Tales of Rock – The story behind the writing and recording of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’

Since 1964, the songwriting partnership between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards has been controversial, innovative, and legendary. Throughout the turbulent political mire of the ’60s, The Rolling Stones both shied away from their adversity and attacked it head-on.

For instance, when Street Fighting Man was released, various radio stations banned the track due to the racial and student protests it helped inspire. As you can imagine, when The Rolling Stones released Sympathy For The Devil all hell broke loose, cementing the legacy of their most iconic song.

Sure, presenting yourself as the devil to the public might be pretty daring, but Mick Jagger pulled it off with style and not a second thought. Declaring his inner demon “a man of wealth and taste”, Jagger confessed to being the culprit of some of the most wicked deeds in history. Leading the Nazi blitzkrieg raid, spurning the Russian revolution, assassinating JFK, and encouraging Jesus’ crucifixion – that one’s a no-brainer – all with a suave backing choir seemed like a jolly old gag to Mick Jagger.

But how much do we really know about Sympathy For The Devil? Here are the song’s darkest secrets.Sympathy For The Devil

One of the most controversial songs in rock history doesn’t go without its fair share of secrets. This is the tale of Sympathy For The Devil.
Birth of the Devil

In 1967, The Rolling Stones were under fire from the press, religious leaders, parent groups, and government officials on a variety of moral corruption charges. The most extreme claim was that the Rolling Stones supported Satanism. Ridiculous in hindsight, though the band had just come out with Their Satanic Majesties Request. 

The Rolling Stones sealed their fate the following year with Sympathy For The Devil. Mick Jagger drew the central lyrical inspiration from a collection of sources that he stumbled upon in 1968, explaining:

“When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that.”

One known reference point is the writing of French poet Charles Baudelaire. Another major and more obvious influence is Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master And The Margarita. Jagger’s girlfriend at the time, Marianne Faithfull, gifted it to him.

Bulgakov’s book is hailed for its ability to seamlessly blend fantasy with social satire. For example, he compares the life of Jesus Christ to that of an artist in Soviet Russia cast against a backdrop of arbitrary arrests and mental hospitals.Sympathy For The Devil

This concept of reverse values and the confusion of reality is prevalent within the lyrics of Sympathy For The Devil. The cops are all criminals and all the “sinners saints”. He even references the pain of Jesus Christ and his “moment of doubt.”

Another influence in the composition of the lyrics is Bob Dylan. By referencing major moments in history such as the execution of the Romanov family in 1917, the October Revolution, WWII and, the assassination fo the Kennedy Brothers, Jagger assumes a Dylanesque poetic verse heightened by the elucidation of archetypal figures as a focal anchor.

In reality, the essence of Sympathy For The Devil is no different from that of Gimme Shelter. The philosophy of peace and love remains as true as ever as the political instability as war efforts of 1960s America bled into the ’70s.

Capturing the devil

It’s logical to assume that the Jagger/Richards songwriting partnership is divided so that Mick pens the lyrics and Keith would track the music, however, this was rarely the case.

In this instance, Mick Jagger wrote both the lyrics and the music to Sympathy For The Devil. Keith Richards’s major influence was assisting Jagger in determining the rhythm.

“I was just trying to figure out if it was a Samba or a goddam folk song,” Richards recalled in 2002. “Sympathy’ is quite an uplifting song. It’s just a matter of looking the Devil in the face. He’s there all the time. I’ve had very close contact with Lucifer – I’ve met him several times. Evil – people tend to bury it and hope it sorts itself out and doesn’t rear its ugly head.”

Another crucial addition to the song came from Keith Richard’s girlfriend Anita Pallenberg – previously Brian Jones’s girlfriend – who stopped by the studio.

“Anita was the epitome of what was happening at the time. She was very Chelsea. She’d arrive with the elite film crowd,” says Stones producer Jimmy Miller.

After 32 takes of the folk rendition, they gave it a spin with a Samba beat and Anita Pallenberg began singing “Whoo-whoo” in the booth. The Stones immediately took a shine to it and eventually recorded the part as a gang vocal with Palenberg, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Bill Wyman, Marianne Faithfull, and Jimmy Miller.

The creation of Sympathy For The Devil is remarkably captured in Jean-Luc Godard’s film of the same name. The movie exquisitely documents the evolution of the song as it slowly incorporates elements of Brazilian dance. Jagger and Richards are seen running the show with flair and passion while Brian Jones sits alone in an acoustic booth for much of the session.

