You Can't Always Get What You Want

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This article is about the song by the Rolling Stones. For the "Grounded for Life" episode, see You Can't Always Get What You Want (Grounded for Life episode). For the One Tree Hill episode, see You Can't Always Get What You Want (One Tree Hill episode).
"You Can't Always Get What You Want"
Single by the Rolling Stones
from the album Let It Bleed
A-side "Honky Tonk Women"
  • 4 July 1969 (1969-07-04) (UK)
  • 11 July 1969 (1969-07-11) (US)
Format 7"
Recorded November 1968 at Olympic Studios, London
  • 4:50 (single version)
  • 7:30 (album version)
Writer(s) Jagger/Richards
Producer(s) Jimmy Miller
the Rolling Stones singles chronology
"Street Fighting Man"
"Honky Tonk Women"
"Brown Sugar"
Let It Bleed track listing
Music sample

"You Can't Always Get What You Want" is a song by the Rolling Stones on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was named as the 100th greatest song of all time by Rolling Stone magazine in its 2004 list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".


"You Can't Always Get What You Want" was recorded on 16 and 17 November 1968 at Olympic Sound Studios in London. It features the London Bach Choir opening the song [the choir opening is only on the album version], highlighting throughout, and bringing it to its conclusion. Jimmy Miller, the 'Stones' producer at the time, plays drums on this song instead of Charlie Watts. Al Kooper plays piano and organ, as well as the French horn intro, while Rocky Dijon plays congas and maracas.[citation needed]

Of the song, Jagger said: "'You Can't Always Get What You Want' was something I just played on the acoustic guitar—one of those bedroom songs. It proved to be quite difficult to record because Charlie couldn't play the groove and so Jimmy Miller had to play the drums. I'd also had this idea of having a choir, probably a gospel choir, on the track, but there wasn't one around at that point. Jack Nitzsche, or somebody, said that we could get the London Bach Choir and we said, 'That will be a laugh.'"[1]

In his review of the song, Richie Unterberger of Allmusic said: "If you buy John Lennon's observation that the Rolling Stones were apt to copy the Beatles' innovations within a few months or so, 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' is the Rolling Stones' counterpart to 'Hey Jude'."[2] Jagger said in 1969, "I liked the way the Beatles did that with 'Hey Jude'. The orchestra was not just to cover everything up—it was something extra. We may do something like that on the next album."[3]


The three verses (along with the varied theme in the fourth verse) address the major topics of the 1960s: love, politics, and drugs. Each verse captures the essence of the initial optimism and eventual disillusion, followed by the resigned pragmatism in the chorus.[citation needed]

Unterberger concludes, of the song,

Much has been made of the lyrics reflecting the end of the overlong party that was the 1960s, as a snapshot of Swinging London burning out. That's a valid interpretation, but it should also be pointed out that there's also an uplifting and reassuring quality to the melody and performance. This is particularly true of the key lyrical hook, when we are reminded that we can't always get what we want, but we'll get what we need."[2]

A man named Jimmy Hutmaker of Excelsior, Minnesota claimed that he was the "Mr. Jimmy" mentioned in the song and that he said the phrase "you can't always get what you want" to Jagger during a chance encounter at a drug store in Excelsior in 1964.[4]

David Dalton, a writer for Rolling Stone who witnessed the filming of The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus[5] claims in his commentary track for the DVD of the concert that "Mr Jimmy" refers to Jimmy Miller, the producer of all of the Rolling Stones' albums from Beggar's Banquet (1968) through Goat's Head Soup (1973), and the drummer on "You Can't Always Get What You Want".

Release and aftermath[edit]

The song was originally released on the B-side of "Honky Tonk Women" in July 1969. Although it did not chart at the time, it later reached #42 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. One of the Stones' most popular recordings, it has since appeared on the compilations Hot Rocks, Singles Collection (single version), Forty Licks, Rolled Gold+: The Very Best of the Rolling Stones (2007 edition), Singles 1968-1971 (single version), Slow Rollers (single version) and GRRR! (single version).

The song is also very popular at Rolling Stones shows in part because of its sing-along chorus, and is played at almost every show, where it is customary for Jagger to change the lyrics from "my favourite flavour, cherry red" to the question "What's your favourite flavour?" to which the audience replies "Cherry red!" Live recordings appear on the albums Love You Live, Flashpoint, Live Licks, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live, as well as on The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, filmed in 1968. Stones concert films that contain the song include: Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones, Let's Spend the Night Together, Stones at the Max, Bridges to Babylon Tour '97–98, Rolling Stones - Four Flicks, The Biggest Bang, and Sweet Summer Sun: Hyde Park Live.

The song was performed live with members of Voce Chamber Choir and London Youth Choir[6] for the Stones' 2012 reunion shows in London, November 25 and November 29. The same choir also performed on the track at Glastonbury and two performances at Hyde Park in 2013.

Music video[edit]

Video footage of a live performance of the song is shown on Australian music cable TV in place of a music video.


