Paint It Black
|"Paint It Black"|
|Single by the Rolling Stones|
|Format||45 rpm record|
|Recorded||6–9 March 1966|
|Studio||RCA, Hollywood, California|
|Producer(s)||Andrew Loog Oldham|
|Rolling Stones US singles chronology|
|Rolling Stones UK singles chronology|
US picture sleeve
"Paint It Black" (originally released as "Paint It, Black") is a song by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. Jointly credited to songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was first released as a single on 6 May 1966 and was later included as the opening track to the US version of their 1966 album, Aftermath.
"Paint It Black" reached number one in both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. The song became the Rolling Stones' third number one hit single in the US and sixth in the UK. Since its initial release, the song has remained influential as the first number one hit featuring a sitar, particularly in the UK where it has charted on two other occasions, and has been the subject of multiple cover versions, compilation albums, and film appearances.
Background and composition
The song's lyrics are, for the most part, meant to describe bleakness and depression through the use of colour-based metaphors. Initially, "Paint It Black" was written as a standard pop arrangement, humorously compared by Mick Jagger to "Songs for Jewish weddings". The song describes the extreme grief suffered by one stunned by the sudden and unexpected loss of wife, lover or partner. It is often claimed that Jagger took inspiration from novelist James Joyce's 1922 book, Ulysses, taking the excerpt, "I have to turn my head until my darkness goes", referring to the novel's theme of a worldwide view of desperation and desolation. The song itself came to fruition when the band's leader Brian Jones took an interest in Moroccan music. It was their first song to feature a sitar instrumental. "Paint It Black" came at a pivotal period in The Rolling Stones' recording history, a time that saw the songwriting collaboration of Jagger and Keith Richards assert itself as the principal composer of the band's original material. This is evident in the Aftermath sessions, where, for the first time, the duo penned the complete track list. In addition, Brian Jones, overshadowed by Jagger and Richards, grew bored with attempting to write songs, as well as conventional guitar melodies. To alleviate the boredom, Jones explored eastern instruments, more specifically the sitar, to bolster the group's musical texture and complexity. A multi-instrumentalist, Jones was able to develop a tune from the sitar in a short amount of time, largely due to his studies under Ravi Shankar's disciple, Harihar Rao. Not long after a discussion with George Harrison, who had recently recorded sitar in "Norwegian Wood", Jones arranged basic melodies with the instrument that, over time, morphed into the one featured in "Paint It Black".
The master take of "Paint It Black" was recorded on 8 March 1966, at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, with record producer Andrew Loog Oldham present throughout the process. Much of the early recorded arrangements, and keys of the track were modeled after The Animals' version of "The House of the Rising Sun", but The Rolling Stones were unsatisfied with the song, and considered scrapping it. However, while twiddling with a Hammond organ, Bill Wyman searched for a heavier bass sound, while playing the part on his knees. Wyman's playing clicked with the group, and inspired the up-tempo and Eastern pentatonic melody. By all accounts, the sitar was brought into the mix when Harihar Rao happened to walk in the studio with the instrument in hand.
The sitar was featured in the song. However, contrary to popular belief, the opening riff is played by Keith Richards on guitar, as seen on The Ed Sullivan show and other live performances of the time. Jones' sitar is still heard throughout the song. In his book Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones, Paul Trynka has noted that the influence of Harrison's sitar playing, and, in particular, The Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood" on the Rubber Soul album, draws parallels in "Paint It Black" - most noticeably in Jones' droning sitar melody. In response to claims that he was merely imitating the Beatles, however, Jones said: "What utter rubbish!" His sitar part on the track immediately became influential in developing a whole subgenre of minor-key psychedelic music. Coupled with this striking instrumental motif, it is complemented by Jagger's droning, and slight nasal vocalization. In addition, "Paint It Black" was highlighted by Wyman's heavy bass, Charlie Watts's low-pitch drumming, and Richards' bolero-driven acoustic guitar outro. Soon after, Richards noted that the conclusion of the track was over-recorded, and a different guitar could have potentially improved the song.
"Paint It Black" was released to the US on 7 May 1966, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 during a stay of 11 weeks. In the UK, the song was released on 13 May 1966, and also became a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart throughout a chart stay of ten weeks. It was originally released as "Paint It, Black", the comma being an error by Decca Records, but, nonetheless, stirred controversy among fans over its racial interpretation. Upon further reissues to the UK in 1990 and 2007, "Paint It Black" charted at number 61 and 70, respectively.
"Paint It Black" has appeared on numerous Stones compilations, including Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1971), 30 Greatest Hits (1977), Singles Collection: The London Years (1989), Forty Licks (2002), and GRRR! (2012). Live recordings are featured on the concert albums Flashpoint (1991), Live Licks (2004), Shine a Light (2008), and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live (2013). The song was featured in the music video games Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero Live, and Rocksmith 2014, as well as the video games Conflict: Vietnam, Twisted Metal: Black and Mafia III.
The song plays during the end credits of the films Full Metal Jacket and The Devil's Advocate. In TV, it was used as the opening theme song to the series Tour of Duty. It was featured in the Call of Duty: Black Ops III and The Mummy trailers. The Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball use the song as part of their "Black Out" promotions. An orchestral arrangement of the song has been used in multiple episodes of the TV series Westworld.
