Sep 06

THE ROLLING STONES – “Honky Tonk Women”

FT + Popular43 comments • 4,462 views

#274, 26th July 1969


1969 birthed two of the darker elements of the Stones legend – Brian Jones’ death and Altamont – but as a chart-topping hit “Honky Tonk Women” interrupts a run of strange, doom-laden records with three minutes of party music. A louche, slightly dangerous party to be sure, debauched even, but not directly menacing. This isn’t the Stones as satanic threats, or as avatars of chaotic times, but as a band settling into being “the greatest rock n roll band in the world” (a band as a brand, in other words, where you know what you’re going to get). It’s a relaxed record, whose appeal is its tease of instability – Jagger’s vocal with its words often trailing off in exhausted gasps, leaning on the reeling guitars while Bill and Charlie keep the whole operation upright and the party going for one more round. Or for thirty more years.

(YouTube video – live with subtitles from Nov 69!)



1 2 All
  1. 26
    wichita lineman on 17 May 2008 #

    Got a similar thing to Dr Mod here – I put it down to Andrew Oldham’s departure. They were a blues-rock band before he managed them and they reverted to type when he left. Which isn’t meant to mean they got better or worse… but I’ll take Get Off Of My Cloud over their louche period any day.

    So louche is it – or loose, rather – that in spite of the hip-hop beat, it’s impossible to sample unless you want to spend hours screwing about to make Charlie’s drums ‘n’ cowbell hit the beat!

    Another record it kept at number 2 which pointed to future rhythms (though it was yet another with a dark and deathly aura) was Robin Gibb’s Saved By The Bell, the first hit record to use a drum machine.

  2. 27
    Waldo on 26 Aug 2009 #

    # 24 – “I’m not really convinced that the Stones ever needed Jones in the first place.” Actually Marcello (hi, btw), I believe it was in fact Brian’s band in the first place. They certainly did not need him come 1969, though. The middle class boy from Cheltenham was a total fuck-up by then and the Almighty sadly agreed.

    As for HTW, I always loved this even though the eight-year-old me did not associate anything about noses and blowing other than the bloke with the lips having a sneeze into a hankie held helpfully by the honky tonk woman. Great intro, led by Charlie, and on it bounces true to its honky tonk monicker to its conclusion with a whoop. Crack out the Party Seven!

  3. 28
    James K. on 26 Aug 2009 #

    Andrew Farrell: I think the subtitled version (no longer available) is wrong (perhaps deliberately so, if the subtitles were used on a long-ago TV broadcast) and it clearly is “divorcee.”

  4. 29
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Bob Hoskins, actor(1988).

  5. 30
    wichita lineman on 7 Feb 2012 #

    Another “missing” double-A side… at least that’s how Decca were initially pushing this:


    Personally, I’d give the other side a 9. Honky Tonk Women’s lack of drive when stacked alongside Sympathy For The Devil, Street Fighting Man or Gimme Shelter (blame it on the Party Seven?) has always irritated me.

  6. 31
    punctum on 7 Feb 2012 #

    It would have been a worthy double A-side too. That Jonathan King came up with the original idea, you know.

  7. 32
    Mark G on 8 Feb 2012 #

    What, of double “A” sides? Which single would that be? It would have to pre-date “Penny Lane”/”StrawbFields”

    Of course, you could usually inspect the matrix to see which one was marked “1” or “a”, against “2” or “b”..

    The Stranglers would do “Side A” and “Side 1” to confuse. Buzzcocks singles attempted subterfuge by using a square and a triangle on their latter UA singles.

    Honourable mention for the Tyla Gang and “Styrofoam”/”Texas Chainsaw Massacre Boogie” for the double-b side.

  8. 33
    wichita lineman on 8 Feb 2012 #

    The Shadows came up with the double-B side first, with one of their best late-period singles too:


    Punctum, what’s the cryptic J King reference?