Aftermath

When Beggars Banquet hit the shelves on December 6, 1968, the world was astir. With the assassination of Bobby Kennedy exactly six months earlier Jagger’s lyrics took on a whole new meaning. Critics and fans alike began calling the band ‘devil worshippers’ or ‘messengers for lucifer’. Of course, this was great for publicity and went on to calcify the song as one of the Stones’ immortal tracks.

On the devil, however, perhaps Keith Richards should have the last word:

“When that song was written, it was a time of turmoil. It was the first sort of international chaos since World War II. And confusion is not the ally of peace and love. You want to think the world is perfect. Everybody gets sucked into that. And as America has found out to its dismay, you can’t hide. You might as well accept the fact that evil is there and deal with it any way you can. Sympathy for the Devil is a song that says, Don’t forget him. If you confront him, then he’s out of a job.”

 

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Tales of Rock: Mick Jagger Seduced Me When I Was 15

As she opened the front door, she instantly recognized the swaggering figure before her with his tousled hair and ‘rock star grin’.

‘You’re cute,’ said legendary Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger – to which she cheekily replied: ‘You’re cuter.’

It was the moment the 33-year-old rock idol met 15-year-old budding actress Rae Dawn Chong, who last night sensationally revealed she and Sir Mick had a two-day fling in 1977 while he was still married to first wife Bianca.

Rae Dawn, best-known for her role in the 1985 action film Commando, met the womanizing rocker during a trip to New York.

After their brief introduction, he whisked her to a recording studio before the pair spent the night together.

In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday last night, Rae Dawn, now a thrice-divorced, 58-year-old grandmother, said: ‘He never asked me how old I was and I never told him. It never came up. I remember thinking he was really cute. He had tousled hair. I thought, ‘Oh man, he is beautiful.’

‘He said, ‘What are you doing right now?’ I said, ‘Nothing really.’

‘He grabbed my hand and we jumped in his limo and went straight to a recording studio. The Stones were there, I was in the background. I remember being in there for hours and hours.

‘Then I slept over at his apartment. I knew what I was doing. I was experimenting with Mick. I was having fun.’

Rae Dawn, who says Jagger did not know her age, recalls waking to find Jagger’s band mate Keith Richards staring at the pair.

Raunchy: Jagger gets close to Rae Dawn Chong in the video for his 1985 track Just Another Night. She later complained that he was ‘licky’ on the shoot

Raunchy: Jagger gets close to Rae Dawn Chong in the video for his 1985 track Just Another Night. She later complained that he was ‘licky’ on the shoot

But that didn’t deter them from spending another day together – first back at the recording studio and then at a Fleetwood Mac concert at Madison Square Garden, where Jagger and Richards were mobbed by fans.

Sitting down with The Mail on Sunday last night in a hotel overlooking the bright light’s of LA’s infamous Sunset Strip, the B-list actress insisted Jagger should not be vilified because their fling took place ‘in a different era’ to today’s #MeToo culture.

She says she is only speaking out to ‘own’ the story after accidentally blurting out during a podcast that she had sex with Jagger when she was two years under the age of consent. The podcast is due to air today.

Speaking on tape to showbiz ‘bible’ The Hollywood Reporter, she was asked how she landed the Commando role: ‘I got it because I’d been in a Jagger video and then they asked me how I knew Mick and before I knew it I’d blurted out that I’d had sex with him when I was 15. It just slipped out.

‘I feel incredibly bad about it. It’s me and my big mouth. My family and friends knew about it but it’s not something I have ever dined out on.’

Last night, Sir Mick declined to comment.

No victim: Rae Dawn is pictured as she is today. She says she is only speaking out to 'own' the story after accidentally blurting out during a podcast that she had sex with Jagger when she was two years under the age of consent

No victim: Rae Dawn is pictured as she is today. She says she is only speaking out to ‘own’ the story after accidentally blurting out during a podcast that she had sex with Jagger when she was two years under the age of consent.

Feisty and, at times, embarrassingly honest about why she chose to have underage sex with a rock icon, Rae Dawn insists that the fling was consensual.

For our interview she is dressed demurely in an understated black dress with an elegant double-string of pearls around her neck – but she freely admits to having a wild past.

She says that her own family will be ‘disgusted’ by her decision to go public and believes Jagger himself will be angry and devastated: ‘He’s probably going to lose his s*** because I was a minor. He’s going to be so mad at me.’

Rae Dawn brings with her a black leather journal from 1977 in which she recorded her liaison with Jagger in childish handwriting which reads: ‘I got to experience being a groupie. Not that being a groupie is worth experiencing. I just had to go and be wild. Well I did it. I got to live with Mick Jagger, John Phillips, Mackenzie and Ron Wood… it was fun and full of excitement.’