- Mick Jagger – lead vocals
- Keith Richards – electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- Brian Jones – sitar
- Bill Wyman – bass
- Charlie Watts – drums
Charts and certifications
Eric Burdon & War version
|"Paint It Black"|
|Single by Eric Burdon & War|
|from the album The Black Man's Burdon|
|B-side||"Nights in White Satin"|
|Format||45 rpm record|
|Eric Burdon & War singles chronology|
Before Eric Burdon & War's 1970 version reached the charts in Netherlands, Eric Burdon covered it on the 1967 Eric Burdon & The Animals debut album, Winds of Change. They also performed a 12:40 version on German TV in 1970. The original album version of Eric Burdon & War had a length of 13:41.
Eric Burdon performed it also on his "Hippiefest" tour in 2008.
|Dutch Top 40||31|
Other cover versions
- 1966 – Marie Laforêt recorded it in French as "Marie-douceur, Marie-colère".
- 1966 – Hungarian band Omega
- 1966 – Caterina Caselli had some success with an Italian version of "Paint It Black", titled "Tutto nero".
- 1967 – Chris Farlowe released a cover version, produced by Mick Jagger
- 1980 – The Mo-dettes' version reached number 42 on the UK singles chart.
- 1983 – Punk band the Avengers, first as the A-side of a single, then on their self-titled album.
- 1986 – Finnish band Smack.
- 1998 - Dutch gabber artist 3 Steps Ahead in his maxi-single Paint It Black
- 2011 – Indie bubblegum girl band Supercute! covered the song and filmed a music video.
Album tracks and single B-sides
- In 1966 The Standells covered the song on album Dirty Water.
- In 1969, Czech singer Karel Gott released a German version, entitled "Rot und schwarz" (Red and Black), on album In mir klingt ein Lied (A Song Sounds within Me).
- In 1973, Exuma covered the song on album Life.
- In 1977, The London Symphony Orchestra released an orchestral cover of the song on the LP Classic Rock (album).
- In 1978, Flamin' Groovies covered the song on album Flamin' Groovies Now.
- In 1978, Sleepy Sleepers covered the song in Finnish, under the name Kaapataan lentokone Moskovaan (Hi-Jacking an Airplane to Moscow). They managed to cause an international scandal, and subsequently they were banned from airplay by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, YLE, until 1989.
- In 1987, Tracey Ullman covered the song in Season 2, Episode 5 of The Tracy Ullman Show.
- In 1988, Deep Purple covered the song on live album Scandinavian Nights (1970 recording).
- In 1991, Azúcar Moreno released a cover on the CD version of album Mambo.
- In 1992, U2 released a cover of the song as a B-side to the single "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses".
- In 1992, Band of Susans released a cover on the Now EP.
- In 1994, Dragan Kojić Keba covered the song in Serbian language on album Sve ću tuge poneti sa sobom, with lyrics "U crno obojeno".
- In 1997, Inkubus Sukkubus included the song on album Vampyre Erotica.
- In 1998, Gob covered the song on the album How Far Shallow Takes You; this version was featured in the film Stir of Echoes.
- In 1998, Rage covered the song on album XIII.
- In 2000, The Residents covered the song on the album Dot.Com.
- In 2000, The Tea Party released a cover on the album Tangents: The Tea Party Collection.
- In 2000, Burn It Down recorded the song on the album, "Let the Dead Bury the Dead".
- In 2001, Ottmar Liebert recorded an instrumental flamenco version.
- In 2002, Vanessa Carlton released a cover of the song on album Be Not Nobody.
- In 2002, The Black Dahlia Murder released a cover on their first EP A Cold-Blooded Epitaph.
- In 2003, the Tumult record label released an album called Painted Black, entirely consisting of versions of "Paint It Black" by avant-garde artists, including Circle, Acid Mothers Temple, Fennesz, Hrvatski, The Joy Of Disease, Kit Clayton, Mieskuoro Huutajat, The Tape-beatles, Troum, and Loren Chasse.
- In 2004, Firewater covered the song on album Songs We Should Have Written , a compilation of covers. Their version includes a sitar and other ethnic instruments.
- In 2005 Destrophy covered it on the Pray EP.
- In 2006, Deadsy released a cover on album Phantasmagore.
- In 2007, the song was covered on Hayseed Dixie's album Weapons of Grass Destruction.
- In 2010, Ali Campbell covered the song on album Great British Song.
- In 2010, Ministry released a cover of the song on the compilation album Every Day Is Halloween: The Anthology.
- In 2010, VersaEmerge released a cover of the song on the compilation album Punk Goes Classic Rock.
- In 2011, the song was covered by Carolina Crown during their production entitled "Rach Star".
- In 2012, the song was covered and translated into Ukrainian by Yuriy Veres on album 60/70.
- In 2015, the song was covered by Ciara, for the soundtrack of The Last Witch Hunter, . This cover version was also used as the entrance theme for CZW wrestler Lio Rush.
- In 2016, an orchestral version of the song, arranged by Ramin Djawadi, became part of the soundtrack of HBO's TV series Westworld . . A different version of the song was used in the second season episode Akane no Mai.
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