The Rolling Stones
Additional personnel


Chart (1973) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[7] 42

Covers and tributes[edit]

Soundtrack appearances[edit]

In film[edit]

  • Bette Midler recorded the song, during her concert film Divine Madness, released in 1980. The song was made into a medley featuring Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released".
  • The song is used during the opening funeral scene in the 1983 Academy Award-nominated film The Big Chill. The use of the song in the film has been copied and pastiched in several other dramas.
  • Used to underscore the unsuccessful endeavour in the closing scenes of the 2006 film The Hoax after Clifford Irving's (Richard Gere) deception (in his bogus "autobiography" of Howard Hughes) revealed to the world.
  • The Soulwax remix of the song is played during the final scene at Harvard Medical School in the 2008 film 21.
  • The song is mentioned in the movie High Fidelity (2000) as part of a list of "Top 5" songs about death, but receives an immediate disqualification for its involvement with The Big Chill.
  • The song is used in the final scene of the movie Middle Men (2009).
  • It was featured in LOL (Laughing Out Loud) (2008, France, Lisa Azuelos) and its remake LOL (2012, US, Lisa Azuelos).

In television[edit]

  • The Simpsons eighteenth season-finale was called "You Kent Always Say What You Want".
  • The track has been featured in several episodes of the Fox television medical drama series House. In the pilot episode, Gregory House tries to avoid work imposed by his boss Lisa Cuddy, and says "As the philosopher Jagger once said: you can't always get want you want." Cuddy later in the episode says "I looked into that philosopher you quoted, and you're right, you can't always get what want, but it turns out, if you try sometimes, you get what you need." The introduction of the song was played at the end of the episode. In the season one finale ("Honeymoon"), the song plays as House attempts to walk without the support of his cane, but to no avail. The song was heard for a third time at the end of "Meaning". Another was in the season four finale ("Wilson's Heart") when it is quoted to House by Amber in the form of a hallucination. In the episode "Saviors", House plays the song "Georgia on my Mind" on piano in the middle of which he adds the main riff from "You Can't Always Get What You Want". It is also heard in season five's "Unfaithful" where House plays the chorus of the song on the piano. It was most recently heard in the season seven's "Last Temptation"" as Martha Masters takes leave.
  • The song was featured in an episode of the NBC television comedy My Name Is Earl. In "Born a Gamblin' Man", the song plays at the end of the episode over a montage of the multiple storyline conclusions for the episode.
  • The song was featured in an episode of the FX television medical drama Nip/Tuck, and during ESPN's coverage of the 2007 NFL Draft.
  • The song was featured in the pilot episode of Showtime's dramedy Californication in 2007. It was used during the opening scene, in a manner parodying its use in The Big Chill. The song then finished episode 12, bringing the first season to a close. It was again used in the finale of season four (episode 12) during the last two minutes and throughout the credits.
  • The song was featured in the finale episode of the British ITV2 drama Secret Diary of a Call Girl in 2007.
  • The end of the third episode of Swingtown used this song to communicate the inner desires of some of the characters.
  • In the intro to an episode of Drake and Josh, Drake says "you know there's a song by the Stones that says you can't always get what you want".
  • The song played an important role in the first fall finale of Glee, where the glee club perform it as their main song at the sectionals competition in the episode "Sectionals".
  • The song was sung by Crystal Bowersox on the Finals: Top 12 of the ninth season of American Idol.
  • The chorus was used in the first promos for short-lived mockumentary "My Generation".
  • The full song was used in the season two finale of the FOX comedy show, Raising Hope.
  • In the eighth episode of the TNT crime drama Perception, Dr. Daniel Pierce quotes "those old English poets" saying "you can't always get what want, but if you try sometime, you might find you get what you need".
  • In the final episode of the Fox drama series Red Band Society, Main Characters, Jordi, Leo, Kara, Emma, Dash and Charlie sung the chorus, which had led to Charlie's first line to the characters.

In advertising[edit]

  • The song was used prominently in US TV commercials for Coca-Cola's "low-carb" C2 cola in 2004.
  • The song is used in advertisements for Simon mall gift cards during the holiday season. It portrays people opening their presents, but the presents were not what they wanted. The tagline is to get people to give gifts the receiver will want.
  • The song was used in Sky Sports adverts promoting the start of the 2012/13 Premier League season.
  • The song appeared in the trailer for the 2015 biopic Joy.


  1. ^ Loewenstein, Dora; Dodd, Philip (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-4060-3. 
  2. ^ a b c "You Can't Always Get What You Want". AllMusic. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  3. ^ "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Time Is On Our Side. 2007. Retrieved 29 September 2007. 
  4. ^ Cohen, Ben (2007-10-04) Jimmy Hutmaker was town character of Excelsior, Star Tribune
  5. ^ The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus
  6. ^ "I got satisfaction rocking with Mick and Keith". The Independent. 
  7. ^ "The Rolling Stones Complete Hit Singles List (1963–2006)". BeatZenith. Retrieved 24 July 2009. 

External links[edit]