Friday, March 1, 2024


If you have thought of the Rolling Stones as a rock band that had a lot oof hits, has performed since the sixties and is best known for the gyrations of lead singer MickJ, think again. Not only do they have an amazing knowledge of the history of blues, they are also quite literary. Witness for instance, Sympathy for the Devil. This sinister song perpetuated the image of the Stones as frightening bad boys, as opposed to the clean-cut Beatles.

"Sympathy for the Devil" is a song written by Mick Jagger and credited to the Mick Jagger–Keith Richards partnership, though largely a Jagger composition.

It is the opening track on the band's 1968 album Beggars Banquet. The song is No 10r6 in Rolling Stone magazine's 2021 "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list,.

With lyrics, gyrations and tattoos, from 1968, live performance.
Someone commented that the real hero is the guy who has to play the exact same conga pattern for ten minutes.
Also see John Lennon and Yoko Ono dancing in the crowd. Also watch for Pete Townshend.
Someone else commented that their music is timeless. It sounded modern in 1969 and it sounds modern in 2021.
From another commenter: To think that these guys are still performing at a high level and selling out every concert is beyond amazing. Probably the only band ever that over the years rocked kids and their great grandparents in person.
This video is from when the Stones performed this on Rock and Roll Circus, a British TV special The Stones taped in 1968 but never aired. It was released on video in 1995. During the performance, Jagger removes his shirt to reveal devil tattoos on his chest and arms.


Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long years
Stole million man's soul an faith

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed Tsar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

I shouted out
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politnesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down

Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Aah yeah

Tell me baby, what's my name?
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name?
Tell me baby, what's my name?
I tell you one time, you're to blame

What's my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name?
Tell me, sweetie, what's my name?

About the song:

The working title of the song was "The Devil Is My Name", having earlier been called "Fallen Angels".

Jagger sings in first person narrative as the Devil, who boasts of his role in each of several historical atrocities and repeatedly asks the listener to "guess my name." The singer demands the listener's courtesy towards him, implicitly chastising the listeners for their collective culpability in the listed killings and crimes.

In the 2012 documentary Crossfire Hurricane, Jagger stated that his influence for the song came from Baudelaire and from the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita (which had just appeared in English translation in 1967). The book was given to Jagger by Marianne Faithfull and she confirmed the inspiration in an interview with Sylvie Simmons for the magazine Mojo in 2005.

In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, Jagger said, "that was taken from an old idea of Baudelaire's, I think, but I could be wrong. Sometimes when I look at my Baudelaire books, I can't see it in there. But it was an idea I got from French writing. And I just took a couple of lines and expanded on it. I wrote it as sort of like a Bob Dylan song."

It was Keith Richards who suggested changing the tempo and using additional percussion, turning the folk song into a samba.

Jagger stated in the Rolling Stone interview: "it's a very long historical figure – the figures of evil and figures of good – so it is a tremendously long trail he's made as personified in this piece."

By the time Beggars Banquet was released, the Rolling Stones had already caused controversy for sexually forward lyrics such as "Let's Spend the Night Together" and their cover of the Willie Dixon's blues "I Just Want to Make Love to You". There were also claims they had dabbled in Satanism (their previous album, while containing no direct Satanic references in its music or lyrics, was titled Their Satanic Majesties Request). "Sympathy" brought these concerns to the fore, provoking media rumors and fears among some religious groups that the Stones were devil worshippers and a corrupting influence on youth.

The lyrics focus on atrocities in mankind's history from Satan's point of view, including the trial and death of Jesus Christ, European wars of religion, the violence of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the 1918 execution of the Romanov family during World War I, and World War II. The song was originally written with a line asking who shot Kennedy, but after Robert F. Kennedy's assassination on 5 June 1968, the line was changed to reference both assassinations.

The song may have been spared further controversy when the first single from the same album, "Street Fighting Man", became even more controversial in view of the race riots and student protests occurring in many cities in Europe and in the United States.

The recording of "Sympathy for the Devil" began at London's Olympic Sound Studios on 4 June 1968; overdubs were done on 8, 9 and 10 June. Personnel included on the recording include Nicky Hopkins on piano, Rocky Dijon on congas and Bill Wyman on shekere. Marianne Faithfull, Anita Pallenberg, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, photographer Michael Cooper, Wyman, and Richards performed backup vocals. Richards plays bass on the original recording, and also electric guitar. Brian Jones plays a mostly mixed out acoustic guitar, although in isolated tracks of the studio cut, it is audible playing along with the piano.

In the 2003 book According to the Rolling Stones, Watts commented:
"Sympathy" was one of those sort of songs where we tried everything. The first time I ever heard the song was when Mick was playing it ... and it was fantastic. We had a go at loads of different ways of playing it; in the end I just played a jazz Latin feel in the style that Kenny Clarke would have played on "A Night in Tunisia".

On the overall power of the song, Jagger continued in Rolling Stone:
Of the change in public perception the band experienced after the song's release, Richards said in a 1971 interview with Rolling Stone, "Before, we were just innocent kids out for a good time, they're saying, 'They're evil, they're evil.' Oh, I'm evil, really? So that makes you start thinking about evil ... What is evil? Half of it, I don't know how many people think of Mick as the devil or as just a good rock performer or what? There are black magicians who think we are acting as unknown agents of Lucifer and others who think we are Lucifer. Everybody's Lucifer."

Contrary to a widespread misconception, it was "Under My Thumb" and not "Sympathy for the Devil" that the Stones were performing when Meredith Hunter was killed at the Altamont Free Concert. Rolling Stone magazine's early articles on the incident typically misreported that the killing took place during "Sympathy for the Devil", but the Stones in fact played "Sympathy for the Devil" earlier in the concert; it was interrupted by a fight and restarted,

The "whoo-whoo" backing vocals were added when Keith Richards' girlfriend, Anita Pallenberg, did it during a take and the Stones liked how it sounded. Pallenberg sang it on the record along with Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Marianne Faithfull and Jimmy Miller

Carlos Santana thought The Stones were playing with fire on this song. "I don't have no sympathy for the devil," he said in an NME interview. "I like the beat of the song but I never identify with the lyric. Jagger and Richards don't really know the full extent of what they're talking about. If they knew what they were getting into when they sing that song they would not be doing it. The devil is not Santa Claus. He's for real."

Santana was one of the performers at the ill-fated Altamont concert, and Carlos claimed he could feel a "demonic presence" during their set - a striking contrast to Woodstock, where the group conjured up peace and love. Santana didn't allow any of their footage into the Gimme Shelter film.

The line, "And I laid traps for troubadours who get killed before they reach Bombay" possibly refers to the notorious Thuggee cult, who worshiped Kali, the Hindu goddess of death. They would waylay travelers on the roads of India, then kill the entire group in order to make off with their valuables. This seems to be the closest well known historical incident to fit the lyrics. Also, the Thuggee would have been well known in England, since the British Army put a stop to the cult during the colonial period.

Another interpretation is that the line refers to the hippies who traveled the "Hippie trail," a passage through Turkey, Afghanistan, India and a few other countries that was popular in the counterculture community. Many of these travellers were killed and ripped off by drug peddlers in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those shady deals could be the "traps.

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