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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 150
Fri. June 28, 2013

“Wild Horses”
The Rolling Stones

1971

“♫ Child
hood
living is
easy to
do
♫”

Hidden between one of the dark and dirtiest Stones songs ever— “Sway, ” and the Mick Taylor guitar enhanced epic of “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” is this Sticky Fingers acoustic flavored classic. “Wild Horses” was the song that Marianne Faithfull said that she specifically inspired after claiming she gave Mick Jagger, her paramour at the time, the lyric, “Wild Horses couldn’t drag me away.” Unfortunately for Faithfull, Keith Richards was the one who came up with the lyrics and original idea as he explained to Stanley Booth in his book The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, “I wrote this song because I was doing good at home with my old lady, and I wrote it like a love song. I just had this, Wild horses couldn’t drag me away, and I gave it to Mick, and Marianne.

Marianne, may not have come up with the classic line but she did inspire the Mick Jagger to change the tone of Keith’s tender ode to family life as was witnessed by American producer and session man pianist extraordinaire Jim Dickenson, Dickenson was there at famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, in Alabama where the Stones recorded “Wild Horses,” recounted the true tale in Keith Richards’ biography Life when he said, “Keith had “Wild Horses” written as a lullaby. It was about [his son] Marlon. and not wanting to leave home because he’d just had a son. And Jagger rewrote it, and it’s, perceptibly about Marianne Faithfull. The way he did it, Keith had some words and then he grunted and groaned. And somebody asked Mick, do you understand that? And Jagger looked at him and said, of course. It was like he was translating, you know?

Keith knew what Dickenson was talking about reminiscing about vintage way he and Jagger would compose those Stones classics when he said, “If there is one classic way of Mick and I working together, this is it. I had the riff and the chorus line, Mick got stuck into the verses. Just like Satisfaction. Wild Horses was about the usual thing of not wanting to be on the road, being a million miles from where you want to be.” It’s like Richards is looking back remembering a lost love when he talks about the birth of one of his most personal songs. “It was one of those magical moments when things come together. It’s like Satisfaction. You just dream it, and suddenly it’s all in your hands. Once you’ve got the vision in your mind of wild horses, I mean, what’s the next phrase you’re going to use? It’s got to be couldn’t drag me away.”

“Wild Horses” used to be my crackling lament to lost love It was one of those doom inspired love songs when the darkness is coming and you don’t know how to stop it. Through various points of my depressed earlier days, I would spin “Wild Horses” in the dark as my herbal jazz cigarette would be the only light on in the joint. I would have my original zipper cover of Sticky Fingers on the turntable with my scratchy vinyl crackling Keef’s ode to his wife and child.

Mick Jagger recalled Keith Richards most personal song when he said, “I remember we sat around originally doing this with Gram Parsons, and I think his version came out slightly before ours. Everyone always says it was written about Marianne but I don’t think it was; that was all well over by then. But I was definitely very inside this piece emotionally. This is very personal, evocative, and sad. It all sounds rather doomy now, but it was quite a heavy time.” It’s easy to believe, just because Mick sings 99% of the songs that every Stones number was written about Jagger himself. In the vintage days, before The Glimmer Twins became creatively estranged during the dark Exile on Main Street sessions, Mick and Keith would compose songs face to face, their voices and ideas exchanged with a glance or change of the chords.

I wrote this song because I was doing good at home with my old lady, and I wrote it like a love song. I just had this, Wild horses couldn’t drag me away, and I gave it to Mick, and Marianne (Faithfull) just ran off with this guy and he changed it all around but it’s still beautiful.”

Keith Richards once said sharing the composer credit with his writing partner. It was only in this intimate situation, writing music with Mick Jagger, where Richards could express his deep regret about abandoning his family sparked one of the most classic ballads in Rolling Stones whole bluesy based catalog. Whether you hear “Wild Horses” as an ode to your romantic partner or a reflection of a vinyl memory of love that has since faded to black; relive the memories within the acoustic brilliance of The Rolling Stones—“Wild Horses.”

Featuring the lovely vocals of Harriet Wheeler, here’s the celebrated cover of “Wild Horses” by UK’s The Sundays:

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