The Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ was recorded in 1968 at London’s Olympic Sound Studios, with the infamous ‘woo-woo’ vocals added in later in LA. It helped the Rolling Stones accomplish their rock and roll persona which was so far from The Beatles clean cut look. The song was inspired by The Master and Margarita, by Mikail Bulgakov, which depicted the Devil as “a man of well and taste” and as a savvy and worldly wise socialite.
The song arguably explores human morality and the evil in all of us through a retelling of real historic events, the assassination of JFK, the Russian Revolution, the crucifixion of Christ from the perspective of the Devil;“ I shouted out ‘Who killed the Kennedy’s?’, well after all it was you and me”. At the time I was studying the Russian Revolution and the Vietnam War at the time, this meant I understood the lyrics and so I gained a self rewarding feeling for understanding these lyrics. This definitely made me like it even more which might affirm Theodor Adorno’s belief that popular music is popular due to the listeners feeling of satisfaction.
After the album ‘Their Satanic Majesties’ this new song led to The Rolling Stones being accused of Devil worshippers but it did nothing to permanently damage their reputation. The samba beat paired with the rock guitar sounds was so different to anything I had heard and to the rest of their music. Charlie Watts, the drummer of the band, claimed to have very little involvement in creating the song in ‘According to the Rolling Stones’ book written Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in 2003. He claimed that when he had first heard the song it had been completed by Jagger and so he experimented with “a jazz latin feel in the style of Kenny Clarke would have played on ‘A Night in Tunisia’ – not the actual rhythm he played, but the same styling.” I believe this is what makes the song so unique in comparison to all of their other tracks and why covers of this song, by numerous artists such as Guns ’N’ Roses, Sweat & Tears and Sandie Shaw can’t compete with the original.
Beaumont, M. (2016). 20 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ – NME. [online] NME. Available at: http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/20-things-you-didnt-know-about-sympathy-for-the-devil-766764 [Accessed 3 Dec. 2016].
Harris, W. (2016). 45 Years Ago: the Rolling Stones Record ‘Sympathy for the Devil’. [online] Ultimate Classic Rock. Available at: http://ultimateclassicrock.com/rolling-stones-sympathy-for-the-devil/ [Accessed 3 Dec. 2016].
Jagger, M., Loewenstein, D., Dodd, P. and Watts, C. (2003). According to the Rolling Stones. 1st ed. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.