Print Shortlink

Under My Thumb

(Mick Jagger/Keith Richards)

This song written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards didn’t come out as a single release, but first gained public awareness when it was included in The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath.  Despite the fact that it didn’t appear as a 45, it became a staple by the band and gained a lot of popularity when it was performed at concerts, and appeared on later compilations.

The lyrics that were written by Mick Jagger deal with how the worm turns when a man turns the tables on an over-dominant woman and takes over the control of the relationship, much to his pleasure.  Needless to say these lyrics caused controversy with the some of women who were supporting the feminist movement of the time.  In fact Camille Paglia, who describes herself as a “dissident feminist” found her self under fire from radical feminists when she gave positive comments about the song.  It has been indicated that Jagger’s girlfriend of the time, Chrissie Shrimpton, was used as an influence.  Mick Jagger later said in an interview in 1995 “It’s a bit of a jokey number really” and after stating it wasn’t really an anti-feminist song added “Yes, it’s a caricature, and it’s in reply to a girl who is a very pushy woman”.

The music is different to some of the other Rolling Stones tracks from previous albums as it includes Brian Jones on the marimba, Bill Wyman performing “fuzz bass lines” and Charlie Watts giving a much funkier performance than normal on the drums.

The popularity of it in concert performances of the song heightened since it was made the opener for the band in US and European tours in 1981 and 1982 and it has since been performed during tours in the 1990s and 2000s.  The abiding memory of this song in concert, however, was when it was being performed at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969 at the time that Meredith Hunter and the security guards, who were members of the Hells Angels, got into a fight.  Hunter pulled out a gun after he had been punched which resulted in him being stabbed to death.

From the 1960s onwards many acts have recorded their own versions of the song.  In 1966 it was recorded by Del Shannon and later appeared on his anniversary compilation in 1972.  It was also recorded in 1966 by Wayne Gibson who re-released iti n 1974 and achieved a UK Top 20 hit. In 1967 it was recorded by The Who in an attempt to help bail Mick Jagger and Keith Richards out of prison after they had been arrested for drug related charges.  It didn’t turn out as planned though as the single came out after the pair had been released.  In 1969 the group performed it in Hyde Park.

Into the next decade and Tina Turner included it on her Acid Queen in 1975 and it was also covered by Pentagram.  1976 saw it being covered by Truth and Janey and in 1979 it became Streetheart’s biggest hit when it made an entry into the Top 40 on their native Canadian chart.  Also in 1979 it was recorded by Chicago’s The Hounds as an album track.

In the 1980s it was covered by Social Distortion who re-recorded it in 1990s, followed by a girl group for Fast Radio in 1983.  In 1981 it appeared on the Boomtown Rats’ Mondo Bongo after Bob Geldof had re-written the lyrics and renamed the song “Under Their Thumb….Under My Thumb”.

Still appearing in the 1990s it was heard in 1994 when Michael Hutchence performed it for inclusion on Symphonic Music of the Rolling Stones.

In the new millennium the melody was used by Chile’s Los Miserables when they recorded their own Spanish version called “Bajo Este Sol” that has different lyrics from the original.  Terence Trent D’Arby included it on his 2006 compilation album and the band Ministry and Burton C. Bell were nominated for a Best Metal Performance Grammy Award with their cover version in 2008.  Also in 2008 it appeared as an instrumental on a Rolling Stones cover album by Pascal Comelade. In 2010 it was recorded live and in the studio by La Roux.

Several other versions have been performed live and in the studio to date and it is likely that there will be many more to come.