Tattoo You (Super Deluxe)
Most of 1981’s Tattoo You was conjured from a hodgepodge of unfinished tracks stretching back as far as 1973’s Goats Head Soup—as inauspicious a backstory as the Stones had in their catalog. Keith Richards said they just needed to jam something out before going on tour, an enterprise that by the end of the decade had swallowed their life as a studio band anyway. Others said Jagger and Richards weren’t getting along. Whatever the case, the end product was an album that didn’t just feel deceptively unified, but served as both a summary and a celebration of basically everything they’d done during a period where nobody seemed to know exactly what they were doing.
“I think the record company said, ‘Where's your album?’” frontman Mick Jagger tells Apple Music. “And we said, ‘Well, we don't have one.’ And they said, ‘Well, why don't you go back and see what you've got in the last eight years? You must have something.’ So we went back into the studio and we looked for tracks.”
“Start Me Up” started life as a reggae song for 1978’s Some Girls, “Waiting on a Friend”—an island-ish country ballad iced out with a solo by the jazz legend Sonny Rollins—for Goats Head Soup, and “Slave” was an R&B vamp for 1976’s Black and Blue. Jagger’s lyrics—mostly written and recorded in 1980—lent thematic consistency: He buckled for young girls (“Start Me Up”), complained about the weirdos next door (“Neighbours”), and discovered one could have a rich interpersonal relationship without music or sex (“Waiting on a Friend”).
“There were a lot of tracks that had no top lines, no tunes, no melody,” Jagger says. “So Keith and I worked on those tracks to make those tracks work. So we finished the whole album like that, and quite quickly—I had to write tons of lyrics. We first recorded ‘Start Me Up’ in Jamaica with Nicky Hopkins. But it was just the band, playing this riff and this pretty melody. I had to go back and start thinking, ‘Well, what's that going to be about?’”
He was cresting 40, and as intoxicatingly arrogant in middle age as he’d been in youth. The band, once confined to verses and choruses, were increasingly stewards of a groove more important than any song. And with a few more years under their belt, they sounded as entitled to their funk as they once were to their sprawl. A lot had changed, but with Tattoo You—lean, confident, world-weary but fired up—the band once again became The Rolling Stones.
This super deluxe edition features a fully remastered version of the album and nine previously unreleased songs from the time period, as well as a full live recording of the band at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1982.