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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 191
Mon. Aug 12, 2013

“If You Really Want To Be My Friend”
The Rolling Stones

1974

“♫ We
could
live it
up/ just
a you &
me
♫”

The mid-seventies output of The Rolling Stones followed the highs and lows of a rock and roll band in transition. 1974’s It’s Only Rock & Roll was the last with guitarist Mick Taylor. Jagger was spending his days and night life with his wife Bianca and less time with the Stones. “If You Really” is Jagger trying to balance his marriage with his very glamorous wife and the excess of being the lead singer of The Rolling Stones.

In Keith Richards: The Biography, Victor Bockris wrote about the struggle Keef had trying to keep The Stones going with Jagger being distracted with his new social status as a power couple with Bianca when the author wrote, “Keith resented Bianca’s hold on Mick with a smoldering vengeance. Referring to them as royalty, he spat at the nothing that having a baby was more important than making a Rolling Stones album, and he pointed out that Bianca’s influence on Jagger was far more negative than anyone could imagine.” And this was Jagger first wed Bianca during the Exile on Main Street sessions. You can imagine how the lack of honest communication between Mick, Keith and Bianca seethed underneath trying to keep the Stones musical train from derailing.

Can you imagine the stress Mick Jagger was under during the mid-seventies? The Stones front man was trying to appease his bride and his Glimmer Twin partner and “If You Really Want To Be My Friend” reflected this. At first I heard this 1974 track as a precursor to “Waiting on a Friend” but later after a myriad of listens I realized “If You Really” sounds like lyrically Jagger is serenading his wife and, thanks to R&B vocal group Blue Magic, Mick was also sending soulful olive branch layered vibes to his creative partner Keith Richards.

Richards talked about his problems with Mick and Bianca’s marriage in his own biography Life when he wrote, “Bianca brought with her a whole load of baggage and society that Mick got into that nobody else was at all interested in and I’ve no doubt Bianca by now is no longer interested in either. Even though I had nothing against her personally, it was just the effect of her and her milieu on Mick that I didn’t like. It distanced him from the rest of the band […] Mick was torn.

Mick’s marriage to his bride and the band were what The Stones front man was trying to protect with this It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll ballad. We all know how this love story ended, Mick eventually left Bianca and kept his vows with Richards to keep the band going until The Glimmer Twins eventual split following Jagger’s interest in his solo career. But that story is for another song and another time. If “Want To Be My Friend” is a true love song, which partner is Jagger truly crooning to? We may never really know, in Bill Janovitz’s Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell The Story of The Rolling Stones, Mick has been quoted as saying that the most underrated era of the band the years of Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll and Black & Blue, “[…] did not represent the best of the Rolling Stones. We were complacent.”

“If You Really Want To Be My Friend” is anything but a song about complacency… it’s about Mick Jagger trying to find the balance between marriages and leading the Rolling Stones. This 1974 soulful number feature Blue Magic is a tender tribute to the two most important people in Jagger’s wife Bianca and his Stones’ partner in crime Keith Richards. If you thought the emotional entanglement between Brian Jones, Anita Pallenberg and Keith during the late sixties was turbulent, you can imagine what Bianca, Mick and Keith experienced during this very taxing time of The World’s Most Dangerous Rock & Roll Band? Relive the confused longing within the love triangle that dominated The Stones through mid-seventies. “If You Really Want To Be My Friend” remains a torch song that connects the complication of separating friends, lovers and the magic of the Rolling Stones.

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