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 the songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was first released as a single on 6 May 1966, and 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 the 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 blackness 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 a 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 Richards assert itself as the principal composer of the band's original material. This is evident from the sessions for the album Aftermath, where for the first time the duo penned the complete track list. In addition, 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 (Jones had had a background with the instrument as far back as 1961), largely due to his studies under Harihar Rao, a disciple of Ravi Shankar. Not long after a discussion with George Harrison, who had recently recorded sitar on "Norwegian Wood", Jones arranged basic melodies with the instrument that, over time, morphed into the one featured in "Paint It Black". In a 1995 interview, when commenting on the musical styles found on Aftermath, Jagger described "Paint It Black" as a "kind of Turkish song".
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 dissatisfied 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. 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), Hyde Park Live (2013), and Havana Moon (2016). 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 and for the end credits to part five of The Vietnam War documentary series. 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. R&B singer Ciara would later cover the song for the soundtrack of the 2015 film The Last Witch Hunter.
An instrumental version was used in 2018 as background in a TV spot, The Future is Built for Ford Motor, featuring Bryan Cranston, as a subtle nod to Henry Ford's famous comment: "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black."
According to Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon's book All the Songs. The authors add a question mark after Jones's guitar contribution and credit "tambourine, bongos, castanets" to "unidentified musicians".
- Mick Jagger – lead vocals
- Keith Richards – acoustic guitar, lead guitar, backing vocals
- Brian Jones – sitar, acoustic guitar
- Bill Wyman – bass, bass pedals, Hammond organ
- Charlie Watts – drums, percussion
- Jack Nitzsche – piano
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|
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