Listening to “Tattoo you” (1981), I’m immediately transported back to the tender age of twelve. I was a newly born Rolling Stones fan, and here they were with a brilliant, brand new album! Little did I know, I was basically listening to a compilation. For instance, the basic tracks of the irresistible opener/hit song “Start me up” had been recorded back in 1978 in anticipation of the “Some girls” record. The sweaty groove of “Slave” stemmed back to the “Black and blue” sessions in 1975 (under the working title of “Vagina” and with The Who’s Pete Townsend on backing vocals). The very charming “Waiting on a friend” was started way back in 1972, during recordings for “Goat’s head soup” (off course meaning Mick Taylor providing lead guitar instead of Ron Wood, who can be seen in the video).
Does this matter? Not much. Mick, Keith & co managed to create a surprisingly coherent whole, and what a brilliant album this is. The high energy of “Start me up”, the ruthless groove of “Slave” (which 12-year-old Daniel wasn’t versatile enough to appreciate), Keith Richards’s innuendo-filled “Little T&A”, the luxurious blues of “Black limousine”, the falsetto-fuelled balladry of “Worried by you”, the bright blue soul of “Heaven” and “Tops”…. All the way performed with much conviction from the whole band and the emotion-packed voice of Mick Jagger in particular.
The deluxe version of “Tattoo you” digs deep in the cellars, bringing out “Lost & found”, nine tunes which have never before been released, officially. Some examples: “Living in the heart of love” is a relentless rocker. So is the slide guitar/harmonica bonanza of “Fiji Jim”. “Troubles a’ comin'” is a lovable mid-tempo number. The Jimmy Reed boogie of “Shame shame shame” brings back the cover band of early Stones. Dobie Gray’s half-acoustic semi-ballad “Drift away” is truly touching, and “Fast talking slow walking” is a hymn-like piano ballad in the vein of it’s siblings on “Black and blue”. This section ends with an early version of “Start me up”, revealing the song’s origins as a reggae number.
The final piece is “Still life: Wembley Stadium 1982”, captured on the “Tattoo you” world tour, but unlike the old “Still life” album covering a full show, warts and all. The performance is sometimes somewhat sloppy, but then again, the Stones were always sloppy onstage. Among the many highlights, you’ll find the piano-punky “Let me go” and “She’s so cold”, the aggression of “Neighbors”, an acoustically driven “Let it bleed”, the immortal “Tumbling dice”, as well as all the classics you’ve grown to accept, with the mysterious omission of “Sympathy for the devil”.
So – is this value for money? The prices of deluxe boxed sets have risen in latter years, but unlike the current Beatles one (“Let it be”), “Tattoo you” brings out numerous unreleased songs as well as a full show. Definitely worth my two thumbs up for music which isn’t so much nostalgia, but rather superb.
Artist: The Rolling Stones
Title: Tattoo You (40th Anniversary Edition)
Date of release: 2021-10-22
Stand out track: Black Limousine
Country of origin: UK
Playing time: 207:30