John Phillips was the singer in The Mamas & the Papas and Mackenzie his daughter, and Rae Dawn’s best friend.

Months before meeting Jagger, Rae Dawn had lost her virginity to a boy her own age, and had many sexual encounters before him. She is pictured above in her youth

Months before meeting Jagger, Rae Dawn had lost her virginity to a boy her own age, and had many sexual encounters before him. She is pictured above in her youth

It was at their home that she met Jagger. Ron Wood is, of course, Jagger’s Rolling Stones band mate Ronnie Wood.

In her journal, Rae Dawn lists in green ink Jagger’s phone numbers and home address, along with numbers of other men she was acquainted with, including comedian Steve Martin and Hollywood actor Ryan O’Neal.

Born in 1961 in Canada, Rae Dawn is the daughter of Tommy Chong, an American comedian dubbed the Pope of Pot.

He and his comedy partner Richard ‘Cheech’ Marin made millions in the 1970s and 1980s from films about marijuana counter-culture, known as ‘stoner movies’.

Rae Dawn was the result of a one-night stand between Chong and a Canadian woman called Abigail.

She describes herself as a ‘free range’ child whose parents were constantly working. She had traveled to New York to try to get discovered as a model when Jagger turned up on the doorstep.

‘Mick was very beautiful, very shy, very self-absorbed,’ she recalls.

‘He had great lips, he was a great kisser. He wasn’t that much older than me in my brain. He was 33 and young and gorgeous with a nice body. It wasn’t a bad thing, it was fabulous. Totally rock ‘n’ roll. He didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do, but he was very vain, always looking in the mirror.’

The age of consent at the time was 17, but Sir Mick cannot face criminal charges as the statute of limitations for reporting second-degree rape is 20 years – not that Rae Dawn would ever want him to be prosecuted.

 

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Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 2

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
COURTESY OF LORI MATTIX

 

 

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Tales of Rock – Lori Maddox – Part 1

“I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO DAVID BOWIE”

IN THE EARLY 1970S, the Sunset Strip was a magnet for rock stars: Bowie, Zeppelin, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, The Who. They all hung out in the VIP rooms of louche LA nightclubs like E Club, the Rainbow, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco. And with them, of course, came groupies. Scantily clad 14- and 15-year-olds like Sable Starr and Lynn “Queenie” Koenigsaecker sipped cherry cola, dropped pills, and evolved into pubescent dream girls for the platform-shoed rockers who could get anything and anyone they desired. 

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

 

 

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Tales of Rock – The Starship Flew Insane Rock Stars Around The World

“The interior was so relentlessly tacky that Mick Jagger literally gasped when he first saw it, and Mick Jagger generally gasps only when he sees himself in a mirror.”

When you’re one of the biggest, wildest bands in music, you need transport to match. It doesn’t matter how many meat catapults or flaming codpieces you own; your fans will turn against you if they see you roll up to a gig driving a bombed-out Astro van. Or at least that’s the thought process that led to the birth of the Starship: a drug-fueled flying sex den that flew the biggest names in rock music around the world. Among the clients who paid a ball-smashing figure of $2,500 per hour for the plane were Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, The Rolling Stones, and, um, The Bee Gees.

Having lived a previous (and tasteful) life as a commercial passenger plane, the Starship was outfitted like Ron Burgundy’s treehouse. In among the shag pile carpeting and acres of leopard print, its precious cargo could enjoy a drink at the 30-foot-long bar, discuss matters of the day in the drawing room (complete with fake fireplace), watch movies using the built-in cinema system, and play the massive organ. The interior was so relentlessly tacky that Mick Jagger literally gasped when he first saw it, and Mick Jagger generally gasps only when he sees himself in a mirror.

And, just in case you were wondering whether the infamously debauched guests of the Starship felt the need to rein in their behavior while soaring through the lawless sky, the answer is no, of course they didn’t. Only a few details have emerged regarding the depravity that went on aboard, presumably because history isn’t yet prepared to hear the full details. For starters, the Allman Brothers climbed aboard to find “Welcome Allman Brothers” written on Starship’s bar in cocaine. One unnamed record executive wandered around the plane, waving a handgun for no apparent reason. There was a system in place to smuggle drugs aboard the plane wrapped in dirty clothes, in order to fool police sniffer dogs. And Robert Plant considers getting a blowjob during a powerful bout of turbulence as one of his favorite Starship memories. Without question, that airplane is haunted by the ghosts of thousands of unborn children.

 

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