The Rolling Stones have probably released more iconic tracks than any other band in history. Hardly surprising when you learn they’ve been together for over half a century and hold the record for the most recorded songs of all time. One of the most iconic of their incredible 439 tracks is “Paint It, Black”. Released in 1966, it was the first single from the fourth album, Aftemath, and became an anthem for the Sixties counter culture.
What’s more, it’s one of our favourite tunes ever. Two very good reasons to dig deeper and discover more about a song, music critic Richie Unterberger said, “qualifies as perhaps the most effective use of a sitar in a rock song.”
1. The original version was entitled “Paint It Black” without a comma. Keith Richards later said that the comma was added by the record label, Decca.
2.There was no specific inspiration for the lyrics. When asked at the time why he wrote a song about death and depression Mick Jagger replied: “I don’t know. It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.”
3. In 1966, the single topped both the United States and the United Kingdom charts, making it the first ever US and UK number one single to feature a sitar. Nearly forty years later, in 2004, it was ranked number 176 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
4. Jagger got the line “I turn my head until my darkness goes” from James Joyce’s Ulysses.
5. Talking on his Absolute Radio show, Stones’ co-guitarist Ronnie Wood disclosed that Keith Richards has trouble remembering how to play this song. He revealed, “We always have this moment of hesitation where we don’t know if Keith’s going to get the intro right.”
6. In the late 1980s, “Paint It Black” became associated with the Vietnam War due to its use in both the ending credits of the 1987 film Full Metal Jacket and its use as the theme song for Tour Of Duty, a CBS-TV show about the Vietnam war which ran from 1987-1990.
7. Sadly, for The Rolling Stones, “Paint It, Black” is one of the tunes they no longer control. They sold the rights to it during the Sixties to ex-manager Allen Klein.