Undercover (The Rolling Stones album)

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Studio album by The Rolling Stones
Released7 November 1983
RecordedNovember 1982 – August 1983
GenreRock, rock 'n' roll[1], hard rock[2], new wave[2]
LabelRolling Stones
ProducerThe Glimmer Twins, Chris Kimsey
The Rolling Stones chronology
Tattoo You
Dirty Work
Singles from Undercover
  1. "Undercover of the Night"
    Released: 1 November 1983
  2. "She Was Hot"
    Released: 23 January 1984
  3. "Too Much Blood"
    Released: 1984

Undercover is the 17th British and 19th American studio album by The Rolling Stones, released in 1983. After their preceding studio album, Tattoo You (1981), which was mostly patched together from a selection of outtakes, Undercover was their first release of all new recordings in the 1980s. With the advent of the MTV generation, the band attempted to re-invent themselves for a new era. It was the last Rolling Stones album to be released in Ian Stewart's lifetime.


Due to the recent advancements in recording technology, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were officially joined in the producer's seat by Chris Kimsey, the first outside producer the Stones had used since Jimmy Miller. They began recording at the Pathe Marconi Studios in Paris, France in November 1982. After breaking for the Christmas holidays, they completed the album in New York City the following summer.

The making of Undercover was an arduous process, largely because Jagger and Richards' famous mid-1980s row began during these sessions. Jagger was keenly aware of new styles and wanted to keep the Rolling Stones current and experimental, while Richards was seemingly more focused on the band's rock and blues roots. As a result, there was friction, and the tension between the two key members would increase over the coming years.

The lyrics on Undercover are among Jagger's most macabre, with much grisly imagery to be found in the lead single and top 10 hit "Undercover of the Night", a rare political track about Central America, as well as "Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)" and "Too Much Blood", Jagger's attempt to incorporate contemporary trends in dance music. Musically, Undercover appears to duel between hard rock, reggae and new wave, reflecting the leadership tug of war between Jagger and Richards at the time. "Pretty Beat Up" is largely a Ronnie Wood composition, and Jagger and Richards were both reportedly reluctant to include it on the album. The album cover for Undercover had art direction and design by Peter Corriston with concept origination, photography and illustration by Hubert Kretzschmar.

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[3]
Blender4/5 stars[4]
Robert ChristgauC+[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[7]

Undercover was released in November 1983 to generally warm reviews and reached No. 3 in the UK and No. 4 in the US. It was a relative disappointment however, breaking a streak of eight No. 1 albums (excluding compilations and live albums) in the US and failing to spawn any huge singles. Its cover artwork was covered with real peel-off stickers on the original vinyl edition, which when removed revealed other patterned geometric shapes.

"Think I'm Going Mad" was a track first recorded during the Emotional Rescue sessions of 1979. It finally arrived as the B-side to "She Was Hot". It was not included on the Rarities 1971–2003 collection and was finally released on CD on the Singles 1971–2006 box set compilation.

Undercover continues to divide critics and fans alike. Although it was largely praised on release, many fans came to regard it as among the Rolling Stones' weaker releases, a view echoed by Jagger himself in later interviews. While some critics tend to blame the then-contemporary production and eclecticism, a large part of the album was done in a hard-rock style ("She Was Hot", "Too Tough", "All The Way Down", and "It Must Be Hell"), leading many to fault the generally inconsistent material. A great deal of the tension during the recording of the album stemmed from the fact that Richards had emerged (to an extent) from his destructive lifestyle of the previous decade, and thus sought a more active role in the creative direction of the band.


As with several latter-day Stones records, recent critical analysis has been kinder, noting the album's eclecticism and nastiness as a reflection of the Jagger/Richards feud. It would also prove to be the last album that seriously attempted to take the band's music in new directions; critics often fault the Stones' later albums as relying too comfortably on their early 1970s hard rock and blues formula. However, the record is still one of the Stones' less popular and more obscure releases, although it managed to sell close to 3.5 million copies worldwide. [8]

Undercover was the last Rolling Stones album distributed in North America via Rolling Stones Records' original distribution deal with Warner Music Group's Atlantic Records subsidiary. The album would be reissued in 1986 by CBS/Sony Music following the Stones' signing to that label. Undercover was subsequently remastered and reissued by Virgin Records in 1994, and again in 2009 by Universal Music. It was released on SHM-SACD in 2012 by Universal Music Japan.

Original cassettes and later CD reissues (post-EMI) of this album contain a different edit of "Wanna Hold You" than appeared on the original vinyl release. The original cassette release includes the verse "You sure look good to me, so what's it gonna be, it's up to you to choose, I'll make you an offer you can't refuse". This version runs 3:50.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, except where noted.

Side one
1."Undercover of the Night"4:31
2."She Was Hot"4:40
3."Tie You Up (The Pain of Love)"4:16
4."Wanna Hold You"3:52
5."Feel On Baby"5:03
Side two
6."Too Much Blood" 6:14
7."Pretty Beat Up"Jagger, Richards, Ronnie Wood4:03
8."Too Tough" 3:52
9."All the Way Down" 3:12
10."It Must Be Hell" 5:03

Other songs[edit]

Title Length Notes
"I Think I'm Going Mad" 4:17 "She Was Hot" B-side


The Rolling Stones

  • Mick Jagger – lead and backing vocals, electric guitar, harmonica
  • Keith Richards – electric guitar, backing vocals; lead vocals on "Wanna Hold You"; bass guitar on "Pretty Beat Up"
  • Ronnie Wood – electric and slide guitar, backing vocals; bass guitar on "Tie You Up" and "Wanna Hold You"
  • Bill Wyman – bass guitar, percussion; piano on "Pretty Beat Up"
  • Charlie Watts – drums

Additional personnel




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