Friday, June 6, 2008

Street Fighting Man

Beggars Banquet
Track 6
"Street Fighting Man" – 3:18 has a lot of great quotes about this song. A compilation:

It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions.... I wrote a lot of the melody and all the words, and Keith and I sat around and made this wonderful track, with Dave Mason playing the shehani on it live. It's a kind of Indian reed instrument a bit like a primitive clarinet. It comes in at the end of the tune. It has a very wailing, strange sound.
- Mick Jagger, 1995

Street Fighting Man was recorded on Keith's cassette with a 1930s toy drum kit called a London Jazz Kit Set, which I bought in an antiques shop, and which I've still got at home. It came in a little suitcase, and there were wire brackets you put the drums in; they were like small tambourines with no jangles. The whole kit packs away, the drums go inside each other, the little drum goes inside the snare drum into a box with the cymbal. The snare drum was fantastic because it had a really thin skin with a snare right underneath, but only two strands of gut... Keith would be sitting on a cushion playing a guitar and the tiny kit was a way of getting close to him. The drums were really loud compared to the acoustic guitar and the pitch of them would go right through the sound. You'd always have a great backbeat.
- Charlie Watts, 2003

(O)n Street Fighting Man there's one 6-string open and one 5-string open. They're both open tunings, but then there's a lot of capo work. There are lots of layers of guitars on Street Fighting Man. There's lots of guitars you don't even hear. They're just shadowing. So it's difficult to say what you're hearing on there. Cause I tried 8 different guitars. And which ones were used in the final version, I couldn't say... (A) the same time the guitar was going on, I had Nicky Hopkins playing a bit of piano, and Charlie just shuffling in the background. Then we put drums on it and added another guitar while he was doing that. And we just kept layering it.
- Keith Richards, 2002

Jimmy Miller was one of the most simpatico producers I have ever worked with. He could handle a band - especially this band - and give everybody the same level of support. He was a great drummer in his own right, so he could talk to Charlie on equal terms, and he had a very good rapport with Mick. He didn't mind any idea that came up. He loved improvisation. I don't think I could have done Street Fighting Man without him. Mick would get impatient with my experiments sometimes, but Jimmy gave me a lot of encouragement saying, let's take this down the line and let's see where it goes.
- Keith Richards, 2003

"Street Fighting Man" is the musical companion piece to "Jumpin' Jack Flash": they both achieved incredibly high energy levels through Keith's method of recording the guitars (mostly acoustics) through a crappy cassette mic; both tracks featured a simplified but pounding rhythm section, with Charlie laying off the cymbals entirely and Bill Wyman sticking mostly to the chord roots; both songs rounded out the sound later by overdubbing all kinds of exotic instruments later.

It's almost astounding to hear how quickly the Stones found their sound after struggling through their various blues and psychedelic fads, and the way it came together almost all at once.

Also, one of the best mashups I've heard, from Go Home Productions: