"Paint It Black" (originally released as "Paint It, Black") is a song by the English rock band the Rolling Stones. Jointly credited to songwriting partnership of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it was first released as a single on 6 May 1966 and was later included as the opening track to the US version of their 1966 album, "Aftermath".
"Paint It Black" reached number one in both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart. The song became the Rolling Stones' third number one hit single in the US and sixth in the UK. Since its initial release, the song has remained influential as the first number one hit featuring a sitar, particularly in the UK where it has charted on two other occasions, and has been the subject of multiple cover versions, compilation albums, and film appearances.
Background and composition
The song's lyrics are, for the most part, meant to describe bleakness and depression through the use of colour-based metaphors. Initially, "Paint It Black" was written as a standard pop arrangement, humorously compared by Mick Jagger to "Songs for Jewish weddings". The song describes the extreme grief suffered by one stunned by the sudden and unexpected loss of wife, lover or partner. It is often claimed that Jagger took inspiration from novelist James Joyce's 1922 book, Ulysses, taking the excerpt, "I have to turn my head until my darkness goes", referring to the novel's theme of a worldwide view of desperation and desolation. The song itself came to fruition when the band's member Brian Jones took an interest in Moroccan music. It was their first song to feature a sitar instrumental. "Paint It Black" came at a pivotal period in The Rolling Stones' recording history, a time that saw the songwriting collaboration of Jagger and Keith Richards assert itself as the principal composer of the band's original material. This is evident in the Aftermath sessions, where, for the first time, the duo penned the complete track list. In addition, Brian Jones, overshadowed by Jagger and Richards, grew bored with attempting to write songs, as well as conventional guitar melodies. To alleviate the boredom, Jones explored eastern instruments, more specifically the sitar, to bolster the group's musical texture and complexity. A multi-instrumentalist, Jones was able to develop a tune from the sitar in a short amount of time, largely due to his studies under Ravi Shankar's disciple, Harihor Rao. Not long after a discussion with George Harrison, who had recently recorded sitar in "Norwegian Wood", Jones arranged basic melodies with the instrument that, over time, morphed into the one featured in "Paint It Black".
The master take of "Paint It Black" was recorded on 8 March 1966, at RCA Studios in Los Angeles, with record producer Andrew Loog Oldham present throughout the process. Much of the early recorded arrangements, and keys of the track were modeled after The Animals' version of "The House of the Rising Sun", but The Rolling Stones were unsatisfied with the song, and considered scrapping it. However, while twiddling with a Hammond organ, Bill Wyman searched for a heavier bass sound, while playing the part on his knees. Wyman's playing clicked with the group, and inspired the up-tempo and Eastern pentatonic melody. By all accounts, the sitar was brought into the mix when Harihar Rao happened to walk in the studio with the instrument in hand.
The sitar was featured in the song. However, contrary to popular belief, the opening riff is played by Keith Richards on guitar, as seen on The Ed Sullivan show and other live performances of the time. Jones' sitar is still heard throughout the song. In his book Brian Jones: The Making of the Rolling Stones, Paul Trynka has noted that the influence of Harrison's sitar playing, and, in particular, The Beatles' song "Norwegian Wood" on the "Rubber Soul" album, draws parallels in "Paint It Black" - most noticeably in Jones' droning sitar melody. In response to claims that he was merely imitating the Beatles, however, Jones said: "What utter rubbish!" His sitar part on the track immediately became influential in developing a whole subgenre of minor-key psychedelic music. Coupled with this striking instrumental motif, it is complemented by Jagger's droning, and slight nasal vocalization. In addition, "Paint It Black" was highlighted by Wyman's heavy bass, Charlie Watts's low-pitch drumming, and Richards' bolero-driven acoustic guitar outro. Soon after, Richards noted that the conclusion of the track was over-recorded, and a different guitar could have potentially improved the song.
"Paint It Black" was released to the US on 7 May 1966, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 during a stay of 11 weeks. In the UK, the song was released on 13 May 1966, and also became a number one hit on the UK Singles Chart throughout a chart stay of ten weeks. It was originally released as "Paint It, Black", the comma being an error by Decca Records, but, nonetheless, stirred controversy among fans over its racial interpretation. Upon further reissues to the UK in 1990 and 2007, "Paint It Black" charted at number 61 and 70, respectively.
- Mick Jagger – lead vocals
- Keith Richards – electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
- Brian Jones – sitar
- Bill Wyman – bass
- Charlie Watts – drums
The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black / Long Long While
UK Decca F 12395 (1966).
Record produced by Andrew Loog Oldham.
The vinyl record attains a strong excellent grading, suggesting few plays.
Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.
Both record centre labels are clean, unmarked, and free from tears, stains or stickers.
The record centre hole displays no signs of spindle wear.
The record comes with an original company paper sleeve.