Live In Texas '78, Let's Spend the Night Together, Stones at the Max, Voodoo Lounge Live, Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98, Four Flicks, The Biggest Bang, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live.


"Honky Tonk Women" has been covered numerous times by various bands and singers since its release in 1969. Ike & Tina Turner included a cover of the song in their 1969 album, Nice n' Rough, and was also used for the B-side of two of their single releases.[26]

Country Honk[edit]

"Country Honk"
Song by the Rolling Stones
from the album Let It Bleed
Released 5 December 1969 (1969-12-05)
Recorded June & October 1969
Genre Country rock[28]
Length 3:10
Label Decca Records/ABKCO
Songwriter(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Jimmy Miller

"Country Honk" is a country version of "Honky Tonk Women", released five months after on the album Let It Bleed (1969). As noted above, the country arrangement was the original concept of "Honky Tonk Women".

According to some sources "Country Honk" was recorded at the Elektra recording studio in Los Angeles. Byron Berline played the fiddle on the track, and has said that Gram Parsons was responsible for him being chosen for the job (Berline had previously recorded with Parsons' band the Flying Burrito Brothers). Producer Glyn Johns suggested that Berline should record his part on the pavement outside the studio to add ambience to the number. Sam Cutler, the Rolling Stones' tour manager, performed the car horn at the beginning of the track.[29] Nanette Workman performs backing vocals on this version (although the album sleeve credits actress Nanette Newman). Other sources state that "Country Honk" was recorded at Olympic Studios right after "Honky Tonk Women", with only Berline's fiddle part overdubbed at Elektra Sound Recorders Studios, 962 La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90069; this might be supported by the existence of a bootleg recording that contains neither the fiddle nor Mick Taylor's slide guitar. Richards has repeatedly stated that "Country Honk" is how "Honky Tonk Women" was originally written.

It was this version of the song that was played by Ricky Nelson at the Rock 'n Roll Revival concert at Madison Square Garden on 15 October 1971. As the crowd were expecting traditional rock 'n roll (such as Nelson's older numbers, which he also played at the concert, "Hello Mary Lou" and "She Belongs to Me", and the music of others at the concert such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Bobby Rydell), they began to boo. While some reports say that the booing was caused by police action in the back of the audience, Nelson took it personally and left the stage. He watched the rest of the concert backstage and did not reappear on stage for the finale. This event was the stimulus for the song "Garden Party", which appeared on the 1972 album of the same name. This is evidenced by the line "then I sang a song about a honky-tonk, and it was time to leave."


The Rolling Stones

Additional personnel


  1. ^ Steve Jones (20 May 2014). Start You Up: Rock Star Secrets to Unleash Your Personal Brand and Set Your Career on Fire. Greenleaf Book Group Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-1-62634-070-1. 
  2. ^ a b Unterberger, Richie. Song Review by Richie Unterberger at AllMusic. Retrieved 19 May 2007.
  3. ^ Elliott, Martin (2002). The Rolling Stones: Complete Recording Sessions 1962-2002. Cherry Red Books. p. 148. ISBN 1-901447-04-9. 
  4. ^ "Kappa Magazine". Revistakappa.com.br. p. 100. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  5. ^ The Rolling Stones "Honky Tonk Women". Time Is on Our Side. (accessed 19 May 2007).
  6. ^ "Honky Tonk Women". Keno.org. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  7. ^ "Country Honk - Lyrics". Keno.org. Archived from the original on 8 January 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  8. ^ Appleford, Steve (1997). The Rolling Stones It’s Only Rock and Roll: Song by Song. New York: Schirmer Books. p. 88. 
  9. ^ McPherson, Ian. "Track Talk: Honky Tonk Women". Retrieved 27 August 2009. 
  10. ^ Marcus, Greil (23 August 1969). "Records". Rolling Stone. San Francisco: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. (40): 35. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  11. ^ "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. April 2010. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  13. ^ "Ultratop.be – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  14. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6002." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  15. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Honky Tonk Women". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  17. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  18. ^ "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Flavourofnz.co.nz. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  19. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women". VG-lista. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  20. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Women". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Rolling Stones: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  22. ^ "The Rolling Stones Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  23. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  24. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1969/Top 100 Songs of 1969". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  25. ^ "American single certifications – The Rolling Stones – Honky Tonk Woman". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 17 June 2016.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  26. ^ "Ike & Tina Turner - Honky Tonk Woman 1970". YouTube. Retrieved 6 January 2012. 
  27. ^ "House MD Episode Guide: Season Two #214 "Sex Kills"". Housemd-guide.com. 2006-03-07. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  28. ^ Eric v.d. Luft (2009-09-21). Die at the Right Time!: A Subjective Cultural History of the American Sixties. Books.google.com. p. 410. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  29. ^ Cutler, Sam. You Can't Always Get What You Want - My Life with the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead and Other Wonderful Reprobates ISBN 978-1-74166-609-0

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
23 August 1969 (four weeks)
Succeeded by
"Sugar, Sugar" by The Archies
Preceded by
"Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman
UK number-one single
23 July 1969
Succeeded by
"In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)" by Zager and Evans