I Just Want to See His Face

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"I Just Want to See His Face"
Song by The Rolling Stones from the album Exile on Main St.
Released 12 May 1972
Recorded December 1971 - March 1972
Genre Rock, gospel
Length 2:53
Label Rolling Stones/Virgin
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Jimmy Miller
Exile on Main St. track listing

"I Just Want to See His Face" is a song by English rock band the Rolling Stones featured on their 1972 release Exile on Main St.

"I Just Want to See His Face" is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Concerning the recording, Jagger said in 1992, "‘I Just Want to See His Face’ was a jam with Charlie [Watts] and Mick Taylor... I think it was just a trio originally, though other people might have been added eventually. It was a complete jam. I just made the song up there and then over the riff that Charlie and Mick were playing. That's how I remember it, anyway..."[1]

Of the recording, Bill Janovitz says in his review, "‘I Just Want to See His Face’ has the band exploring the music of America, specifically the country, blues, folk, and soul of the South... [it] sounds ancient and from another planet; a swampy, stompy gospel song that was recorded to intentionally sound as if it is a field recording document of a long-ago church basement revival meeting."[2]

The song's bluesy, murky atmosphere has earned admiration from other artists. Singer/songwriter Tom Waits names it as one of his favorite recordings. "That song had a big impact on me, particularly learning how to sing in that high falsetto, the way Jagger does. When he sings like a girl, I go crazy," Waits says. "This is just a tree of life. This record is the watering hole."[3] Notable for their close musical resemblance to "I Just Want to See His Face" are Waits’ own "2:19", "Fish In the Jailhouse" and "Walk Away."

The gospel elements to some songs on Exile have been attributed to the presence of Billy Preston during the final recording sessions in Los Angeles. Preston would take Jagger to Sunday services. Initial recording took place in France at Villa Nellcôte. With Jagger on lead vocals, Bobby Whitlock provides electric piano, Mick Taylor plays electric bass and Bill Plummer contributes upright bass. It is thought to be more likely, however, that the electric piano was played by Bobby Whitlock (formerly the keyboardist of Delaney and Bonnie and a former bandmate of Bobby Keyes), and that he could not be named on the album on account of exclusivity rights to his record label at the time. Charlie Watts performs drums with producer Jimmy Miller providing percussion. Clydie King, Venetta Fields, Jerry Kirkland perform the backing vocals for the track.[2]

In a comment on a YouTube upload of "I Just Want To See His Face", Whitlock describes the song development: "I am playing the electric piano on this song. The whole thing came from Mick asking me about my Dad being a preacher and if I could play a gospel feel. This was the results. I cranked the vibrato on it and started playing, and Mick Taylor started playing the bass and Charlie started playing the drums and Mick Jagger was sing (sic) 'That's alright, that's alright, I don't want to talk about Jesus, I just want to see his face.' I was recorded at Olympic Studios in London."

"I Just Want to See His Face" is memorable for its unusual fade-in from previous track "Ventilator Blues". The song has never been performed live by the Stones[4] and appears on no compilation albums.

Cover versions[edit]

The track was covered by gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama on their 2001 album Spirit of the Century.

Phish covered this song on 31 October 2009 as part of their Halloween "musical costume," during which they covered Exile on Main St. in its entirety.

The Black Crowes also covered this song on tour, most notably on their final ever show at the Paradiso Amsterdam on 18 July 2011.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "I Just Want to See His Face". Time Is On Our Side. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  2. ^ a b Janovitz, Bill. "I Just Want to See His Face". allmusic. Retrieved 2006-10-24. 
  3. ^ Waits, Tom (20 March 2005). "Tom Waits on his cherished albums of all time". The Observer. 
  4. ^ Live debuts of each Rolling Stones song