  9. 34
    punctum on 8 Feb 2012 #

    King ran Decca in the late sixties; accosted Jagger and said “we need a new single,” Jagger said he’d do his best. Full story in Michael Wale’s highly recommended Vox Pop book, that is if you can find a copy.

  10. 35
    Mark G on 9 Feb 2012 #

    Oh, you mean ‘came up with the original idea” for HTW/YCAGWYW as a double A. I thought you meant “double-a sides” in general.

  11. 36
    wichita lineman on 9 Feb 2012 #

    Cheers. Just ordered a copy of Vox Pop.

  12. 37
    punctum on 29 Feb 2012 #
  13. 38
    Lena on 29 Feb 2012 #

    All we are saying…http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/02/come-together-all-together-plastic-ono.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  14. 39
    Lena on 5 Mar 2012 #

    Crying, lying, dying: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2012/03/black-sheep-robin-gibb-saved-by-bell.html Ta for reading, everybody!

  15. 40
    hectorthebat on 3 Jun 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Blender (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Songs to Download Right Now! (2003)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Dave Marsh & Kevin Stein (USA) – The 40 Best of the Top 40 Singles by Year (1981) 4
    Dave Marsh (USA) – The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (1989) 488
    Greil Marcus (USA) – STRANDED: “Treasure Island” Singles (1979)
    Heartaches By the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles (USA, 2003) 458
    Life (USA) – 40 Years of Rock & Roll, 5 Songs for Each Year 1952-91 (Updated 1995)
    Paul Williams (USA) – Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1993)
    Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (USA) – 500 Songs That Shaped Rock (1994?)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the Last 25 Years (1988) 27
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 116
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 116
    Mojo (UK) – The 100 Greatest Singles of All Time (1997) 72
    New Musical Express (UK) – The Top 100 Singles of All Time (1976) 15
    The Guardian (UK) – 1000 Songs Everyone Must Hear (2009)
    Zig Zag (UK) – Gillett & Frith’s Hot 100 Singles (1975)
    Nerikes Allehanda (Sweden) – The 50 Best Rock Songs of All Time (1992) 14
    Pophandboek (Netherlands) – Errit Petersma’s Top 20 Singles from the 60s (1970)
    Berlin Media (Germany) – The 100 Best Singles of All Time (1998) 17
    Rolling Stone (Germany) – Top 100 Songs by The Rolling Stones (2005) 4
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Hervé Bourhis (France) – Le Petit Livre Rock: The Juke Box Singles 1950-2009
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  16. 41
    Tommy Mack on 28 Jun 2016 #

    Was watching The Stones on telly* and it came to me that push come to shove, I don’t really like this much. Whenever someone says they hate The Stones, I always imagine it’s stuff like this and Brown Sugar they’re thinking of, not JJF or Satisfaction. Even within their ‘louche boogie’ period, I think there’s way better stuff of this ilk, it just seems to huff and puff for a few minutes without either the dynamics or drive that better Stones songs would use to grab the listener. Perversely, it’s really quite fun to play on a guitar!

    *the ’81 Hampton Colliseum concert where Keef whacks the stage invader over the head with his guitar during Satisfaction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reMHV8L7heo

    Other thoughts from that gig:

    Clothes were REALLY bad in the 80s: Mick what do you look like?

    Woodie is like Keef except he knows it’s just dress-up and make-believe

    I don’t think Bill Wyman likes the others much: Mick, Keef and Woodie are always nodding and grinning at each other, bumping shoulders and stuff. Bill keeps very much to himself and never once betrays any sign of enjoying being in the biggest rock band in the world.

  17. 42
    lonepilgrim on 12 May 2017 #

    There’s a even more louche version of the song (entitled Country Honk) on the ‘Let it Bleed’ album – complete with fiddle and..er.. a honking car horn..which places the song more within a Country genre. The single version sounds positively sprightly in comparison. It’s not my favourite Stones song but it’s enjoyable in small doses.

  18. 43
    Mark G on 12 May 2017 #

    And, funnily enough, that version was recorded before the single.

1 2 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)

If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page